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Tony Miceli: Vibes Matter

Victor L. Schermer By

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Tony Miceli is a long-time master vibraphonist who, until a few short years ago, was relatively unknown outside of the Philadelphia area, when he started getting requests to perform and teach all over the world. Now, he is in demand in Ireland, South Korea, Argentina, and Australia, not to mention New York and the West Coast, and the list of places is growing every day. Miceli deserves the newfound renown. He is widely regarded by the cognoscenti, including vibraphonists Gary Burton and David Friedman, as one of the ascending masters of the instrument. His work with groups like Monkadelphia (Monkadelphia; Dreambox Media, 2000) and The Jost Project (Can't Find My Way Home; Dot Time, 2013) are gaining increasing attention from jazz fans, and his new CD with violinist Diane Monroe (Alone Together; Dreambox Media, 2014) is raising eyebrows.

Miceli is interested in social networking and is bringing players of the vibraphone together in a worldwide exchange of ideas and approaches. He has established vibesworkshop.com for vibes players to interact, teach, learn, and develop musically with one another. This year, he established the first Vibraphone Congress with Leigh Stevens and Tom Meyers, bringing players together in person to establish a yearly meeting and a community to support their work. We can find inspiration in his philosophy that "Doing good for others is the basis of a successful career. The good comes right back to you."

All About Jazz, impressed by Miceli's dedication and incredible ability to transform any sheet of music into beautiful swinging jazz, wanted to find out how he has evolved as a musician since we last interviewed him in 2006. So we hooked up with him at his home studio, which is something like a "situation room" with its vibraphone in the center and an array of computers, amplifiers, recording equipment, and TV cameras, all connected to the internet, allowing him to instantly connect with co-musicians around the world.

All About Jazz: What were some of your earliest musical influences?

Tony Miceli: I was listening to a lot of rock music when I was growing up. And I was gravitating toward what I considered to be the more sophisticated players. I was thinking about which bands were best. I liked Emerson, Lake, and Palmer. I liked Yes. I was always seeking a higher level musically in all that. Meanwhile, my Italian-American parents were listening to Frank Sinatra, and every weekend we had Sinatra on. So indirectly, I was learning about "standards" which I also liked a lot. I found myself thinking about form and timing and other technical stuff as well.

AAJ: Did you have a music teacher?

TM: I started off playing guitar, in particular classical guitar. Then in my teens, I had a piano teacher Gene Davise and I had a drum teacher Joe Sher as well. I started playing guitar when I was six. By nine, I had two teachers—drums and guitar—and by fourteen, I had three teachers. Importantly, they were all very passionate about the music. They were actively playing gigs, so they could pass the fire along to you. My teachers would talk about their gigs, which probably helped me later. I think it's important to have teachers who are actively working. Mine were.

I remember going to a garage sale and buying the Miles Davis recording, Kind of Blue (Columbia, 1959). At first, I was very confused by it. I thought, "This is weird," and I set it aside. Then, a few months later, I tried listening to it again, and that time I got it! It hit me! So then I started getting excited about jazz. The rock music was familiar to me and my friends, but not jazz. But then I started paying attention to jazz and asked my piano teacher for some names and started to listen to it a lot.

So I started out with rock, as well as my father's influence with the standards, and then accidentally got turned on to jazz. Sometimes I wonder if there would be more interest in jazz if we exposed kids to it more often. Is musical taste more a matter of nature, nurture, or peer influence? Anyhow, when I went to college at the University of the Arts, jazz became a major influence on me. I grew up in a mostly-white neighborhood, and going to college made me realize that all the stereotypes I had in my head were wrong. In college, I was exposed to European, Asian, African American, and Latino musicians and was impressed by how amazing they all were.

AAJ: Were you also exposed to classical music at UArts?

TM: I was studying all percussion, and had a classical percussion teacher for that. I played in the orchestra. But getting back to jazz, one of my biggest influences in college in the late 1970s in Philadelphia was saxophonist Larry McKenna. Of course, he's still very active. To me, he's an icon. I would put him up against anybody. Interestingly, I'm traveling a lot now, and every town I visit has an alleged saxophone icon like Larry! But they can't come up to his level of playing. Many of the classical musicians I met were very analytical but not really musical. By contrast, Larry simplified everything for me and emphasized how things sounded.

AAJ: But today, you sometimes perform with musicians from the Philadelphia Orchestra...

TM: Yes, but it's mostly jazz we're playing. They are great musicians and great readers so this helps me a lot. They don't play jazz a lot so Larry [McKenna] and I are the ringers.

AAJ: Some classical musicians have trouble swinging and playing jazz. Do you think they can be taught to do it well, or is it just something you're born with?

TM: Most players can be taught to improvise. Only some of them can be taught to swing. There's a cultural factor. Even with myself, my way of swinging is different from what I hear, say, in an African American gospel group, or a blues group. That's not what I was exposed to early on. But I don't believe it's totally cultural; musicians can learn anything if they spend enough time studying and working on it.

AAJ: You're also making an important point that within jazz itself, there are many different musical cultures. It's sort of natural for a particular musician to gravitate to one style and not another.

TM: That's correct. I think jazz is a fusion of cultures. I know that jazz started with the African and Caribbean influences, but in the end jazz has become a fusion between European music, African music, and so on. Also, there are individual differences. Some guys play very intellectually, while others are more emotional and intuitive.

Vibraphone Approaches and Styles

AAJ: Up to now we haven't mentioned vibraphone. To bring our discussion forward time-wise, you ended up playing vibes. Sometimes, it seems to me that all vibes players play the same way, but of course when you listen carefully they are different. So, to get an idea of the differences, how would you compare your own vibes playing to that of other vibes players, let's say Milt Jackson, Gary Burton, and Joe Locke?

TM: Those are three incredible players. I can say what I learned from each of them. From Gary, I learned about four-mallet playing. And he had a different feel from the bebop players; he grew up in the Midwest and then was influenced by guys in the scene up in Boston, like Pat Metheny. Milt Jackson is such an amazingly natural musician. From him, I learned about line, how it varies over time. Like Pablo Casals said, it's like a rainbow. From Joe, who is a great personal friend of mine, he's paid his dues like nobody, had to work very hard to get where he is, and I admire that above everything. He incorporates many influences from Gary Burton, Milt Jackson, and Bobby Hutcherson. He would sometimes show me these great lines he's learning from Bob Berg and others. Joe is able to play what you might call "sheets of sound" on vibes. Bobby Hutcherson can also do that. And Gary is mainly a four-mallet player. Milt Jackson was a two-mallet player. Joe Locke does both two-and four-mallet playing. Another unbelievable player is Mike Mainieri, and he separates them—chords with four mallets, and when he goes solo, he puts two of the sticks aside—I call those guys "stick-droppers," not as a criticism, just the way they approach it.

AAJ: What do you mean when you say that Joe Locke paid his dues?

TM: He struggled a lot in the beginning. He and trumpeter Joe Magnarelli and the rest of the band had to play on the street to raise rent money. Lots of musicians struggle financially, but Joe is my friend and I've heard his stories from him. It was pretty rough at some points. He and Magnarelli really earned their place in jazz.

AAJ: You have a unique way of holding the four mallets. Could you describe it and tell us what its value is to you as a player?

TM: Every vibes player has his own way. But I once went to hear Gary Burton play, and it was back in the days when I used drugs, and I was really high, which I no longer do. That's why I call it the "Stoned Grip!" I was so wasted that I thought he was playing in a unique way! He wasn't, but I imagined it. I thought he held two fingers between the two sticks in each hand instead of one. I wanted to play like Gary Burton, so I started doing it, but of course I found out later that he has one finger in the middle! But it turned out I love my grip with the two fingers in between. One reason for that is that I grew up listening to guitar players and how they play. While a pianist uses to hands to play the notes, a guitarist has only one hand—the other is picking. A vibes player is somewhere in the middle. We can use both hands, but we don't have the speed of all five fingers to use like a pianist. I bring my hands together to play melodies, and then add notes to play the chords. Using the two fingers between the mallets seems to facilitate me doing it.

My five favorite vibes players have five different grips. Like brass and reed players fight over embouchure, mouthpieces, and reeds to use, we vibes players fight over different grips. In my opinion, each player should use whatever works best for him.

Musical Ventures and Adventures

AAJ: I'd like to ask a question that perhaps would be difficult for anyone to answer. As a practical and personal matter, how would you define "jazz" as a form of music? I'm asking this because in many ways you transcend specific genres, including classical and rock among other approaches.

TM: My definition is more limited than some other players. A crucial element of jazz for me is "swing." I sometimes play in countries where swing isn't emphasized. I recently played with a guy who wanted everything broken up rhythmically and didn't want to make it swing. So I went along with him, but in my mind I thought, "Man, you're missing something." If you're a musician who can swing really well, you understand the magic of it. For me, when I listen to Philadelphia-based jazz musicians like Byron Landham or Mike Boone or Sid Simmons [a pianist icon in Philadelphia, who passed away in 2010 -Eds.], their swing is magical. Landham has assimilated the artistic and cultural essence of swing perfectly. So for me, swing is the essence of jazz.

The problem is that musicians are now bringing in a lot of new things, so I have to adjust. But in my heart I know it's about swing. But you also have to respect people who are pushing the envelope like Vijay Iyer, Kenny Werner, Brad Mehldau, and Kurt Rosenwinkel, but their innovations are within the jazz tradition. Then you have guys that play no swing and say it's jazz. My own tastes are more narrow.

AAJ: You're like Count Basie, who said, "It's jazz if you tap your feet."

TM: Yeah! That's great!

AAJ: Some avant-garde players like Bobby Zankel can go very far out, but they still swing in their own way.

TM: I love what Bobby does, and it's great that we do have some cutting edge people here in Philadelphia. New York, Philly, and Chicago are historical towns, and we work hard at maintaining the tradition of the music, but we also experiment and explore. Many of us want to maintain the tradition and the history of the music.

AAJ: Speaking of Philadelphia, which of your favorite local musicians are you currently working with?

TM: There are many, and I hope I don't leave anyone out. Of course, I love to work a lot with violinist Diane Monroe. We have a long friendship, playing and working together since the late 1980s. A number of rhythm section guys. Of course, Byron Landham on drums, although I don't get to play with him as often as I'd like now. But another drummer I frequently work with these days is Dan Monaghan. He's amazing. Did you know he teaches ear training at Temple University—imagine a drummer teaching ear training! His ears are huge and he knows theory very well. My buddies are bassists Madison Rast and Dave Brodie. I work frequently with singer/composer/arranger Paul Jost and bassist Kevin MacConnell. We're called The Jost Project, and we do all the rock tunes but in a classic jazz format, and we sometimes bring in Anwar Marshall and Charlie Paterno. Paul Jost is a big inspiration. Then there's "mad scientist" pianist Tom Lawton. We gig together often.

It's interesting that musicians from out of town love to come to Philadelphia to work with us. I play in a lot of locations these days, and when I come home I realize the best musicians are right here. I think it's because, being in a town that emphasizes tradition, we place a lot of stress on the basics: time, rhythm, and feel. So we all work at it. And now there's a whole crop of young guys coming up like bassist Justin Sekelewski. He comes over to my studio every week and kicks my butt. He brings in a lot of new stuff. And in jazz when we play we're all equals, regardless of our age.

I've left out so many people. Like saxophonist Chris Farr and bassist Gerald Veasley. There are so many great musicians in this town. Another guy who gets me excited is pianist Orrin Evans. I love the CD he just made with saxophonist Ralph Bowen. I've never worked with Orrin and would really like to at some point.

Vibes and Violin: An Unusual Duo

AAJ: Let's talk about your work with violinist Diane Monroe. I love the CD the two of you just released. And Diane did a wonderful concert substituting for her friend, the great John Blake just before he died in August. There's one of several YouTube videos with you and Diane that I especially like: "Here's that Rainy Day." Bassist Tony Marino is also great on that one. The two of you work very creatively and imaginatively together, generating interesting musical ideas. The combination of vibes and violin is very unusual, but it works out really well.

TM: And we work well together as a duo without bass and drums, which we often do. Diane and I have been best friends for years. And we would often end up playing on gigs together. Then, at a certain point, we just started jamming one on one at my house. I've always been fascinated by the Bach Sonatas and Partitas for Solo Violin as well as the Bach Cello Suites. You hear the rich harmony and counterpoint on a single instrument. So, I always think to myself, how could I work along with it? How could I work it so the listener could hear those complexities without getting too stressed out? So Diane and I spent a whole year just figuring out how to play together. For example, she'd say, "I want to comp behind you like a chord player." So she'd do that, and we'd check back with each other, and then we'd try something else.

So we had our own laboratory for a year. One time, she changed my whole perspective by telling me I didn't have to play so rhythmically behind her. She was playing rhythm in her lines so it wasn't necessary for me to do that I could play less which helped me relax a little. It seems very obvious but I didn't think of it. If the soloist is rhythmic, I don't have to be. The time is there in the lines. This is a great thing to remember for unorthodox duos and trios. She freed me up to focus exclusively on the chords, and she took up the rhythm. At the age of 50, that was completely new to me.

Those "lab" sessions then led to some duo gigs and then we made a CD together. But we didn't like it, so we started out again from scratch, and so the new CD is the result of a lot of work.

AAJ: I wondered why it took so long from the time you first mentioned it to it being released in August. I was very impressed by how well the different sounds of vibes and violin combine together.

TM: I'm glad it came out that way. The sound engineers told us that it would be very technically difficult to mix the two sounds. And it took a lot of work to get it right.

The Jost Project

AAJ: Let's turn now to the Jost Project. For those who don't know, the Jost Project was conceived by you with the help of singer and composer Paul Jost and bassist Kevin MacConnell. It's designed to focus on rock music from the '60s and '70s primarily, offering jazz renditions of those tunes, which was the pop music for a whole generation of listeners. How did you get interested in working with Paul on that project?

TM: Well, college was the first time I really became a jazz nut. But one time, a jazz guy dismissed rock music and told me, "It's all based on three chords. Jazz is much deeper." And I initially agreed with him, But later, I thought to myself, "Wait a minute! Miles Davis' "So What!" has only two chords! "All Blues" has four chords! Then I realized that jazz doesn't necessarily have a lot of chords. And, anyway, it's all music. Then I stopped being such a jazz snob, and started listening to rock again, as I did as a kid. Then I went to hear Ravi Coltrane and Elvin Jones, and they played a tune for about forty minutes that was only one chord!

So I figured, why not play rock tunes? I got together with bassist Kevin McConnell and drummer Butch Reed, and we just played rock tunes, just trying to make them interesting in jazz. What's the difference between us doing that, and pianist Bill Evans taking a tune from a Disney movie, "Someday My Prince Will Come," and making it a beautiful jazz piece. A lot of jazz music is from Broadway shows. There's an established tradition of taking pop music and making it work for jazz. So why can't we do that with rock?

AAJ: Historically, rock music replaced the standards and swing as the predominant form of popular music in America. Many rock players were influenced by modern jazz, bebop, and hard bop. But you guys are somewhat unique in focusing on a repertoire of rock tunes in a jazz format.

TM: Whatever music you're hearing as part of your daily life whether with your girlfriend, your peer group, your work and play, it takes on emotional value for you. A particular song will take me back in time, to some experience I had when I was younger. For many people, including me, that emotionally relevant music happens to be rock tunes. So Paul and I put classic rock tunes in a classic jazz format, and we enjoy it and hope that many listeners will love it as much as we do.

AAJ: So in a way, you're appealing to a particular generation, the baby boomers. However, the so-called "standards" in the American Songbook arose during the swing era, so they naturally "swing," which you defined earlier as the essence of jazz. The rhythm of various rock genres does have its own excitement, but, by your own criteria, does it "swing" in the particular way that jazz does?

TM: You're correct, to the extent that the rhythm of standards is more like that of jazz, whereas I've always thought of rock as a kind of breakdown of jazz into a simpler form. But it's still great music. The Beatles did amazing things musically. Even the postmodern composer, Steve Reich, simplified music to the barest minimum, yet it's still great music.

AAJ: In a way you're saying that you can take almost any musical pattern and transform it into jazz. I recently heard a jazz composition that was heavily influenced by Steve Reich. So the question arises, does it really matter what type of music it is anyway? Music is music. Duke Ellington said "There are only two kinds of music: good music and bad music."

Getting back to the Jost Project itself, how come it isn't called the Jost and Miceli Project?

TM: Paul is really the center of it because he is a vocalist. We had a trio, and Paul came over and sang with us from time to time. I felt that nobody could bridge jazz and rock like he did. Paul's singing is a lot like Tony Bennett, so he can sing a jazz tune. Then he can turn around sing a rock tune—it doesn't matter. He's done commercials and jingles; he's played Atlantic City shows. So he gets it! He gets both sides. He really pulled the whole idea for the Project together. Kevin MacConnell and I made it our business to build a band around Paul.

AAJ: But would it be correct to say that you and Kevin and Paul are collaborators on the Project?

TM: Yes. Paul and I do most of the arrangements. Kevin is our bass player. We alternate our drummers: Charlie Paterno and Anwar Marshall. They have different perspectives, and each brings something special to the music. The drummer changes everything. With jazz, each musician brings his or her own background and experience, and it literally changes the music.

It takes time for a group to evolve. Bill Evans recalled playing six weeks of gigs with Scott LaFaro and Paul Motian, and one night, something changed, and they went to a new place musically. Something like that is happening with the Jost Project. Charlie and Anwar are much younger than Paul, Kevin, and me, and they bring in all this new stuff. More mature musicians like us should always play with young people. It keeps us young musically.

AAJ: How are the audiences reacting to the rock songs you play?

TM: They're reacting great everywhere we go. We just spent a week in Korea, and people went crazy for it! That's because the tunes are familiar to them. Today, the jazz standards are unfamiliar to the younger generations. That music is lost to them. On the other hand, we can play "Kashmir" by Led Zepellin, and I guarantee you most of the twenty to forty-year-olds will know it. And most of the fifty and sixty-year-olds lived it! So they immediately recognize it, and then they realize that we're doing something different with it.

AAJ: Rock music would seem to belong in a larger setting than a nightclub.

TM: That's true. It's played in large stadiums. In Korea, we played at both a big jazz festival and in a small club with a restaurant. In the end, we just want to play the music where it gets heard and appreciated.

AAJ: You're making a more general point as well that's easily forgotten. There has to be a match between the music and an audience.

TM: Some musicians play for themselves and almost ignore the audience. But to me, the audience is important. We shouldn't compromise the music, but I do want my audience, who pays money to hear me, to have a good time.

Today Philadelphia; Tomorrow the World!

AAJ: You and I have known each other for a few years, and when I first heard you play and hung out with you, you were doing almost all local gigs in the Philadelphia area. Suddenly, in the last couple of years, you're traveling all around the world to do gigs and vibes workshops in Ireland, South America, Asia, Australia, the West Coast. I've always felt that you're worthy of an international reputation. But a lot of our great local musicians rarely go out of town. I'm wondering what happened that the world opened up to you so quickly.

TM: In the 1980s and 1990s we musicians had tons of work locally. Recently, there's less work for us. A number of clubs closed, and concert venues aren't sponsoring as much jazz. So I realized that the way I was getting gigs in Philly was by networking with other musicians, club owners, and so on. Then I realized that today, we can do the same thing around the world on the internet. I had started a web page very early in the game, when the web just started, and I began giving vibes lessons on the internet. After a while, I learned to add video, and then people could see and hear me all over the world in an instant. So now I have a website called vibesworkshop.com and we have almost 4,000 vibes players around the world who have joined us. I answer questions, I help people get instruments, do a lot of teaching. I also have many videos of my playing on the internet. As a result, I've made many friends around the world. So, for example, a great vibes player in Korea invited me to play at a jazz festival there. And I met Anthony Smith in one of my vibes workshops and we're going out to California to do some gigs out there.

Social Networking and the Internet

AAJ: You seem to have organized your career very well now, and many struggling musicians could learn something from your experience.

TM: Building a career is a lot like performing. You've got to give and take, you've got to give other people room. And when you do, you make friends, and with the web, you can make many friends everywhere who use your services and help you get work. And with email, I can keep track of my conversations and respond to them intelligently as opposed to just "rapping" with somebody.

AAJ: These are really good examples of social networking as it has evolved on the web. We're all connected in ways that never happened in the past. You're really at the cutting edge.

TM: Facebook, Twitter, and the internet are invaluable for musicians.

AAJ: Do you think the internet is changing the music itself?

TM: The internet is redefining music and the music business. Some musicians are concerned that the internet is depriving them of royalties and money for their recordings, but some are actually increasing their income through the internet in various ways. They develop fans through the internet, they teach lessons on the internet. I know a couple of composers who make money selling their compositions online. It eliminates the middle man. I think we musicians have to learn to use the internet to our advantage.

AAJ: Your teaching and workshops are getting a lot of attention these days. Tell us about them.

TM: I make audio lessons and video lessons available at my website. I teach some, but also involve other vibes players as instructors. The students from around the world can talk with each other and their teacher, post material on the site, and so on. There is now a community of vibes players that didn't exist before as an active group. Gary Burton, Dave Freedman, and other amazing players participate. It's an active website that gives many players, teachers, and students the opportunity to interact and exchange ideas. This is a worldwide community of vibes players that brings them out of their isolation and relating to one another.

Not only that. The website is in effect an online magazine. I have over 6,000 stories available to read. And 30,000 comments. And over 1,000 lessons. It's by far the largest information resource for the vibraphone.

AAJ: Is this a unique idea you've developed? Or have others done something similar with other instruments?

TM: I think what's unique about it is that it is very open. Anyone, even a non-paying member, can contribute to it. It's a very accepting place, with few agendas.

Reviving the Jazz Scene in the U.S.

AAJ: Many, if not most, jazz musicians struggle financially. What are your observations about the financial aspect of being a jazz player?

TM: Historically, before recordings developed, almost all musicians of any genre were struggling to make a living. Mozart had difficulty making ends meet. Only recently, since the 1920s have musicians had a serious shot at being middle class or better. But if you want to be seriously artistic, it's gonna come with a price. I once made a lot of money playing weddings and other receptions. But I eventually stopped doing it so much because of the compromised level of musicians and the music.... and all the demands of the brides and grooms and their mothers! There's no getting away from the fact that it's a difficult road for most serious jazz players.

AAJ: Philadelphia, and perhaps the whole country, is experiencing attrition in live jazz. In the course of your travels, did you get any ideas that might help revitalize things locally business-wise?

TM: In other countries, like Korea and Australia, jazz is exotic! Its sort of fresh and new and exotic and far away! So they love it. In Dajong, Korea, they treated me so well! A wealthy businessman treated me like a king! He has jazz concerts in his theatre he built in the bottom of his ten floor building! Then I went to Daegu, and I met a guy who owns a large building and built a jazz club in the basement! If we're going to keep this music thriving in Philly and the U.S., we're going to really turn people onto it and they're going to have to fall in love with the music. And the business community has to invest in it.

In some countries, like Argentina, music is simply a part of everything they do. Art is important to them. I went to the Opera House to hear a Steve Reich concert, and the auditorium was almost as big as a baseball stadium! My seat was on the sixth or seventh tier! And it was sold out for Steve Reich! They love music and the arts.

It's always been the young people that plot the course of music, and they have to bring jazz back here. We have to grow an audience, which means we have to pay attention to our audience.

AAJ: In Philadelphia, we have a tremendous legacy of jazz and the best crop of current musicians, but we just haven't nurtured it recently. Jazz was the first form of music to be downsized during the recession, when jazz clubs closed and great concerts stopped happening.

TM: If we want jazz to happen, we have to create a jazz scene. It's up to us to do this. That usually requires some groups of people getting into it. For example as far as night life goes, men follow the women, if women started making jazz a "woman thing" and went en masse to jazz clubs, the guys would follow, and we'd have quite a scene! If it became chic for great restaurants to have a jazz group, then there would be more venues for the musicians.

The Five Spot Café in New York was a tiny little bar, but when Thelonious Monk played there, it became a scene, it became a "thing." They had lines around the block because everyone was excited about this new music. We've got to create the scenes where people will want to come.

Living the Musician's Life

AAJ: I know that you're interested in psychology, and you're aware of how stressed musicians can get to where it sometimes affects their mental health. What would you say is a good life style for a working musician?

TM: It's very hard to cope with the stress of being a musician—it's just always going to be there, and you have to cope. Definitely, you need to stay away from drugs and drink alcohol moderately if at all.

AAJ: Do you think drugs and alcohol are still a serious problem among jazz musicians?

TM: It's certainly not as bad as it used to be. I remember even as recently as the 1980s and 1990s, there frequently were drug-related deaths among the musicians. That's rare today. I think it's good that musicians no longer think that drugs and alcohol make you a better player. However, to be really immersed in the music, it has to become an obsession. It's very selfish. If you're selfish and obsessed, as many great achievers are, your overall life may become very funky and neglected.

AAJ: You're making an important point. If you get into jazz heavily, the music is who you are, and so if you really get into it, it takes over your life like a drug. But, on the other hand, there are some top jazz musicians who still manage to put together a balanced life. One very productive musician I know spends a lot of time with his children and loves to go on extended canoe trips. Another takes his wife and kids with him on the road and sees music as part of their family life.

TM: That's ok as far as it goes. But, in my opinion, if you want to be a musician or a painter, you have to go through things, you can't just live a "normal" life. You have to dive into life. There has to be tragedy and joy. You have to climb your mountain, and maybe fall down or nearly freeze to death! Because to really play jazz in its truest sense, you have to have a story to tell. Yes, you have to take care of yourself, but I don't want to tell musicians, my students for example, just go have a normal life—teach at a university or something. No, you're going to have to experiment and take risks.

Some time ago, I was in therapy, and my shrink Marilyn Luber said: "Instead of hurting yourself, why don't you put all your craziness into the music?" She's my hero. It made me start to really feel things inside when I play. Great art and music comes out of living life fully, even with the pain that often comes with that.

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