Piano is a string instrument, but not one you would normally associate with the banjo. How does the pairing work in the realm of string duos or groups? What are the challenges (and pleasures) of playing with a banjo as compared to instruments you may traditionally see in a string ensemble, jazz or otherwise?
In my experience I have never really “played with” an instrument — it has always been the player that I’ve been making music with. Our language is so funny this way isn’t it? As if anyone could “play with a banjo” and have the banjo do anything else than continue to sit there.
I’m not implying that you think of it this way — but it does clarify the point that I have never given that much importance to the instrument a musician plays. I have a long association with Gary Burton for instance. But I never had a particular fondness for the vibraphone. Same with Béla. He’s so creative and so much fun to make music with that it doesn’t matter what instrument he plays.
By the way, I have always related to the piano as a part of the percussion family. Even though it does have a lot of strings attached.
Bela has made no secret he has long been a huge fan of your music and that you were a major influence on him. When did he first land on your radar, musically? I’ve read where he said (at least partially joking I would guess) he stalked you until you agreed to play with him. How has your relationship evolved from that point through making The Enchantment?
Bela is genuinely humble. I was always just as interested and fascinated by this “young” man’s musical vision. When we began to play with one another the fun factor jumped out as the highest priority. We both recognized this and so continue to do projects and concerts together.
You’ve been active and sometimes a driving force through a number of movements and phases of jazz in the past 40+ years. Where do you see the genre going? Who or what do you enjoy listening to, jazz or otherwise?
I travel a lot — it could be said I travel “constantly.” I get to see and hear musicians all over the world as I travel. It never ceases to amaze me the amount of diversity and quantity of musical talent that exists on this earth. I’ve never had much success in referring to musical genres. These categories of music tend to lead one into a box made of vapor and gray mist. It gives a clearer reading to track societies’ tendencies in terms of its growth or decay in the humanities. This tells us where any artistic genre is headed.
My iPhone is packed with playlists of every kind of music you could imagine. There are periods when I will focus in on a specific music or artist and then other periods where I don’t listen to music at all but just perform each night.
Both you and Béla are accomplished composers. What’s the dynamic like playing with another musician who also has strong ideas for movement in music or at least views it from a composer’s eye as well?
Yes, Béla is a very creative composer and he continues to compose as we improvise together — this is one aspect I really love about our duet.
What generally drives your interest or decision-making for getting involved in musical projects?
I find that “interest” is a created thing. I’m at a big disadvantage when anything “drives” me. I enjoy driving myself. And therefore I create interest at will. I’m drawn to competence and the quality of an artist’s communication. These are qualities I continually try to improve in myself.
Thanks a bunch.
You’re welcome a bunch Chick
- Anchorage Daily News: April 2014