Take Five With T. Howard Curtis III
T. Howard Curtis III, born in Williamburg, VA, but now living and working in Graz, Austria has been enjoying a multifaceted career as jazz drummer, percussionist and educator for over 30 years.
He has performed in jazz and other music festivals all over the world, including Paris, Germany, Great Britain, Slovenia, Slovakia, Turkey, Croatia, Switzerland and Russia. He has performed with Dave Liebman, Gary Thomas, Julius Hemphill, George Coleman, Bob Mintzer, David "Fathead" Newman, Joe Locke, Barry Harris, Marc Johnson, John Abercrombie, Jimmy Heath, Odean Pope, Lionel Hampton and others. Curtis was recently appointed Full Professor of Music (tenured) at Kunst University in Graz, Austria.
Drums and percussion.
Teachers and/or influences?
Teachers: George P. Carroll, Rebecca Kite, Dr. Thomas Bates, and Warren Smith.
Influences: Elvin Jones, John Coltrane, Walter Piston, Charles Ives, James Brown.
I knew I wanted to be a musician when...
first heard the drum line to the area high school band. It was the most powerful sound I ever heard.
Your sound and approach to music:
My sound and approach to music mirror my reactions to the world that I live in. My obligation to my art is to live as full a life as possible, then recreate what I find in life to the dictums of notes and spaces.
Your teaching approach:
I really try to get a student to understand that, when it comes to music, it's one of the freest environments you could put yourself in. However, that freedom does entail certain responsibilities, and obligations.
Your dream band:
A trio with John Coltrane and Larry Young.
Road story: Your best or worst experience:
An agency booked a band I was in, an all-black R&B band, into a country and western club. To say it was the most grotesquely mis-booked tragedy is a gross understatement.
NoviSad Jazz Festival in NoviSad, Serbia. I felt like a king.
Your favorite recording in your discography and why?
Like A Crazy. It was my first recording as a leader of original compositions, and people who have heard it routinely express the spirit that they connect with from that music.
The first Jazz album I bought was:
Mean What You Say, Thad Jones-Pepper Adams Quintet.
What do you think is the most important thing you are contributing musically?
I think as long as I am free to write and perform the music I love to play, that, I am contributing good vibrations to the universe...a positive spirit is what we need to invoke more of as artists, within our expressions of humanity.
Did you know...
At one point, I was ready to sacrifice everythingmy teaching career and my performance career, tours, and recordings---just to play in James Brown's band
CDs you are listening to now:
Horace Tapscott, Live At Lobero (Nimbus);
Julius Hemphill, One Atmosphere (Tzadik) ;
Bobby Hutcherson, Patterns (Blue Note) ;
Webern, Berg, Schoenberg, Orchesterwerke (Deutche Grammaphon) ;
Marilyn Mazur, Celestial Circle (ECM).
Desert Island picks:
John Coltrane, A Love Supreme (Impulse!) ;
Charles Ives, 4th Symphony;
Elvin Jones, The Ultimate (Blue Note) ;
Mboom-Mboom, Live at SOB's;
Charles Lloyd, Fish Out Of Water (ECM).
How would you describe the state of jazz today?
Ripe for major change if musicians are willing to take the brunt of the responsibility for everything once controlled by recording companies into their own hands.
What are some of the essential requirements to keep jazz alive and growing?
An uncompromising vision of the artist.
What is in the near future?
Different expressions of drum set and percussion:
Animated cartoon series;
Drum and voice improvised duo concerts;
Solo percussion concerts;
More concerts and recordings with my group, PerkussionDiskussion Tours of Turkey, United States.
If I weren't a jazz musician, I would be a:
Courtesy of T. Howard Curtis III