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Kind of Purple: Jazz Musicians On Prince

Kurt Gottschalk By

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Relatively late—I was in grad school in '96-'97. My younger brother got a hold of The Hits/The B Sides and simultaneous to that Ralph Alessi at Eastman played us Parade. Then I dove in. I obviously had heard the hits before but it had never "clicked" until then.

Prince is one of the biggest selling artists of the last 30 years. That would suggest a "lowest common denominator" effect to at least some people. Do you think his music is understood for what it is by most people?

Well "what it is" is in the Ear of the Behearer (thanks Dewey Redman), so I'm not sure that matters. I'm sure he has a huge number of fans who are into the deep cuts, and others who compare variations in feel between multiple versions of tunes, still others who just love to belt out "Kiss." Popular music has myriad artists whose content might extend beyond the consciousness of portions of their fan bases, but everyone needs different things from their music. What matters with artists like Prince is that the depth is there.

Do you think Prince is past his prime?

I don't really subscribe to such a notion with regard to artists. I'm not as familiar with his current work, but he's done so much that's great to me that it doesn't matter.

What sort of project or direction would you like to see Prince take on that he hasn't?

If anything I'd love to see him return to the unfettered psychedelia of the mid 80s. The time seems ripe for that to me.

Steven Bernstein: "Darling Nikki"

Tell me why you picked "Darling Nikki" and how you decided to record your own version of it.

I've actually recorded this twice, with MTO and Sexmob. This song just rocked my world when I heard it. Having come up with jazz music as my foundation, there are certain triadic-based songs that seem "simple" but were not part of my language. "Nikki" is one of them. The movement from A to F in the intro and verse and A to C in the chorus gives the song its very inviting harmonic palette.

"Darling Nikki" is one of the songs he won't perform anymore. Any thoughts on him cleaning up his act, so to speak?

Not my business... I'm a music guy.

When did you first become interested in Prince's music?

I bought Dirty Mind in the spring of 1981 (or what is winter of 1980?) at a record store on Broadway between 113 & 112. It was a revelation.

What is it that stands out most to you about his music?



The music.

Prince is one of the biggest selling artists of the last 30 years. That would suggest a "lowest common denominator" effect to at least some people. Do you think his music is understood for what it is by most people?

I have no idea how most people hear music.

What did you think of Madhouse, Prince's "jazz" project?

Love Madhouse, was just revisiting it a couple of months ago, really good for the ears. I heard that it was Prince playing most of the instruments on this as well. Either way, great music

What sort of project or direction would you like to see Prince take on that he hasn't?

Having me write his horn parts.

Photo credit: Karppinen

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