Don Byron: Music Wikipedia
Alvin Batiste studied with the same teacher that taught Richard Stoltzman. I studied with the same teacher that taught Stanley Drucker who also taught Jimmy Hamilton. In terms of learning the instrument at a certain level, the clarinet is just not an instrument that you can kind of learn without having a relationship with classical music. You have to have a relationship with it, and as much as people used to vibe me about it, every clarinetist has that. Paquito D'Rivera has that, Anat Cohen has that, we all have that. Or else you wouldn't be able to play chromatic music! You would be able to do it unless you had studied a bunch of written music.
GC: You said Wynton went further as a classical player, and certainly he's had a lot of success, winning Grammies and so forth, but don't you think that your interest in classical music as a way to understand composition has gone further than Wynton Marsalis? Maybe we don't even want to get into that...
DB: I don't want to compare myself to Wynton Marsalis... I will say that one of the reasons that I had a really hard time being a classical music was that I was trying to understand it while I was playing it. And I would really get distracted fairly often. I'd be counting rests and I'd say "Wow, that's some bad shit...oh! I just missed something!" It was always my assumption that if I saw orchestra cats were playing, they understood all the chords and all the stuff. That was always my assumption; I had to get involved to see that that really wasn't true. When I left New York and went to New England, all of the stuff that I worked on I felt like I could play better if I understood it theoretically. So I studied it. We'd get groups together and throw together ......?
But I'd be looking at it. We'd throw together "Contrasts"[a Bartok piece for violin, piano and clarinet written for Benny Goodman, but I'd be looking at it. We threw together whatever we threw together and put on performances but I'd be looking at it and we'd be rehearsing cooperatively based on looking at the score and seeing structurally what the individual lines meant, which is something beyond being able to look at a piece of sheet music and playing the right fingering at the right time. So I became a composer from learning the music the way that I thought that I could learn the music.
GC: So let me ask you this... if you do a concert of the music of Earth Wind and Fire, or a concert of Stravinsky, is it going to be a jazz concert or does it even matter at this point? Does it ever matter?
DB: No, it's not a jazz concert, I'm just a black guy. That's basically it. Deal with it! It's really classical, and I'm a black guy. It's really Klezmer music, and I'm a black guy! That thing that I wrote that doesn't sound straight-ahead and sounds like [composer Erik] Satie? It's really classical! And I'm a black guy! It seems like there was no way that that's not jazz. There was no way that what I did in Klezmer music wasn't jazz to people. But it wasn't!
GC: Don't you think that part of the nature of jazz is kind of to absorb a bunch of different things?