Teachers and/or influences? Clarence Mitchell, John Coppola, Delbert Bump, Bill Bing, Gary Pratt, Bobby Shew, Tony Lujan, John Thomas, Tom Harrell, Uan Rasey.
I knew I wanted to be a musician when... When I started high school, I wanted to be in the band but also play on the football team. I tried out for the team and they wanted me to play tight end. I reported for the first practice, trumpet case in hand, and asked the coach if I could put my case in his office during practice. He said, "What!? You can't be in band and on the football team because the band plays at the games!" For me, there was no choice to be made. I walked right out of the locker room and over to the band room and never went back. Your sound and approach to music: Sound is such an individual thing. Everyone has a different sound because no two people are exactly alike. I like to think of my sound as continually evolving. I play music with much the same concept. I bring what I have to the table and put everything into it. Music is an interactive sport, and I like to play with different musicians to mix and match ideas.
Your teaching approach: All students are different with their own personalities and physical attributes. Students should always be developing their sound and their ability to play with ease and control. I set up my students with a solid warm-up routine that includes lip and mouthpiece buzzing, tone production exercises and range building. I stress that a student should not be judgmental about their playing but instead be continually aware of how they can improve. Productive and regular practice time is the key, especially at a time when students are so overburdened with homework and activities.
Your dream band: I enjoy playing with younger players, usually in or just out of college. They tend to be more open-minded in their approach to learning new music. I am always writing new music and like to have diverse players that are not limited to one style or another. If I had to put together a dream band, it would probably include Wayne Shorter, Kenny Garrett, Pat Metheny, Brad Mehldau, Charlie Haden and Jack DeJohnette.
Anecdote from the road: There a number of things that I can recall from playing with Jack Sheldon's big band but this is a "G Rated" show. I recently did a performance with the Luckman Jazz Orchestra at the Disney Hall in Los Angeles. By itself, that was a memorable event. But I wish I had a camera with me that night because Bennie Maupin (who was also performing with us) was doing some last minute repairs to his bass clarinet. It was really a special moment that I won't soon forget. Photo op missed. Keep a camera handy folks.
Favorite venue: Disney Hall. Hands down.
Your favorite recording in your discography and why? I don't like to place one recording over another. They are all individual moments in time with their own value.
What do you think is the most important thing you are contributing musically? I bring my heart and soul to every note that I play.
Did you know... When I was in college, I worked as security at the Polo/Ralph Lauren shop on Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills. Ask me about it.
How you use the internet to help your career? The internet is an extremely valuable resource for self-promotion. I maintain an e-mail list and do my best to keep my website up to date. I have also enjoyed using MySpace.com. The internet really lets you know how small the world actually is.
CDs you are listening to now: Kurt Rosenwinkel - Deep Song (Verve, 2005); Kneebody - Low Electrical Worker (Colortone, 2007); Cuong Vu - Pure (Knitting Factory, 2000); J.S. Bach - The Brandenburg Concertos; Joe Henderson - Big Band (Verve, 1992).
Desert Island picks: Kenny Kirkland - Kenny Kirkland (GRP, 1991); Tom Harrell - Labyrinth (RCA, 1996); Weather Report - Heavy Weather (Columbia/Legacy, 1977); Kenny Garrett - Songbook (Warner Bros., 1997); Miles Davis - Sketches of Spain (Columbia, 1959).
How would you describe the state of jazz today? Lots of money being spent on jazz education but not as much going to support artists. Sorry to be negative about it. I still enjoy playing but the general public doesn't have much appreciation for jazz. Especially when you have shows like American Idol that are "dumbing down" the public's understanding of music and simplifying it with shallow praise or brutal insults.
What are some of the essential requirements to keep jazz alive and growing? It is important for the general public to go out and listen to music, whether live or recorded, that takes risks. People need music that has emotional value, and they don't get that from most of what is on your FM radio dial. Jazz musicians also need to keep this in mind so that we are not perpetuating the idea that "jazz is fluff." When musicians play music that comes from their souls and doesn't aim at someone's pocketbook, the people will sit up and take notice. Good music reaches beyond category.
The first record I bought was Miles Smiles. Having been a drummer since age two, hearing a young Tony Williams opened up so many possibilities for a 14 year old church drummer. My life changed that day and I've never looked back!