When you hear my lyrics, you hear the shots that I throw at people. I throw shots because I always been the underdog. I got rejected so many times, and I say it in my lyrics constantly.
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The first jazz I heard was Duke Ellington. I was learning to play classical music, but my teacher swapped out those lessons for jazz lessons because I had started adding grace notes to Tchaikovsky and Rachmaninoff.
Music is my life, professionally, for nearly 60 years. To be recognized by the academy is still the highest honor.
I wanted to sustain a note like a singer. I wanted to phrase a note like a saxist. By bending the strings, by trilling my hand – and I have big fat hands – I could achieve something that approximated a vocal vibrato. I could sustain a note. I wanted to connect my guitar to human emotions. By fooling with the feedback between my amplifier and instrument, I started experimenting with sounds that expressed my feelings, whether happy or sad, bouncy or bluesy. I was looking for ways to let my guitar sing.
In order to complete your cycle, a musician needs to write; document what is going through your mind and where you are harmonically, theoretically, historically.
Jazz music is an aural souvenir of mankind’s attempt to express the intangible, the heart, the soul, through art.
Even now, at 82 years old, if I don’t learn something every day, you know what I think? It’s a day lost. Now, I don’t practice every day. I just take the guitar, swear at it. But I should be swearing at myself. But I fool with music. I’m doing something musically all the time. And my ears are wide open for anything I can hear.
It seems like I always had to work harder than other people. Those nights when everybody else is asleep, and you sit in your room trying to play scales. I just wonder where I was when the talent was being given out, like George Benson, Kenny Burrell, Eric Clapton… oh, there’s many more! I wouldn’t want to be like them, you understand, but I’d like to be equal, if you will.
Most jazz players work out their solos, at least to the extent that they have a very specific vocabulary.