Matthew Shipp Interview, NYC

By Filipe Freitas

Matthew Shipp, 2017 ©Clara Pereira

Matthew Shipp, 2017 ©Clara Pereira


Name: Matthew Shipp
Instrument: piano
Style: contemporary jazz, modern creative
Album Highlights: Pastoral Composure (Thirsty Ear, 2000), Equilibrium (Thirsty Ear, 2003), Piano Song (Thirsty Ear, 2016)




You have two fresh records coming out on ESP-Disk label in February, one solo (Zero) and one in quartet (Sonic Friction). 
What's the concept behind Zero?

There is no concept behind Zero except for a questioning of the same metaphysical concepts that have always been what I ask - How things come out of nothing? How poles of energy cohere into events and things? And the polarity between the abyss and the manifested. The abyss has always interested me and the poles of desire that the universe uses to make diversity come out of unity, so the universe can get to know itself, which it cannot by being the one entity it is. Also, the invisible glue that holds the world together is a fascination of mine. This is where I was at when I recorded the CD.

By listening to it, one can easily identify classical and blues elements. They are used, not in their traditional forms, but always as vehicles for your creative process. Which are your main influences/inspirations in these currents?
I don’t think in terms of genre. I think in terms of fields of energy that sort of manifest as language or what you might call a genre, so, classical music per-se does not interest me, but many classical composers touch on the ideas I like, and they interest me for that reason, not for the fact that they are classical composers. The language fields that have meant something to me are Bach, Chopin, Joplin, Webern, Debussy, etc. It's more the idea of a language field that interests me. I like Xenakis as far as math being a language along with the music. As far as blues goes, the blues is a field of resonance, and I don’t know if I have any specific influences within the blues language, but it is connected to a feeling and an emotion and though I play space blues like Sun Ra. I still have an interest in the field, and resonance, hence the blues.

Sonic Friction marks the fourth collaboration with Mat Walerian. How did you guys meet and who first had the idea of recording?
Mat Walerian contacted an old agent of mine. I originally did not want to work with him, mainly because I am not at a point of enlarging the sphere of people I play with. However, he used as a reference Hamid Drake, who he had done some playing with, and Hamid told me he thought we would be great together. So, based on Hamid's recommendation, I did a concert with Walerian. When I first shook hands with him, I knew we would really hit it off and it just happened. Things just took on a life of its own after that.

Walerian and Ivo Perelman are your frequent collaborators, but different sound explorers. In your point of view, what do they bring to your music in order to enrich it?
Ivo Perelman and Walerian are completely different animals. Both of them mean a lot to me. First of all, they are from different generations. Ivo is my age, and since we are the same generation, we tend to have a very similar worldview and way of going about things. Walerian is a whole different, pole of energy, and to some extent he was shaped by my generation, despite the fact that he obviously is influenced by some of the same people I am, like Coltrane, etc. 
Ivo, in some ways, postures himself in ways like David S. Ware and Charles Gayle would, in a certain tradition of a tenor hero, whereas Walerian does not posture himself as a sax hero. I'm not sure how I would word his posture, but it's different and a new form and mode of presentation plus he has found a really unique and unpretentious way of wedding his Zen and martial arts philosophy to the music. What both have in common is a real honesty about who they are. Both are very honest and completely unpretentious. They are vibrant for that reason plus their talents.

You had electronics, synth, and programming added to some of your past albums such as Nu Bop and Equilibrium. What are your thoughts about the use of technology in music?
I have no thoughts about electronica in jazz. I did it for a while and, at that time, it was perfect for what I was exploring and I am glad I did some projects like that, but as far as what others are doing, they have to do what is right for them and, in most cases, if they are doing it, I assume it's because it needs to be done. At this point, I am weeded to acoustic jazz for myself.

What else besides music interests you?
Interests other than music: metaphysics, fighting (boxing and martial arts), politics, history, literature. All kinds of things actually. This is a rich world. No one should ever be bored. If you are, it's your fault.

As a prolific creator, are you happy with the current music business? What would you change immediately if you had that power?
I do not feel the music industry is headed to a good place, but I don’t feel too good about many things in society. I have serious problems with streaming. I am glad I made my name in industry days before what we have now. There are so many things about modern culture that are very shallow and virtual or not really real. People have some serious soul searching to do about values that are solid and real, and in some ways, the way things have gone do not facilitate the values I think are important. I hope things do not have to crash before people are forced to reevaluate a lot of things. The music industry has no center today. It takes incredible persistence and willpower to cut a niche out for yourself in the middle of all the noise out here. It has always been like that but culture has seemed to have taken a dip down. Of course, there are tons of talented people with something to say out here, but there is some nasty haze over everything these days, so, an artist has to be really concentrated in their own source code.

What was the first jazz record you fell in love with?
The first jazz album that really interested me was Phineas Newborn Jr.'s Solo Piano.

Can you name two persons whom you've never collaborated with but you would like to?
Kool Keith and Ikue Mori. I would also love to play with the great saxist James Spaulding.

You have found your own voice. What's your advice for the ones who are still trying to find theirs?
I feel lucky that I found my voice. Don’t know what to say to people who ask how. You have to really trust yourself. How you do that, I don’t know. You must have an intense desire to have your own voice, you must have the poetic vision to follow your own demons and thought forms. Hopefully, you can draw on something primal that you knew as a 3-year-old. Of course, at that time, you would have had no way to articulate what you knew on an instrument or in any other form, but there are secrets in nature that we are aware of as kids that are educated out of us at a later date. You need to find some way to break down the layers of socialization that were thrust upon you by society and to find your primal self.

Any other projects for 2018?
Concerts with my trio, solo, and with Ivo Perelman. There might be a film also, more on that later.

François Bourassa Interview, NYC

by Filipe Freitas

François Bourassa, 2017 ©Mathieu Rivard

François Bourassa, 2017 ©Mathieu Rivard


Name: François Bourassa
Instrument: piano
Style: contemporary jazz
Album Highlights: Cactus (Lost Chart Records, 1999), Indefinite Time (Effendi, 2003), Number 9 (Effendi, 2017)





"Carla and Karlheinz" is the stunning opener of your latest CD, Number 9. Can you talk a bit about your compositional process in general, as well as your influences, particularly on this tune?
My process is very intuitive and not pre-determined.
My influences on this tune are Carla Bley pieces from the early 60's and Mantra by Karlheinz Stockhausen - a piece for 2 pianos and electronics.
What do you search and what do you want to convey with your music?
To touch people with emotion.
Being a Quebecois, how do you see the Canadian jazz scene?
A lot of good players and dedicated festivals, still the country is so large and there are not enough gigs.
Are you happy with today's music business? If you had the power to change it, what would you do for a start?
No. Same fees as 30 years ago.
I would focus on more promotion for non-commercial music, more exposure for non-commercial music. More gigs and more money. 
What was the first jazz album you fell in love with? 
Maybe ‪Keith Jarrett's‬ My Song or ‪Chick Corea's ‬Now He Sings Now He Sobs.
Which other styles do you listen to? What are your favorite artists for each style?
Plenty of styles. Classical, funk, rock, blues, contemporary music, chanson... as for my faves there are so many, it's too hard to think of just one in each category.
Can you tell us two persons who influenced you the most as a pianist?
Bill Evans and Chick Corea.
Can you tell us two persons whom you've never collaborated with but you'd like to? 
Elvin Jones and Lester Young.

If you weren't a musician, what would you be? 
Not much.

What can we expect next? Are you already working on another project/album? 
A solo piano album.

Jon Irabagon Interview, NYC

By Filipe Freitas

Jon Irabagon, 2017 ©Clara Pereira

Jon Irabagon, 2017 ©Clara Pereira


Name: Jon Irabagon
Instrument: saxophone
Style: contemporary jazz
Album Highlights: Outright! (Innova Records, 2008), It Takes All KInds (Jazzwerkstatt/Irabbagast, 2013), Behind The Sky (Irabbagast Records, 2015)




You are the headliner of the 19th AngraJazz Festival, which happens in October in Angra do Heroismo, Azores, Portugal. What does this invitation represent to you?
It is humbling to be considered a headliner amongst all the great acts that are performing at AngraJazz.  To me, AngraJazz is one of the most prominent, important festivals in Europe, so it is a huge blessing to be able to perform here for the first time, and especially as a leader.  I am very proud of this quartet so I am excited to debut it in Europe on this tour.  And of course, the Azores is such a beautiful area, so I definitely will be exploring Terceira... and hopefully another island as well!

What can the audience expect from your quartet performance? Will you draw exclusively from Behind the Sky or play new material as well?
We will be performing music from Behind the Sky as well as music from a brand new record that I hope to have available for the performance, even though it is coming out in early 2018.  The new record is entitled Dr. Quixotic's Traveling Exotics and takes a nod from traveling circus shows and sideshows from the past.  This new record features the great Tim Hagans on several tracks, and represents a step further in the evolution of this quartet.

What do you think about this year's lineup?
I have followed AngraJazz for many years now, and the festival always brings high-level acts and many different styles and philosophical ideas to the people.  It's a very well run festival and the programming is unique.  I am looking forward to catching as many of the artists as possible.

Pick your favorite one:
a) studio or live performance?  
I used to say hands down live performance, but recently I've been working in the studio and with post-production, and there definitely is an art to crafting something to be laid down for all time. 
b) small ensemble or big band?  
Small ensemble for me is fun and challenging, but many of the best small ensemble players got their starts in big bands, myself included.  There is a camaraderie in big bands that cannot be replicated, and definitely a sound that can be spectacular
c) small clubs or big festivals?  
The small clubs are where you can really connect with your audience and get into some special places with your group, but there is nothing like big festivals for the adrenaline!

If you had total power to change the current jazz scene, what would be your moves?  
That is a very complicated question!!  I suppose I would lobby for more cross-listening and less segregation between the different styles.  Part of what I find so magical, so mystical about jazz and improvisation is when two seemingly disparate styles or people come together and create something new.  There is a time and a place for perfection and pristine performances, though I tend to gravitate towards the unknown-- not minding bumps or mistakes along the way.

What was the first jazz album you fell in love with?  
There were several simultaneously-- Cannonball Adderley Quintet Live in San Francisco, Dave Holland Quartet's Conference of the Birds, Sean Bergin's Copy Cat and John Coltrane's Blue Train all took me into different directions.  

Which other styles do you listen to? Tell me your favorites for each style.  
I listen to as much different music as possible; recently I've been checking out different Balkan musicians as well as Bartok and Shostakovich string quartets

Can you tell me two persons who influenced you the most as a musician?  
I've been lucky to be in the bands of two people who influenced me before I had the chance to play with them:  Barry Altschul and Dave Douglas. I obtained as many records as I could by both of these musicians, both as leaders and sidemen, and transcribed tunes and solos and listened exhaustively to each.  When the time came that I was able to play with them, this previous listening gave my real-life interactions with them more life and meaning, and I am grateful to both for the learning, both on and off the bandstand, that they have provided.

If you weren't a musician what would you have been?  
It took me a few years to realize it, but I couldn't have been anything except a musician. 

In which projects are you involved at the moment?  
This quartet that is performing here has a new record called Dr. Quixotic's Traveling Exotics and is coming out in early 2018.  I recorded a solo mezzo soprano (in F) record in August that will also be released early next year, and I'm hoping to bring an organ trio I've been leading with Gary Versace and Nasheet Waits into the studio in 2018 for a release late in the year.  All of these records will come out on my record label, Irabbagast Records.

Uri Gurvich Interview, NYC

By Filipe Freitas

Uri Gurvich, 2017, ©Clara Pereira

Uri Gurvich, 2017, ©Clara Pereira




Name: Uri Gurvich
Instrument: tenor and soprano saxophone
Style: contemporary jazz
Album Highlights: The Storyteller (Tzadik, 2009), BabEl (Tzadik, 2013), Kinship (Jazz Family, 2017)







When did you decide to become a saxophonist? How did it happen?
I started playing the saxophone at age of 10. When I got into high school I was already pretty serious with it and got more into the instrument. Eventually as the years passed it evolved into being my profession. It wasn’t a certain decisive moment; it was just something that happened naturally.

Who are your favorite saxophonists?
My top three are John Coltrane, Charlie Parker, and Cannonball Adderley. These are the three I studied the most. I also love Joe Henderson, Sonny Rollins, Joe Lovano and Michael Brecker. 

Kinship is such a strong word and concept, which was the conceptual basis for your new album.  How did the idea come up as motivation/inspiration?
With the album Kinship, the compositions came first and then the title. I tried to write tunes that had a certain connection or a shared message, showing the band’s special bond as a multi-national group of people. Being from four different countries, we have certain cultural differences but we share a common language and affinity through music. On a broader scale, we have seen a lot of divisions within society (especially in recent months), but our goal with this album was to spread a message of global unity. For me, the word “kinship” evokes all of these ideas.

Can you talk a bit about your compositional process?
I don’t have a specific compositional process, but I usually try to start with one decisive element; it can be a certain form, groove, portraying a certain place or person etc., even though sometimes this leads to a completely different thing! Then I see where it takes me from there. Also, I often write some little ideas or motifs in a notebook, and many times will go back to it or utilize some of those. Every couple of years, I try to keep the compositions within a certain vibe, with the hope of eventually creating a cohesive book/album of compositions. 

Tells us an adjective that better describes you, and then do the same for your bandmates.
I think that the best adjective that describes us is – Courageous.

Your top three jazz albums?
John Coltrane – Crescent, Charlie Parker – Bird with Strings, John Coltrane – Live at the Half Note, and many others... 

Name two musicians whom you've never collaborated with, but you'd like to.
It would be a dream to collaborate with Chick Corea or Bill Frisell.

What do you have to say about the current jazz scene?
I think that jazz music, all around the world, brings positive energy and uplifts the listeners’ spirits in these hard times. For me, that’s what jazz is about. Of course, the jazz scene is changing and will change as the world changes, but the message is here to stay. 

Can you briefly describe the hardest and the happiest moments of your career?
My happiest moments have definitely been playing live music in different parts of the world. Usually, these moments were achieved through hard work and sometimes struggle, making them all the more memorable.

Projects for the future?
This fall, I’ll be presenting the new album in Germany, France, and Spain and also will be touring across Europe with the Danish bassist Kenneth Dahl Knudsen, and with the Argentinian guitarist Ramiro Olaciregui in Ecuador. 
I’m also working on writing music for two new projects, which I’ll present in January 2018 in a weeklong residency at the Stone – one is a chord-less quartet featuring trumpet player Adam O’Farrill, and the other is an electric-centered band featuring bassist Panagiotis Andreou. 

Michael Attias Interview, NYC

By Filipe Freitas

Michael Attias, 2016 ©Clara Pereira

Michael Attias, 2016 ©Clara Pereira



Name: Michael Attias
Instrument: alto saxophone
Style: contemporary jazz
Album Highlights: Nerve Dance (Clean Feed, 2017), Spun Tree (Clean Feed, 2012), Renku (Playscape Recordings, 2005)





On Thursday, June 22, you’re going to lead an all-star tribute to Motian’s music. It will be the first of four special events celebrating the fifth-anniversary of the Sound It Out series. How did this invitation happen?
I was at the Greenwich House listening to a concert. It was the Mike Bagetta trio with Jerome Harris and Billy Mintz, and Bradley [Bambarger] told me about the fundraising tributes he wanted to do for the Greenwich House School. He was mentioning different options and we just started questioning: who is a major influence these days for all these people who come from several directions and have so many different perspectives? It’s Motian, both as a composer and bandleader. He really influenced a whole generation of players on the current scene. He’s the one person everybody can love (laughs). 

You guys recorded On Broadway vol.5, right? How do you recall working with him?
Actually, I did two records with him. The first was under the leadership of Masabumi Kikuchi and Terumasa Hino and came out on Sony in Japan. Unfortunately, I don’t think it ever had a US release, but I really love that record.
Masabumi, Thomas Morgan, and I had been meeting at Masabumi’s place for several months and improvising completely free. Masabumi was recording all those improvisations and, I mean, it was a pretty intense thing because he listened so deeply. He had these amazing ears and listened like an x-ray, not just to the notes but to the whole shape, the intention, the attitude of the players, the overtones… so, listening to what you had just improvised with him by your side was kind of scary... and great!
Occasionally he would burn a CD right away and say: “see if there’s anything you like from here”. And at that time I didn’t know who was going to be the drummer. I think three or four pieces on that record came out of sketches I made of those free improvisations. So, that was the first record with Paul.
He liked Thomas and me. It was maybe the second time he'd played with Thomas and I think that was when he decided he was going to work with him, and their hook-up is amazing on that record. And then he just said: “I hope we can get to work together some time” and for me it was totally a dream come true. I think of him often and he was a big, big influence. He really changed me in the way I write and think about music, and even in how to deal with making charts.

How was the tune selection made for the event?
I've asked all the musicians to bring their favorites and from that list I’ll pick, I would say, maybe eight or nine pieces; ten at the maximum. Each of them will be performed by a different formation out of the lineup, with lots of great players. Some of the instrumentations are inspired by Paul’s groups, having two guitars, having two tenors, two altos. Some of these guys worked with Paul before while others never did but were close to this music. I don’t know if Ralph Alessi ever worked with Paul, but I think it will be interesting to hear Ralph playing this music… I suggested some of the musicians and Bradley Bambarger suggested others.

Your latest release, Nerve Dance, shows a completely different direction than your debut, Credo, in which I hear lots of folk elements scattered throughout the melodies. What do you think changed in your music?
Credo was released in 1999 but the music had been written since 1996, maybe. It's not my first record. I did another one that only came out in France but was completely lost.  But yes, the folk elements are there. Igal Foni, the drummer on that record, and I are very close, and we spent a lot of time listening to gnawa music, which I still love. Some rhythms and even the way the bass sounded on some pieces were also very influenced by the sound of the gimbri ... But to me, “Dark Net”, the first tune of Nerve Dance, is still relating to that, however, the polyrhythms are not so explicit, it’s not just about the grid but how each rhythm pulls against the other and distorts the grid a little bit. It’s different in the way that lots of great music today is played with very complex meters, and it's about being very accurate and very precise. And I think that’s valuable, I mean, we live in a world of machines and we have to deal with these machines in a way that we almost need to be better than them. But that’s not really my thing. Speaking about Motian, he is the best example to link to that because he was definitely not a machine.There are no right angles on this grid, and to me there are also no right angles in African music. There’s ambiguity and that is very important to me. The way that Nasheet, Aruan, and Hebert play on "Dark Net", even though we didn’t talk about gnawa or Moroccan music, tells us it's in there, but maybe it's less on the surface ...  And then, you change with time, you get older, and I really feel that I don’t have an identity, in the sense that to have an identity you have to stay identical to some image of yourself. I'm not interested in that. I think identity is deeper.

Do you have a particular compositional process?
I don’t have a single process. I have several processes. When in NY, I spend a lot of time writing in the subway. I carry these little notebooks around and I fill them up, taking advantage of time and adversity, like your enemies are right there! It’s a slightly paranoid state of mind but it’s good because it helps with the creative thing. 

I was able to identify Coltrane, Threadgill, and Andrew Hill when listening to your music. Are they big inspirations to you?
Yes, all of them. I mean, Threadgill… I would not necessarily say Threadgill’s specific writing materials but the way he treats his alto saxophone, his sound, and the elegance, incisiveness, and poetry in his music. I think Threadgill has made his own little kitchen and I relate to that. I’m a pretty much self-taught, definitely as a composer I’m self-taught. I had a great saxophone teacher for a couple years in Minneapolis, but in the lessons we basically worked on classical stuff. He left me a lot of room to find myself as an improvisor. So, in that way, I’ve also built my own cuisine.
Coltrane, of course, in a very deep way, always, since I was 13 or 14 years old. And Andrew Hill for sure; discovering his and Paul Motian’s music happened for me at a later time. When I was young it was really Monk, Ornette, Coltrane, Miles, Lester Young, you know… Paul Motian's was through that album with Paul Bley, John Gilmore, and Gary Peacock. Do you know that album, Turning Point? It blew my mind. Also, Andrew Hill was not before I moved to NY. There’s a sort of mystery in their approach to time and you can always hear groove in their music no matter how abstract it may sound. Time is a negotiation between everybody that is playing and that's Andrew's big influence. Every step, every moment, nothing is taken for granted.

John Hébert has been a longtime associate in your projects but Aruan Ortiz and Nasheet Waits are the new valuable elements in a quartet whose chemistry can be strongly felt. What did they bring to your music?
I've done concerts and toured with Nasheet in the past and we both played in John’s first record, Byzantine Monkey, recorded in 2008. It has been a pleasure to play with him together with Aruan and John. They all bring who they are, I mean, they’re such individuals, and they express that individuality in each sound they make and in each sound they don’t make. There’s definitely fire, spontaneity, and risk. Every band is different, and the musicians who play with me in Spun Tree and Renku also have all that, but I agree that there’s a specific chemistry in this quartet and that’s why you have a different band. 

How do you see the current jazz scene?
There are so many creative energies at work right now. I mean, people talk about it and you’ll hear the same things: there are not enough places to play, there’s no way that you can live from it… One situation that is happening right now, which is a little bit of a problem, is that, because of economic pressures and the music industry, it’s much harder to live in NYC now than it used to be. To really pursue a creative life in NY, you either have to be independently wealthy or be really good at all kinds of things that have nothing to do with music. Or you have to be very lucky… There’s a whole period of your development where you shouldn't  have to define yourself and that’s missing a little bit. You go straight from school to..., you know, you have your PR, you have your image, and that’s what you’re gonna do. And that’s cool, but a little thin. It’s very important to waste time, to make mistakes and to get lost in the woods, and if you’re going to do that, you really have to defend it. The way things are done push you to be successful in a certain kind of way but, artistically, the result of that is not going to last. But there’s so much talent and unbelievable technique out there, and the scene remains vibrant with lots of interesting musicians, especially drummers and bass players, who are all so different from each other.

If not a musician, what would you have been?
Dead! (laughs). I could have done a lot of bad things in my life, and I didn’t because I had this discipline and this passion for music, and that kept me together. Everything has been about how to create a space for it and grow with it.

What other types of music do you listen to?
So many things. Debussy, Ligeti, Bach, lots of 20th century contemporary music, folk music from around the world, classical music from other places, West African music, also hip-hop. There are periods when I get obsessed with one hip-hop album. It just happened with Nas’ album, Illmatic.

What was the first jazz album you fell in love with?
Bitches Brew by Miles Davis. That was when I had perhaps 12 years old. I was like: what is that? And I kept listening to it over and over again.

Can you name a few musicians whom you’ve never collaborated with, but you’d like to?
Roscoe Mitchell, Andrew Cyrille, and Craig Taborn.

David Binney Interview, NYC

By Filipe Freitas

David Binney at 55 Bar, 2015  ©Clara Pereira

David Binney at 55 Bar, 2015  ©Clara Pereira


Name: David Binney
Instrument: saxophone
Style: postbop, contemporary jazz
Album Highlights: Free To Dream (Mythology, 1998); Graylen Epicenter (Mythology, 2011); The Time Verses (Criss Cross, 2017).





The Time Verses describes a diurnal cycle. What were your motivations/inspirations for doing it?
It really wasn't about anything. I never compose music based on anything but what sounds good to me. I don't like when, like in the case of these grants people get, one is asked to explain their music and what it represents....  It's not political, it's not about issues, it's not about anything.  It's music. 
It's supposed to be listened to. I wish people would stop needing some other reason for why music exists. It's music. That's what makes it great. 
When people try or need some other narrative, it's weakness on their part. It's the inability to understand music and hear it on a deep level. 
So not to put down your question - it's a valid and normal question, but it hits a nerve with me and gives me an opportunity to actually say something that needs to be said. 
So I only made it seem like a suite and relate by the titles. The music was written outside of that. It's just a way to package it for people who need more than the actual music, to like it. 

All your fans know about your long-time association with the 55 Bar. In "Fifty Five", I spotted glimpses of Wayne Shorter and Sam Rivers and a deliberated swinging pulse that’s not so common in your arrangements. 
Yeah, it's a swing tune. And we do a lot of that at the 55. We always have. So I figured it was time for me to put a tribute to that place and show how important it is. Even for music in NYC. 
Swing is pretty common in my music. If you go through my records you'll see there is a lot of swing. 

Your sound and compositional style are very identifiable in this recording and still, it sounds so distinctive and fresh. What was the special secret for that?
I pay attention to those things. I have always wanted to sound unique. I'm not one to follow the pack. I’m always searching and stretching. I understand how to write and play interesting music. It's what I do and what I love. It's my passion. And it comes naturally to me. Plus, I'm obsessed with it. I listen to everything and often. I know what's happening in almost all music areas. So there's a lot to draw from. 
For how long do you play with the members of this quartet and what are their main features that most suits your musical creations?
I've played with Dan Weiss for about 17 years I think, maybe longer. Jacob Sacks for as long, although Matt Mitchell is in the group now. Eivind Opsvik I also have a long history with. They’re all very open and they are like me in their search. And they go for things. So the music is always different and expanding. I like to be in that environment. 
They also all have very unique sounds. And they think compositionally. I like that. 
Do you have everything planned and structured in advance before going to the studio or are you open to spontaneous creativity on the spot?
I have the framework. And then that is left open to whatever happens. The writing part of my music is usually pretty strictly adhered to and then everyone is free to do whatever they want during improvisations. I like that balance. 
"Seen" is a song that easily conquers the ear due to its deeply soulful approach. What is this song about and how did this collaboration with Jen Shyu happen?
It's a very old song of mine. We have been playing it for years but we just ever got around to recording it. 
Jen heard it years ago and loved it. She always wanted to write lyrics to it. So she did and we recorded it. I love the way she sings it and it's just one of those magical collaborations. She's great. 

Your solos are both striking and emotional. If in a particular circumstance you had to choose between technique and emotion, what would you choose to drop first?
Well, technique. It's not about technique. It's just that the more technique I possess, the more possibilities there are. I have always liked the balance between technique and emotion. I like Salvador Dali for instance, or Stravinsky, Bird, Coltrane, Beatles… well just about everyone that does something great. They usually have some high degree of both. 
What do you picture in your mind while you’re improvising? 
Sound. Shape. Interaction. The conversation. The moment. That's really all I think about. 
Are you constantly in a creative process or do you feel you have to stop for a while in order to find new inspirations?
I'm constantly thinking about creating. I find inspiration along the way. I really don't stop. 
Can you briefly describe the hardest moment of your career?
This interview. Hahaha, no, I’m kidding. I like this interview! 
The hardest thing for me, to be honest, is just that I've been such a part of the scene and an inspiration to so many and been on the forefront with composition and playing, and it's hard for me to even get gigs or work sometimes. And yet, I see many people whose lives I influenced, or in many cases even changed, and they are out there doing well while I mostly struggle along. I know the deal. It's that way for a lot of people who innovate in some way, and usually, it comes back to them in later years, but it can be frustrating. 
I mean, I single-handedly put together and created the band that David Bowie used for Blackstar, a huge and important record. That was a group I was going to use on my record at the time, but I gave it up to Donny [McCaslin] because I was producing his record and wanted to get more production work. I knew that it would fit his record and my vision perfectly. And yet, the press completely buried me in that discussion. Donny didn't even want to do electric music. It was my suggestion. I picked the musicians and sculpted the sound, working my ass off on those records. David Bowie heard it and flipped out. He took it and used it for his record and I got completely cut out of the story. How does that happen? I should be getting all kinds of producing work right now. 
I understand production as well as anyone. It's so obvious to me when I hear music, any kind of music, to be able to tell what it needs to make it better. The lives of the guys in the band are changed because what I did. And I'm pretty much in the same place. That's difficult. But again, probably this is not unusual in an artist’s story.  
The other thing that is a bit of a difficult thing is how influential I've been not only as a player but also as a composer. I've never once showed up in any poll as a composer and yet half the things I hear out there from a certain generation of people sounds liked stuff I did years ago. And they know it, and some even admit it. But the outside world and the music business, don't acknowledge it - sometimes a difficult pill to swallow. 
I'm also a great teacher and a very strong influential motivational person for young musicians and people in general and yet have never been offered a teaching position or anything that much lesser musicians have been given. 
The world is so based on perception and selling and bullshit that the truth gets buried. And on purpose! People protect their positions in all aspects of life so hard. I've always been way more giving, but with that can come frustration when you see that very few people are the same way. 
Haha that wasn't "brief", I guess!

If not a musician, what would you have been?
Probably a writer. 
You’re also a very in-demand producer. Besides Donny McCaslin, you've recently worked with Quinsin Nachoff whose album was released on your label, Mythology.
How was the experience and how difficult is managing a record label today?

Well, I talked a lot about the Donny recordings above. 
I didn't produce Quinsin's record but put it out in my label, which these days just consists of letting someone use the Label logo and reputation. I did nothing else but play in the record. I did however produce and release Philippe Côté's fine recording Lungta. If you haven't heard that, check it out. I'm very proud of that one. Both the production and the way I played on it. 

Can you point 2 musicians you have collaborated with and marked you the most, and 2 more you’ve never collaborated but you would like to.
Well, I'd say Dan Weiss and maybe Brian Blade as far as people that have shaped my sound and executed my vision in a way that I could not have come up with on my own. 
I've never collaborated on a project with Kurt Rosenwinkel and that seems like a natural to me. We're talking now about something.  And maybe Manfred Eicher.  I'd like to record a record for ECM. I mean my music is a natural fit there. I know more about that label than pretty much anyone. It was an important part of my upbringing and so many of those records influenced my music and the way I hear things. It would just be a satisfying thing, to do a record for them. 
Are you currently working on new projects or have any new ideas in mind?
Yeah, as I said, I have in mind something with Kurt [Rosenwinkel]. With Louis Cole, a young Brazilian musician who is in Kurt’s Caipi band named Pedro Martins, and I don't know who the bass player would be… but it would be cool to have M'shell Ndegeocello and Ambrose Akinmusire on trumpet. Kind of a modern funk band with horns, two guitars, vocals, and crazy solos. Just an idea at this point, but I've already talked to Kurt, Louis, and Pedro about it, and everyone is in so far.