I read something where you said how you grew up around Bud Powell and how some of these guys were just so consumed with making music and playing that there wasn't really much left after that, in terms of what else goes on in life.
It happens not only with musicians but with painters, writers, movie guys. You can get absorbed in your art form to the point where you can almost lose yourself. I never wanted to do that. I was trying to find myself. Figure out who this guy is I've been living with all these years. [laughter] But, yeah, I've seen it happen in people. They just get so absorbed. Because there are other aspects of life that I think everyone needs to know about and enjoy. And I try to do that. I'm very, very happy I had a family. There are parts of life that I think are very good to enjoy. I don't see anything wrong with it at all. Music has to be inspired by something. That's the thing. And if you have something in your life that's worthwhile, it's good to relish it and try to make it better each day if you can. With everything.
That's interesting. What do you think about that in terms of composing? It's really like you're… giving somebody that feeling of something that's reflected in life.
Yeah, I know what you mean. I'll give you an example. They asked me to come out to Stanford University years ago to teach. I told them that I'm not a good teacher. There are some guys who step into those shoes and you put them in front of students or semi-professionals, and they go to town with that. I mean, they really like teaching. They have a knack for it. I'm not a teacher to tell you the truth. The only way I can teach is by example. I don't like to stand in front of a class. It's heavy technical stuff. I think music goes beyond that. But anyway, I agreed to do it.
I said, "But you have to understand -- my style is not criticizing. I'm here to help. That's it." So this was a three-day seminar with all sorts of stuff. They were teaching singing, jazz concepts, and so forth. I had a mixture of students from different musical backgrounds. And there was this one guy -- young guy -- and he said, "Can you show me what you can do with this song?" I said, "You come down and show the class what you can do." And he came down and played, and this guy had tremendous orchestral talents. He was phenomenal. And he starts smiling and was so happy. You see, I wanted to bring out his feeling. I'm there for him. I was there to inspire him. It wasn't about me; it was about him. [laughs] He was smiling. He had a good time. You never know what you possess, man. You gave it a chance and it came through. So I don't do that kind of thing all the time, but it was nice doing it then. That was good, though.
Yeah, that's great. I mean, I guess that's the goal -- whoever is playing -- to become yourself.
Yeah, that's it. You hit the nail right on the head. It's about finding yourself, man. That's what it's about. And this music will help you to discover yourself. It really will. If that's what you want to do, you'll get there.
It's funny talking to musicians. What did [Marco] call it? "The McCoy bag." You have to go through the McCoy bag on your way.
[laughs] Is that what they call it?
You have to go through there, and hopefully you get…
As long as you get don't get stuck.
Yeah, as long as you don't get stuck.
Because it's about the person. It's about them. Finding yourself -- that's what it is. It's not totally about me. We've had some great geniuses that have really shared their gifts with the world and inspired a lot of people, but the music has kept going and changing. That's the nature of it. It's a good thing.
Your career has been all about changing, always trying something new. But at the same time, it's incredible that you never left the acoustic piano.
No. You know, I talk with Joe Zawinul, Herbie [Hancock], and Chick [Corea]. They know a lot about electric keyboards and stuff like that. I have one that I use for writing at nighttime because I don't want to wake up the neighbors. You know, there are elderly people near me in the building. If I really want to bang it out on the piano, I'll do it during the day. [laughter] But the thing is, they know what they're dealing with, and they know the mechanics of the instrument. They know the technology and the terms. When I got my keyboard, I just wanted to compose at night and not wake anybody up. So I put earphones on and that's it. It served a purpose. But in terms of playing it in a gig: No. My sound is the acoustic piano.
Right. That's your voice.
And ironically, Keith Jarrett feels the same way. I've never heard Keith play electric piano. Maybe when he was with Miles…
Yeah, I think in the early days he did some of that.
Yeah, he did. But after that it seems he really stuck with the acoustic piano. I can understand why. It's an amazing instrument.
Last thing: This trio you're playing with is Eric [Gravatt] on drums and Charnett [Moffett] on bass.
Quite a band.
Yeah. What are some of your thoughts on them?
Well, Charnett has been with me for quite a while now. I'd say a little over a year. Maybe close to two years. Sometimes time goes by so fast. [laughs] But he's sounding good. He's bowing everyday. He has his little style -- he uses the bow. He's playing well. He's got his own thing, though. I like that about him; he's not afraid to try things. And he's been playing like that since he was a little kid. His father really let him go ahead and do what he wanted to do musically. And it helped him. Eric, of course, was in my band back in the '70s. When I had the sextet, septet, or whatever, Eric was in that band during that period. I took him to Minnesota and he decided he wanted to live there, so he went back there and stayed. He got a job in a penal institution. Prison guard.