Amelia Island Chamber Music Society

In a constant exploration of musical relationships, you perform as a soloist, in duets, trios and beyond. Do you prefer one more than another? And why so much variety?

I love to make music. I mostly love to compose music and then play what I compose. But I’m growing to love to write music for others more and more. The collaborative aspect of making music is the most exciting to me. Working with other like-minded musicians is a joy beyond saying. The variety of approaches keeps me – and my audiences – highly interested.

Regarding your solo performances, quoting Joni Mitchell, would you please describe your experience of it being “…just you up there getting them to feel like that…”?

Playing solo can be the most challenging way to perform. There’s only me and the audience. And there’s only one sound: the piano. How many stories can I tell with the 88 “tuned drums” that are the keys of the piano? But since the piano is my passion and my favorite instrument to express myself on, I get to explore when I play solo. It’s definitely an Adventure every time.

In a YouTube video, you referenced the fact that each venue brings a new piano to play. What senses do you employ when as you said, “getting to know a new piano”?

Yes, each night is a different piano. Although I prefer the new Yamaha CFX concert grand, they are not always available, so I have to quickly get acquainted with the “piano du jour.” But the most important factor in the piano I play is the piano technician: the guy behind the scenes who prepares, voices and tunes the instrument. If he’s good, and given the prep time, he can make a piano that’s badly out of regulation and tune sound wonderful. And of course, the reverse is true. A great piano can be ruined by an incompetent technician. But in the end, nobody is aware of that back-story and it’s all up to me 🙂

You frequently refer to spirituality in interviews and acceptance speeches. In an interview with What’s Up Newp on October 10, 2017, you said, “…Music lovers are pretty much spiritually the same everywhere. It’s something good human beings hold in common…” And in the December 2017 issue of Downbeat (Congratulations on being named Reader’s Poll Jazz Artist of the Year), you refer to the “spiritual chemistry” between you and the musicians with whom you play. Spirituality seems woven into the fabric of your being. Would you please explain what you mean by “spirituality”? Further, what is the relationship between your spirituality and your music?

Well, it’s my experience that our spiritual nature is our true nature. It’s who we really are – as beings that can create and imagine and have and express emotions in our communication with each other and life around us. We have to keep our bodies healthy to enjoy life though. But reaching the creative spirit in us is what we all try to find and live by. That’s where the Music comes from and goes to. It’s “spiritual.”

Do you prepare your set list before a solo performance or improvise? Does the venue, in this case, the Magnolia Ballroom on Amelia Island influence your set selection?

I do both. I will often make a set list, then play something different once I get out there. Or sometimes I don’t make a set list at all. I can only really decide what to play after I walk on stage and experience the audience in front of me. It’s a constant experiment in trying to reach a high quality of communication. It’s one of my greatest joys in life.