AAJ: So it really was a creative 'think tank.'
PM: Yes, it really was.
AAJ: So Coltrane is a common thread. There's also the thread of bop.
PM: Yes, hard bop. And that has to do with Joe Lovano as well as Lewis Nash.
AAJ: An incredible collaboration, and letting it all happen that way.
PM: Yes, it was just an amazing thing.
AAJ: I think people would be very interested in your personal life and story, if they can be separated from the music, which I don't think is possible. You've been very open about the difficult time in your life when you suffered the aneurysm.
PM: No more difficult than now or any other time. No more difficult, no less enjoyable, two sides of the same coin.
AAJ: You don't see that time as a crisis in your life?
PM: There were crucial moments in it. But in its totality, I can't see it that way. To me that's very pessimistic. Both optimistic and pessimistic are dangerous.
AAJ: In preparing for the interview, I asked myself what I really want to ask you about that time, and as we're talking today, my sense of what I want to ask are changing. Indulge me. You may experience some of the questions as challenging or over-inquisitive.
PM: Sure, I'll be perfectly honest with you.
AAJ: As you know, I'm very interested in neuropsychology. But also, I think we can all learn from your experience. I wanted to know about the permanence of your amnesia, your memory loss. Did the doctors tell you that you could recover some of the memories?
PM: They told me that in time, it would slowly but surely come back.
AAJ: The memories are all there, but not available to the conscious mind.
PM: Yeah, they say the memories are all there, but inaccessible. However, one of the side effects is lack of retention, a deficit in short term memory. The amnesia revealed itself after the operation. I was told that I recognized no one, even my mom and dad. I came back to this house after the operations, and one thing that was part of the house was the history of my career. My father had all of my guitars, which were returned from California, where I had been living. Since I had the operation in Philadelphia, I flew back here. All of my things were flown back, and everything else was taken care of by my family. So here I was beginning to recover surrounded by something I had nothing to do with, because it meant nothing to me, but I could not disagree that this was the truth, that I was a guitarist, that this was my career, that I knew how to play guitar, that these were my albums, these were pictures of me. This is Les Paul. Yes, Les is on the phone and wants to talk to you. Here's a picture of you and Les. Here's an album- and Les did the liner notes- that's who this is. Inside, that meant nothing to me- I couldn't relate- this was just another name that was meaningless to me.
This continued, and each and every time I opened myself up to someone like Les, George Benson, Bobby Rose, Franky Day, and so many others. All of these people touched upon something in their comments that caused an explosive subliminal release inside me that revealed the truth about something we had in common. And slowly but surely, piece by piece, interrelationships began to revive themselves. But still, I had no interest in music. This was due to my father's respect for me as a jazz artist, I developed an expectation that was actually distasteful for me. This was something I was expected to do by others, when all I wanted to do was recover- not become something I'm not.
AAJ: Your father really wanted you to take up the guitar again, not so much yourself.
PM: Of course. All the instruments were here. And furthermore, his ritual on Saturday was to listen to all my recordings in the house. So he would go to the basement, turn on his record player, and I would hear the music coming through the floors, which I disliked very much, primarily because at that time, the music had nothing to do with me. So this went on and on, until I moved. I went to Japan for a while. Then I went to Amsterdam for a few months.
AAJ: These weren't musical tours, just trips you took?
PM: Yes, and I did consider living in these places. But both times I was called back home to be of assistance. My father called and said, 'Mom isn't doing well.' The second time he called: 'Mom is bedridden now, and I think she's not going to be with us long.' So I came back from Amsterdam the second time. And then I remained here, and ironically, in the midst of my own recovery, it could no longer be a priority. Both mom and dad were getting older. So I put my own recovery on pause and did whatever needed to be done. In 1989, my mother passed away, and then in 1990 my father passed away. At which time I still had no interest in music, even though I tried to the best I could in 1987 to play again publicly. I'd already picked up the guitar in the process and doodled with it. Along with the medications I'd been given after the operation- antidepressants- I also had certain forms of therapy. I was at the Institute of Pennsylvania Hospital for a while. I spent time at Einstein Mt. Sinai in a locked ward.