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Interviews

Trudy Pitts: Meeting the Next Keyboard Challenge

By Published: August 30, 2006

Pitts Speaks Out on Life and Spirituality

AAJ: You're a powerful woman—no one would want to mess around with you! [laughter] So, let's talk about you as a person. I know there's no distinction between the musician and the human being, but I always ask musicians about their spirituality. Many jazz musicians have interesting slants on spiritual philosophy and/or attitude towards life. I wonder if you could reflect on your own.

TP: Well, what part of it? I would really dig it if you would be more specific.

AAJ: Well, some folks are involved with a particular religious group or preference, and for some it's more personal and from within. Maybe you want to talk about your understanding of life, what is its meaning to you, and so on.

TP: I see life as a gift from the Creator, a gift that is given to us when the time comes, that we are predestined to come into the world through our mother's womb by the decision of the Creator and that we all come with a mission. That mission is clearly defined to some people and others never know what their mission is—these are the unfortunate ones. I feel that the Great Divinity, the Creator of All Things, is the bottom line in my life, meaning that to wake up in the morning is the supreme blessing.

To be given the gift of health, to be given a talent, which is preconceived as well, that you've been fortunate enough to develop and bring some bright moments to some people in the world and make a difference, as in medicine, science, artistry of any kind. These are gifts from the Creator—some people say Jesus Christ, I will say that; some say God. But to me all of the terms—like we spoke about jazz a moment ago, have different definitions. I value the knowledge that without having been given my gift, I would not be the person that I am. Today, I consider myself very blessed and fortunate to have my children, my husband. To be considerate, compassionate, tolerant, caring, giving, and thankful for your blessings is where I am in terms of spirituality.

I have a philosophy—I live by philosophy. Some of it is automatic, but I guess most of it is conscious. To give thanks, to look at the moon, the sun, the stars, the ocean, the greenery, the trees, the flowers, the rain, the snow, and I see God. People have said my spirituality is very obvious, because if that is your philosophy, you can't hide that—it jumps out of your spirit, out of your face, and out of your mouth, just because it's you, and just because it's there. I value the motivation that I have because that is what keeps me going from to day to day—the knowledge that anything you want to do is possible, if you really want to do it badly enough. I value that. It is my inspiration to accomplish and use each day.

The Bible speaks of "don't worry about tomorrow and next week and next month, but use today with all the strength and energy and creativity you have." And that is what I try to do. I don't always accomplish it, because we have other things that get in the way of seeking the truth. There's a truth that's there, like the air. But you have to keep trying to follow your philosophy and make your own footsteps in the sand, find your own voice, and try to make a difference in the few years you have as a gift to be alive, here.

The fact that we leave here, sooner or later, indicates to me that it isn't ours to keep. We're given it for a certain amount of time, and then it's taken away. It's only a loan. If you're lucky, you find your mission, for those who know in their spirit what their mission is. The others don't get it. And then I think about that. Do they have a gift they're not accepting; or are they accomplishing their mission and don't know it? So maybe our mission is not as grand as what we think we should be living. So, my philosophy has many tentacles and goes into many areas of my life.

Had I not been a musician, I think I would have been a psychologist. I took some courses in that at Temple University and Connecticut College for Women. For most of my life, I've been a musician, a psychologist, and a mentor. And if that makes a difference, then that's what makes me happy, like when they come up to me and say, "Pitts, you made me cry tears of joy with your music." That's where it's at for me. When they say, "You made me wanna get up and shout for joy," that's another mission. If I can give you a bright moment, even if it's taking a problem away from your presence for a few minutes, then I think I've done what my intention is.

AAJ: That's beautiful! It goes very deep for you. Let's just close with some of your recent and future projects. I understand you were involved in a jazz piano event at the Kennedy Center not so long ago.

TP: This year in May, they held the 11th Annual Mary Lou Williams Festival and Piano Competition at The Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. I have been honored to be in performance on this magnificent occasion four times, at the invitation of the prestigious Dr. Billy Taylor, the originator of this significant festival. In this concert, I always play both piano trio and organ trio. The past two years, it's been extended to encompass an International Piano Competition. Women from all over the world apply. There have been three judges to finalize the winner. In the first year, they were Dr. Billy Taylor, Geri Allen, and myself. For the second year, the judges were Geri Allen, Renee Rosnes, and me. After listening to all of the submitted CDs, we then select five finalists out of 50-60 applicants. We then listen to them perform "live" on stage at The Kennedy Center, and then select the final winner who will have the honor of performing the following year at the Major Festival with an ensemble.

AAJ: What do you want to do down the pike?

TP: Well, I wanna do some more recording, I wanna record some more organ. I'm writing all the time. I want to move forward with my "Sweet and Joyful Noise," a jazz sacred suite—non-stop hour-and-a-half music. I've performed it a few times, but it's in the air now for us to have it orchestrated for symphony orchestra. I would like to record solo piano again. I like doing concerts, festivals. I'm teaching at two universities and looking forward to teaching this fall. I do college lectures and concerts—the youth gives me energy and inspiration—it's contagion. I wanna do everything I can to continue to be creative with music.


Selected Discography

Trudy Pitts, Me, Myself And I (Independent, 2003)
Trudy Pitts/Mr. C, Vintage Series - Volume 1 (Independent, 2003)
Trudy Pitts/Pat Martino, Legends of Acid Jazz (Prestige, 1999)
Rahsaan Roland Kirk, Return of the 5000 lb Man (Atlantic, 1975)
Willis "Gator" Jackson, Star Bag (Prestige, 1968)
Trudy Pitts, Excitement of Trudy Pitts (Prestige, 1968)
Trudy Pitts, Them Blues of Mine (Prestige, 1967)
Pat Martino, El Hombre (Prestige, 1967)
Trudy Pitts, Bucketful of Soul (Prestige, 1967)



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