Earlier this week, representing allaboutjazz.com, I had the extreme pleasure to speak with President George Bush to determine his view on the future of jazz music in America. This interview was months in the planning. I am very grateful to the Bush campaign for allowing me this opportunity and I especially wish to express my utmost thanks to the Secret Service for releasing me in time to catch the bus home. The Secret Service does a remarkable job for this country.
My interview with President Bush took place outside his campaign rally in Racine, Wisconsin. The initial plan called for a meeting behind the stage for a few minutes before the President was to step up to give his speech. Unfortunately, I was not allowed into the event because I would not sign a loyalty oath. Because of this logistical issue, I had to wait until after the speech to talk to the President. Our discussion was held through an open window of the Bush-Cheney Yes America Can bus. While I could not see or hear the President, I was assured by the Secret Service that my questions were going directly to him through an emissary and being relayed back to me by the good side of John McCain's face who happened to be manning the window for the President.
Considering the importance of jazz as a threatened American institution, especially in the swing states, I asked the President a series of questions about jazz and what plans he had to save it.
WK: Thank you so much for agreeing to talk about jazz.
GW (as relayed by John McCain): Well, it's hard work, but it's my pleasure to talk to you, Baldie.
WK: Thank you Mr. President. First of all, I should probably ask you if you believe in saving jazz?
GW (as relayed by John McCain): Of course, Slim. I say, when it comes to saving this jazz thing, you know, you are either with us or against us.
WK: I appreciate that Mr. President. How do you think this issue will play out in this election?
GW (as relayed by John McCain): Well, Wally Boy, let me say this. Senator Kerry has flip-flopped on this issue since his days back at Yale. He has taken every possible position on the matter. That's what those Yale frat boys do. You know what I mean?
WK: Mr. President, didn't you go to Yale?
GW (as relayed by John McCain): Yeah, I guess I did. And what is your point? You know those Swifties told me Senator Kerry didn't like jazz over there in Nam. I believe them. What do you think of that, Stretch?
WK: Mr. President, a couple of moments ago you said that Kerry was a flip-flopper on jazz. And now you just said he doesn't like jazz. How is it possible for him to be a flip-flopper if he doesn't like jazz?
GW (as relayed by John McCain): Listen closely, Shorty. I said the Swifties said it. I didn't say it. Don't go around saying I said it.
WK: Yes, yes Mr. President. I understand. Who is your favorite jazz performer?
GW (as relayed by John McCain): Loretta Lynn.
WK: Ok. Well, Mr. President what is your plan to help save jazz music so that our children can enjoy the rewards of this truly American art form?
GW (as relayed by John McCain): Well, first I am thinking that it will be hard work. But, I plan on forcing a willing coalition together. You know, I think Nicaragua and Colombia are already on board. I understand those Nicaraguaneers and Columbianers really appreciate having some jazz music played while they are out there under the hot son picking those beans. Jazz is good pickin' music. May God bless them; you know what I mean String Bean?
WK: Mr President. With all due respect, do you really know anything about jazz?
GW (as relayed by John McCain): Well, you know, Four Eyes, I only know what I read in the papers- and I don't read the papers. And you know what else? That was the wrong question to the wrong person at the wrong time.
As I was taken away I screamed out my "thank you" to the President. Have I mentioned what a professional outfit the Secret Service is?
I love jazz because it is both challenging and exhilarating, and the endeavor of improvisation is the highest form of art.
I met so many great musicians--including my two earliest heroes, Maynard Ferguson and Dizzy Gillespie--by attending concerts
and being willing to treat them with the respect they deserve.
The best show I ever attended was the Pat Metheny/Ornette Coleman Song X concert at Cornell University.
The first jazz record I bought was an RCA compilation by Dizzy Gillespie.
My advice to new listeners is to not be afraid to listen to something because you're not familiar with the artists or the band or
the genre or anything - this is music that is best experienced through discovery.