AAJ: Isn't not having a working band an Achilles heel?
KG: Well, as a leader, you always try to have a regular band of musicians who understand what you are trying to do conceptually. Every time you change, it changes the music a little bit, but I think it is also a learning experience. It teaches you how to become a better bandleader and how to deal with different personalities and how to make it gel. I remember the first time joining Miles Davis' band and we had a guy who was from the R&B and a guy who was from hip-hop and I was from the jazz school, but he knew how to get what he was looking for. That's the thing that I've learned, that no matter who is there, we can always play music because I am listening to what it is they can offer to the band. At that point, it is almost like Duke Ellington. I take their strengths and turn it into the music. I make the music sound as good as it can sound. I have so many tunes and so many directions that I can go, it has never been a problem for me, but it has been a learning experience. A lot of times, the younger musicians that I have in the band, their generation is from hip-hop. That is what they want to do. What I try to do is expose them, just like Miles exposed me to some different music. If I tell the drummer who is playing with me now that I want to hear the latest beat. I want to hear the beat by 50 Cent. He is going to know that. If I tell them to play me a beat by Elvin or Tony Williams, they may not know that. So I tell them to check these records out. I think they like the fact that we are playing all different styles of music in the context of a jazz band and I think a lot of musicians are happy about that because they can find everything there. They can go to the bakery and get an assortment of things for them to eat. I think, for me, that is what I liked about music.
I love jazz because I was born and raised here in America, and it is one of the most significant cultural contributions we have given to the world. It is an incredibly sophisticated artform that continues to challenge boundaries while delighting and engaging listeners of all different ages and backgrounds
I love jazz because I was born and raised here in America, and it is one of the most significant cultural contributions we have given to the world. It is an incredibly sophisticated artform that continues to challenge boundaries while delighting and engaging listeners of all different ages and backgrounds. I love how jazz can involve musicians who may have never met each other can coming together and making incredible music by referring to the Great American Songbook and musicians who have been playing together for years, who have a deep connection and who explore and create original music that is at the cutting edge of musical innovation in every sense. Performing jazz music requires a virtuosity and technique that only strict discipline can teach as well as a spontaneity and playfulness that reflects the simple folk roots of the music.
I was first exposed to jazz as a student in college. Only knowing I wanted to play guitar, I enrolled in an applied music program that focused on Jazz rhythm section playing. The subsequent journey that I have been on since the time that I enrolled in that class has helped me grow not only as a musician but more so as a person.