AAJ: What were the two records you produced for Larry?
MS: One of them was on CTI called I'll Be Over You (1995) and the other one was Sketches of Coryell (Shanachie, 1996). He liked my tunes. Larry recorded 10 of my tunes. That was one of the most important things that he gave me as a friend and a colleague.
AAJ: How did you get into producing records?
MS: Technology came around and I became pretty apt in the studio. I understand the technology pretty well. Rodney Jones and I actually had a little production company together where we produced some jingles and did some ghost writing for some stuff. We were always really savvy in that way. He's an intelligent and very smart musician. You kind of to be savvy here; the whole business changed. I was an acoustic player, playing classical music and freelancing on Broadway and the studios, then all the sudden the studio scene changed because MIDI came along and the computer thing opened up in the late '80s.
I got a record date in '86 and I was playing around with a MIDI vibraphone. I got a record with George Butler through Wynton. It wasn't through Wyton actually but it was through someone else who introduced me to George and kept saying, "George wants to sign you, George wants to sign you!" I didn't know whether to believe it or not and I said, "Well, let me meet with George and let me see what's going on."
Eventually it happened months later and when I met George he said he spoke to Wynton and asked if he knew me. George wanted to do something with vibes with a new young vibes player. So he did this record of mine called A New Balance (Columbia, 1986). It has a pop tune in it called "Changes in my Life" that many Filipinos and South East Asian people know because it was big hit there. Later in life I found out that it sold 60,000 CDs by someone else who recorded it and that it was a big hit there and that I was due all kinds of money. It's got 10 million views on YouTubeit's ridiculous. I make no money from it. I make shit money from it; it's ridiculous. Everybody in the Philippines posts videos of this song and that means 10 million people listen to this song for free. It's pretty messed up but it's all right, it's good publicity.
Some great things came from that record. "Changes in my Life" did very well but more importantly, I got a big publishing bump from it because 10 seconds of one cut that I did was picked up on General Hospital, the soap opera. It was just pulled out of the library. They somehow stumbled on my record and used it. It was just a stroke of luck. I made about $60,000 from publishing.
AAJ: Out of all the people you've played with as a sideman, which one jumps out at you the most?
MS: Certain ones you can't compare. The most influential on my life, career, and my development as a musician I would have to say Elvin, Saul Goodman, and Buster Bailey. If you're talking about my biggest influences as far as learning the music then Kenny Kirkland, Rodney Jones, and Mike Renzi. As far as superstar singers like Tony Bennett, they're great. It's been a privilege to play on a Tony Bennett record or a play a little tour with Liza Minelli as a percussionist.
They're just fun gigs. The most important stufffor meare the jazz gigs, and they rank a little higher for me. The ability to be able to play who you are... you can quote me on this: I'm just trying to play the truth of who I am. That's what it's all about; when you're just trying to play the truth of who you are. And the truth of who I am turns out not to be a full time percussionist playing freelance gigs with Liza Minelli, Broadway shows, jingles, and studio work. They're all good and fun to do sometimes when there's a craft to it and a true art to doing it well. But at a certain point you have to make a commitment to something and at a certain point I made my commitment to playing jazz and the educational profile. I like teaching and I like doing workshops. I have a great system for improvisation that I use to teach people how to negotiate changes and I enjoy bringing it to them.
AAJ: Let's move on to Project Them, your newest album with your old high school classmate, Bob Francheschini.
MS: As you know, Bob is one of the most consummate horn players on the scene. He's always been one of my favorite players, and we went to high school together. We used to listen to Coltrane on 11. Paint was peeling off the walls of his apartment when we listened to Coltrane when we were young. We're one and the same. We come from the same place and we were both chosen to play this music. I kind of feel like you're chosen in life for this.
We were young together and we always wanted to have a thing together. We had a thing together a long time ago when we were younger, but now that we're older we finally found a way to get it. So we started a band [with] Lenny White