In conversation with john patitucci
By Ted Panken
The first eight months of 2009 were extraordinarily busy for bassist John Patitucci. He did several tours with Wayne Shorter and a sojourn with drummer Roy Haynes. He gigged with a Jack DeJohnette-led trio that includes the pianist Danilo Perez. On top of all that, he taught a full schedule as Associate Professor of Jazz Studies at the City University of New York.
Yet during the dog days of August, Patitucci carved out time to present the project nearest to his heart: his trio with saxophonist Joe Lovano and drummer Brian Blade. The group celebrated the 2009 release of Remembrance [Concord]óPatitucci's thirteenth leader date since 1987ó with a weekís engagement at Dizzyís Club Coca-Cola.
Before a series of full houses over the course of 12 sets, this assembly of virtuoso bandleadersóspurred by Patitucciís intense bass lines and commanding solos on both acoustic and six-string bassósounded more like a long-standing collective than an all-star group. Several hours before hit time on the second night, Patitucci took time to join Jazz.com for a conversation.
Letís start with the Remembrance trio project. I read the bio. It started in 2000 when you were doing a rehearsal at Lovanoís home for Communion. Brad Mehldau wasnít there for part of a rehearsal, and you liked the feel of the trio.
We were up at Joeís pad, and it was glorious. He has a high-ceilinged studio in his house upstate. We walked in there, and we figured, 'Oh, letís do this without the piano and just rehearse.' We started playing and we looked at each other, like, 'what...?' It was amazing. You canít contrive that. I donít care who it is. It could be all-star people, a configuration that looks good on paper, but you get together and the chemistry isnít quite there, or sometimes different conceptions donít line up. This was instantaneous.
Ever since that time, whenever we saw each other, weíd always say, 'Weíve got to do a trio thing.' I always wanted to do that, anyway. If you asked any bass player in jazz, theyíd probably be interested in doing something like that, because it sounds so good to have that air and space in the music. Obviously, Iíd been listening to Sonny Rollinsí trio records for a while. Iíd always loved the one with Elvin Jones and Wilbur Ware, Live at the Village Vanguard, but also the stuff with Max Roach and Oscar Pettiford on Freedom Suite is just amazing. I figured Iím going to be 50 this yearómaybe this is it. I canít wait forever. I guess Iíd always been inclined to wait until I get a little older, and maybe Iíll have some time to get stronger before I attempt to put something.
With trio, thereís a legacy and a history, and you donít want to come out of the gate sounding like youíre just doing a retro homage to these great recordsóeven though theyíre worthy of all that. But I didnít want to do something that I felt would be copyingósomething that would be in tribute, but also trying to add some other colors and personal things, if I could, that would add to the mix.
You mentioned waiting until youíre strong enough ...
Which you can never be.
You mentioned in a publicity bio a few years ago that some people like to deploy one sound within a recording, whereas you like variety. Here, though, itís primarily one sound, three musicians, with whom you blend together a variety of feels and flavors.
In some reviews, people didnít pick up some of the other sounds on the record. They said itís a straight-ahead blowing date. One reviewer said, 'This is a humble, modest record,' but you get to 'Scenes From an Opera,' where all of a sudden thereís a string quartet and an alto clarinet, and thatís not like a straight-ahead blowing date at all. It introduces another color. 'Mali' has the West African influence. 'Messaienís Gumbo' has a New Orleans ... I understand itís because on some of the pieces we pay tribute to the things Sonny did in a very organic wayóthe way Joe is able to improvise and play with such authority, and also Brianís feeling. But to me, thatís not the only thing this is.
Letís talk about the arc of the record, how you put together the repertoire. Are most of the tunes recent, written with this date in mind?
I write all year round, every year. I write classical commissions. I write tunes. I write pieces for piano. I just write as much as I can, within my crazy schedule. I try to remain a work in progress as a composer, trying to compose and expand. However, for this, I knew who I was writing for. So over time, as I gathered things, I knew years ago that it was going to be Brian and Joe, when I decided this would be a project weíd do together at some point. Then other things crept in, and as I accumulated ideas, the things that sounded like they would go well with this project got lumped into a certain area, which became the record.
Some things were late additions. Like, the piece for Michael Brecker began last baseball season. I sat down in my living room to change the strings on my six-string bass, because I had to do a gig. Itís pretty tedious, so I had the game on while I was changing the strings, and as I was tuning up a couple of strings, this drone thing started happening. The Yankees were losing, and I turned it off. 'Wait a minute; whatís this?' I found this little theme, with these voicings around this open G-string in the middle. Something started happening, and I said, 'Wait a minute, Iíd better write this down.' I thought maybe this would be a little interlude somewhere on the record. Then after I started writing it, I decided, 'no, I want to record this. Something is here; I donít even know what itís going to become.'
But the interesting thing that happensówhich is part of the recording process that I loveóis that I try to approach the recording process improvisationally, even though I also compose things .... My wife and I overdubbed all the parts on the string octet, which was four celli and four basses. When we went to do it, we figured, 'Ok, weíll get a baby-sitter, go to the studio, and knock it out.' Then I decided Iíd try that thing I was thinking of and see what happens. But we had a time constraintóthe baby-sitter is only a few hours. We took our time with the string octet, made sure everything was right, and we were pleased with it. Then I said, 'well, Iíll give myself a little time on this thing and see if it develops; if it doesnít develop, I wonít use it.' I had brought my piccolo six-string bass as well (this is for Remembrance). I figured, 'well, Iíll try it.' Then I doubled it with the regular six-string bass, and it sounded like a 12-string guitar. I thought, 'Wow, thatís kind of interesting.' Then I put a couple of passes of a sort of recitative melodic statement over it, and thatís when it hit me. It became a really emotional piece, and it felt like Mike. I donít want to get too heavy about it. But it definitely spoke to me about something emotional, and I thought, 'Thatís for Mike.'
When did the 'Remembrance' theme become the overriding idea? Because the recording is set up a suite of homages to various people who have gone.
That happened organically. As the tunes came together, each one suggested, 'Well, this is really for ...' Some of them I had already titled before I knew I was going to do a whole record on this theme. As it progressed, I thought, 'Well, thatís what this record is; itís become this.' Things kept happening. We kept losing more people, and I thought, 'wow, Iíve got to make a statement.'
But itís not only that. Like I say in the liner notes, itís to honor the people that we still have, who are still making strong music, and not wait until they die to appreciate them. We celebrate Sonny Rollins, who is still creating incredible things. Wayne Shorter too, obviously. So the purpose is to remember to honor them now, and also to be present in the moment. This is something in my spiritual walk, my spiritual growth as a person that Iím trying to get better at, which I think is a challenge to all of usóto not worry about the future, not get stuck being nostalgic about and locked into the past, but actually to be here right in this instant. Thatís the way these guys play, too, and thatís the way playing in Wayneís band is. People are aware of the time that we have together, and we try to live it to the fullest and cherish it. This record isnít meant for people to mourn. You can hear in the music that itís a celebration of that inspiration.
Do you see this in any way as a companion date to the previous record, Line by Line, which was primarily a trio with guitar and augmented by Chris Potter? Are there relationships between the two?
I didnít really think of them that way, no.
You had seen Line By Line as a companion to the previous recordings.
Right. Because it also had expanded orchestration and writing for strings. Line By Line and Songs, Stories and Spirituals were a couplet to me. This was something other .... Although it makes sense to me that it came out after Line by Line, because it was time to change up the orchestration. I had done two records where I had written extensively for slightly expanded formats. I thought Iíd pare down and see if, as a composer, I could still make orchestrational colors happen with a more limited number of people. That was a challenge for me. A composer should be able to get orchestrational variety with a couple of instruments or many. Of course, these guys have so many colors that you could put one of them on the stage by alone, and you have a world of color. So I wasnít really worried about getting enough colors with Joe and Brian.
Before we talk about your simpatico with Brian Blade, with whom youíve had an ongoing relationship for a decade, talk a bit about your connection to Joe Lovano.
I fell in love with Joe Lovanoís playing when I heard him on John Scofieldís recordings. Sco and I have a history together. I used to transcribe Johnís stuff when I was in college; John influenced my playing. I was a fan. Actually, my brother is a guitarist, so a lot of guitar players influenced my playing on the six-string bass, because of the way they approached harmony and lines. Wes Montgomery was one that hit me. Pat Martino. George Benson. Sco was one of my heroes. I used to see John Abercrombie quite a bit, too, in the late Ď70s and Ď80s.
Anyway, Scoís quartets records with Lovano with Bill Stewart, whether the bassist was Dennis Irwin, or before him Marc Johnson played a little bit, and Charlie Haden played on some of the records ... I love Sco. So Now was a big deal for me. By this time, he and I have played together quite a bit. Every once in a while, we get together and do something else.
Anyway, Iíd hear Joeís playing on the records, or weíd run into him on the road, and think, 'Man, this guy is special.' So I had wanted to do something with Joe for yearsóin fact, I probably would have hired him for Now, but I didnít want it to look like I had just hijacked John Scofieldís bandóit was Bill Stewart and John, and if Iíd used Joe, it would have been way too much.
Another convergence about this and Line by Line is your use of the electric six-string. On a lot of the recordings prior to Line by Line you were playing primarily acoustic, and then doing an electric feature at the end of the recital.
Yes, there would be two or three tracks maybe.
But on this record and the previous one, the six-string electric is more integrally orchestrated into the flow.
When I moved back to New York, I was trying to dispel ... Part of the reason why I came back, obviously, was to play with all the incredible players. As a composer, thereís no better pool of artists for the music I want to write and want to play than in New York. But the other part is that I felt I was getting pigeonholed. Some people would call me 'that fusion guy.' I felt that was a strange label. Iíve been playing bebop since I was a teenager, and playing already in my late teens with amazing older musicians. What happened in New York, though, was that the stereotype got shattered to the point that people literally would say to me, 'Oh, you play electric bass? I didnít know you did that.'
You told me a story about a woman contractor called you for a gig ...
Yeah, a contractor. She said, 'I have a recording session for you.' 'Great, what would you like me to bring?' 'What do you mean?' I said, 'Do you want acoustic bass, electric bass, fretless? What do you want?' She said, 'You play electric bass?' I said, 'Okay! I guess the stereotype is erased.' I didnít want to totally cancel-out on another part of what I do.
I wanted to put out a viewpoint that seems not often to be expressedóthat in this music there is a place for the electric bass to be played in a musical, warm, organic way. It doesnít have to be that all of a sudden comes forth this loud, thrashing, bright, edgy sound. Obviously, Steve Swallow has been asserting this viewpoint for many years, but not too many other people have that viewpoint with that instrument.
Observing your musical production this year, it occurs to me how relationships and associations play out and cycle back over time. For example, with Jack DeJohnette and Danilo Perez you recorded Music We Are and performed with them behind it. You played with Wayne Shorter this summer. You played in a trio with Roy Haynes. You played and recorded in a trio with Ed Simon, with whom you have a consequential if less high-profile relationship.
I love Ed. He was in my band for quite a while.
Then also this trio with Joe Lovano and Brian Blade, which embodies so many flavors of 21st-century jazz. You first played with Wayne Shorter in 1986 when you were living in Los Angeles. Talk about how that experience evolved.
Early on, when I played with him, it was mostly an electric bass gig. We were doing the music from Atlantisóweíd play some with the acoustic bass, but mostly it was electric. Then we went on the road, where often it was only electric. We were playing very orchestrated music, where the bass lines were all massive, incredible. That was fun. Over the years, I did some records of my own and been playing a lot with Chick Corea . Then in 1991 I did a number of weeks with Wayne, including one here in New York at the Blue Note. We stood right next to each other on that small stage, and I had that six-string bass, and the solos he was playing .... A lot of the tunes in those days were heavily written, but the solo sections would be openóone chord or something. The things he would create off that were staggering. Then heíd turn to me and say, 'Want some?' It was good for me, because night after night, I had to try to do something after he would chisel one of these granite, monumental solos of doom. I didnít really know what to do. I started to feel like my stuff was trite. I realized I needed to get to a deeper place, because when Wayne plays, he can destroy you, just emotionally, with just one sound placed in a certain way. One note. He did it with density, too. He destroys you with one note or a million, his version of sheets of sound, like Trane. It wasnít licks. There were no licks. I was finding that I needed more of that in my playing. I wanted to get to the place where I could tell a larger story. Wayne was very encouraging. He used to give me a lot of room to blow. He liked the bass to stretch. He would turn to me and say, 'Yeah, Paganiniógo ahead, go ahead.' He was into it. But it made me realize how much I had to learn, to get deeper. It was a wakeup call.
I started playing with him again in the late Ď90s, before Danilo and Brian were in the picture. We did some gigs. He was thinking about doing some expanded form things, and we ...
You did something with the Detroit Symphony, I believe.
We did that. Even before that, we did something for a giant Buddhist festival in Japan. That was a large group, with Teri Lyne Carrington, Jim Beard, Shunzo Ohno, David Gilmore. We played a mixture of things. But after I left Chick to do my own thing, Wayne started calling again and spoke a lotómy wife and I had experienced a still-birth the same year he lost his wife. Anyway, towards the end of the Ď90s, he said, 'Do you want to do something?' I said, 'Look, Iím loose. Iím doing some stuff with my own group. Any time you call, Iím there. Absolutely.' So he knew he had that kind of love and commitment from me. Then the quartet has evolved over time.
You mentioned to me that you first met Brian Blade on Danilo Perezí recording date, Motherland. You and he have evolved into one of the classic bass-drum pairings over the decade. What qualities contribute to your simpatico, make you such an interesting fit?
We share a love of a lot of the same music. Also experience, in terms of spiritual things. The way he was raised in the African-American church, and my love for that culture as expressed in the music from the churchóalso my faith and his faith. We share a lot of things.
Sometimes you hit it off with somebody, thereís an immediate click, an immediate connection. You canít contrive it. Itís hard to put into words. Brianís part of my family. Whatís interesting is that before I moved back to New York, I was driving in L.A., and something came on the radio which I think was him with Josh Redman. I freaked out. I said, 'Who is that drummer? Thatís it.' It just hit me. Like, 'Thatís the guy I need to work with.' I didnít know who he was, but later I found out Ö then I started hearing his name a lot.
He started recording with Joshua Redman in Ď95.
I moved back east in Ď96, and it was right before I moved back, so it must have been Ď95 that I heard him on a record. I almost pulled off the freeway. I remember going to a recording session, and Harvey Mason was on it, and he also was saying, 'Have you heard this guy Brian Blade?' I said, 'Man, I heard him.' He said, 'Thatís it.' I said, 'That is it.'
What is 'that'?
That is somebody whose spirit on the drums is connected to all the masters. You could easily say heís connected to Elvin, Max, Roy, DeJohnette, all the guys who have changed the course of jazz drumming and have contributed a voice and a beauty and a power Ö Brianís musicianship is so unbelievably high, which is one thing that I think separates him from the crowd. Heís perfectly happy playing next to nothing or as much as you want. He can make small sounds. He can make big sounds. He can have a lot of density. He can have absolute simplicity. He can play any kind of groove you can think of. There are just not that many people who you can say even three of those thing about.
I guess one of them might be Jack DeJohnette, who was integral in your transition from the West Coast to East, and with whom you did the Music We Are project earlier this year.
Our relationship started with Gonzalo Rubalcaba on the record, Images. He was very cool, and from that time on, he was the one who schemed to put me together with Danilo Perez. It was his idea. He introduced us at a record date by Eugene Pao, with Mike Brecker. Danilo came to the studio with David Sanchez, and I met them. Jack said, 'Yeah, man, youíd better play together.' He was on it. He heard it.
The trio with Jack, Danilo and I did a fun week at the Blue Note. When the three of us get together, itís a whole different relationship. Jack is obviously a force of nature and a very interesting musician for a lot of things. He can play the piano and do all this stuff, but thereís also his connection to Elvin, as well as Haynes Ö but I hear a lot of connection to Elvin. The swirling nature and the big beat. I didnít get to play with Elvin. I missed out on that. But when I play with Jack, I often think, 'well, maybe this is in the direction of what it would feel like to play with Elvin.'
In that trio, the grooves were from everywhere, but distilled in a very personal way. Now, youíve gone through periods of deep immersion in Afro-diasporic grooves, particularly a decade ago, when you were playing with Giovanni Hidalgo and Horacio 'El Negro' Hernandez, and incorporating those beats and sounds within your own compositions. On the Remembrance project, the grooves are from Africa, from New Orleans, from various aspects of jazz. Can you discuss the evolution of your own rhythmic compass over this decade?
A lot of stuff on the record Another World, for GRP in the early Ď90s, on which I collaborated with Armand Sabal-Lecco, whoís from Cameroon, was very African. I had gotten into Salif Keita when I was with Chick. When we went to Portugal for the first time, we met an African guy from Angola who hipped us to a lot of stuff. Then when Mike Brecker got with Paul Simon and was hanging with all the Cameroonian guys, he introduced me to Armand Sabal-Lecco. Mike suggested to me, 'Check some of this stuff out; youíd love this'óI got way into it. Before that, I had played with some musicians from South Americaówith Alex Acuna and Justo Almario in L.A., and a ton of Brazilians.
When I got back east, I started delving more into the Caribbean stuff, the Cuban and Puerto Rican aspects. Danilo was a huge factor in helping me reach a greater understanding of this music. He would give me rhythmic exercises where you could go in-and-out of the triple meter, the 6/8, which is at the center of so much of this music. The pulse would stay the same, but youíd access all these different worlds of rhythm. This is what these guys are so great at, and take to such a deep place. Giovanni and Negro do all sorts of metric modulation things, organic and so deeply swinging. They have a profound understanding of how the meter, the 6/8, can impact the 2 and the 4/4 and big-three. You get into all these multiples of the rhythm.
So Danilo and I have been talking about rhythm and doing musical exercises for years. Itís profound, how phenomenal he is at teaching it, too. He says I taught him how to read chord symbols and some harmonic things like that, but he taught me a world of rhythmic information. When I was a kid, I wanted to be a drummer first. I had hand drums, bongos and maracas, and I was singing. I loved the drums. I had the bass, too. But even after I started playing the bass, I tried to get my dad to let me have a drum set, and he said no. [LAUGHS] So Iíve always revered the drums. Danilo, too. Sometimes he jokes around, sits down at the drum set, and weíll play together on the sound check. He has a great feeling.
Also this summer, you also went on the road with Roy Haynes for the first time in a while.
In a while, yes. In the late Ď90s, Danilo and I did a record and quite a few tours with Roy. Roy was in phenomenal spirits. It was a little different, because Danilo burst his Achilles tendon, and heís been out of commission for a couple of months waiting for it to heal up. Dave Kikoski played, and played well, and Papa Haynes was charging! In high spirits. We did nine concerts in two weeks.
I get the sense that it was important to you to work with the Roy Haynes Trio a decade ago, on the heels of your move from L.A. to New York, when you were determined to establish yourself on the acoustic bass.
I was trying to make a statement, to say: 'Look, this is a big part of who I am. Itís not a peripheral kind of thing. Itís not a dalliance. Itís deeply who I am.'
Iíd played with a lot of people, but when I played with Haynes it was kind of like swing finishing school. You felt, 'Ok, if Haynes likes it, I guess Iím going to be ok.' Because obviously, heís played with everyone from Louis Armstrong and Bird, Bud Powell, Monk, Coltrane, all these people. Now He Sings, Now He Sobs, We Three Ö. You can go on and on and on. Obviously, if you play with somebody like that, whoís been connected to all the things that mattered to you coming up, all your heroes, the whole encyclopedia of jazz in one human being, which is what I call Roy Haynes ... He is the living, walking, breathing encyclopedia of jazz. So if you can play with him and he likes it, then you can breathe a little easier and enjoy the fact that something youíve been passionate about all your life makes sense to somebody you really look up to.
One interesting thing about the trio at the time is that it was such an equal voice unit.
Right, he gave us a lot of trust and a lot of space.
It sounds that this attitude filtered into your mutual interaction with Wayne Shorter.
My relationship with Danilo is very special. Weíre like brothers. We spend a lot of time together in a lot of different circumstances, and itís a source of great joy and excitement to do so. Weíve had a chance to develop rapport. That was a big deal for me. After playing with Chick all those years, and working some with Herbie Hancock, then to play with a younger pianist, even younger than myself, somebody who is a chance-taker and risk-taker like the guys I was used to Ö itís hard to find a more adventurous pianist than either Chick or Herbie. Those guys donít care. Theyíll be reckless, which is great, and I learned a lot from that. Danilo is cut from the same cloth. Heís reckless.
In an interview for Jazz Improv magazine, you told a story about Herbie reharmonizing Roy Hargroveís ballad ...
That was at a rehearsal for the Directions in Music project. We were going into Kuumba for warmup gigs for that tour. It was right after 9/11, too. It was heavy. We got on a plane like a week after. My wife was freaking! 'What are you doing?' So we flew out there and rehearsed, and we saw Herbie singlehandedly turn a nice tune into a masterpiece, right before our eyes. Mike and I were watching him ... He sat there and patiently reworked everything. 'No, this wonít do,' and then heís changing ... Finally, he looks up at Roy and goes, 'Man, Iím sorry. Iím changing your tune; is that ok?' Roy goes, 'Man, change all of it! Go ahead!' It was turning into this incredible ballad. He reharmonized it from top to bottom.
Letís talk bass. Can you speak to how your relationship to the six-string bass has evolved since you came east? You came east determined to have people know you as an acoustic bassist, and now itís a well-established fact that you have a consequential voice on both instruments. You stated a few years ago that your sound has become darker, whereas most of your contemporaries strive for a brighter tone.
What happened was this. When Jaco Pastorius hit the scene, he played a jazz bass, which has more of a mid-rangey sound, and people got way into that. Everybody went out and bought a jazz bass, everybody took frets off their instrument, everybody wanted to be like him. It was interesting, because I loved and respected that so much that at one point I went, 'You know what? Iím not doing that. Because nobodyís going to play like that guy.' That was a voice. To me, that was totally unique. So I didnít go that way. I stayed with fretted instruments.
Then in Ď85 I wound up finally getting a six-string bass, because Iíd seen what Anthony Jackson was doing. I decided to go far way from the fretless jazz bass thing, which is more of a mid-range bass soundóI wanted a broader sound on both ends. The six-string bass gives you a low B-string, so you could get the six-string bottom, and then you could go all the way up with the high C-string and get a tenor saxophone thing going. I knew that I wouldnít sound like Anthony, who is another very individual voice, very beautiful, very special. So I deliberately took a left turn at that point. In the whole fusion scene that ensued in New York, it was like you had to play a four-string jazz bass, otherwise you werenít accepted. People didnít even like five-string and six-string basses. Theyíd look at you like 'Yucch.' Thatís what I heard from younger guys who took up the six after I did. They said, 'Well, maybe you can get away with it, but they tell us, Ďno, bring the four-string; you canít play that in here.' So if you wanted to be part of the whole 55 Bar scene in the Ď80s, you had to have a four-string jazz bass. But I would come into town with Chick or whatever, Iíd bring my six-string, go sit in with Stern and just play my stuff. I wasnít really bound by that. I was just going, 'Well, this is my voice now ...' For a while, like a fool, I actually got rid of my old vintage Fenders!
Youíre a stubborn guy. A man of principles.
[LAUGHS] But it was originally out of profound respect. Because I would hear these guys trying to play like Jaco, and I was like, 'Boy, that sounds like a really bad imitation.' When you hear the real thing, itís like 'whoa.' Why would you want to sound like a third-rate Jaco Pastorius, when heís Jaco, youíre not, and itís going to remain that way, and nobody is going to play like that again. That was him. It was also at a time, that precise moment when he did what he did .... Also speaking about Jaco, what people are sleeping on a lot of times is he was an incredible composer. 'Three Views Of A Secret.' Excuse me. Thatís a classic. So I have the highest regard for him.
Now, Jaco was not necessarily the bebop guy on the electric bass. When he walked, letís just say he didnít sound like Ron Carter to me. He swung like crazy, but his feeling was much more in another zone. Even when he plays 'Donna Lee,' the articulation is all Caribbean. instead of just going to check out Ron or Ray Brown.
But over the last few years, after several years emphasizing the acoustic, and now bringing back six-string electric more prominently into the mix... Are the changes just subtle things?
Pretty subtle, because I never stopped playing it all these years. Over the last 15-20 years, Iíve spent an enormous amount of time getting back into studying classical music on the acoustic bass, and I wanted to make sure that I didnít just let the six-string stopóI decided that I wanted to also use it in an organic way and continue growing on that instrument as well.
You mentioned your affinity for the drums and your fatherís refusal to buy you a drum kit back in the day. Maybe this provides an opening to talk about your formative years. Youíre raised in Brooklyn, the East Flatbush area. Large, warm Italian family. Shared a house with your uncleís familyóyouíre on one floor, theyíre on the other. All the kids are musicians, but the parents werenít musicians. You got your first electric bass when you were ten. You heard jazz the first time when your grandfather saw a guy moving out of a brownstone, saw a box of records on the sidewalk, asked if he could take them for his grandkids, brought them home, and one of the records was Art Blakeyís Mosaic, with 'Children of the Night' (Wayne Shorter, again).
Yeah. I was eight or nine when I heard that record. Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers with Freddie Hubbard and Wayne ShorteróJymie Merritt on bass. I didn't know what it was, but it moved me.
So jazz enters your consciousness.
Right in there. It was a typical Italian Brooklyn experience. Both sets of grandparents were no farther than 15 minutes away in Brooklyn, so we'd hang out a lot. My grandfather, who used to work on roads in Manhattan, came home from a job site one day with a box or two of records one day. There was his guy who was leaving his brownstone, he was getting out of New York, he was moving, throwing out things [including those records]. My grandfather asked him, 'You're throwing away music?' 'Ah, I'm leavin' New York.' My grandfather said, 'Well, I have some grandsons; you mind if I take these records?'
He didn't know, but he changed our lives. In addition to Mosaic, there were some of those Wes Montgomery records with Ron and Herbie and Grady Tate. That went in deep. I mean, it just cut through my inability to understand. So when was 12, I decided that I was going to play the bass, and that was it.
Did that decision coincide with your familyís move to California?
Well, my brother is a guitarist. He's three years older than I am, so of course, when I was young, I wanted to do everything that he did. At first I was singing and playing some percussion instruments, and then he got a guitar, and then I wanted to play the guitar. It didnít feel good, though. I was trying to learn how to read music and so on, and I just couldnít play with the pick. Iím left-handed, although I play right-handed. My brother, who is pretty intuitive, saw this, and said, 'Why don't you try the electric bass. It's only four strings. You can use your fingers. There's nothing between you and the instrument.' So they got me this bass that was hanging on someoneís wall for $10 or something, put it in my hand, and it felt great. I started to play by ear and learn things off records. By then, it was the Ď60s, so you had the Motown stuff, then also Hendrix, Cream, the blues, B.B. King, the Beatlesóa lot of things, and you could hear it all on the radio. Then in the house, Mario Lanza records, opera records were being playedóvery Italian stuff. A wide mixture. We even had a Glenn Campbell record that had those tunes by Jimmy Webb, an incredible songwriter. All these things were happening. I was young and naive, and I wasnít really aware of anything except that I knew I really loved this.
The reason why I didnít get into anything really organized is because when I was a kid in Brooklyn I went to a Catholic school which had no music program. It was Miss Petraglia with a beat-up upright piano; sheíd bring us into a room, and weíd sing songs out of a music book. That was it. We moved to Long Island for about a year-and-a-half before we went to California, which was the first time I was in a school with a music program. Thatís where I got snare drum lessons for a year, trying to learn rudiments. Thatís when I said to my Dad, 'I want to play the drums, too,' which was nixed. I went to seventh grade at a middle school in Farmingville, Long Island, that also had a music programóan after-school thing. One of the English teachers had a rock band, and I played in that for a minute. Then when we went to California, there was big band in eighth grade, which I played in. I could hardly read music. Iíd listen to the tune down once, and then Iíd learn it and play along.
Thatís when I encountered Chris Pohler, who became my mentor and remains .... For Remembrance, he sent me a treatise that Messaien wrote called 'The Seven Modes of Limited Transposition.' He said, 'Check this out; you might find something to mess with.' I found one of those modes, which is Mode 3, which the whole melody of 'Messaienís Gumbo' is based on. So itís an ongoing relationship. Chris is also the one who challenged me before I did Line by Line and some of those other records .... He said, 'Youíve been composing all this music, but now I want you to think about challenging yourself to be like the composers, like Bach, who could generate their harmony purely from counterpoint.' Unlike jazz musicians, who plunk down chords and then write a melody. He said, 'See if you can incorporate more of that counterpoint into your jazz writing.' Chris has had a lot of great ideas over the years, and heís a terrific guy. He encouraged me a lot. Got me into taking classical lessons when I was in college and all that.
You were a double bass major at San Francisco State and Long Beach State.
Yes, I was a classical bass major. I was playing in all the jazz groups, too, but my teachers expected me fully to do my recitals and then go do auditions for symphony orchestras.
Your high school years were an interesting time to be in Northern California, in the San Francisco area.
The Keystone Korner was in full swing ...
I was there many times.
It was a very eclectic scene. You told me once that you were into the Art Ensemble and the Sam Rivers Trio, into Gary Peacockís Tales of Another, you had a sort of out jazz band ...
I saw McCoy Tyner and Art Blakey at the Keystone. At the Great American Music Hall I saw Thad Jones and Mel Lewis and also the Bill Evans Trio. When I got down to L.A. is when I got to see the Sam Rivers Trio and those other guys at the Lighthouse. I saw Old and New Dreams at Royce Hall, which was incredible.
Where Iím going is that this notion of being attracted to all the different flavors that comprise the mosaic that is the scene at any given time was already in you.
A long time ago.
Even though that may not necessarily have visible to people who were following your career.
Yes. Obviously, I was playing with a lot of people in L.A., a lot of the older guys. But if I wasnít making records with them, nobody knew who I was.
Three people, among others, seem to have been particularly consequential to you. Freddie Hubbard, to whom you pay tribute with 'Blues For Freddie' on Remembrance, and with whom you played with a fair amount. Victor Feldman you played with Ö
And also Joe Farrell. Iím not clear, but was Joe Farrell your bridge to Chick Corea?
In a way, yes. But actually, he was my bridge to Airto and Flora Purimís band, which was very important for me. Airto taught me a lot about Brazilian music, how to play it, all that stuff. But I used to bug Joe all the time. 'Man, tell me when Chick is going to have auditions; I really want to play with Chick,' blah-blah-blah. So I donít know whether he ever said anything to Chick, because actually I wound up getting the gig with Chick through playing with Victor Feldman at Chickís house for a Valentineís Day partyóevery year, theyíd invite a bunch of musicians, have food, and some cats would play. Thatís how Chick heard me, playing acoustic bass with Victor Feldmanís trio in his living room.
Chick was really nice. He invited me back on another occasion when he was working up a Mozart concerto, because he was going to go to Japan and do a double concerto with Jarrett. He said, 'Do you want to come and play some chamber music?' So I did that as well. Then he said 'Man, do you play electric bass at all? Iím thinking of putting together this band, and it's going to have a lot of electric stuff involved as well.' I said, 'Well, yeah, I started on that and I do that.' So he said, 'Put together a tape.' So I sent him a tape, and he called me back. 'Do you want to play? I'm going to do this thing; do you want to be in the band?' 'Sure! When do we start.' That's how it began.
I have to say that I learned some important things from Joe Farrell. When I first started to play with Joe, the band was Tommy Brechtlein and Kei Akagi, and we were all into Traneís bandówe wanted to just burn all the time. Now, Joe could burn like crazy! But he wanted us to be able to do other things, too, so he would mess with us. Heíd go up behind the piano, where Kei would be playing like McCoy, and say, 'Kei. Bebop, Kei. Bebop.' He always had that little thing; he was trying to talk like Jaki Byard. Chick told me that later. Anyway, Joe would tell us little things. We wanted to burn! Then he would go, 'Ok. ĎLaura.í' [SINGS] 'Two-beat, two beat.' Weíd have to play like that. We were like, 'Aw, Joe, come on!' It was great, because he taught us a lot about how to deal with all the aspects of what we were supposed to be about, not just weíre excited and we want to burn all night.
You were a session player ...
... and a club player. I donít mean the term pejoratively, but you were a journeyman bass player around L.A. and Ö
I was very young, man.
How young were you when you started playing professionally on that level? In the Bay Area, or did it happen in L.A.?
In the Bay Area I was starting to play with some good people. But I started playing with all the older jazz musicians when I got to L.A. I moved to L.A. in 1982, and before that Iíd already been playing a little in the clubs. I was only 24-25 years old by the time I got the gig with Chick, but Iíd been playing with a ton of people since 20.
Iíd assume that playing with Chick developed your technique on the electric bass.
Also. And the acoustic bass. You had to. I had played with a lot of other people when I got the gig with Chick, and being able to play over chords and be a soloist as well was one of the things that I felt was part of my voice. But Chickís comping was so intense the first time, he was blowing me off the stage. He was fierce. I felt like his comping was better than my soloóway better than what I was playing. I thought, 'Oh my God, Iíve got to get a lot stronger, man.' I had to get stronger physically, too, to keep up that intensity, because that cat could blow all night.
So Chick Corea gave you that feeling in the Ď80s and Wayne Shorter gave you that feeling in the Ď90s.
Well, yes. Even before that, Freddie, who was an endless fountain of ideas. I remember in my twenties playing gigs with Freddie, where he would play rhythm changes. Usually youíd think, 'when are they going to stop?'óbecause weíre playing really fast tempos. With him, it was, 'I hope he plays another one; what was that?' I would never get tired, because it was just mind-boggling what he could do.
I have a quote which Iíll read back: 'When I was young, like a lot of naive young musicians, you go, 'Ok, I want to be the greatest bass player ever.' Knowing you a bit, Iím sure you did.
Yeah, I did.
Then you get a little older, and you realize (a) thereís no such thing, (b) there are so many different ways to play and so many guys who bring so much to the table on the music that itís exciting to check it all out. 'So somewhere in my teens, I probably realized there wasnít any such thing, but I still wanted to aim high. I realized there were certain things I wanted to do on the instrument. I want to have freedom and be lyrical. I want to have a really strong foundation, be able to anchor any group that Iím in, but also, when itís my turn to stretch out I want to contribute.' You also mentioned a wish list of people you wanted to play with.
Yes. Thatís very true.
Now, almost all those things have happened.
Almost. I didnít get to play with Elvin.
Here I want to discuss your identity as a leader. Youíve made these recordings, but Iíd assume that the preponderance of your professional activity is still on these sideman situations and less as a leader.
Groups. Group formations. Also lots of sideman work still.
Do you switch back and forth between your leader and sideman identities?
Same person. The nice thing about this particular trio with Joe and Brian is that I have no stress level being the bandleader. Iím as free as when Iím a sideman with this group. I started leading bands in 1987. Chick was the one who prodded me to do it. I was writing a lot, and he said, 'Youíre writing all this music; youíve got to make a record and youíve got to have a band.' I said, 'Do you think so, really?' and he said, 'Yeah, absolutely.' He got me the record deal, I did the record, and he said, 'Youíve got to put together a band and do more stuff.' Actually, he had me put together the band even before we made the record. So I was already doing some stuff, but it took me years to get comfortable as a bandleader, because then youíre wearing different hatsóyouíre concerned about the whole of the music, the business of it, and all that. So for me, the goal is always to be as loose as when Iím when Iím just a sideman and donít have to worry about all the responsibilities of presenting the music. In recent years, Iím much more comfortable leading bands, because Iím so close with the guys Iím playing with. Iím just enjoying myself in this situation with the trio. Those guys are going to inspire me, theyíre going to take the music new places. Thereís nothing for me to be concerned about except try to be in the moment with themóand I have to announce a few tunes or whatever, which is nothing.
I learned a lot about being a bandleader from Chick and Wayne, and their concept, which is you find guys that you enjoy their identity already and then you just turn them loose.
Chick Coreaís approach seems to be project-oriented. He seems to operate with multiple files of activity. He does one project, it ends, maybe he picks it up in three years, but meanwhile he goes on to another project. In each case, heís putting himself into a different space. Wayne seems to be operating via a slightly different process.
Although with Chick, we had a band for ten years. For a while, I think Chick was tired of all those projects. When we had the Elektrik Band and the Akoustic Band, he really liked the fact that we had a band with the same people that could develop over a long track. Even though, yes, he loves doing all kinds of different stuff. He said, 'I can do projects all my life, all day.' Thatís easy for Chick. If you give him five minutes, he can write a tune, so a project is nothing. He can write a whole library for a project in a couple of days. Just give him the time in front of the piano, and heís ...WHOOSH. So he liked the idea of having a long development phase.
You mentioned that he imprinted in your mind the notion of writing all the time.
Yes, because he was always writing. Also, not to be so self-critical that you get in the way of the process. I was really influenced by him in the idea of writing, composing Ö. If you put me in front of the piano, I can enjoy just sitting there and Iíll write something. I might not love it, but I can write something in a complete form. He taught me to turn off the critic inside and let the stuff flow out. Then you evaluate it. Donít stop yourself in the middle. Let it all out, write it down as fast as you can, get the ideas out, then you can play with them and see whatís happening.
Did it take a while for you to internalize the notion of turning off the inner critic, or was it not a complex matter?
Iím pretty loose about when I write. I can write quickly and everything. I used to joke with Mike Brecker, because we were the opposite. Heíd say, 'Man, how do you write so fast? You write all these tunes.' I said, 'Yeah, but Mike, I write all these tunes, but one of your tunes is better than ten of mine.' He was very meticulous, and would be like one bar ... more the Stravinsky approach. Do you know the story of Stravinsky at the Hollywood party? True story. Stravinskyís at a Hollywood party, some young TV composer comes up to him, 'Oh, Mr. Stravinsky ...' Stravinsky was being nice. 'So, what did you do today, young man?' 'Well, I wrote 20 minutes of music.' Stravinsky goes, 'Wow, thatís a lot of music. 20 minutes. Hmm.' The young man said, 'What did you do today?' Stravinsky said, 'Well, I was writing. I wrote 2 bars.' The cat was incredulous. 'Youíre Stravinsky. You wrote 2 bars?' Stravinsky looked at the guy and said, 'Yeah, you should hear those two bars.'
So I donít take the fact that being quick is necessarily always a positive. It can be, because if you let the stuff flow out, sometimes it can get out of the way. Sometimes good things can happen when you just let the flow go, and thatís what I got from Chick. Stuff was just washing out.
When I interviewed Chick Corea for this website, he said that he didnít get involved in classical music until later.
But he had some classical piano training. Yes, he did. Miss Masullo, in Chelsea, Massachusetts.
Well, thank you for that. But he told that he didnít study it in-depth until later.
Probably. Even though he was taking piano lessons and learning classical music, his dad was a jazz trumpet player, so he was ...
But both Chick Corea and Wayne Shorter incorporate those interests very seamlessly into their musical production, no matter how hidden or how overt it might be. I think you said that was a help to you.
It was an encouragement. Wayne was always also encouraging me to write and to expand, to be really adventurous in what I would write for. He always liked when I would tell him I was trying to write some expanded music, or that I had a commission. 'Yeah, thatís it!' He was always encouraging me not to let anybody put me in a box about what I should write and shouldnít write.
You remarked to me once that youíre straddling different genres, that itís sort of what used to be called 'third stream,' but in a more organic way.
Trying. Those terms are limiting.
Well, you did use the term.
Itís hard to combine those areas, because you have musicians who improvise and musicians who donít. So how do you incorporate the two approaches so that the people who donít improvise can still freely give and be part of a process, and utilize them well, so that they get to do what they do strongly, but do it without overwriting, so thereís space for the guys to create some new stuff and improvise on it? Thatís what weíve been doing with Wayne on orchestra projects. He writes these beautiful, incredible, massive orchestrations, but there is room for us to interact and stretch out and open up sections. Thatís great. Thatís the goal. Thereís no improvisation at all in some of the commissions that Iíve written. Itís just a piece of modern music that incorporates some of the harmonic language of jazz without laying on these people who have never improvised in their life, 'Ok, now youíve got to blow.' You write it into the music, and they can deliver, because theyíre used to dealing with the printed work. You can use a lot of different methods. Mark Anthony Turnage wrote me a beautiful bass concerto where thereís improvisation and also written stuff, but the orchestra just plays whatís written. Yet, he writes so brilliantly, I donít think they feel like theyíre not doing anything.
Also, since moving East, youíve formed friendships and close affiliations with world-class classical players.
Yes, in my church. Larry Dutton is the violist from the Emerson String Quartet. Richard Rood plays with the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra. My wife [Sachi] is a strong and highly-evolved cellist. Liz Dutton, who is Larryís wife, plays with St. Lukeís Chamber Orchestra.
Playing classical music and improvising require different mindsets. At this point of your evolution, how intertwined are the two processes?
Historically, itís interesting to note that it didnít used to be that way. There was no division when Bach and those guys were operating. They could improvise fugues, and they were total improvisers. As time went on, you had to write things down, because not everybody could improvise. But even in the context of Baroque sonatas, musicians would ornament and play on the repeat of the A section. Some still do that; there are harpsichord players who improvise really well. The figured bass, the chord changes of that day. Once you start getting to the Romantic Era, the composer became king, and it changed. So now many classical musicians donít know how to improvise at all. There are varying degrees.
I am pretty open to all points on the continuum. It depends on how you write. You have to know going in what you want to accomplish, and then go for it. If you know what you want to accomplish, then youíll make the concessions that you need to make in the departments that you need to make them. I wrote a piece, called 'Lakes,' for Ann Schein, who is a phenomenal classical pianist. Sheís been around a long time. She was a protťgť of Rubinstein. Sheís incredible. When she plays a piece, it sounds like sheís improvising. When she plays Chopin, it sounds like sheís making it up. I just wrote the piece, knowing that even though sheís playing something thatís completely written-out, sheís going to make it sound like sheís blowing. She recorded it on a record called American Composers, which came out earlier this year. This was a big moment for me. On the same record, you have Elliott Carter, who is 100 this year, and Aaron Coplandís music, and then thereís my piece. Which is hilarious! I was joking with my wife. I said, 'Yeah, thereís Carter, Copland, and whatís that? Is that lunch?' Patitucci. Is that with mozzarella on the side or what?
Obviously, great chamber musicians have great time. Thatís one thing I noticed that is the same. When I play with Larry, heís as concerned about the time and the groove as I am. When you play Bachís Brandenberg Concertos or Mozartís music, it actually has a very powerful groove. Thatís groove music, really, whereas later periods you get into rubato, and then sometimes people abuse that, even in the French music. The great players are able to balance it to where you have enough straight time and enough bending. Just like a great jazz musician can play behind the beat when he plays in his solo, and get in front and move side-to-side and go all over the place around the time, and make it very vocal and beautiful, and not wooden.
So many different languages operating simultaneously. Not so many musicians out there are as musically multilingual as you are.
I guess you have to really want to be that way. A lot of people just donít care for that. They like a certain thing, and thatís what they like. When Iím with certain people who like to play a certain wayóI like it, too! I like stuff thatís loose. I also like hard-swinging music. I grew up listening to Oscar Peterson, too, so Iím just as comfortable playing ... I did a record years ago with Monty Alexander, Echoes of Jillyís, and it was just down-the-pike swinging. I absolutely love that. But I also like playing in a really open context, and I also like playing with Wayne and with Herbie. All the different in-betweens. It just depends on the kind of music you love to listen to. If you like a lot of different things, then you kind of have to go, 'Ok, now Iíve got to learn how to do that,' if you want to play that music. For me, I never get tired of learning new ways to approach the music, because it keeps me excited about it.
Over the next couple of months, your website lists a number of gigs for this music, but most of them arenít with Joe and Brian.
Scheduling is very difficult.
Youíll be using John Ellis and Marcus Gilmore, which is an interesting trio.
Theyíre great. George Garzone is making a lot of gigs, too. Thereís one gig also in Boston in September with Teri Lyne Carrington and John Ellis. The first time we ran the music before the record, I actually had a couple of gigs with John and Marcus. They saw some of the pieces before Joe and Brian did. So they were very involved from the beginning, too.
Can we then infer that for you, as a composer, the ideas of the music have a firm identity outside the personnel that plays it? A lot of jazz music is so personnel-specific, but this is not necessarily the case with you.
Hopefully. Obviously, though, certain kinds of musicians are needed in this music, particularly if you look at the drums. Youíve got to have somebody who can swing, but also somebody who can play other kinds of groovesóthe African stuff, that New Orleans feel. Itís not so easy to find guys who can cover a lot of ground, apart from the singular connection that Brian and I have. Thatís in its own place for me; after that, itís another thing. But Marcus Gilmore is a very gifted young man.
It puts you in a different position. Rather than playing with peers, so to speak ... John Ellis and Marcus Gilmore are superior musicians, but younger musicians.
Well, Iím old enough to be Marcusí father. John, not quite.
And you turn 50 this year. Music is a social art, moreso than the visual arts or writing, and youíve made a transition from someone who is identified more by working with Chick Corea, Wayne Shorter, and Roy Haynes, and having done some albums, to the preponderance of your activity being a leader. Is this something you think of consciously? How proactive do you want to be about establishing yourself?
As a bandleader and so on?
Iíll put it this way. Establishing yourself where your own musical vision is the predominant thing. From soup to nuts, as it were.
Well, it has to be tempered with my time with my family. I made a choice a little while back that, yes, I could go and tour as a leader most of the year that I wasnít doing the other stuff, but then Iíd never see my family. So I have to balance it, and thatís what I try to do. Thatís also why I took the gig teaching at City Collegeóso that I could choose a little bit more how much I wanted to be gone. There are still, obviously, some things musically that are super-important, that I feel I have to do. But I also want to have a presence with my own family. A lot of guys sacrifice that to be a bandleader and make a statement and all thatóand thatís great. But Iím not willing to sacrifice being a good husband and father.
Thatís sometimes tricky, though. Remembrance is my thirteenth record. Iíve had bands since 1987. Yet, some people who write about the music say, 'Well, heís not really a bandleader' or stuff like, 'Heís not really a composer; his stuff is not that developed.' Iíve had that attitude thrown at me from time to time, and I think, 'Wow, is that because Iím not out there all the time with my band, going, Ďthis is what I am,í shouting it from the rooftops, touring like crazy?' Also, when you get to be almost 50, you think that you donít want to go on the road all the time. I like going on the road. Itís great. But Iím not going to do it like I did when I was 25.
So those are choices, and those choices have consequences. Youíre not as in the public eye, so youíre not going to be poll-winning and all that kind of stuff. That doesnít happen unless youíre out with your band all the time, saying, 'Look, this is my vision.' I still have a vision. Itís a very strong viewpoint, and I donít feel like Iím not taking it seriously. Itís just that Iím not willing to be on the road eight months a year to do it. So I have to temper it and do it over a longer period of timeóa slower arc, I guess.
Thereís something about the road that seems to inhibit research & development. Perhaps it hones a point of view. But when youíre off the road, thereís space ... As Corea puts it, the eternal child aspect can perhaps be expressed more readily if youíre not on the road all the time.
Yeah, when youíre on the road all the time, and youíre moving and moving and moving, and doing and doing and doing, thereís not as much Ö well, now itís a little easier to compose, with the computer. But you need time to just be home. And also, itís nice to be home in a place like New York, because thereís a lot going on. You donít feel like you came home and thereís nothing happening.
Tell me about your position at City College.
Iím a full professor with tenure in jazz studies. I teach two days a week; Tuesdays and Thursdays, Iím at school. If I have to go out on the road with Wayne, or something like that, I hire somebody out of my own pocket. I have a pretty high standard of what I think I need to do there, but it works out well, because if I go away, I send people like Adam Cruz or Ed Simon or Jon Cowherd, somebody whoís out there playing who can give the students another viewpoint, not just from the bass side, but from the perspective of a pianist or a drummer.
I teach students privately as well. My private students never have a sub. If I go away, I make up their lessons. The undergrads get 8 lessons a semester; the graduate students get 10 lessons a semester.
How much of your time is teaching, how much is practicing and composing, how much is performing, and how much is parenting?
I donít even know how to break that down.
You donít sleep.
Yeah, sometimes you donít. The semester time can be really rough. I have to get up at 6:00, help the kids get their stuff for school, and then you go and teach on the days that you teach, and the days that you donít teach youíre trying to practice or write or whatever. I go early to get my parking place by the school, then I go in and maybe Iíll practice a little bit before school starts, and then deal with the students.
Sometimes when you come home, youíre just burnt. Some days are longer than others. This semester, Iíll be coaching two graduate ensembles and two undergraduate ensembles, and six or seven bass students. So one day might heavily loaded. I might have to get there by 7:20 to get my parking place. This semester, school will start at 10 oíclock, so Iíll practice and do some stuff before that, and from 10 to 1 is ensembles, and then private lessons until 5. The other day might be a little shorter. Those are intense days. You have to really be on. Then sometimes, when you come home at night, if youíre working on a particular thing and writing with a deadline, or if youíre working on a piece and you have to practice, you stay up 'til 2 in the morning. Man, when 6 a.m. rolls around, itís not fun. Sometimes I just canít do it. Sometimes I have to do it. I power down a few espressos, and go down in the basement and work, and pay the price the next day.
When youíre 55, letís say, five years from now, do you envision your life breaking down in the same way? Do you expect maybe less sideman work, or ...
I donít know. I know Iíll keep expanding [my] writing and keep expanding as a player, and Iíll continue to write my own music and keep having bands. Iíll continue to play with Wayne as long as he wants to keep doing itóand other people, too. Iíll continue pursuing the writing things also on the side, and hopefully get a chance to play some concertos with orchestras again, like Iíve had recently. And keep shedding. Writing, shedding ... thatís just on the musical side. But thereís also the personal aspects of being involved with my wife and my children and our church. Thereís a bunch of stuff going on there, too.
So your roots are now firmly in the New York area. Youíre from here, you lived West, but it sounds like the West Coast was never quite your vibe.
No. I liked the Bay Area quite a bit. But when I moved south, which is where I spent most of my time in California, that wasnít me. When I came home to the New York area, I felt like, ĎMan, Iím home again; this is great.' They say you canít go home, but you can.
Ted Panken spoke with John Patitucci on August 12, 2009