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Pianist Joe Block: At the Start of His Big Bang

Pianist Joe Block: At the Start of His Big Bang

Courtesy Catherine Hancock

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According to cosmologists, our universe started as a tiny speck and within a fraction of a second exploded into a huge ever-expanding space with all the galaxies, stars, and planets condensing out of the dispersed matter within it. This picture of the origins of the cosmos provides an apt metaphor for the way in which some young jazz musicians experience an expanding "big bang" of creativity. Such is the impression of this interviewer when he listens to pianist Joe Block. At 23, he recently graduated from the famed Juilliard School of Music, in a combined degree program with Columbia University. He seems to have devoured his studies. In some of his playing and composing, one can hear the vast universes of music and life condensed into powerful turns of phrase, moments of beauty, and the beginnings of innovations to come.

Block generates excitement that emanates from something hidden within him that is ready to come into being. He could be compared with the young Herbie Hancock whose early risk taking and imagination would keep expanding throughout his legendary career. Block has already been around the circuit and in the process absorbed many different influences, from the jazz greats in his home town of Philadelphia like pianists Orrin Evans and Tom Lawton, saxophonist Larry McKenna, bassist Mike Boone, and drummer Byron Landham, to studies with the late great pianist Frank Kimbrough, to gigs with Kurt Rosenwinkel and Wynton Marsalis, to Block's award winning big band arrangements for Marsalis and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra. He already leads his own trio and quintet. Yet something bigger waits to be born out of him at a time when the jazz universe itself is rapidly expanding.

This interview is a conversation with Block, at first reminiscing about how he discovered the universe of music and absorbed so much of it into his ears, mind, and heart —and fingers and pen. It follows him chronologically from his youth in Philadelphia and its suburbs as a classical piano prodigy, a radical decision to switch to jazz, early jazz education and influences, and on to his recent and current activities in New York.

All About Jazz: We'll start, as I always do, with the desert island question. Which recordings would you take with you to the proverbial desert island?

Joe Block: Off the cuff, John Coltrane's Transition (Impulse! 1970). I would probably take Bill Evans' Sunday at the Village Vanguard (Riverside, 1961). And Frank Sinatra Sings for Only the Lonely (Capitol, 1958) with the arrangements by Nelson Riddle. I'd take a Duke Ellington album, not sure which one, maybe Such Sweet Thunder (Columbia Legacy, 1957) or one of his Blanton-Webster band albums [recordings of Duke Ellington's Orchestra during the years of 1940 to 1942, involving bassist Jimmy Blanton and tenor saxophonist Ben Webster—Eds.] I would take one of the Keith Jarrett Standards Trio records. Just to pick a classical piece that I'd want to study, Mahler's Symphony No. 5. Maybe Bach's Well-Tempered Clavier, which I've been studying a lot this semester. Debussy's Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun, which is one of my favorite pieces. Wagner's Prelude and Liebestod from Tristan and Isolde. I could go on and on...

AAJ: (Parenthetically, a number of jazz musicians like Alan Broadbent and Bill Hughes have told me of their strong interest in Mahler.) OK. Let's get down to your early days. What was your childhood like? To get a time perspective, when were you born?

Childhood and Earliest Musical Experiences

JB: I was born on May 12, 1999.

AAJ: Right around the New Millennium. Where were you born?

JB: I was born outside of Philadelphia in Abington, PA. But I grew up for the first six years in another suburb, Horsham. My dad is a pediatrician, and his practice is in Horsham. I lived there in early childhood, and when I started kindergarten, we moved to Chestnut Hill in Philadelphia which I still consider my home.

AAJ: What was your first experience of music?

JB: I don't have any conscious memory of it, but I know I started playing piano when I was two years old. My parents started me and my siblings on piano as early as possible. So I can't remember a time when I didn't play piano. My parents say I would crawl around as a baby and whistle to songs on the radio exactly in tune. And I do have some faint memories of my really early piano lessons. Interestingly, my parents told me that initially, my brain couldn't comprehend the relationship between the black dots on the written staff and the pitches on the piano. They considered stopping my piano lessons. But finally, thank God, I did make the connection one lesson, and since then, there's been no looking back.

AAJ: You had to connect your visual experience to the auditory one, and your brain wasn't ready to do it.

JB: Exactly.

AAJ: It sounds like your parents had a strong interest in music.

JB: My mom is a nurse, so they both have medical careers, but their interest in music is just as strong. They're both amateur musicians. My dad plays piano, drums, guitar, and bass. He used to play percussion and tympani in the Ambler Symphony Orchestra. My mom was into dance and plays some piano. They're very musical people at the core, and they have a very wide taste in music that I grew up listening to, from Stevie Wonder to the Beatles to Miles Davis, to Beethoven. I was exposed to lots of different kinds of music. And because they were medical, they also recognized the importance of music on children's development. They wanted their kids to pursue the arts from the earliest age.

AAJ: Were you exposed to any avant-garde classical music or free jazz?

JB: Not so much.

AAJ: But a lot of your music suggests that kind of influence.

JB: Yes, that's right.

Piano Prodigy and the Shift from Classical to Jazz

AAJ: So how did your specific interest in jazz evolve?

JB: I started with the Suzuki method, I had been playing classical piano for about ten years, and I was immersed in that world, playing all the famous pieces and composers, doing recitals and competitions, and studying with some great teachers, like Susan Starr and Harvey Wedeen. When I was seven, I got to play the F Minor Bach Concerto with the Ambler Orchestra. But I broke my wrist two weeks before the concert. So the doctor gave me a removable cast which I was able to remove and play the piano when the concert time came! It was painful, but what else could I do? And it was one of the first times I got paid for a musical performance. Interestingly enough, I ended up spending my 100 dollar bill to buy a doll for my sister on her birthday.

So for about ten years, I was really deep into the classical world, but in my early teens, I hit a crossroads where I had to decide if I really wanted to pursue becoming a concert pianist, which would have required hours and hours more of practicing and devotion. And despite being highly skilled at the instrument, at that time as I entered my teens, I was losing a strong internal motivation for classical piano. I felt a bit stifled. Up until this point, my father had been slowly exposing me to his jazz collection. The first jazz pianist I heard was Oscar Peterson. When I listened to the Oscar Peterson Trio, I was amazed by how hard they were swingin.' I thought: this is something that goes beyond notes. This was a feeling and expression that I hadn't experienced before. I'm glad Peterson was my first exposure to jazz piano, because he plays at such a high level of feeling and intensity and swing, he plays all the standards, with great trio arrangements, and me coming from the classical world I was highly impressed by his technical facility on the piano. Personally, I feel that an emphasis on swing is essential to jazz music. Even as modern and different as some of my own compositions are, I always try to retain the sensibility and buoyancy of swing.

But even before I got interested in jazz, I remember experimenting with the classical pieces, like changing the notes on the Beethoven pieces, changing the harmony and the endings. And I started coming up with my own melodies and musical forms, a really early stage of composition. So when I started playing jazz, it was like a perfect glove for my hand. It allowed a space for all the music in my head. It's just as demanding as classical music in terms of technique and repertoire, but at the same time, it has so much freedom of expression, so much room for the individual to express himself and his experiences through his own lens. And it was exactly what I needed at the time.

I started studying jazz at the Philadelphia Clef Club. My dad took me there in the summer of 2012, and I met the head of the educational program, Lovett Hines, He gave me a Vince Guaraldi transcription book, and I spent the whole summer working with it. I came back at the end of the summer to the Clef Club to show the teachers my work and ended up spending my ensuing 8th grade year studying jazz piano at the Clef Club. The first teacher I had there was pianist, organist, and trumpeter Will Wright. He gave me a really strong foundation, particularly in theory and groove. From the very beginning he had me learning how to walk bass lines and speak the bebop language. He had me play "Donna Lee" and "Confirmation," Charlie Parker standards that are usually picked up much later. My technical proficiency allowed me to play the notes, but obviously I didn't have the feeling and the phrasing yet.

AAJ: Did you have any prior exposure to Charlie Parker?

JB: Yes, my dad played me tons of Charlie Parker records growing up. Parker was a great influence on how I learned to play jazz in terms of the language, improvising, playing over chord changes, and so on.

AAJ: So what do you mean when you say you didn't have any sense of the jazz idiom when you came to the Clef Club?

JB: It's one thing to play the melody of a tune. It's another thing to have that special phrasing and the rhythms and the accents that you hear when you listen, for example, to Bud Powell. That "pop!" You can't learn that in a day or even a year. It's something I'm still working on in terms of really getting inside the sound of the music. I did play in some jazz groups at my high school, Germantown Friends School, and I picked up some very rudimentary stuff, and I do remember being able to play the blues scale really fast all over the piano. Some of my first improvising was just doing that.

AAJ: Did you have a knack for transposing the different keys as well?

JB: Well I have perfect pitch. I think it actually makes it harder to transpose because I get so focused on one key and feel it in my entire body, and sometimes it can be hard to break out of it. I think very much like the classical composers did in terms of keys and the effect a particular key has on the listener and the composition. I've improved a lot with transposing, but initially if I hear a tune in a particular key, I might hear and feel the exact chords and qualities in their keys rather than their roman numeral relationships to the tonic, for example. But I love experimenting and playing standards in different keys.

AAJ: So you're seriously getting into jazz at this point. Did you play in any of the ensembles at the Clef Club?

JB: Yes, I played in the ensembles on the weekends. That was a big part of my development. I was one of the youngest in the groups there. My first group I was in didn't have a bassist, so I had to walk bass lines on the keyboard, which is still one of my favorite things to do today. I was thrown into the groups, like a trial by fire. Just "play this" and this and this. Whole new scene and a new community of musicians. I got to perform a lot and gained that experience. I'm forever indebted to the Clef Club and Mr. Hines. They gave me such a great start and became musical family that I will always be a part of. Some of my best friends today I first met at the Clef Club. Eventually, I got to study jazz piano with the great Tom Lawton, whom I met when I was in the Kimmel Center Creative Music Program with Anthony Tidd. Tom was crucial in my early development as a jazz pianist and learning more repertoire and fundamentals. He never tried to limit my creativity and propensity for risk-taking, regardless of how "correct" or raw my playing was.

AAJ: So you're playing a lot with groups, doing some gigs, getting mentoring. At what point did you start to feel like a working musician, doing some paid gigs and transitioning from a student to one of the pros?

JB: I was around 14 or 15 when I first started to play professional gigs. I also had my own quartet where we played in hat shops, synagogues, the most random places. We were so raw, but we loved playing. I was also becoming close with the other students at the Clef Club, including Yesseh Furaha-Ali, Immanuel Wilkins, Shyam Natarajan, Dylan Band, and more. We got to do some traveling and playing around the country. We all share a really special Philly bond.

AAJ: Who were some of the more mature musicians you worked with early on?

JB: Saxophonist Larry McKenna, bassist Mike Boone, drummer Byron Landham, trumpeter John Swana, all the Philly greats. Part of the Philadelphia magic are all the great mentors on the scene when you work there, all passing on to you the legacy. Also I should add that the Kimmel Center program was very experimental, so I really learned how to play in odd meters, how to write and compose, all the advanced technical things. Anthony Tidd and his concepts were incredible and inspiring. His teaching style stressed the importance of musical fundamentals: rhythm, melody, harmony, and so on. So I learned a lot of things across the musical spectrum as I began my professional life. I learned ways to play outside of the box, not just to settle for the low-hanging fruit. I think I always had that internal drive and eagerness to search for something more.

AAJ: Do you ever play "outside" the tradition, you know, free jazz, the new thing?

JB: There are definitely situations where I get into it. In general, I like to have a free approach to my playing and just see where the music goes and how everyone is contributing. Philly has had a lot of the free jazz kind of thing in its history, you know, with Sun Ra, John Coltrane, Bobby Zankel, etc. So I did absorb some of those things as well. I find it intriguing, but I don't get to play free jazz as much now.

The Move to the Big Apple: Juilliard and Columbia

AAJ: Somewhere along the way, you got to New York, and you began playing at festivals, competitions, and venues around the country. When and how did that come about?

JB: A very specific event introduced me to New York. Dylan Band and I started a large ensemble called the Philadelphia Ambassador Big Band. It took a lot of work to get it going, but when we did, we applied for the Essentially Ellington competition at Jazz at Lincoln Center. At first, we ended up fourth place in our region, so we didn't make it. I also tried submitting an original big band composition for that festival. No luck, but I came back the next year with a more advanced piece (Volcanic Suite) and it got chosen. So I won the 2016 Essentially Ellington composition award. Then I got to go to New York, meet Wynton Marsalis, work with the JALC big band, and have my piece rehearsed, performed, and recorded. Funny enough, just last week, six years later, I was on stage with Wynton and the group, playing the composition of this year's winner! Full circle!

I kept up my connection in New York with Wynton and Jazz at Lincoln Center, so that when it was time to go to college, I applied for and got accepted to Juilliard and Columbia, which is when I moved to New York.

AAJ: A propos of that, most jazz musicians until roughly the 1980s did not go the college or conservatory route. Since then, most of the younger musicians have considered it essential to get the formal musical education. So you went to Juilliard, in contrast to Miles Davis, who shunned it in favor of continuing on as a working musician. You already had learned so much, why did you put yourself through the rigors of Juilliard rather than just start working in the New York area?

JB: Well, formal education ran in the family and was an important part of my life. I went to Germantown Friends School, one of the most prestigious schools, so it was kind of expected for me that I would continue along those lines. But it was a tough decision, choosing between going to a university or a conservatory. I ended up applying for the joint dual-degree program at Juilliard and Columbia University. When I got accepted to both schools, I took the chance. And it worked out really well, and I completed both programs. At Columbia, I took courses in American Studies, history, philosophy, literature, politics, and of course classical music theory. I liked getting the opportunity to think critically and get a well-rounded world view. Of course, being in two degree programs at two different schools while working gigs was time consuming and hectic, but it gave me lots of armor going forward. I'm glad it's over now! I finished Columbia last year, and just got my degree at Juilliard last month. Very few of us jazz musicians have done this dual program; it's mainly classical musicians that take on the challenge.

AAJ: Now that you're graduating, when you look back, are you happy you did it?

JB: Yes, I am. I made wonderful connections there, and I feel enriched as a person for having done it.

Jazz Inspirations and Influences

AAJ: Your website bio lists a huge number of influences on you. So I'd like you to narrow that list down to four or five of those great musicians and composers who have had the greatest impact on you.

JB: So many have affected me, and my influences ebb and flow depending on what I'm studying or what I'm working on. I would pick those who have affected not only my playing, but also spiritually and emotionally. First and foremost, the Philly sound and tradition, coming from people like John Coltrane and McCoy Tyner, is a central part of my playing and my vision. I love playing rubato, perhaps due to my love of classical and orchestral music, but also again from my Coltrane affinity. I love reaching for something when I play and really building the solo as those guys did. In playing and composing, I'm thinking very much about macro-level arc and organization, and what we can reach for as a group, as well as the fine details of the voicings and harmony.

Pianistically, I would say I'm very influenced by the jazz pianists who have a strong classical background, especially in their touch. That includes Keith Jarrett, Bill Evans. I also dig pianists like Teddy Wilson, Hank Jones, and Barry Harris who have a certain elegance and logic to their playing. I will always love the standards of the Great American Song Book, especially ballads where I can really mess with the harmony and time. I love taking a melody that people know and changing the harmony and texture, reinterpreting it in a way that's fresh. Brad Mehldau is also one of my favorite pianists, as are Herbie Hancock, Sullivan Fortner, Frank Kimbrough, and Keith Jarrett who can all play "outside the box" and who all play very orchestrationally in my opinion.

I'm drawn to Thelonious Monk's and Duke Ellington's ways of playing that are very experimental in terms of voicing; very strident but at the same time sophisticated and gentle ways of playing and interpreting melody and harmony compositionally.

AAJ: AAJ: I just made the connection between the word "strident" and the stride music that influenced Monk in particular.

JB: I also love Jacob Collier, Kurt Rosenwinkel, Gerald Clayton, Claude Debussy, Barry Harris, Maurice Ravel, Richard Wagner, as well as some contemporary gospel pianists and organists. As you can see, it's hard for me to limit my answer to just a few people! I like to draw from many influences. I'm already leaving out so many people. Another one of my favorite things to do is accompany singers. I try to create sweeping blankets of sound, harmony and texture upon which a melody can be sung or played, almost like a movie soundtrack. I've been playing around more recently with how this can be achieved on a keyboard with lots of special effects.

"Ways of Playing: The "Big Bang" Analogy

AAJ: Now I want to do a reality check on my impression of the way you play. When you are at the piano in what I've heard in a couple of live shows and some tracks on YouTube and Sound Cloud, my impression is that you aren't just striving to be as good as you can be, but in addition you're putting it in a context. For example, in a solo you did on your original, "Shining Spirit," with the Philly Express Band at Pier 3, I felt that I heard so many influences or contexts pouring into the music, like Bach, Debussy, impressionist art, Flemish tapestries, Don Quixote, Walt Whitman. In other words, my mind began to make all kinds of connections to mostly European art, literature, music. That kind of experience doesn't often happen to me. What I'm suggesting is that while many jazz players bring in various creative contexts later in their career, for you it may be happening at an earlier stage of your evolution. This would fit, of course, with your superb liberal arts education. So this is an impression that I'd like to ask if it resonates with you.

JB: That's very kind. What I can relate to it is that, even in the earliest stages of my playing jazz, my teachers all encouraged me to express myself at all costs, even if what I was expressing was not refined or not "correct." I think that's the magic of Philly style jazz! Obviously, there are times when playing in a specific style is necessary depending on the musical situation, which can only be achieved by getting deep inside the minds and fingers of the great jazz players in history. But these studies should ultimately serve as a way to fuel my own artistry, not to put a boundary or box on it.

When I came to New York, I had to spend a lot of time refining all my rawness, and really learning the art of jazz piano itself. But I still feel that a big part of my outlook on music is just going for it, taking risks and reacting to what's happening around me while still being grounded in the structure and style of the piece I'm playing. I was very fortunate to have mentors like Orrin Evans, Frank Kimbrough, and Mike Boone, and Wynton Marsalis who encouraged me in this way. As much as he stresses the importance of studying the jazz tradition, I believe Wynton's approach is actually so much about the individual and so much about having a philosophical view of how you play music. All these people stimulated me to be myself, to reach greater for something when I play and compose, and try to be inspired by something that's not usually expected.

As I've already stated, classical music has also inspired me greatly, specifically compositionally. Right now, I'm writing a twelve-page paper on a Bach Fugue. Classical music has taught me so much about how to study and write music on both macro-and micro-levels, how to organize it, how to deal with form, how to deal with composition, melody, development. Everything I've done in my life involves all mixing together of various ideas and musical forms and composers.

AAJ: That's what I mean when I say I hear many different contexts and connections in your music. And you're saying that right now it's mostly intuitive on your part. It's not as if you have a specific agenda or theory about it.

Nevertheless, it is intriguing how you do apply ideas from other contexts to your music. You have a great piece called "Panopticon" which you play with your quartet. You must have learned about that in a philosophy class. The modern French philosopher Michele Foucault wrote about the Panopticon, which was an 18th century idea for a circular prison in which all the prisoners could be observed at all times from a central tower. The prisoners would therefore more careful about how they behaved. Foucault used this as a metaphor for modern society. We are constantly adjusting our behavior to the others' "gaze," which makes us prisoners of the culture and politics, etc.

JB: I wrote that piece in the hallway before a philosophy exam at Columbia. The exam was about Foucault, amongst other thinkers. So that piece was inspired by what I was studying at the time. I wrote it for my quintet, which is where a lot of my original music get performed these days. Having two horns in addition to the piano trio adds so many possibilities for orchestrating my music. Over time, we've presented a number of pieces like that which have a tight, specific representation of an idea. I write music when I get an idea for it. I don't usually have specific times set aside for writing, like some composers do. It comes when it comes, and then I more formally structure and develop the ideas at a later phase.

AAJ: Many jazz standards have been composed spontaneously on the spot. J.J. Johnson wrote the beautiful song, "Lament" when he was at a recording studio and they needed a tune for an additional track. Thelonious Monk was asked by the sound engineer to make up a tune to record. Monk composed it right away and said. "I don't have a title for it." The engineer said, "Think of one." Monk made that the title of the tune! But, getting back to "Panopticon," how does Foucault's idea express itself in the music?

JB: The fear of being watched coerces us into acting a certain way. With all the mass surveillance we have today, along with computer "cookies," political correctness, and so on, people are going to act a certain way because they know they're being watched and held accountable. The music is in a 14-bar form that repeats over and over. It devolves from the piano melody to the horns to a piano solo to horn solos, then back to the melody. The piece's relatively short melody is repeated every over and over as if it's still being watched, with rhythmic hits placed throughout as pillars. As much as you the musician want to move on, you can't escape from these pillars and the 14 bar form that is constricting you. Nor can the listener escape from the tight form and repetitive melody. Then the horns go off course and "trade" solos with each other, suggesting that maybe you get a glimpse that you could escape from that prison. But the whole thing is deliberately tight and constricted to convey the idea of adjusting your behavior to not get into trouble. Then maybe the next piece in my set will have a completely different vibe, perhaps something more free and expressive. I think a lot about these types of dramatic opposites in my music and in my shows.

AAJ: Maybe Ornette Coleman was the one who escaped from the "prison" of the standard chord changes, etc.

JB: No doubt!

Personal Life These Days

AAJ: In jazz, the music is often a direct expression of the musician's life and personality. So when you have a time for yourself, how do you spend it?

JB: I'm a big sports fan. When I was a kid, I wanted to be a baseball player. I love all the Philadelphia major sports teams, especially baseball and basketball. I play and watch sports almost every day. I also love nature a lot, like these days running along the Hudson river. It's a much needed solace from the busyness of my life and of Manhattan.

AAJ: Where do you live in NY?

JB: I live in Washington Heights, not too far from Juilliard and Columbia. The photo of me on my bio was taken at Riverside Park, where I love to hang out.

AAJ: John Coltrane was once asked about his religious preferences. He simply said, "Music is my spirit." He did pursue a number of spiritual paths, but never settled on one. Do you have a spiritual practice like meditation or any guiding principles that you follow?

JB: I was raised Catholic, and my dad is Jewish, so I was exposed to different religions and cultures growing up. And I went to a Quaker school (Germantown Friends), so I absorbed some of those tenets as well. I acquired an awareness and synthesis of these three religious traditions, but I didn't fully adopt any of them for myself. I do very much resonate with the Quakers that an inner light exists in all of us as a guide towards peace, spirituality, community, and individuality. But the closest thing I have to the Spirit is my music. It can be my vessel. Sometimes, a particular gig or tune allows me to transcend into a different space. Those moments are extremely powerful for me. They always remind me of my Existence, and the power of music to help all of us to transcend and be together.

AAJ: What's the most important thing to you in life?

JB: Man, that's a hard question! I believe life is at the core is about love and experience. It is about helping the people around you through whatever means. It is about pursuing your own dreams unabashedly, but ultimately to serve something greater than yourself.

AAJ: That's beautiful. Thank you. As we begin to wrap up the interview, tell us what you're into musically now and in the near future.

Current Activities and Goals

JB: I'm graduating next week, so it's going to be a transitional period. I have some shows coming up with my groups, a couple of trio gigs, and some with my quintet. I intend in the next year to record my first album with the quintet with all my original music. This summer, I'll be playing a lot with Wynton Marsalis and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra. And I have a bunch of other gigs in which I'm a sideman which requires many different musical hats. And I'm still writing and arranging a lot of music as well.

AAJ: I was very impressed by your big band arrangements. Do you have any plans to pursue that further?

JB: I'd love to do more of that. But right now I'm more focused on writing and playing for smaller groups. But I'm still doing a lot of teaching of big band arranging.

AAJ: Could you name a couple of big band arrangers whom you admire?

JB: Obviously, Ellington is the greatest. His entire life and discography inspire me every day. You can't go wrong with the Vanguard Jazz Orchestra and the music of Thad Jones. And I really like the way Wynton writes for big band, such as his Vitoria Suite or Big Train. I dig Maria Schneider's writing too. I should mention that one person who has had a tremendous influence on me would be her late great pianist, Frank Kimbrough. I studied with him at Juilliard for three years, and he completely changed me as a person and musician. I dedicated a piece I played at my graduation recital, "Both Sides Now" (recorded by Joni Mitchell), to him. To me, that song represents life, and Frank represented life.

AAJ; So, to conclude, could you try to sum up your overall sensibility of what jazz is all about for you? And from where you sit now, where do you see jazz going and where do you see yourself in it?

JB: Ever since its inception, jazz has always been an amalgamation of different things. Over time, it's developed its own defining qualities. But one incredible thing about jazz is its ability to magnetize other forms of music and other forms of expression. I hope to use all these forms and my various influences and ways of thinking in ways that will really have a profound impact on people of all walks of life. There is something that connects us humans underneath all divisions of identity, and music can be this conduit. There are many inspiring musicians and other creative artists in New York, and I'm very excited about what we're going to do. I'm just at the beginning, but I really hope to be at the forefront of a lot of it.

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