Meet John McNeil
The importance of failure
It took me a long time to realize that to fail is not the most important thing. Usually when you're trying something new, failure is almost guaranteed. You don't work towards it, but you expect it. When it happens it doesn't destroy you. I use the example of a child learning to walk. He never succeeds until he finally learns to walk. All he does is fall down. He never experiences any success at all. You have to have an attitude that failure is part of the process. That attitude will allow you to take chances. In music there are very few absolute failures (I've had a few gigs that came close!), very few absolute successes, maybe none.
I've never been much interested in playing the trumpet for its own sakewhat am I playing this trumpet for? It doesn't matter what horn or mouthpiece I play: after about two weeks I sound just the same. I always wanted to have an individual sound and style, to express myself. I wanted people to hear eight bars and know it was me. I don't know whether I've succeeded, but I try to put all of me on the line all the time. It doesn't always happen. For example, if you don't know the music very well it's hard to relax and get into a creative state. Another ongoing quest has been to sing everything I play, even the atonal things. (I have to slow down some of the fast things.) If I don't do that my playing isn't really coming from meit's something I don't really hear, stuff that I just know.
This gig tonight I didn't use any mutes at all. I used a lot of them on Sleep Won't Come because of the ambient quality of some of the music. You can't imagine "Each Moment Remains" without the harmon mute. I got all that air in my sound on the tune "Sleep Won't Come"you couldn't get that melancholy sound with an open horn. On "Escape from Beigeland" I used this "salad bowl" mute. It's like a cup mute only it has this weirder sound.
John Abercrombie. I enjoy playing with John a lot. The last time we had a gig together was a year ago May. I had to learn his tunes and it damn-near killed me. They're hard, but he's playing on them like it's nothing. On the other hand he writes some things that are harmonically very easy. His writing is economical, deceptively simple. I like being in a band with him because I'm not the oldest guy in it!
Danny Hayes. He was a trumpet player not known outside of New York. He played with Buddy Rich for a long time. I first met him in Florida when he was subbing in the Tonight Show band [early 70's]. The band had come to Florida to do some hospital benefits and somehow I got added to the band. Doc Severinsen's solos were written (They were always impeccable.). Danny took the rest of the trumpet solos, and he just killed me. A few years ago he developed lung cancer and didn' t tell anybody. He whipped it, but he couldn't play very loud after that. He'd say he had asthma or some nonsense. The cancer spread to his brain last May, and he lived six months. Throughout his career he worked all the time but didn't record much. They had a memorial for him on April 3, and I was tasked with putting together a sampler CD of his solos from commercial recordings and live recordings from clubs. I can't believe he's gone.