Jazz is not just 'Well, man, this is what I feel like playing.' It's a very structured thing that comes down from a tradition and requires a lot of thought and study.
Today you go into make a modern recording with all this technology. The bass plays first, then the drums come in later, then they track the trumpet and the singer comes in and they ship the tape somewhere. Well, none of the musicians have played together. You can’t play jazz music that way. In order for you to play jazz, you’ve got to listen to them. The music forces you at all times to address what other people are thinking and for you to interact with them with empathy and to deal with the process of working things out. And that’s how our music really could teach what the meaning of American democracy is.
The thing in jazz that will get Bix Beiderbecke out of his bed at two o’clock in the morning, pick that cornet up and practice into the pillow for another two or three hours, or that would make Louis Armstrong travel around the world for fifty plus years non stop, just get up out of his sick bed, crawl up on the bandstand and play, the thing that would make Duke Ellington, the thing that would make Thelonious Monk, Miles Davis, Charlie Parker, Mary Lou Williams, the thing that would make all of these people give their lives for this, and they did give their lives, is that it gives us a glimpse into what America is going to be when it becomes itself. And this music tells you that it will become itself. And when you get a taste of that, there’s just nothing else you’re going to taste that’s as sweet.
I noticed that religion gave some people a way to escape dealing with the world: “Things will be better when you die,” the people of my grandma’s generation said as they worked themselves to death. “God wants you to forgive and love those who do you wrong,” some people said to shake off the shame of being unable to respond to the abuse they endured. The holier-than-thou faction found comfort in believing, “The rest of y’all are lost because you don’t have a personal relationship with God—our God.” But art engages you in the world, not just the world around you but the big world, and not just the big world of Tokyo and Sydney and Johannesburg, but the bigger world of ideas and concepts and feelings of history and humanity.
I'm not a person who writes really abstract things with oblique references. I look at abstraction like I look at condiments. Give me some Tabasco sauce, some ketchup, some mayonnaise. I love all of that. Put it on a trumpet. I've just got to have the ketchup and Tabasco sauce. That's my attitude about musical philosophy.
The blues. It runs through all American music. Somebody bending the note. The other is the two-beat groove. It's in New Orleans music, it's in jazz, it's in country music, it's in gospel.
Generally, when I wake up in the morning I set out a series of problems for myself and I write them down, and when I'm sleeping, my mind solves the problems. When I wake up in the morning, I have more clarity on the issue.
Many a revolution started with the actions of a few. Only 56 men signed the Declaration of Independence. A few hanging together can lead a nation to change.
What I really have in my head, my imagination, my understanding of music, I never really get that out.
I believed in studying just because I knew education was a privilege. It was the discipline of study, to get into the habit of doing something that you don't want to do.
Through first-class education, a generation marches down the long uncertain road of the future with confidence.