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Interviews

Bob Perkins: The Art of Listening

By Published: November 25, 2009


Daily Life and Approach to Living

AAJ: Now, before we wrap it up, could you tell us about your family and what you do when you're not working?

BP: Actually, my avocation is my vocation. I go around looking for unique recordings that I can spring on my listeners. I get euphoric when I find something interesting because I know I'm going to "hit someone's hand," as they say in pinochle. Someone's gonna say, "I haven't heard that in 50 years! I'm gonna call Perkins and thank him." I also write for a good magazine called Icon, which gives me a chance to write about some of the musicians.

AAJ: Do you ever talk to your wife? [laughter.]

BP: She's not much of a jazz fan. But we go lots of places together. She's more into classical music and vintage rhythm and blues. She's a professor at Pierce College and is also working on her doctorate degree in education, like Bill Cosby. Sometimes we pass like ships in the night. We'll have a late dinner at home, and catch up with each other then.

AAJ: One more question—Coltrane said that music was his spirit. Could you tell us about your philosophy and life and spirituality.

Miss JustineBP: We're at the crossroads of the spiritual and secular, and we make a "joyful noise." People are creative and shouldn't be pigeonholed. Consider vocalist Miss Justine, for example. She was a banker when I knew her way back when, and then decided to become a singer. Recently, people were amazed by her at that Billie Holiday concert. For me, a good upbringing with loving parents and siblings helped a lot—the apple doesn't fall too far from the tree. Respect other people. Carry yourself the right way. Be yourself, don't put on airs. And my mentors had a lot of humanity. I learned from them. I'm a walking composite of a lot of people. I have big ears. And I surround myself with the right people. I owe them a great debt of gratitude.

AAJ: And we all owe a debt of gratitude to you for your big ears, because we all benefit from them! If you have a secret, maybe that's it, because you play the very best music on your show.

BP: If you have a gift, pass it on. Someone once asked Einstein, "What's our purpose here on earth?" He said it all very simply: "Man's mission on earth is to help his fellows."

AAJ: There's a funny story about Einstein. He played the violin pretty well, but he wasn't a polished professional. One time the great classical pianist Artur Rubenstein came to his house to play duets. Rubenstein became very frustrated, and at one point shouted, "Einstein, can't you count?" [Laughter.]

Photo Credits

Page 3 (Barkley Hendricks Collection): Courtesy of Barkley Hendricks

Page 4 (Charlie Parker): Frank Driggs Collection



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