How did you develop your love for the Latin sound?
I’ve been interested in Latin and African music since I first began to listen to jazz as a small boy in the early ’40s. I played with a Latin dance band when I was a high school student, and later worked with Latin bands in NYC – the likes of Mongo Santamaria, Willie Bobo, Cal Tjader and Herbie Mann. Then in the early ’70s I discovered the Flamenco culture through the music of Paco De Lucia. The African and Spanish music cultures continue to have a high interest for me.
When asked previously about working with Miles Davis, you’ve mentioned his ‘artistic integrity.’ How would you describe ‘artistic integrity’ and do you think it’s a prerequisite for all great artists?
To me “integrity” means that ones does what he says he will do. Or produces what he decides to produce. The word means “wholeness” – meaning that one’s actions are aligned with one’s statements and decisions.
Miles was never distracted off his musical path by the demands or criticisms of others. He pursued music as his own truth. I think this is a “prerequisite” for any person who wants to live a happily productive and artistic life.
Do you think that there are essential qualities which all good music holds, be it popular music, jazz, atonal or classical?
“Music” is what is made by individual musicians. “Good music” depends on each individual’s tastes and choices. There can be no rule which blanketly says what is “good music,” as each person is free to have his own opinion. This is a basic “right” of any human being.
What’s the largest ensemble you’ve ever worked with?
I’ve played with many symphony orchestras.
And do you prefer working in a band or orchestra, or doing solo work?
I like working with other musicians. It’s a more pleasurable activity than working alone. Although I sometimes like to play solo piano as it gives me the opportunity to more freely experiment with different approaches.
What was the reasoning behind starting your own label, Stretch Records, in the 1980s?
To be in more control of the record-making process and to be able to give other musicians a chance to present their personal ideas.
You’ve said that Dustin Hoffman is a model for you in that he continuously recreates himself depending on his character. Do you think the music you play and compose continuously recreates itself, or do you think your performance is the part that changes?
I try to approach each new performance and each new project as a fresh opportunity to create something special. Each new musical project is like making a new movie or telling a new story.
Have you got any plans for the direction you want to head next with your music or do you simply see what happens?
Musical directions are thought about conceptually and lose meaning when the attempt is made to put them into words. Enough to say that I have many dreams and plans to create new music and tell new stories – there’s never a lack of them. The imagination is infinite.
You’ve said you ignore critics, but surely constructive criticism is a vital element of improving – especially when you’re starting out as a musician. Do you bother giving constructive criticism to others?
I accept and acknowledge all opinions about anything, as expressing opinions is every man’s right. I believe to be true what I believe to true and always act on that.
What drew you towards Scientology in the first place?
The books, lectures and writings of L. Ron Hubbard have held my high interest ever since I first read his book Dianetics – The Modern Science Of Mental Health in 1968. Since that time studying and applying his practical ideas to my own life in my own way has always produced great improvements in my life and my music.
You’re interested in composing film music—are there any film score composers you’re particularly inspired by?
Toro Takemitsu wrote the score to the Kurasawa film Ran which I thought was a masterpiece of film scoring. I have also enjoyed the many different ways of making film music that John Williams has produced.
If you could sum up your attitude to music in one word, what would it be?
The Joy of creation. So either “joy” or “creation” would work.