Talk! Conversations in All Keys 

American Music

     

Talk! A Conversation in All Keys – American Music is the third volume of interviews with music greats conducted by William M. King, preceded by Volume 1, The Artists, and Volume 2, The Music Business. This volume includes interviews with Dave Brubeck, Shirley Horn, Roy Hargrove Harry Connick Jr., Dr. John Tony Bennett, Brian Blade, Pat Metheny, Betty Carter, Geri Allen, Marcus Miller, Sonny Rollins, and 43 more. Excepts from some interviews follow: 

Steve Earle: The job of songwriting is empathy. That’s why songs work in some situations – the kind of songs I write are literature. Bob Dylan made sure of that before I came along, so that’s what I aspire to. I never aspired to any other kind of songwriting. There’s something about a melody that will make people assimilate things that they wouldn’t embrace otherwise. And the idea that being able to speak in a voice that they understand makes a difference too. So it’s the same information. 

Norah Jones: I didn’t play country music when I was young. I grew up in Texas, and it’s definitely in the water. It was Willie Nelson and Hank Williams, and that was about it. I got into jazz in about the seventh grade, and from that point on, that’s what I was trying to play. 

Tony Bennett: Jazz deals with the truth, honesty and sincerity. When people hear it down the line, even 2000 years from now, we’ll be hailed for giving the world some of the most beautiful music it’s ever heard. I took Fred Astaire’s advice: whenever you have an act that feels perfect, pull out 15 minutes, no matter how good it is. The reason is to avoid staying on stage too long. I feel a record has to be the same way. You don’t want to be predictable or monotonous. 

Randy Weston: For me, jazz is African music in the United States. It’s just an extension of Mother Africa, and wherever you find her children, whether it’s Brazil, Jamaica, Trinidad, Puerto Rico or the U.S., you’ll find this approach to music and life. It’s the African way of life. Spirituality, polyrhythms, call and response — they’re all there. 

Ahmad Jamal: I think Pittsburghers tend to be stylists. They all have their approach. Whether it’s Dodo Marmarosa, whom the world’s forgotten about, or Sam Johnson, who the world didn’t know about, Erroll Garner or Earl Hines, we all have our approach, and that one is mine. All of the Pittsburgh players are different. Mary Lou Williams was a magnificent jewel. Pittsburgh is an unusual place. 

Betty Carter: It was a rough two years, meaning that I fought it all the way. Lionel Hampton’s band was well organized and had been in existence for quite some time. Being young and a bebopper, I said to myself, this is not the kind of Music I want to be doing. I stayed because of his wife. She saw something in me I guess I didn’t see. She encouraged me to hang in there and do whatever I had to do. 

Bobby McFerrin: Drummers fascinate me with all the things they do. Left and right feet; left and right hands and especially, drummers that sing. They can’t be thinking my left foot is doing this and my right is doing that. They can’t be thinking consciously about that. It’s impossible. You can’t divide your mind into four different activities at once. 

Sonny Rollins: When I was a little boy, I would practice in my mother’s room not to disturb people outside. I’d be there for hours and hours. I’d be perfectly content. You’d have to call me over and over to eat dinner. I did this when I practiced on the bridge too. I hear a lot of the accompaniment in my mind.