Leading Questions: John Bishop

Photo and interview by Steve Korn


Someone once told me that it’d be good to get a day job sometime, so I worked a temp job once in 1981 where I made $36 for 10 hours of lifting slabs of bacon with a large hook. It ended up being a great motivator.

When I was 14 I was working through some very nice beats on my silver-sparkle Decca drums. The neighbors were not amused, but somehow I ignored the pain I was causing and persevered as I got to know my new friend.

My parents were always surrounding us with music, art, books, political talk and travel without making a big deal out of any of it. A nice result is that I’m afforded an ongoing wealth of inspiration from my sister and brothers, who each possess a bundle of imagination, curiosity, and follow-through. It’s what I aspire to.

The piece of music that I’ll always have somewhere in my brain is “So What.” My dad used to play Kind of Blue on many weekend mornings starting back when I was a toddler and that same record has been following me around ever since.

If I could do it all over again, I’d pay way more attention, practice more, brush more, act better, not waste as much time, learn a foreign language, be braver…or possibly not.

Discipline is a given to do anything competently, it’s a very unfriendly word though.

Some of my best ideas come to me at the last possible moment before I need them. And yes, I could venture that procrastination enters into it.

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Leading Questions: Jon Hamar

Photo and interview by Steve Korn

Someone once told me “don’t worry about why you are or are not hired.  Worry about the gigs you have.”  He was a very wise man!

When I was 14 I found out that my middle school teacher had played in the Stan Kenton Band.  I had always respected him, but his professional experience gave me a little more appreciation for his expertise.   This teacher was extremely supportive and encouraging and had a part in my decision to pursue music.

The bass is both simplistic and complicated.  The function of the bass is simple, but making it work is difficult.   I’m trying to play in time, in tune and make good note choices when improvising … this is not simple!

Practice makes me enjoy music making even more.  The more time I am able to spend in practice the better I feel and am able to communicate on gigs.  I can concentrate less on the technical aspect of playing and get inside the music.

When I look at where I’m at right now, I am thankful for all of the amazing opportunities and the people in my life.  The unfortunate part of experience is the realization of how much more there is to learn.

The piece(s) of music that always resonates with me is J.S. Bach’s cello suites.  There is so much great music to hear and enjoy, so this is a very hard question for me to answer.  I appreciate Bach because he was a true genius and improviser.

Some of my best ideas come to me when I’m most relaxed.  It’s difficult for me to loosen up and forget about work, bills, etc.  I find that when I can really rest, I come up with some nice ideas.

My parents were not professional musicians but I grew up listening to my father play Boogie Woogie and stride piano.  I remember being glued to my Dad’s left hand when he was playing, and I was intrigued by the movement in the music.

Fear is often thought of as a motivating factor … I recently decided that I don’t want to make any decisions based on fear.

As I get older, I’ve realized that life does not revolve around music.  I love music.  It’s my passion, but there are more important things.

Music has taught me to be patient, focused, expectant and hopeful.

Change is inevitable.  I expect to see change in every aspect of life, including music.

The thing that makes me nervous on stage is indecision.

I’m happy whenever I’m listening to my Son laugh!

A sense of humor is important on so many levels.  Musicians know all the crazy things that happen on gigs.  A healthy sense of humor is a survival tool.  I’ve found it is important that I am able to laugh at myself … there are many opportunities.

Playing jazz in Seattle is great!  There are so many talented, hardworking and creative people in the Northwest.  I count it a privilege to work with them.

Leading Questions: Chad McCullough

Note: Trumpeter Chad McCullough starts a weekend tour with his Spin Quartet featuring Geof Bradfield (sax), Clark Sommers (bass) and Kobie Watkins (drums).
Thursday, March 22 – Locol (West Seattle)
Friday, March 23 – CMA Gallery (Seattle)
Saturday, March 24 – Knowles Studio (Poulsbo)

Interview and photo by Steve Korn

Someone once told me I couldn’t do it, and it was a waste of time to try because it wouldn’t work out.

When I was 14 I heard Thomas Marriott play for the first time, and I figured out what I wanted to do.

The trumpet is the worst best friend I’ll ever have

If I could do it all over again, I’d jump to less conclusions, buy fewer mouthpieces, and listen to my teachers more.

When I look at where I’m at right now, I’m very thankful to everyone who has taken the time to help me, and grateful for everyone who’s given me a chance to do well- and even more grateful for the second chances.

Fear is what wakes me up every morning. Usually much earlier than I’d like.

Motivation is what gets me out of bed, after the panic attack wakes me up.

Discipline is second only to respect. Or maybe it’s a byproduct of respect. I’m not sure yet.

I’m not even close. But… I’m trying.

If I had a double-C, I’d bottle that up, and sell it to all of my trumpet player friends for cheap!

When I’m stuck It’s because I’m not listening hard enough.

If I could have made a career on another instrument, it would have been the piano. I still pretend sometimes.

Some musicians just don’t understand that we’re all in this together.

I’m happy whenever I’m listening to Miles.

Leading Questions: Bill Anschell

When I was 14 I was a miscast classical clarinetist with no real interest in classical music or clarinet. Or jazz, for that matter. My guilty pleasure was playing pop tunes by ear on my family’s upright piano.

Practice makes me feel and play better. Unfortunately, the buzz usually wears off by the time I get to the gig.

Some of my best ideas come to me on planes and in hotel rooms. That’s where I do a lot of my writing -– both words and music.

Fear is what stops a lot of musicians from growing. Once they start getting recognition and attention they’re afraid to sound bad, so they stop taking chances. I’ve seen it happen to so many good players who could have kept getting better; when my ego goes south on me I give it a good spanking.

As I get older, I’ve realized that touch and phrasing are more important forms of “chops” than being able to play fast. Why did it take me so long to figure it out?

In the big scheme of things, what really matters is the big scheme of things. Individual notes, not so much. Arc of a solo and telling a story, much more so.

People ask me questions while I’m playing the piano sometimes. When I try to answer, I speak rhythmically and drool.

Discipline is something easily transferable from jazz to other walks of life. Jazz artists learn to identify their own areas of weakness and devise a plan to remedy them. The skill set of self-assessment and -improvement is a key part of personal growth, and explains why jazz artists who move into other fields or have secondary areas of interest tend to do so well at them.
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Leading Questions: Jim Wilke

photo and interview by Steve Korn
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The best advice I’ve ever received is “you’re not talking to an audience of thousands, you’re talking to thousands of audiences of one or two.”

When I was 14 I was playing alto sax in concert band and listening to Western Swing on the radio during the day and jazz late at night .

Broadcasting jazz has meant introducing others to some of the most creative musicians who ever lived.

If I could do it all over again
, I probably wouldn’t change much.

My voice is who I am.

When I look at where I’m at right now, I feel very lucky to make a living around the music I love.

The piece of music that always resonates with me is – well, can I mention two songs? “You Must Believe in Spring” and “With Every Breath I Take”….or anything by Johnny Mandel who I regard as the Schubert of American songwriters.

I see my role in Jazz as a bridge between artist and audience.

My parents were Iowa Farmers who made me feel grounded in more than one sense of the word.
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Leading Questions: Dan Balmer

Interview and photo by Steve Korn
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The guitar is and was my redemption.

If I could do it all over again I’d do the exact same thing. The failures and successes, the growth, the playing, the teaching, the relationships, the experiences…we can never see the parallel paths our lives would take and, although I certainly haven’t been everything I’d want to be, I think I’d take the outcome of this path over 95% of all other potential outcomes.

My parents were always supportive and helpful even though a life in music is an unsure thing. Even in their 80’s they still come out to my gigs. My mother was a piano teacher so naturally understood about the music, and my father who didn’t have a lot of music in his background was always unconditionally supportive of me in this. In fact, my father went to Gresham High School with Seattle legend Floyd Standifer. When I first got into jazz he took me to Seattle to meet him. I’ll never forget that afternoon at Floyd’s house. I remember everything he told me.

When I’m playing well it feels better than anything. I believe my most transcendent moments come when I’m playing my best. I liken jazz improvising to deep meditation or prayer where one is in tune with a higher power that is flowing through them.

As I get older I realize that almost everything I’ve said at some point, I’ve contradicted at some other point. This leads me to my “big umbrella” theory of jazz, and music in general. I think there is room for many styles and interpretations of jazz music, all valid, all requiring great skill and effort, all resonating with a different but legitimate audience. Any strong opinion you express, if you don’t allow the possible validity of some other opinion, is probably wrong.

Teaching has been an incredibly surprising joy. I’ve learned and continue to learn so much by teaching, and have developed so many relationships that continue for years and years. I’ve received countless messages from students (or their mothers) over the years, thanking me for whatever it was they took from my teaching. It’s a privilege. I’m blessed because everyone who comes to me for lessons is just there to hear what I have to say, so I try and say things of value.

Economics was important to me to study because I have always believed that people’s realities are formed in many ways by economics. To communicate, you need to understand people, economics helps this understanding, and music is about communication. Also, the only classes I got “C’s” in were music classes.

The future of jazz like economics, is becoming more globally and technologically oriented. New jazz will reflect more non Western influences, and new technologies will be integrated as well. I also think there will always be support for each of the classic jazz styles because like all art, jazz has had moments in time where a majority agree it was clearly at a sort of peak. A moment when it resonated with a large audience, was “cutting edge” yet accessible, and the artists were clearly giants. For example I think people will always enjoy the “Kind of Blue” era, just as people love the Impressionist painters more than anything since, or people still agree on Bach and Beethoven etc. more than Webern or Stockhausen.

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Leading Questions: Michael Barnett

Interview and photo by Steve Korn

When I was 14, I fell in love with the sound of the bass, specifically, Milt Hinton.

If I could do it all over again, I’d probably do most of it again, perhaps more efficiently.

Practice makes perfect, allegedly, but it never quite does which is why we keep doing it.

The bass is “a thing of beauty and a pain-in-the-ass forever.”

When I look at where I’m at right now, I know I’m still on the way to where I’m going.

My parents were talented, interested and interesting people, supportive and, in my case, very tolerant.

Fear is a poor motivator.

Motivation is whatever works for you.

As I get older, I’ve realized that advancing age is not necessarily a catastrophe, at least so far.

The thing about music is it’s the greatest blessing and thus requires nothing less than our best effort to do it right.
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Leading Questions: Greta Matassa

Note: Greta Matassa will be performing in Portland tonight through Saturday. Thursday, June 10 at Brasserie Montmartre and Friday-Saturday at Wilf’s Resaurant and Bar.

Interview and Photo by Steve Korn

Someone once told me, Success is getting what you want, but happiness is wanting what you get. I’ve based my career decisions on this advice

When I was 14 I knew I wanted to make music my life and become a professional singer. now, with 2 teenage daughters going through the trials and tribulations of high school, I realize how lucky I was to have discovered who I was at such an early age.

My voice is my vehicle of expression. My voice is me.

Some of my best ideas come to me while walking at Alki and talking to my friend Susan Pascal.

When I look at where I’m at right now, I couldn’t be happier or luckier. I have a career in the Pacific Northwest (a place I’m coming to realize is one of the most beautiful in the world). The opportunity to travel on small outings. A nice recording contract. A great teaching practice, a very wonderful man who loves me and great kids. I wouldn’t ask for more.

I’m happy whenever I’m listening to Blossom Dearie.

Teaching has been an education. As a self taught singer I’ve re-examined how I know what I know and am always finding that my students can often teach me to teach them if I listen closely and with empathy.

If I could play another instrument it would most likely be drums. I’m a very rhythm oriented singer and find watching and listening to drummers fascinating.

Improvisation is like my father described abstract expressionism. A uniquely in-the-moment experience based on years of experience and knowing when to “take the brush away from the canvas”

My parents were very supportive. My mother was a scientist and my father an artist. They are still a big part of my life.

People ask me, why aren’t you famous, living in New York or touring or on Letterman or something. I refer them to question #1 for the answer.

Music has taught me the best things in life are free!

Less is more because of Shirley Horn.

More is more because of Ella Fitzgerald.

Being a woman in jazz has meant nothing in particular. I am treated and in turn treat my fellow musicians as human beings and this seems to be a nice arrangement.

In my view my greatest achievement has been Gina and Franny Matassa

Trust is easy when you’ve been practicing, both in music and life.

Leading Questions: Gregg Keplinger

Photo and interview by Steve Korn

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Someone once told me don’t play what you hear …play what you feel

The drums are the heart

If I could do it all over again, I’d be a Flamenco dancer

Practice makes one stay off the streets

When I look at where I’m at right now I’m ok with that

Some of my best ideas come to me when my mind is disengaged

Fear is unnecessary

Motivation is necessary

In the big scheme of things, what really matters is love and passion

I cried when my drum teacher died
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Leading Questions: Cuong Vu

Photo and Interview by Steve Korn

Someone once told me that “there’s no money in music!” That’s it. No follow-up to this “heaviness.” What a dumb-ass.

If I could do it all over again, I’d be more fearless in pursuing whatever I wanted. The first reason is that I’ve finally learned that the things I fear about myself…my insecurities…the things that I’ve spent time on in the past, worrying about what people think of what I musically put out, or how I play and sound…none of it matters because people aren’t concerned about me. They are primarily and pretty much always concerned about themselves.

The second is because I’d know that it’s all going to be alright in the end.

Practice is one of the most important ingredients that makes the difference – between a great musician and a mediocre one, a winner and a loser, a person who knows himself/herself or not, a successful person and a failure. It’s not just mindless practice by rote though. I feel like I have to put a lot into the why of what is being practiced and really believe that it’s all about putting in the thousands of hours of focused thought and action on developing my skills and ideas to get to my musical ideals. That alone has been a huge factor in learning about myself. A nice “side effect” of it is becoming a better musician with a constantly growing awareness everyday.

When I look at where I’m at right now, I am surprised that I’m here and could have never guessed that I’d get here. But when I trace the steps, it all makes perfect sense. And it’s fucking crazy. I bet it’s like that for most people.

Some of my best ideas come to me when I’m happy, at ease, and inspired by something that has recently had a deep impact on me. On the flip side, I rarely do my best stuff when I’m stressed. I may be more productive when I’m stressed. I just don’t think that the product is as good.

Fear is something that needs to be constantly managed and kept out of the way. Sometimes they are little thoughts that seem insignificant but can all come together and be debilitating if they aren’t addressed. They need to be smacked away like pesky little mosquitoes.

Motivation is what it’s all about…isn’t it?

In the big scheme of things, what really matters is taking action.

People ask me “what’s it like playing with Pat Metheny?” or “What’s Pat Metheny like?” I really wish they’d stop.
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Leading Questions: Saul Cline

Photo and interview by Steve Korn

Fear is an opportunity to be proud of your self later.

If I could do it all over again I would have practiced more.

Your audience is smarter than you think.

I’m happy whenever I’m listening to Otis Redding.

Less is more because that’s where beauty, interaction, playfulness and nuance live.

Music has taught me that endless pursuits are the best kind.

My parents were completely supportive of my every creative whim.

Practice makes me feel calm and prepared for the unexpected.

Some of my best ideas come to me while I am playing music with friends.

The thing that makes me nervous on stage is a drunk and aggressive person in the audience who really wants my attention.

When I look at where I’m at right now, I think I am ok. I probably should have practiced more, but I like the musical experiences I’ve had.

The future of jazz is in great shape. I love the people I’m playing with, the groups I hear in clubs, and the new music that is coming out.

When I’m performing well, it feels like my brain has been replaced with bees, my chest has been replaced with a bass drum, and my ears are being used by the other people on the bandstand.

Improvisation is the only time in my life when I can keep my brain clear and stop it from stewing about unimportant things.

Right now, I’m focusing on
finding some nice tunes to play on clarinet.

If I could have made a career on another instrument, it would have been piano. After that, maybe guitar so I could get in on some country gigs.

Motivation is something I can’t control. Sometimes I don’t experience it for weeks and then suddenly, it’s there.

I cried when I got to sit next to Ray Charles and he started sing the first few lines to the verse of “They Can’t Take That Away From Me”.….it was a little more soul than I was expecting.

Leading Questions: Clarence Acox

Photo and Interview by Steve Korn

Someone once told me that band directors are born, not made.

When I was 14 I heard a recording of Count Basie & his Orchestra
playing “Easin’ It” and it changed my life.

The drums are the life-blood of all America music.

If I could do it all over again, I’d have gone in with Woody Woodhouse and bought an island in the San Juan’s 28 years ago.

Practice makes
you confident to convey a musical idea and as a result allows you to connect with someone in the audience.

When I look at where I’m at right now, I thank my high school & college band directors, in addition to having the best parents ever. They never missed one of my school concerts.

The piece of music that starts with simple phrase and is developed, knocks my sox off. People underestimate the importance of development.

Some of my best ideas come to me at 3:00AM.
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Leading Questions: Mark Taylor

Interview and photo by Steve Korn

Someone once told me, “Nobody cares about your creativity or your original music”. Wrong.

When I was 14, I discovered Bird, Cannonball, and Phil Woods.

The saxophone is my voice.

If I could do it all over again, I’d be better at trusting my initial instincts more and just getting on with it!

Practice makes
no difference at all if you have no plan or goal.

When I look at where I’m at right now, I’m proud of the projects I’ve been a part of and grateful to the musicians who include me.

The piece of music that first mesmerized me was Charlie Parker with Strings “Just Friends”

Some of my best ideas come to me
when I’m not trying to come up with an idea.

My parents were and are, always completely supportive. I’m very lucky.

Fear is indecision.

Motivation is best when it’s internally based.

As I get older, I’ve realized that if you try to please everyone, you’re not being sincere. That, and I’m not nearly as old as some of you other guys.

In the big scheme of things, what really matters is are you happy? Do you love what you do? Do you care about the people around you?

Music has taught me
friendship, trust, confidence, humility, compromise … pretty much everything.

People ask me “why does your neck expand so much when you play” (I have no idea).
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Leading Questions: Jay Thomas

Jay Thomas

Interview and photo by Steve Korn

Someone once told me…hold your horn up when you play. Hmmmm I’m not sure if it matters unless you’re in a big band.

When I was 14 I decided I wanted to be a musician.

The trumpet is beautiful but unforgiving…if I pick it up to play it demands my full attention…if I don’t want to commit then it would be best to leave it alone.

If I could do it all over again, I would have to go back in time.

Practice makes me feel positive about life.

When I look at where I’m at right now
, I’m not sure where I’m at or if I’m headed anywhere…

The piece of music that taught me a lot when I was young was Lover Man…Thorlackson used to play it for me on piano and we had fun playing…it’s an easy tune and fun to play.

Some of my best ideas come to me
when I’m driving or falling asleep.

My parents were the best for ME!

Fear is OK also… sometimes…nobody goes around being afraid ALL the time.

Motivation is a result of a strong cup of coffee in the morning.

As I get older, I’ve realized that much of my life is about taking the path of least resistance….isn’t that Dharma?

The thing about
jazz I like other than the music itself is the history as told in stories…there is everything for me…Freddie, Rams, Thorlackson…all great story tellers.
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Leading Questions: Clipper Anderson

Interview and photo by Steve Korn

Clipper Anderson

When I was 14 I was playing first chair French Horn in band and was starting to gather an interest in the sound of the bass in recordings. But I had no clue that I was going to choose music as a career let alone play bass.

The bass is not a cello and I get more gigs than if I played the flute.

If I could do it all over again, I’d shave first.

Practice makes the odds better that the bass doesn’t kick my butt.

When I look at where I’m at right now, I feel grateful and fortunate with the career that I have had and the people I have met along the way.

The piece of music that always seems to follow me along is the ‘Enigma’ Variations.

Some of my best ideas come to me when I am jogging or listening to music while I’m driving in the car.

My parents, both musical themselves, were very supportive and influential in my musical career. They both confided in me later on that out of the four brothers and one sister, they had quietly thought from early on that I would be the career musician in the family.

Fear is being inconsistent.

Motivation is one of my biggest nemesis.

As I get older
, I’ve realized that there are really no insignificant gigs.

The thing about Greta is she is the best thing that ever happened to me.

In the big scheme of things, what really matters is my family, friends and playing music.

I cried when I lost my good friend and mentor, Jack Brownlow.

Music has taught me the value of staying in present time.

Music is an easier and more universal language for me. Playing music is my one true connection to the spiritual and its infinite possibilities.

I chose the bass because my brother Rocky told me the bass was a cool instrument and to check it out. I did and he was right. I sometimes feel that the bass actually chose me.

When I’m stuck during a solo I have to remember to breathe.

Improvisation is the best expression of me at that moment.

The thing that makes me nervous on stage is internal dialog.

When I’m playing well, it feels like nothing else.

If I could have made a career on another instrument, it would have been the piano. When I dream about playing another instrument, it is always a piano with the singular exception of a dream in which I played a smokin’ solo with a fork and a Tupperware bowl filled with tuna salad.

Clipper Anderson is one of the Northwest’s leading bassists. Playing all styles on acoustic and electric bass, Clipper is a composer, studio musician, vocalist, and educator. He was described in Seattle’s premier jazz magazine Earshot as “a player for the connoisseur to savor.” The list of recordings on which Clipper appears is both long and impressive. He has performed with jazz artists Michael Brecker, Randy Brecker, Terry Gibbs, Peter Erskine, Bob Berg, James Moody, Jack Jones, Paquito D’Rivera, and Buddy DeFranco. Clipper appears at jazz festivals throughout the Northwest and Canada and has been a featured guest artist annually at the Buddy DeFranco Jazz Festival at the University of Montana and the Port Townsend (WA) Jazz Festival. He currently teaches jazz bass studies at Pacific Lutheran University.

For more information about the Leading Questions Project, click here.

Leading Questions: Jim Knapp

Photo and interview by Steve Korn

Someone once told me “jazz is just as good as any other kind of music” – John Garvey – violist, member of the Walden String Quartet which premiered and recorded the Eliot Carter string quartets, and leader of the University of Illinois Jazz Band.

When I was 14, I was listening to “Ellington ’55”, the MJQ, Chet Baker & Gerry Mulligan and Miles Davis.

The trumpet was the instrument of many of the musicians that first inspired me to play – Louis Armstrong, Bunk Johnson, Bix Biederbeck, Harry James, Miles Davis, Chet Baker, and later Clifford Brown, Dizzy Gillespie and Don Cherry, etc.

The difference between composing and playing
is a matter of speed and sociability.

When I look at where I’m at right now, I feel I am a lucky man.

The recordings that changed my life were both led by Miles Davis – Birth of the Cool and Miles Ahead.

Some of my best ideas come to me through contemplation and improvisation.

My parents were on my side.

Fear is not fun.

As I get older, I’ve realized that there is no point in trying to calculate the effect of your actions on other people whether it is music performance, composition or teaching. All you can do is your best work and let things fall where they may.

I cried when I heard Peggy Lee sing “The Folks On The Hill”

Music has taught me the importance of respect and community.

People ask me “what do I have to do to get an A?”

Music is
beyond gender, race and culture, but is experienced through those filters.

Change is time.

Nothing lasts forever.

When I’m stuck, I do something else and send the problem to the subconscious.

Improvisation is autobiography.

Jim Knapp leads The Jim Knapp Orchestra on the first Monday of the month at the Seattle Drum School. Visit Jim Knapp online at http://jimknapporchestra.com