I tell my kids and I tell proteges, always have humility when you create and grace when you succeed, because it's not about you. You are a terminal for a higher power. As soon as you accept that, you can do it forever.
I got in the school band and the school choir. It all hit me like a ton of bricks, everything just came out. I played percussion for a while, and stayed after school forever just tinkering around with different things, the clarinets and the violins.
To me it's no accident that all the symphony orchestras around the world tune up to the note A. And A is 440 cycles, except in Germany where it's 444. But the universe is 450 cycles. So what I'm trying to say is, I think it's God's voice, melody especially. Counterpoint, retrograde inversion, harmony... that's the science and the craft.
Bebop and hip-hop, in so many ways, they're connected. A lot of rappers remind me so much of bebop guys in terms of improvisation, beats and rhymes. My dream is to see hip-hop incorporated in education. You've got the youth of the world in the palm of your hand.
I believe that a hundred years from now, when people look back at the 20th century, they will look at Miles, Bird, Clifford Brown, Ella and Dizzy, among elders as our Mozarts, our Chopins, our Bachs and Beethovens.
I've never been bored in my life, man. I've never been bored or lonely. Are you kidding? No way! I'm an orchestrator, a musician, a producer. I love everything. I've studied languages from Farsi to Greek to French, Swedish, Russian... How can you get bored?
Just blow in it and sound bad for about a year and then make it sound a little bit better, and you get a little band together, and then you get a few jobs. You take four guys that sound half bad, but if they're 25 percent each, they can give 100 percent, you know?
I lost my mother when I was 7 and they put her in a mental hospital. My brother and I watched her being taken away in a strait jacket. That's something you never forget. And my stepmother was like in the movie 'Precious.' I couldn't handle it. So I said to myself, 'I don't have a mother. I don't need one. I'm going to let music be my mother.'
Melody is king, and don't you ever forget it. Lyrics appear to be out front, but they're not; they're just an accompanying factor. If they're good, you're really in good shape. Lyrics are written to be rewritten.
I was inspired by a lot of people when I was young. Every band that came through town, to the theater, or the dance hall. I was at every dance, every night club, listened to every band that came through, because in those days we didn't have MTV, we didn't have television.
When I was 13, I started working in a nightclub with Ray Charles. That's the greatest school in the world, the school of the streets. Ray taught me how to read in Braille. He was only two years older than me, but it was like he was 100 years older.
I'm probably the only one in the world you can name that's worked with Billie Holiday, Louie Armstrong, Ella, Duke, Miles, Dizzy, Ray Charles, Aretha, Michael Jackson, rappers. 'Fly Me to the Moon' was played on the moon by Buzz Aldrin. Sinatra. Paul Simon. Tony Bennett. I'm the only one.
It slaps your dignity just right. I loved the idea of these proud, dignified black men, and I saw the older ones wounded, and it wounded me ten times as much because I couldn't stand seeing them hurt like this.