When people ask me how long I've been playing, I usually answer, "Since the 5th grade," and that my mom made me take lessons. As a young teen, my older sister listened to what was called race music at the time. Folks like Johnny Otis were on the radio playing rhythm and blues and our mom let us listen to it. In high school, growing up in Southern California, we were fortunate enough to live near a group of liberal arts colleges around Claremont during the great folk music scare. They had a folk center where people like Chris Darrow, David Lindley, and Taj Mahal were hanging out and teaching. It's not that I learned a lot from them, but I did learn the importance of seeing and hearing the real thing. Muddy Waters came to Los Angeles to play at the Troubadour when I was a teenager, an experience that changed my life forever. Even though Paul Butterfield was around, and Taj had a band called the Rising Sons with Jesse Ed Davis and Ry Cooder, Muddy was the real thing and this young, naive boy was never the same.
Ray Charles was (and still is, really) my idol. Most musicians know that the blues can be played with only 2 or 3 chords. It took me awhile to figure out how to make those few chords sound convincing. I'm still trying to voice chords like he does. What sounds right to a person is what's most important. There may be some satisfaction from having technical skill but it means little if it's not pleasing to the ear.
I love swing music because it's something that's alive. It's a style that has to breathe. We can't force music to swing, we have to let it. A lot of energy can be spent running along side a carousel, until you make that step onto the platform. I don't consider myself a jazz musician per se, but rather a student of modern music, although my favorite pianists are: Herbie Hancock, Oscar Peterson, Bill Evans, Bud Powell, Hank Jones, Junior Mance, Les McCann., plus countless others. I don't think it's ever too late to expand your musical horizons. The great Benny Goodman learned to play classical music in his seventies. Music for me is a life-long journey.
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