How did you get started in music?
I began playing the flute when I was about 15 (I think just a few months short of it.) My brother Bob was already a great sax and flute player gigging around Denver and Boulder. I was incredibly impressed by it all. I initially wanted to play the drums. I even played them in my high school jazz band in my senior year when they couldn’t find anyone else. Anyway, I had a strong desire, and an intuition that I would be a good flute player. My father bought me an instrument although he was skeptical that I would have the discipline to stick with such a long term endeavor like learning to play an instrument. I was natural at it, as if I had played the instrument before. I’ve thought about this a lot. The horn, its sound and its fingerings immediately made perfect sense to me and within a few weeks I was playing it and making music with other people. I could “hear it and see it” immediately. I couldn’t have done this on another instrument so it’s a little spooky to me. I’m being very honest when I say it was as if I had played the instrument before. Playing the saxophone followed shortly after.
Any advice to someone wanting to learn an instrument?
Make sure you are very inspired not only by music but by the particular instrument you wish to play. While that seems simple I know some very good musicians who ended up as children learning an instrument that was not really the one they most wanted to play. Being inspired by a particular instrument will obviously really help to keep at the many hours involved in practicing it and greatly increase your identification and gratification in making progress.
Who are some of your musical inspirations?
My earliest inspirations were my brothers Andy and Bobby and my sister Paula. Andy is a consummate musician. He has a PHD from Julliard and has numerous wonderful recordings. He is a pretty rare artist. Bobby, especially, inspired me because of the type of music he was playing which I immediately identified with and because the life of a young musician in “hip Boulder Colorado” that he was leading, seemed about as cool as anything on the planet,.. and it pretty much was. Amongst my biggest inspirations are Michael Brecker and David Sanborn, Hubert Laws and James Galway, Charlie Parker, Trane and Cannonball, Pat Metheny, Joni Mitchell, The Beatles, Jimi Hendrix and James Taylor. That just names a very few and it’s important to say that I’m always trying to increase my listening and appreciation for lots of different players, eras, and all kinds of music in general. I’m listening to music and new players all the time and now some of the “kids” and young people I grew up knowing are now some of the finest contemporary musicians on the scene. It’s very inspiring.
What kind of musicians do you admire most?
There are a lot of people making very earnest, serious, efforts as aspiring musicians and artists. It’s beautiful, and that energy is critically important for our world. I really admire people who are giving their all and trying to make it count, not just in music but in whatever their daily work is. Many people, players and artists are given and really develop their special gift. In my experience I have begun to think some form of “the gift” is not entirely rare, even observing some individuals with absolutely super talent. “It” is something more and is in a large way perhaps what one does with that gift and the wisdom and humanity with which it is handled and pursued that I think ultimately matters most to me. It’s a huge topic for thought. Some of the most accomplished people, within any field, and some of the the greatest artists, seem to be the ones who really have the best and clearest sense of purpose behind their efforts and in who they are, even as they journey and change. That is not always so easy in the world and it’s tremendous characteristic to possess. I really admire it. There’s many different things to consider when listening and appreciating people’s work. On a seemingly simple but simultaneously most meaningful level, you know when someone’s music speaks to you and makes you feel something extraordinary. You maybe don’t have to think about that, but it’s good if you do! Ha ha! I really admire musicians and artists from whom I have a sense of generosity of spirit, heart, and thoughtfulness.
How do you practice?
Well, this is all stuff I continue to try to advance in myself, often in fits and starts! It’s important to make your practice gains tangible and consistent. If one sets up a schedule and fulfills it each week then he or she can be satisfied that some practical gains toward the long-term goals are indeed being seen to and will eventually be fulfilled. Progress is a funny thing. It can be like watching the hands on a clock. If you do your thing dutifully and mindfully with faith rather than “staring at it each second” and worrying, you can be pretty confident progress is being made and that something has advanced not just that time has gone by. Remember that the art of practice is to turn what is consciously being worked on into that which will become unconscious, spontaneous and then hopefully second nature. One other note, and I am very guilty of this, is that we tend to practice most those things we are already good at – because it’s the most fun. Working less fun areas that are less well developed into our practice is important. — I’ll try to heed my own advice.
What are some of your favorite CDs?
- The Gentle Side Of John Coltrane
- Cityscapes By Claus Ogerman and Michael Brecker
- Gate Of Dreams By Claus Ogerman
- Travelogue By Joni Mitchell
- Round About Roma by Stefano di Battista
- Taking Off By David Sanborn
- October Road by James Taylor
- Scarborough Fair by Chris Hunter
- Secret Story by Pat Metheny
- Courage by Milton Nascimento
- Simply Said by Kenny Garrett
- Epiphany by Vince Mendoza
- Wide Angles by Michael Brecker
- Bird with Strings by Charlie Parker
- 34th and Lex by Randy Brecker
- The Brecker Brothers
- Time Out by Dave Brubeck
- Bill Evans with Symphony
- Street Dreams by Lyle Mays
- Hymns of the 49th Parallel by K.D. Lang
- American Dreams by Charlie Haden
- New Bottle, Old Wine by Gil Evans
- Talking Book by Stevie Wonder
- Word of Mouth by Jaco Pastorius
- Obsession by David Sanchez
- Epiphany: the Best of Chaka Khan
- Nancy Wilson & Cannonball Adderley
- Greenhouse by The Yellowjackets
- Sleeping Gypsy by Michael Franks
- New Standard by Herbie Hancock
- Masques by Philippe Saisse
- Court and Spark by Joni Mitchell
- Revolutions by Jim Beard with the Metropole Orchestra
- 54 by John Scofield and the Metropole Orchestra
- Belgium Suite by Ivan Paduart
- Crush by Ivan Paduart with Fey Claussen and Bob Malach
- Wildflower by Hubert Laws
- The Love Connection Freddie Hubbard
- Sergeant Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band by The Beatles!