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A Fireside Chat with Roberto Miguel Miranda

By Published: November 29, 2003

RM: Fortunately for me, I had the three mentors that I always talk about, Bobby Bradford, John Carter, and Horace Tapscott. Those guys were always trendsetter without being trendy. They, along with my father, have let me know what is truly important in life. Just like Lot in Sodom and Gomorrah, I have been able to live in the midst of all of this sin, but still understand that my relationship with God is the single most important thing and because of him, I have been able to keep my head on straight to some degree. Because of my belief in Jesus Christ and God sending me really wonderful teachers like my dad and John, Bob, and Horace, I have been able to keep the priorities straight. Lately, the Lord has been kind enough to allow me to play with Kenny Burrell, who is truly a master musician and who has taught me many, many things. I have just been fortunate that I have had good teachers. That helps keep me away from the trends and frankly, Fred, I don't think that, although LA is certainly the center of that kind of temptation, anywhere you live in the world, they are going to have those things that try to take you away from center. I think that it is only through being exposed to the truth, that you can remain centered or even know what the center is.

FJ: Give readers insight on the impact Bobby Bradford has had on you musically.

RM: Well, I remember one time when Bobby was talking about Arthur Blythe's sound because Arthur Blythe has this incredibly unique sound on alto saxophone and Bobby described Arthur's sound as a laser beam. Taking that description from Bobby Bradford and applying it to him, Bobby has always been able to remain completely focused musically speaking on what is important in the music. The way that he lets me and the people around him know that he is focused is that he writes tunes, this is just one example, but Bobby, compositionally speaking has remained focused in terms of being able to write tunes and actually writing tunes that are miniature works of art prior to the improvisation and the improvisational approach, just the music by itself, just the head, just the written part is this miniature masterpiece. Another way he lets us know that is every once in a while, Bobby plays a note. It might be behind somebody else's solo or in the middle of a collective improvisation where everybody is playing twenty or thirty notes and Bob just picks one note or one motif and it is the fattest, juiciest, most beautiful note that he could have picked, he puts it in absolutely the most funkiest, most danceable, most intelligent place he could have put it. He continues to do that and he has done that ever since I have known him. Also, at some point, during almost every performance that we play with that band, Bob manages to be at a place and help the band be at a place where everything is just happening. Bradford is a gift, Fred. He is a gift to the music. The cat is just a creative and sensitive human being and his art reflects that reality.

FJ: And Horace Tapscott, who to me, is an icon of the music.

RM: Horace was like that also. For some reason, the term griot comes to mind. He was an Afro-American jazz griot because he certainly kept the history of the music from the very beginnings, all the way up to and including the day he died. John was the same way. At some point, they will go all the way back to the beginnings of the music and they will bring it up to today. We might do all of that in one composition. All of these guys were also brilliant instrumentalists, brilliant. They were truly fine technicians, but they never let the numbers get in the way of the music. I always really appreciated that about them. The music was more important than the numbers and they were committed to continually bring the numbers to the high level. I have been blessed. God has been good to me.

FJ: Recently, Henry Grimes was found to have been living in Los Angeles for the past three plus decades and both of you played a gig featuring three bass players.

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