How’d you get your start as a musician, and what kind of education led to where you are today?
My first experience playing music was when I was nine. I got my first electric bass when I was nine years old and I fell in love with it. I’ll never forget having that bass around my neck. When I put my hands on it, it was like, wow — it was like magic, man. And of course I didn’t know what I was doing, I was just kind of picking the strings, back and forth, thinking “man, this is great!”
And then my dad, who was a bass player, showed me my first couple of songs, and I remember thinking, “wow, this isn’t as difficult as I thought it was going to be.” So then I went head first into it after that, non-stop.
What drew you to your instrument above all the rest?
I tried to play the trombone, but that didn’t work out.
How do you challenge yourself to keep learning and improving as a musician?
I think you have to constantly be open to learning. I mean, I’m always listening, I’m always asking guys like Christian [Sands] and Ulysses [Owens, Jr.] to keep me abreast of new stuff that’s coming out, and I always do my best to keep up with new stuff that’s coming out on my own. But I guess it’s hard to do — at least for me at is — because with the Internet, there’s always new stuff popping up every hour. So it’s kind of hard for me to keep track of all this great stuff that’s coming out.
I’m always listening to something, be it Duke Ellington, or something current, you know. I’m always trying my best to learn something, especially by being around musicians who I know are going to challenge me and make my brain just go nuts.
Can you distill a single piece of advice for young musicians just starting out on their careers on how to be successful?
Worry about being the best musician you can possibly be. Don’t worry about being hot or popular or famous or making a lot of money. I think too many people have the wrong [idea]. Their directives are backwards.
It’s like, “I want to come to New York, and I want to be big, and I want to work a lot, and I want to get gigs.” Well, you know, don’t worry about that. Just worry about being the best musician you can possibly be, and be professional. As long as you do that, I really guarantee — well, I won’t guarantee — but chances are you will have a fine career.
If you could jam with any musician, past or present, who would you choose? What tune would you call?
Oh, that’s a good one.
I think my dream band would be … the 1961 version of the Oscar Peterson trio — so I would have to be standing in place of Ray Brown for one gig, or at least at a jam session, you know… Hold on, that’s tough.
Actually, you know what, I got it. If I could be at a jam session with my two biggest jazz heroes, I would want to play in a trio with Oscar Peterson and Art Blakey. The tune wouldn’t matter. Whatever song we played it would be mercilessly swinging.
I could play the blues with Oscar Peterson and Art Blakey for twelve hours straight. I’d never get tired.