I am! Let me ask you something else. You’re the artistic director at The Conservatory Of Music At Puerto Rico. As an educator, as a teacher, what are the important fundamentals that you stress to students? What important lessons do you try to pass on to them?
I started teaching down there about four or five years ago, and I’ve been the Artistic Director now for about a year. But before the Conservatory, even when I did these master classes– and I’ve done a lot of that over the years– it’s always been about stressing the importance of knowing the history of whatever you do. And in this case jazz, jazz music, it’s about knowing the language, the nomenclature, and understanding how your voice or instrument fits into that and where you are now and where you think you want to go. It’s a learning curve for me because education isn’t something you flip in an out of, you have to kind of be very serious and dedicated, and I’m still learning about it. I wouldn’t say that I’m an educator, but I’m enjoying this academic world and doing a fair amount of it. But it’s still in tandem with my performance life and going out there and playing. And to finish answering your question, what I do is expose students to what I’ve done and talk about those things, and I also play with them, I actually play with the students. So it’s a question of exposing them to me, to my world, what I’ve done, talking about it and really just giving them access to me.
Tell me something about your upright bass.
I play this instrument that was put together for me by Arnold Schnitzer, it’s really three basses put together, kind of like a Dr. Frankenstein thing. It’s relatively easy to play, meaning I don’t have to have a wrestling match with it. I’ve been playing it for a while. And it bows pretty well, which I like, and it’s comfortable for me. I have a couple of pickups, one that’s made in Japan that’s called a Yamaya pickup, and I also have the Realist by David Gage. I have them both on there, one covers for the other sometimes. I also use an Acoustic Image amp.
What are your current projects? I know you have a trio, you’ve got a quintet.
Right, and I do guesting of course, but I love going out with my trio and the quintet. I’m working on a record with the trio, and the quintet actually just did one a couple of months ago that I really like, that hopefully should be out soon. We recorded it in Europe. Let me see, I’m also going to Europe next week with Mark Kramer, who’s a great pianist, and Joe La Barbera on drums, and after these two weeks with Chick at the Blue Note we’ll be going to South America in May and June. Then later in the summer I’ll be out with a different trio, and the quintet as well. I’ll also be doing some teaching in Italy in the summertime, and then of course continuing my work at the Conservatory.
Wow. Do you ever get a vacation?
(Laughs). I don’t know if I’m ready for a vacation, my vacation is sort of just stopping. You know… stopping.
Clearing your head out a little bit.
Yeah, yeah, just kind of stopping all the action.
Hopefully you’ll get a chance to do that at some point.
Yeah, but you know the good news is that everything I’m doing is very enjoyable and it really keeps me going in a good way. It is intense, but I enjoy it because once I get where I’m going, it’s good stuff.
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