Current and Future Interests
AAJ: I'm appalled by the inequities of recognition and money in the jazz business.
JDW: You know, Miles Davis became a superstar in Europe when he started out. But he practically starved in New York during those early days. I myself have to go out of town and to other countries to make any money.
AAJ:: So, to finish up, give us a rundown on your current and future activities.
JDW: I'm in the midst of forming my own company so that I can have control over my recordings. At the end of the year, I'm hoping to put out a recording, Live at the 55 Bar, taken from my various performances there and some of which are being recorded. And very interestingly, I've been approached about putting out a recording a capella, with no accompaniment, which I find very challenging.
The producer is looking to distribute it through more commercial places like Barnes and Noble, Starbucks, and that type of outlet. Each song would begin and end with multi-vocal layers that lead in and out of the song into the next ones. And, of course, I will continue to teach as well. I have some touring coming up in Mexico, the Ukraine, Russia., hits in NYC, and I'll be down in Philly for the Live in Portugal record at Ortlieb's Jazzhaus and Chris' Jazz Café.
AAJ: Finally, jazz has its roots in spirituality. Coltrane said his music is his spirit. So, do you have a spiritual or religious practice? And what is your central philosophy of life?
JDW: As I said, I want to constantly be a verb, to evolve and grow both as a musician and a person. Religion is something I'm very much interested in, but I don't yet have a religion that I subscribe to as such. I've studied Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, Christianity, Judaism, the Bahia faith, and Confucianism among others. For me, it's a search, and it goes hand-in-hand with my musical search.
I have a thirst for knowledge, and spend the free time I have watching movies, reading and cooking. John Coltrane once played a tape he made of a performance, and when he listened to it, he couldn't understand what he played, and asked his wife Alice, "What is this? Where does this come from?" And she identified it as a Bartok piece they had recently heard. He was always searching and growing, and his musical growth coincided with his spiritual growth.
Similarly, I want to grow as a musician and a person. I want inner peace in my life, and in my music. Ravi Shankar listened to Coltrane after Trane had gotten clean and was becoming very spiritual. Shankar commented that from what he heard it sounded like Trane was a very spiritually unsettled person. Maybe so, but Trane was on a search for it.
Whether or not the search takes us to those dark places or not, we do have to confront these things. So if some of the music is dark, maybe it's because life has that, too. I once brought Billy Hart to Philadelphia to play, and I got him a teaching clinic at the University of the Arts. And one of the more seemingly silly questions a student asked was, "When you're playing drums at a gig, and you get bored, what do you do?" And he said, "Well, I try to do something stimulating, like go to a museum or take a long walk, or try to learn something new." And that's the point. Our lives and our music reflect one another, and life gives us the emotional fodder for our musical expression.
J.D. Walter, Live in Portugal (JWAL Records, 2008)
Steve Rudolph Trio, Dedicated to You (PACT Records, 2004)
J.D. Walter, 2 Bass, a Face and a Little Skin (Encounter/Dreambox Media Records, 2002)
J.D. Walter/David Liebman, Clear Day (Doubletime Records, 2001)
Steve Rudolph Trio, Featuring J.D. Walter, Sirens in the C-House (Encounter/Dreambox Media Records, 2000)