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Interviews

Wycliffe Gordon: What This is All About

By Published: September 1, 2010
AAJ: Jazz at Lincoln Center and the Wynton Marsalis Septet.

WG: I started working with Wynton in 1989. I was part of the Wynton Marsalis Septet, and I did some concerts with JALC when they were called "Classic Jazz." In 1995, I became a part of JALC, which I played with until 2000. One just kind of blended into the other. The Septet was my first jazz gig, and it was a fun one. I learned a lot, we traveled a lot, we made some great music, and we still get together every now and then. I play specific shows with JALC, but I don't play with the big band anymore.

AAJ: What do you enjoy the most: a big band, or a quartet?

WG: That depends on how the music is played. If the music is being played well I will enjoy either one of them, equally. That also depends on who's in the band, who's playing.

AAJ: Teaching at Julliard.

WG: It was a fun program. When I started out I had a few bumps on the road. It was a new program, so it takes time to adjust. I was one of the first ones to teach there when the jazz program started.

AAJ: Cone and T-Staff.

WG: It's an album I have made with Terell Stafford, Mike LeDonne, David Wong, and Kenny Washington. I've known Terell for a long time, and I have worked with him before in several situations, and we finally got the opportunity to do this album together. We brought some tunes that he wanted to play, and so did I. We put it all together, and recorded it. We got these guys to play with us because they are great and they happened to be available. I enjoyed making the CD, but by the time the CD came out I'm already trying to play so much better. It's a constant evolution. I do hope people enjoy it, but I know I am always in motion. The music is nice, the musicians played very well. I am evolving all the time, [and] that never stops until you die, and maybe not even then.

AAJ: BluesBack Records.

WG: BluesBack Records is a record company I started to release my own original material. Before that I didn't have an avenue to record the music without fighting, so that was the mission I had when I started it. Afterwards I've had friends who have recorded music, and I have released their work through my record label. But it was mainly designed to do original music, not standards, although we have CDs that do have some standards.

AAJ: What are you the proudest of in your career so far?

WG: Everything.

AAJ: Everything?

WG: Yeah. I don't have one thing I would be prouder of. My career is who I am. So the fact that I got where I am tells me that I need to be proud of everything I have done so far. Even if I don't play well one night, that is also part of who I am too. You can't appreciate the good days without the bad ones, so I'm proud of everything.

AAJ: So you do have days when you say "I didn't play well"?

WG: It happens.

AAJ: And what are you the proudest of in your personal life?

WG: I am proud of who I am, who I'm becoming. I've been married three times, so I haven't been really successful at holding marriages together. I don't know if that speaks about me as a man, or what it says about me and relationships, but I am proud of my children. I have five of them, and I am proud of them.

AAJ: Do you ever wish you would have done something differently in your career or life?

WG: The older I get, the more I realize that things happened and happen the way they do for a reason, so the answer would be no. I'm trying to spend more time with my younger kids, which I didn't do with my older kids, being on the road so much. I used to think about that kind of stuff. But I am happy with the way my life is now. It's wonderful, and even though it's not always how I wanted it or how I thought it should be, it's perfect like it is. I do wish I knew twenty years ago what I know now, but then I would be a different person, maybe better.

AAJ: Your best moment on stage?

WG: Whenever you feel like your feet are not touching the ground and your spirit is so high that it doesn't feel like you are on the Earth anymore. It's beyond anything physical.



AAJ: Something you would change about jazz today.

WG: Nothing. Everything is the way that it is supposed to be. If I could change anything then the world wouldn't be the wonderful place that it is. I wouldn't want to do that.

AAJ: Something about you.

WG: I'm just me. I try to be a nice person; I try to be nice to everybody. What people say about me, their perception of me, is another story, and it could be right or wrong, but I'm just me. I treat people the way I want to be treated. I work. I don't expect anybody to give me anything. Simple: I'm good.

AAJ: What brings you happiness?

WG: Air, the fact that I can breathe. Being alive.

AAJ: What's next?

WG: To record another CD. To continue to write music. To continue to teach.

Selected Discography

Wycliffe Gordon, Cone and T-Staff (Criss Cross, 2010)

Wycliffe Gordon, Boss Bones (Criss Cross, 2008)

Wycliffe Gordon / Jay Leonhart, The Rhythm on My Mind (Bluesback, 2007)

Wycliffe Gordon / Eric Reed, We (WG3, 2007)

Wycliffe Gordon, Cone's Coup (Criss Cross, 2006)

Wycliffe Gordon, Standards Only (Nagel Hayer, 2006)

Wycliffe Gordon, In the Cross (Criss Cross, 2004)

Wycliffe Gordon, The Joyride (Nagel Hayer, 2003)

Wycliffe Gordon, Dig This! (Criss Cross, 2003)

Wycliffe Gordon, United Soul Experience (Criss Cross, 2002)

Wycliffe Gordon, What You Dealin' With (Criss Cross, 2001)

Wycliffe Gordon, The Search (Nagel Hayer, 2000)

Wycliffe Gordon, The Gospel Truth (Criss Cross, 2000)

Wycliffe Gordon, Slidin' Home (Nagel Hayer, 1999)

Photo Credits

Page 1: C. Andrew Hovan

Page 2: Jose Horna

Page 3: Ingrid Hertfelder


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