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A Fireside Chat with Kenny Garrett

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AAJ: Isn't not having a working band an Achilles heel?

KG: Well, as a leader, you always try to have a regular band of musicians who understand what you are trying to do conceptually. Every time you change, it changes the music a little bit, but I think it is also a learning experience. It teaches you how to become a better bandleader and how to deal with different personalities and how to make it gel. I remember the first time joining Miles Davis' band and we had a guy who was from the R&B and a guy who was from hip-hop and I was from the jazz school, but he knew how to get what he was looking for. That's the thing that I've learned, that no matter who is there, we can always play music because I am listening to what it is they can offer to the band. At that point, it is almost like Duke Ellington. I take their strengths and turn it into the music. I make the music sound as good as it can sound. I have so many tunes and so many directions that I can go, it has never been a problem for me, but it has been a learning experience. A lot of times, the younger musicians that I have in the band, their generation is from hip-hop. That is what they want to do. What I try to do is expose them, just like Miles exposed me to some different music. If I tell the drummer who is playing with me now that I want to hear the latest beat. I want to hear the beat by 50 Cent. He is going to know that. If I tell them to play me a beat by Elvin or Tony Williams, they may not know that. So I tell them to check these records out. I think they like the fact that we are playing all different styles of music in the context of a jazz band and I think a lot of musicians are happy about that because they can find everything there. They can go to the bakery and get an assortment of things for them to eat. I think, for me, that is what I liked about music.

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