Q+A: My Interview

  1. How did you become interested in playing jazz and music in general?
    • I've always loved music more than anything; I first performed in public at the age of 5, singing "Moon River" at a concert for parents one summer when I was at camp. Music was the only thing that really made sense to me in life and, although I played rock and roll as a young teenager, I felt that the solos in rock were unsatisfying. I had my first band at the age of 12 and wanted to make the greatest music I could. I was 10 when the Beatles arrived and that had a big impact on me. When they broke up, I was getting into Jazz Improvising, which is the great innovation of the 20th century.

      I was fortunate that, at the age of 18, I had friends who were studying with some of the best Jazz Improvisers of all time--Lennie Tristano, Lee Konitz, and Billy Bauer. I studied with Mr. Konitz at the age of 18; it was my first chance to be with an artist of his stature.

  2. What do you like the best about being a musician?
    • The best thing about being a jazz improviser is that it is so much fun...so beautiful. It is when I'm playing that I feel really alive, like I am fulfilling my purpose in life. It is the most human endeavor of all, to truly be in the moment and feel and express that feeling. The universe improvises.
  3. What do you find the hardest part to be?
    • The hardest part is that society does not really recognize the importance of art in general and jazz in specific. There is lip service given to some so-called jazz these days but that is mostly commercial or a rehashing of some old music. This translates into difficulty for an artist's survival.
  4. Could you describe your best performance?
    • If you mean in general, it is when the energy is flowing effortlessly through me through my instrument. If you mean a specific performance, it is difficult to say because an improviser doesn't usually know what is happening in an analytical manner. I can't even choose which one of my 4 CD's is the best! I will say that, being a perfoming artist, the more I get to play, the better it feels.
  5. How about the worst?
    • I don't feel that that applies; an artist always expresses something meaningful.
  6. Why do you play jazz music in particular?
    • Jazz improvising [as opposed to composition] is the great innovation of the 20th Century! Improvising has always been a part of life, as well as a part of art; but it is unique to have an art form based entirely on it. The musical innovations that have come from jazz are the highest in all music. Jazz improvisors are known to be the best on their instruments; they often radically change what is thought to be possible on an instrument. This has been true since Louis Armstrong.

      I have studied music for well over a quarter of a century and the greatest music I can create, the greatest music I've ever heard, is Jazz Improvising. It is the only time I truly feel happy, alive; that I am fulfilling my life's meaning and purpose.

  7. What do you have to do to prepare for a performance? How many hours does this take?
    • Interestingly enough, it is different all the time. The key is to let myself go with my feeling. The great genius of jazz, Lennie Tristano, said that "The Jazz musician's function is to feel". {note the infinitive of the verb!]. Sometimes I feel like just going for a long walk; sometimes I don't even want to eat , I just want to play and play and play! It is always different. To prepare for a performance takes your whole life.
  8. Do you think jazz music is more/less popular today than 10 years ago?
    • I think that jazz improvising is less popular now only in the sense that people don't really get to hear much of it but this is changing . When people hear REAL jazz improvising, they really dig it!!
  9. Do you think it will gain in popularity? Why?
    • I think that the rise in artist-owned and run endeavors, eliminating the 'middle man', will help get real jazz improvising to the people. I am personally [and in conjunction with 13 other musicians in an artist-owned and run record company] making contacts on the Internet, getting gigs, as well as setting up my own concerts. Check out my web site. The independent record company allows us to put out exactly what we feel, not some commercial junk.
  10. What do you think job prospects will be like in the future for jazz musicians? why?
    • It is difficult but I feel that, personally, things will get better because I am working very hard to make contacts and to let people hear the difference. I also teach privately.
  11. This might be hard to answer, but do you know the average wage that a jazz musician makes for a performance?
    • I don't know, but I think that, while I will never be rich from it, I will be able to survive well; I will be alive and happy and creating and doing what I love. That cannot be bought!
  12. Do you have a guess of how many jazz musicians are working in North America?
    • I have no idea; I do know that many of the greatest ones are not making a living at it but this will change, I believe. It is another job, surviving as an artist, in addition to growing as an artist.

    I would like to say that being an artist is not a career; a career is something that you choose. Being an artist is something that you are, something that you want to be more than anything. I did not find that schools or institutions helped me to become an artist or find my way as an artist. They can give you a piece of paper so that you can teach in a school.

    To become an artist, you must find your own way and, for me, this was helped by a great teacher who is unfettered by grades, time constraints [semesters], and the other stuff that is counterproductive for an artist. I have been studying with Connie Crothers for over 16 years; we also have recorded a CD, "DUO DIMENSION", and are playing in a band together.

    Please e-mail comments to:(rctabnik@inch.com)

Return to "Writing about Jazz".
Return to Index.
Return to home page.