MM: Sure‚ your own voice.
MS: Yeah‚ yeah‚ but you can't pick up the guitar and play jazz and not play some Wes Montgomery -- that's an impossibility! (laughter)
MM: Well‚ yeah‚ and before him was Charlie Christian; it's like he couldn't play something at first without sounding like him…
MS: Yeah‚ Charlie Christian was definitely one of the guys and then the other guy there... the Hungarian guy. What's his name?
MM: Django (Reinhardt)?
MS: Django! (Laughs) Yeah‚ Wes was highly influenced by Django. That's where the octaves come from. Django was one of the first guys to play the octaves really fast like that.
MM: Yeah‚ that's such a beautiful sound. I've always thought that's what jazz is about though -- it's about evolving. The styles beforehand are taken‚ learned‚ and then the innovators of the time do something new with it. That's the way I interpret it‚ looking at the rich history of the music.
MS: Yeah‚ that's what most of the guys do. They combine all of their influences and the result of the combination is their own style. None of us can play something new that someone ain't done already! (Laughter) You have to be influenced by somebody‚ you know‚ but in many cases it's better to be influenced by as many great musicians as you can. You have a better chance at developing your own style. You come up with your own flavor.
MM: That's one of the things I think about a lot with playing music. You know‚ you practice and practice‚ and you study‚ and then when you go to play you let it go. You just let it come out of you -- just dig in and let your soul pour it out.
MS: Yep‚ definitely.
MM: (Laughing) You know that right? You've felt that‚ huh?
MS: (Laughs) Oh yeah.
MM: What about some of the younger musicians that you run into today? Do any of them inspire you?
MS: Hmm.... Well‚ that's a good question. Inspiration‚ I'm not so sure. I guess so‚ to some extent. These young musicians aren't doing it the way it was done years ago‚ you know‚ in terms of soul jazz or acid jazz -- whatever you want to call it. So consequently I use their statement underneath what I do. I put what I did years ago on top of what they're doing today (laughter). That's what the older guys used to do back in the day‚ like Lou Donaldson; he couldn't play no James Brown funk and all that stuff. So he got us to do that and he would put his stuff on top of it (laughter). I'm doing the same thing‚ you know? Those young people weren't there in 1968 and in 1970 when I was making those records. They have their own spin on it‚ which makes it modern and up-to-date. I'm the one who makes it old (laughter). It's a good combination. In terms of inspiration‚ I don't know. I've seen some good ones‚ like Charlie Hunter‚ playing that guitar with the bass strings on it -- that's really unique. I think that sounds great and that's going to influence a lot of guitar players. I can't do that -- I wouldn't even begin to try (laughter). But‚ I think he'll go down in history as one of the greats‚ especially as he continues to grow. And then someone like Stanton Moore‚ the drummer -- he's great. But those guys are expanding on what we did‚ you know? They're doing the same stuff we did; they're just expanding on it and making it sound different and new. Then an old guy like me comes along and takes advantage of that by using that.
MM: Yeah‚ the youthful energy underneath and you can sprinkle your wisdom on top of it (laughter).
MS: That's a good way to look at it. But‚ yeah‚ there are a lot of good musicians out there. They don't get to experience it like I did; I think that's dead and gone. I mean‚ there's no more Miles Davis for them to play with; there's no more Art Blakey. You know what I mean? All that experience is gone. You can go out a buy all of the records‚ but they're never going to change. But that's what is making the music change. I got a little bit of that experience coming up. So the guys that are playing with me are getting a little bit of a different spin on it. All of those combinations of elements make the music different. A few years from now the whole thing will be totally different.
MM: Well‚ in a lot of ways you're a hero to a lot of the younger musicians today.
MS: (Laughs) I don't know about that... maybe because I'm one of the only ones left. Everyone else is dead or not playing out (laughter).
MM: I was talking to a friend of mine earlier today and I told him I was excited because I was going to be speaking with you and he was like‚ "Holy shit! You're going to talk with Melvin?" He was excited about it as well‚ and he's a guy I've exchanged a lot of music with over the years. He turned me on to some of the records you played on. For me -- like I said -- it was discovering this new world of music and I know there are a lot of musicians out there that are influenced from the whole soul jazz movement.
MS: That's what happens; like you said earlier it is sort of like a rebirth‚ but it's new music to many people today. And you have bands like The Greyboy Allstars and Galactic‚ and a bunch of other bands that are playing that music. They kind of brought the music back; in fact‚ that music was so dominant‚ that's what brought me back. When I toured with The Greyboy Allstars I didn't even have to rehearse with them or nothing (laughter). I just showed up and they were playing the music I recorded. I went to Karl Denson and I said‚ "Yeah man‚ so what are you going to play?" and he said‚ "You don't even have to worry about it -- everything we play‚ you know." (Laughter) It was the same way with Galactic. Some of those groups are doing their own thing; they're definitely mixing it up and creating a new sound which is good too.