When the suggestion was made that I might consider doing music of Joni Mitchell, I thought it was a fantastic idea. Joni, I admire not only for her music but for her person, because she's a person that really stands out for what she believes in.
In World War II, jazz absolutely was the music of freedom, and then in the Cold War, behind the Iron Curtain, same thing. It was all underground, but they needed the food of freedom that jazz offered.
My father was really good with math. It's a funny thing, I don't remember my father or my mother being so mechanical-minded. My father always wanted to be a doctor, but he came from a really poor family in Georgia, and there was no way he was going to be a doctor.
One thing that sticks in my mind is that jazz means freedom and openness. It's a music that, although it developed out of the African American experience, speaks more about the human experience than the experience of a particular people.
Being vulnerable is allowing yourself to trust. That's hard for a lot of people to do. They feel a lot more secure if they kind of put walls around themselves. Then they don't have to trust anybody but themselves.
One of the greatest experiences I ever had was listening to a conversation with Joni Mitchell and Wayne Shorter. Just to hear them talking, my mouth was open. They understand each other perfectly, and they make these leaps and jumps because they don't have to explain anything.
The strongest thing that any human being has going is their own integrity and their own heart. As soon as you start veering away from that, the solidity that you need in order to be able to stand up for what you believe in and deliver what's really inside, it's just not going to be there.
Clare Fischer was a major influence on my harmonic concept. He and Bill Evans, and Ravel and Gil Evans, finally. You know, that's where it really came from. Almost all of the harmony that I play can be traced to one of those four people and whoever their influences were.
Globalization means we have to re-examine some of our ideas, and look at ideas from other countries, from other cultures, and open ourselves to them. And that's not comfortable for the average person.
The cool thing is that jazz is really a wonderful example of the great characteristics of Buddhism and great characteristics of the human spirit. Because in jazz we share, we listen to each other, we respect each other, we are creating in the moment. At our best, we're non-judgmental.
I got a chance to work with Miles Davis, and that changed everything for me, 'cause Miles really encouraged all his musicians to reach beyond what they know, go into unknown territory and explore. It's made a difference to me and the decisions that I've made over the years about how to approach a project in this music.
I don't view myself as a musician anymore - I view myself as a human being that functions as a musician when I'm functioning as a musician, but that's not 24 hours a day. That's really opened me up to even more perspectives because now I look at music, not from the standpoint of being a musician, but from the standpoint of being a human being.