What helps me now and I hate to say this are the injections. I avoided injections for forty years because a lot of times, the injections can tear down something rather than build it up. Right now, I beg for them. I call him on the phone and tell him that I am in excruciating pain. I go see him the next day and he treats me and does what he can for me. He has the bottom line. I tell him how I am feeling and he makes the decision. To do that record date, both of my thumbs went before I even did it and my forearm was bad. I told the doctor that I needed two more tunes for the album and I was going to play live with the rhythm section. So he gave me five injections, two on the forearms, one in each thumb, and one in the third finger of my right hand. Three weeks went by. Sure my hands were sore from the injections, but the eleven minutes I played, I played one tune and took a half an hour off and wrote an introduction and ending because we had nothing planned. I didn't even know if I was going to be able to play. We didn't even have a run through. I didn't even touch the piano until we played. Was it worth it? Yes, it was worth it. That was Monday. Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, I was in bed. I couldn't lift my arms up. I was exhausted. You know what? I am going to do it again.
FJ: There is a fine line between courage and insanity. This almost sounds as if you have blown past the courage line and are marching up the path of insanity, an unhealthy obsession.
JA: Well, you know, Fred. When I go into that record studio, once I sit down at the piano, forget about it. There is no ifs, ands, or buts. If it is too hot in the kitchen, get out of the kitchen. This is my own choice. Can you imagine spending all of your life and getting to the point where you can do what you want? Fred, when I am at the piano, I can do what I want. I can't give that up. I can't give that up without a fight. Look, Fred, I have had two bad hands knowingly, but guess what, if I was cornered what do you think I am going to do? Run? I am going to fight, Fred. I will tell you something, whoever it is, he better know how to fight or he is going to have a big problem. I am not stopping. This is my attitude. I am playing and it is as simple as that. I have been off six or seven months.
I am writing new music and plus the standards and I will go back and try to play those ten or eleven minutes. I cannot give this up. It is as simple as that. Now, if I tried to play everyday, I am a basket case. I know I can't do it. So I play in my head everyday. I practice in my head. I teach and I lecture. I am doing the best that I can. I don't play the piano for anybody. I play the piano to find out where I am, so when I go with the trio, I know I am going to be able to play. It is a catch twenty-two situation. Let's say I don't touch the piano for five or six weeks because I am sore. When I go to the piano, at some point, I have to find out if I can get up to world class playing. When you play, you get hurt, but if I cannot get up to world class playing in one or two playings, I can't do the record date. I need to get to that type of playing and as long as I can get to that type of playing, you can rest assured, the pain is worth it for me. For someone else, that is something else, but when I go out, nobody sees me in pain. Nobody sees me doubled over or wearing a white flag. Nobody knows anything, Fred, and that is the way it should be.
FJ: You are from a different generation. They don't make them like you anymore.
JA: I will tell you something. I am from the old school. My father had a seventh grade education. That is all he had because he used to take care of his parents when they came from Italy. What my father did, he became self-educated. He used to read until five in the morning. He would help himself. When he retired at sixty-two, he had almost three hundred people working for him. He passed every test because of his studying. He taught me the most important thing about life is integrity and character and respect. If you don't have it, you can forget about it. That is what this is about. Whatever I do, you can rest assured, Fred, it will be the best that I can.
I love jazz because it is simply a music of my heart since I was about 12 years old.
I was first exposed to jazz when I heard Sonny Boy Williamson play harmonica. My introduction to jazz went through blues music.