People don't realize you're blowing over changes, time changes, harmony, different keys. I mark a point in my solo where it's got to peak at point D I go to A, B, C D then I'm home.

The starting point of all great jazz has got to be format, a language that you can work within that, in some ways, is much tighter than the blues or even gospel. It's all working towards the same destination - the difference being that Miles Davis flew there, and I'm still taking the subway.

I grew up in a house with a lot of kids, brothers and sisters. So I don't mind a lot of talking, yelling, playing. I can tune most of that out.

When you're interviewing someone, even your mother - you have to sort of deal with you have to get some objective space from yourself and the person but you also have to find what's the best way to get the information from that person.

Fiction makes your dreams come true, and, as a writer, fiction allows you to delve into the area of miracles.

If you can whistle the melody, then the song will stick. But if you need a bunch of machines to make it sound good, you're probably not writing anything that's going to last a long time.

James Brown was the Monday-to-Friday guy. He was the hardest man in show business. He was like your dad and your uncle: He showed up, and he hit hard.

I thank God I was a reporter before I became a writer.

John Brown was clearly flawed in real life. He did some terrible things, but he did some things none of us would have had the heart to do. His moral leanings were unquestionably admirable.

I'm proud of 'Miracle at St. Anna' and I loved it; there's no question in my mind it's as good as any movie that came out in 2007.

Spike Lee listens a lot. He's one of the quietest creative people I've ever met.

Everybody knew James Brown. Every musician dreamed of being in his band.

When I was coming up, a lot of serious jazz players couldn't stand funk.

A lot of mixed-race stories are these navel-gazing, horrible accounts of mulatto tragedy.

I'm trying to get Americans to see that we're all pretty much the same. I believe it; I was taught God doesn't have a color. I want to better the planet a little bit.

I can't be a creative person if I'm a celebrity.

I think what makes his story unique from others is there is not really one piece of American pop music you hear today that does not have some James Brown in it.

Be a member of the human race. Love somebody. Change the world.

As a writer, you have to be near people and hear stuff. I'm a hamburger and cheese kind of fellow; I'm not Henry David Thoreau.

Historians will tell you that they deal with fact and empirical evidence. But that doesn't really help me understand a person.

You have to be able to toss the thing out. You can't fall in love with your characters, and you have to know when to fight - and when to quit.

The whole notion of owning a person is so ludicrous, there's plenty of room to make fun.

I'm not interested in food. It's just fuel.

I wish all critics, no matter their color, were more sophisticated when it comes to the moral questions a film like 'St. Anna' is trying to raise.

We're learning a tremendous amount of propaganda from television and the Internet.

I wasn't a guy built to write about entertainment.

I don't live for my work. My life is my life. That's more important, and I think that helps my work.

Some writers like to go around talking about what they do all the time. I don't.

When the great jazz and blues clubs closed - joints where the cash register rang loudly and there wasn't ESPN on TV over the bandstand, and people smoked cigarettes and drank whiskey and hollered 'Play on!' - When those places closed, I was pretty much done.

I'm not one of those who can listen to music and write. I need the door closed. Windows shut. Facing the wall. No birds tweeting, views of nature, and so forth.

You can't write just anything. Your story needs structure.

I read more history books than anything else.

A lot of people are not interested in stories in which they don't see themselves.

I understand it's great to read a great book, but it's better to live your life. It just helps me. It's uncomfortable at times, but you have to live outside the circle.

I used to walk through the Old Times Square fearing for my life. Now I wouldn't be caught dead there.

It would be nice if we redefined what we meant by 'war story.' If you're making $15,000 a year living in a certain area of Portland, trying to make it with three kids and no husband, that's a kind of war.

I don't want to read a book that's depressing.

It's the same old story. Nothing in this world happens unless white folks says it happens. And therein lies the problem of being a professional black storyteller - writer, musician, filmmaker.

I cannot recall any moment of clarity about becoming a writer. I always liked to read. That's what did it.

The abolitionists were not like the rugged people out West, and they were not like John Brown, either. They were people who made speeches and did politics.

When you tell them you're a writer, they say, 'What have you written?' And then you've got to tell them what you've done. I don't ask a plumber what he does. Then I have to explain what I've done, and I haven't really, you know. I've just told some stories.

I just love music, and I love what music does for people.

People process pain differently. My family, we were pretty humorous about things that went on.

When you glorify violence, then it comes back to bite you.

A typewriter forces you to keep going, to march forward.

The black church will accept anybody.

I like stories where normal people are in abnormal situations, and that's what appeals to me about history.

Newt Gingrich wrote a novel, and he's a short story. Bill Clinton wrote a biography, and he's a novel.

The question of religion in black America is something filmmakers don't want to touch.