It took John Coltrane over a decade to find his groove, and even then he continued to practice all the time and keep reaching for something new. AB:
That's what it's all about. And it's difficult, because you're always never quite there where you want to be! AAJ:
Like Sonny Rollins
, who took a year off and hung out playing on the Williamsburg Bridge so he could find himself musically, even when his career had already taken off. Do you think something like that can still be done? AB:
It has to be done! Whether you can manage it financially is always a question. The point is that if you're passionate about this music, you have to find something in your inner self that keeps you going regardless of your situation. I'm still discovering myself as a musician. I'll open up a page of a Mahler score before I go to bed, and there are little things in there I hadn't noticed before, and there's this wonderful sense of communicating with a master. Same when I hear a phrase of Charlie Parker or Bud Powell. It's a constant lifelong searching and learning how to do it. But along with that comes the gratification of understanding, in a profound way, the healing power of the art of music. AAJ:
It reminds me of T.S. Eliot in The Four Quartets:
"We shall not cease from exploration And the end of all our exploring Will be to arrive where we started And know the place for the first time."
You seem to be saying to those starting out to stay open to possibilities, be creative and passionate about both life and music, and don't become rigid or caught up in the rat race. Perhaps they could follow the examples of guys like yourself, Charlie Haden, Max Roach
, and the others who were always growing and learning, going back to the beginning and knowing it in an entirely new way. AB:
Yes, and always to be listening to what the guys around you are doing. Charlie Haden was always listening. If he heard something interesting in what I was playing, he would let me know all the time. He was fully involved and listening in everything that he did. That to me is what makes a great musician. According to Ruth Cameron, Charlie's wife, he asked for me on his deathbed. I loved this man dearly.