Bobby Broom JazzInside (Kitchen Sink) Interview


I was going through some old desktop files and found this interview from 2006 or ’07. At that time, the magazine it was for was called, JazzImprov. The interview is of the tl:dr (too long, didn’t read) variety, but contains so many nuggets that I’ve decided to post it here so that those of you who are really interested can have access. It contains pretty much my whole history in music up until that point. Reading it was kind of like finding an old photo. I talk about absolutely everything – Miles, Sonny, Art Blakey, practicing, learning jazz and how to improvise, difficulties/pitfalls in life and in a music career, mentoring, teaching, record labels, critics, young musicians’ misconceptions, spirituality… everything except culinary recipes.

I hope you enjoy it.

JI: Could you talk about how your association with Sonny Rollins developed?

BB: Well, this is a pretty well documented story now.  I first played with Sonny while I was a student at Music and Art High School in New York.  Sonny heard me play and liked something he heard.  I couldn’t go on the road with him at the time because of school, so he hired me for a “gig” at Carnegie Hall.  A few years later he called again and asked me to join the group.  I played with him regularly for four years or so and then on and off for some more years after that.  Until last year, I hadn’t worked with him since the late 1980’s, but we would keep in touch via phone and letters through the years during the ‘90s and so on.

JI: How is your interaction and the process of making music different or deeper now than the first time you played with Sonny Rollins.

BB: The music making process is much the same for me now as it always has been…  listen, respond creatively and try to give what I can to the overall sound of the music – not just the guitar solos.  However now, because I am more skilled at what I’m trying to do, I can interact in a more sophisticated way, bringing a more refined sound to the group.  I can also present more thoughtful and interesting solos and hopefully all of this lends to the listening experience and is inspiring within the group as well.

In the early days, sometimes I‘d think, “why am I even here?” because I felt I was playing so poorly.  And we all know that since the ‘70s Sonny has gotten much flack about his band members.  But maybe there was a bigger picture happening that’s not so apparent.  It’s fulfilling to have more to say as an improviser now. Of course, in this situation “more” is always relative to the wellspring of ideas coming from Sonny.  And that’s inspirational to me, to see that by continued practice and involvement, access to more of what you want to play is possible.  Anyway, I feel that it’s possible that there can be more of a collective musical presentation by Sonny’s group now.  Obviously, he is the leader and master, but we want to contribute something more substantive than ornamentation.  I think that slowly, this is beginning to happen.

JI: What prompted you to attend Berklee College of Music since you were apparently already politically placed in professional circles?

BB: When it was time for me to attend college I didn’t view the opportunities that I had had up to that point in quite that way.  I was most concerned with developing as a musician and in my family it was understood that I would attend college.  Music was an obvious choice as a major for me and Berklee was the popular choice of colleges for jazz development at the time.  When I was well into my freshman year I began to see fellow childhood musician friends appearing on records and also to hear talk from all my friends at Berklee about their plans to move to New York after they graduated.  It was then that I decided to continue college at home in New York the following year.

JI: What kinds of challenges and or benefits did you gain from your experiences at Berklee College of Music?

Well first of all, there were a million guitarists there (much like Chicago is now) so it forced me to stay focused on practicing and to not concern myself with too much outside of that.  In order to learn, grow and have fun I would connect with fellow guitarists that I admired, such as Kevin Eubanks and Joe Cohn.  Otherwise, Berklee was a fertile environment for fellowship and development among young, like-minded musicians.  Most of the currently well-known jazz musicians that are around my age were there at the time and we would get together every night, without fail, for the then modern-day version of Minton’s jam sessions, which happened in Berklee’s band rooms.

JI: Some people “think from the end” contemplating situations that they imagine themselves to be in. What if any kind of vision did you have about your career in jazz early on?

BB: Exactly.  I didn’t know it at the time, but I was practicing visualization as a kid.  After I became enamored with jazz music as a form of expression, I felt that I wanted nothing more than to do this just as those that I was listening to were doing it.  I wanted to be like these guys.  This was the direction that I moved toward in my life from that point on and situations and opportunities followed along with me in that direction. 

JI: Could you talk about your move to New York in the 1980s and how doors began to open for you?

BB: Growing up in New York allowed me access, at a young age, to jazz, it’s musicians and mores.  When I returned to New York from Boston I guess I had a reputation of a young guy who could play a little bit and because I had been actively pursuing involvement in the field, I knew a few people.  I found myself involved in two scenes that were happening there at that time.  One involved the talented young musicians who were New York natives, guys that I came up with.  We all got involved with GRP Records by playing in trumpeter Tom Browne’s band.  There was also a buzz happening around Art Blakey’s band as he searched for new young musicians.  I was there for that and was deemed by Blakey a “Messenger”, but I chose the closeness and familiarity of my friends over the historic significance of playing with The Jazz Messengers.  In fact, I don’t think I was even considering that historic significance.

JI: What were some of the obstacles you faced as you began making inroads onto the New York scene? Who provided sources of encouragement and positive thinking in that important period of development—to bolster your confidence, and provide opportunity?

BB: Well, there were personal obstacles.  I believe that I gave myself my most difficulty as far as that’s concerned.  I mean I was just so young and hadn’t experienced that much other than trying to make music.  I didn’t have healthy outlets and alternatives.  I had the greatest mentors I could have in music – Sonny, Weldon Irvine, Jackie McLean who gave me my first college-level teaching job – but I had to live and go through some things and search for answers and meaning that would sustain me above and beyond music.  I’d say I actively began this search in my early twenties.

It’s interesting for me to think back on that time.  Those were some serious musical experiences that I had.  I realized that then, but not in the same way that I do now.  Then, it was all about learning.  My first guitar teacher taught me that it was very possible to learn by doing.  So that was my approach to music and the rest of my life as well, I guess.  It wasn’t until I was offered my first recording contract that I questioned whether or not I was ready for an opportunity.  I remember talking it over with my friend Omar Hakim.  He encouraged me that I was good enough to record and suggested that I could develop as a musician while I was making records.  So as I think about it, my musician comrades were also very important in terms of providing me positive energy and an environment in which I could grow.  I remember well the beautiful spirit, prompted by a shared interest, that I felt from all of the other young musicians in New York at that time – those that I had known for a while and those who were just getting to New York from their home towns.   

JI: Talk about the kinds of preparation you did to begin sitting in with Art Blakey’s band in New York? Was the sitting in occurring on some of the more complicated Wayne Shorter songs, or on the more common standards and jazz compositions?

BB: All of the listening, practicing, studying and playing that I had done up to that point was the preparation for the moment I was asked to sit in with Art Blakey’s band.  I didn’t know beforehand that this would happen.  I went to see the band play and was happy to see that James Williams was playing piano.  Just a few months prior to this he and I had met and played a performance with saxophonist Billy Pierce and other Berklee faculty.  So in between Blakey’s sets, James told me to go get my guitar (I lived a few blocks from the club).  So that’s how it happened. 

The tune I most clearly recall playing with the Messengers is “One by One.”  We played standards and some other things.  We were encouraged to play what we could, the rest we’d learn later.  We were just eighteen or nineteen years old.  However, when we got up on the bandstand we stayed.  Pretty immediately there was an implication of acceptance from Blakey, as though we were already on the gig.

JI: What kinds of approach did you take and adjustments did you make in the context of having another chord instrument, piano, when you played with Blakey.

BB: I’ve talked before about the misconception that there’s an inherent problem with guitar and piano playing together.  The only adjustment that I may have made then and would still make today when playing with another harmonic instrument is maybe to play less.  In other words, I’d leave more space for the other person to comp.  And I’m not suggesting that it doesn’t work for two or more chord instruments to comp together. When playing together, listening is most important for any combination of instruments to get along.  If there’s mutual respect, courtesy, awareness, sensitivity, then beautiful music can be made regardless of the instrumentation.  … That’s assuming the musicians can play of course.

JI: Could you discuss the development of your association with GRP Records?

BB: GRP was signing young, aspiring, jazz-aware musicians that lived in New York in the late seventies, early eighties.  We were jazz-aware in that we were getting ourselves together as jazz musicians and most of us had an inclination toward straight-ahead jazz along with the requisite passion and talent, but we also considered the other styles of music that were apparent and available to us.  Anyway, as I said, I was playing in Tom Browne’s band and I got called to do a tour of Japan with the GRP All-Stars.  I did a few records for GRP as a sideman and was then offered a recording contract.  All this was happening just before it was fashionable or feasible for a youngster to play straight–ahead music exclusively – before the Marsalises started recording.  So we were perfect for GRP as a developing record label in that we were marketable as young prodigies in a sense and we had the potential of making money because we were playing cross-over music which could potentially have greater appeal via black radio.

JI: What kinds of direction or suggestions did you receive in the creation of your two albums for GRP—Clean Sweep, Living for The Beat?

BB: For Clean Sweep I had quite a bit of freedom to do what I wanted.  I wrote and arranged most of the tunes and some things were worked out in the studio among the musicians.  That record is a good musical representation of me at the time.  Living For The Beat was a representation as well…  of the confusion in my personal life.

By then the advent of the drum machine had been fully realized and self-production and the emphasis on electronics were taking hold. These trends pointed toward a future of less collective music making, as well as to the popularity of the individual musician as star artist/producer.  As youngsters we all had four track recorders and were making our music at home.  Add to that mix the influence of Michael Jackson, Stevie, etc.  We were all trying to write, sing, play…  So for me, all this made for a lot of confusion as far as what direction to take in making a record was concerned.  Then my contract got assigned to Arista Records.  For an indication of what was happening over there: that was the label that made Kenny G a star.  I would meet with the executive at Arista and he’d be asking me what I wanted to do:  “How do you see yourself as an artist Bobby?”  Hell, I don’t know I’m twenty-two years old!  However, I was self-aware enough to suggest jazz-saavy musician/producers such as Marcus (Miller) and George Duke, but my man wasn’t feeling or hearing me at all.  Arista wound up assigning a couple of nouveau producers to make some hit singles for my record and thus my state of confusion was nearly complete.   All that was left was for me to pose holding the girl’s red shoe for the back cover photo.  Sure what the hell, I’ll do that too.   After agreeing to play the nastiest sounding guitar-synth over a track that sounded like an acid trip induced version of Paula Abdul’s Straight Up, all hope was lost for me.  I’ve never done acid, but have heard about bad trips.  To add insult to injury, a few years later I’m playing in London (I think I was with Sonny) and I find out that Livin’ For The Beat (the acid trip song) is some kind of dance hit in the UK.  At that point I had to laugh.

JI: How did Kenny Burrell impact your artistry and approach to phrasing melodies, and lines, and your improvisations during or as a result of your work with his Jazz Guitar band?

BB: At the time I began working with Kenny Burrell I had moved to Chicago and had begun working on realizing and accepting my own sound and tendencies on the guitar.  By that time I had a pretty good working knowledge of the jazz language, but what was important was what a positive impact it had on me to receive an endorsement and validation from a jazz guitar master and legend.  It couldn’t have come at a better time.  I would soon be asked to play with Miles Davis and to again be posed with the question about my true sound and direction on the guitar.  Playing with Kenny and being presented in the way that we were by him would eventually help me to answer those questions.  I believe that Kenny was inspired to form the Jazz Guitar Band partially because in Rodney Jones and myself, he saw two promising, active, young jazz guitarists, not two Kenny Burrell clones.  Kenny also inspired and encouraged me to play solo guitar – one of the things that he did so beautifully, and something that I really shied away from then and still kind of do… but today I’ll do it when no one’s looking.  

JI: Could you talk about working with two of the archetypal bebop pianists, who themselves worked with Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker? What were some of the lessons you learned in those situations?

BB: I’m glad that you mentioned those little details.  I sometimes think about those wonderful connections to jazz music’s glorious past that I’ve been blessed to have. 

Playing with Al Haig was the sweetest thing.  He heard me play and invited me to sit in with him at a piano bar that used to exist on the upper-east side called Gregory’s.  He played there a few nights a week with a bassist (Morris Edwards).  Of course, I took him up on his invitation and was there regularly.  He’d call tunes. He’d say, “Do you know this tune?”  If I said no, which at that point I probably said a lot, he’d say something like, “It’s not hard, just come in after the first chorus.”  I learned quite a few tunes that way.  It’s cool to think that I was so welcomed by him and that I must have been able to hang and get along, otherwise I’m sure I wouldn’t have been there.

Some nights Al would be absent, so he’d call Walter Bishop, Jr. to sub for him.  I’d be thinking to myself, “Wow, he played with Charlie Parker too!”  Mr. Bishop was just as encouraging to me and I’d just be reveling in these experiences, trying to soak up the moments and all that music I was hearing these guys play.  I got a chance to play with Walter Bishop again in the Late ‘80s when saxophonist Paul Jeffrey assembled a band for a Thelonious Monk Institute international exchange program in Italy.

JI: What were the circumstances that led to your association with Miles Davis?

BB: Around 1983, before I moved to Chicago, there was talk about the possibility that I would play with Miles.  There was a musicians’ club in the village at that time called 55 Grand Street, where a who’s who of the modern jazz, fusion and funk scenes would be playing and/or hanging out every night.  Miles’ road manager was there a lot and would tell me that I was going to be getting that gig eventually.  I didn’t believe him.  In 1987 a few of the members of Miles’ band were native Chicagoans – Robert (Baabe) Irving, III, Darryl Jones and Vince Wilburn.  Miles was going through guitarists in search of the right one and they (and possibly others) must have told him about me.  I was told to put a tape together, so I did my best rocked-out guitar impersonation, which was pretty phony, but got me to the next stage of being summoned to New York.  I still had my apartment there.  We rehearsed and I started working.  I recall breaking a string seconds before I was to take my first solo… a portent.

I never, ever, was inclined toward rock guitar.  Never felt comfortable with distortion as a part of my voice.  So really, I wasn’t the man for the job because that’s what Miles was looking for.  That sound had been a part of Miles’ bands for ten to fifteen years up to that point.   At the same time though, I wasn’t going to pass on the chance to play with him.  I think it became clear to him pretty quickly where my heart was musically.  He’d come over to me on stage and play lines that he would have played in 1958; then he’d wink at me and stroll off.

JI: What kinds of discussions did you have with Miles Davis?

BB: Just regular ones I guess.  Sometimes they were about music of course and then other times just regular things; you know, like when you’re traveling with people and sitting around airports for hours passing time. 

The conversation that really stands out in my memory though, is when I had to call him up to tell him I couldn’t play a concert with him because I had a previous commitment.  Miles was scheduled to play at Chicago’s Auditorium Theater, but Kenny Burrell had a job in Jersey somewhere for the Jazz Guitar Band.  Kenny wouldn’t let me out of the job, so I was trapped! I called Sonny Rollins for some words of wisdom.  When I told him “Part of me really wants to do the gig with Miles…” he asked me, “Which part is that?”  So I hung up, called Miles and explained everything to him.  Miles’ response was: “Kenny Burrell???” And then, “who you gonna get to sub for you?”

JI: What impact did Miles Davis have upon your approach to creating music?

The way I see it, Miles was great at getting the musicians he picked to give him what he needed so that he could make his presentation.  In that way, as an artist, he was a great bandleader.  He had vision and could implement it.  He was listening to everything everyone played, at all times.  He would give his musicians direction days after a performance regarding something they did or didn’t do two nights before.  He was concerned with the total picture – not just the trumpet. 

I feel a similar kind of caring for the overall sound of my trio.  I’d prefer to play less in terms of content and have the group as a whole feel really good, than to have anything even approaching the other way around.  That’s not a conscious decision of mine that has anything to do with Miles per se.  It’s just very difficult for me to control the ways in which I respond to music.  I‘m not sure that I need or want to change my natural responses anyway.  Although, sometimes I think about being able to just play over the top of anything, any situation, no matter how it feels or sounds to me.  But that would probably mean a change in my sensitivity level, which I think involves the way in which I listen and take in music.

JI: How did Miles and his music help to shape and expand your conception?

BB: Musicians like Sonny, Miles and Monk are forward thinking and self -searching.  Although they did things very differently, they were all continually searching for personal ways to satisfy their creative urges.  At the same time they wished to communicate to people and to connect with them through their music, not to exclude the listener from their process.  I look to these and many other musicians as sources of inspiration.  They validate my desire to express myself through jazz improvisation, to find ways that are meaningful to me to do so and to attempt to include an audience in what I’m trying to do.

JI: How does/has your work as an educator at Roosevelt University, De Paul, University of Hartford expanded your creativity and your understanding of human nature?

BB: Working with young musicians is yet another way for me to exercise my creative side.  In dealing with the limitless variety of personalities and in such a personal endeavor as music making, I find that I have to be very creative and flexible in balancing my pedagogical skills to try to get the results I’m seeking from each student.  My basic understanding is that everyone wants to feel connected – connected to others and to life.  Music, if dealt with correctly, can be a way for some of us to feel that connection without having to talk too much.  The problem in any field of music, as in religion – which is really supposed to be about spiritual matters – is when people get overly controlling, which usually involves thinking and talking too much.

JI: What do you tell students about how to develop their relationships in the music business?

BB: This kind of development is an inherent part of student life.  Students begin to get an understanding about relationship building and maintenance while they are in school.  Finding social circles in which to practice, develop and perform music, which are comfortable in a variety of ways and provide for the needs of the individual student, is very similar to learning how to function in the professional world of the music business.

JI: From the perspective of 20 years, are there lessons or understandings that you gained from that experience that are now becoming clear?

BB: Well, looking back and then to the present, I’d say that the journey has been an interesting one for me.  There have been some real twists and turns, but now it all makes sense, so far.  I’m glad that I stayed with music and that I’ve had the help that I’ve had along the way.  Sometimes, even years later, that help is what keeps me going.

I‘ve found that I can learn about myself in this life by looking at my experiences and relationships with people in and outside of music – on the bandstand and off.  Music has also been the way for me to feel as close to peace and ecstasy as I may ever feel.  I’m so grateful to be able to develop my relationship with it.

JI: Could you talk about what it is that you want in a drummer that will enable your music to soar creatively?

BB: You’re right if you sense that the drums are a very important instrument for me.  I like drummers who have an understanding of the backbeat – those that can make their swing funky and their funk swing.  I want musicians that value the feeling of the music first and foremost and who demonstrate that every second that they play.  I also want a drummer that can coax me to higher levels without being overpowering; one that I can interact with and engage in the balancing act with, who will be aware and selfless enough to forego their super-hip two bar fill that they were just about to play because something else more compelling just happened in the music asking it in that instant to take another direction.

JI: Are there certain drummers who have made a mark on your music and spirit?

BB: I love the drums, so I’m fortunate to have experienced playing with quite a few of the greats.  I did miss playing with Philly Joe Jones and Elvin Jones though, two of my favorites. 

I had Idris Muhammad on the Modern Man record.  That was joyful!  He brought a positive, supportive spirit to that date that can be felt in the music.  Every beat danced.  We had never played together before that time, but it never mattered.  He was a supreme music maker.

JI: What kinds of challenges and or growth did you experience as a result of your role performing as accompanist?

BB: The biggest challenge for me in that role is the usual one of wanting to do my best in support of what’s happening musically.  Playing the supportive role of the sideman has never been a problem to me because I love music and want to make it sound the best I can when I play.  This is always the most important thing to me regardless of my role in a musical situation.

JI: What were some of the highlights and challenges that you experience as a leader?

BB: Playing with just bass and drums was very difficult for me to get used to. The space that’s made available by the sound of that instrumentation can be confusing.  I had to become able and comfortable to carry the total responsibility for the chords.  I also had to learn not to overplay as a soloist – to use the space to my advantage.  I make sure I have musicians that understand how to listen to and influence the total musical picture – a drummer that can comp and a bass player that can create a variety of colors and make harmonic diversity.  As all of these elements developed and evolved over the years, my sound, that of the other musicians involved and the distinctive sound of the Bobby Broom Trio emerged and has become more and more apparent to me. 

The 2001 release of our first trio record, Stand! (Premonition Records) and that it was so well received, was a definite highlight for me.  Now our new recording Song and Dance, which will emerge in September, is the latest Milestone for me.  I am grateful for my musicians (bassist, Dennis Carroll and drummer, Kobie Watkins), how well we interact and the beautiful and powerful result.

JI: The sum total of an artists’ life experiences, and the kinds of thought, philosophy, ideas, spirituality, culture, people that we allow ourselves to open up to are what shape the ideas and energy that is expressed in our music. Inexperienced players want to copy the sound and the notes to sound like someone like Coltrane—but it is so much more than that. So when an inexperienced guitar player recently said to us, “I don’t care what these artists did 10 or 15 or 30 years ago or their experiences or what philosophies and culture they’ve experience (essentially what got them to play the way they do), he wanted to know what someone is playing over a C7sus chord. (Listen to the record!) What would be your response to that kind of thinking?

BB: This type of thinking is how some musicians deal with music or how some people see life – on the surface.  This is our current level of awareness and basically how we operate as a species.  It is too difficult, unclear and  unpredictable for most of us to see things any other way.  We don’t understand or believe in our awareness potential.   

If all I’m getting from music are quantifiable thoughts, then I’m missing the point.  If the purpose of music is expression, then I need to go beyond the surface to find the meaning, which isn’t something we can really talk about.  Understanding the tools, language, or whatever you want to call what someone is playing over a C7sus is necessary in the process of development of the young musician, but for me that info is just scratching the surface of what experiencing music is really about.

I did a gig recently with The Deep Blue Organ Trio.  Fifty or so Canadian high school kids were brought to the club on a field trip.  Of course these kids knew absolutely nothing about C7sus, but they were able to have a transcendent experience because of the music.  These were teenagers – supposedly too aloof to like anything outside of their familiar realm – but they couldn’t help themselves from moving to the beat and their wide eyes, open jaws, screaming applause and request for CDs let us know they understood and liked what we played over C7sus chords.

JI: What were some of the experiences that shaped your early development as an improviser?

BB: Well, at first I had to play very slowly and deliberately because I didn’t play with a pick.  My first jazz guitar teacher played with his thumb, but only used down-strokes.  I wanted to sound like him so I copied his method.  I think playing this way forced me to be honest about finding which notes I really wanted to play; meaning which created the colors I wanted against a given chord or progression of chords.  Either because I couldn’t manage or didn’t aspire to play fast flurries through scales, I was determined to use rhythm and a good time feel to give my fewer notes added quality.  This emphasis on certain qualities over quantity stayed with me even though I eventually started using a pick and developing my technique.  By the time I began to focus on the type of playing and players that I wanted to emulate in jazz, my aesthetic, in large part, had already been formed.

Another significant memory is about how I realized early on that I couldn’t and shouldn’t fixate on my favorite player as far as trying to duplicate what he was doing.  I felt that this was pointless because a) It would be virtually impossible to sound exactly like him, and b) If I did, that would be self-defeating.  So, although I listened constantly to certain players because I was obsessed with their playing, I made sure to be democratic about transcribing.  Which brings up another good topic.

When I began taking things off recordings I was attracted to certain phrases that made impacting statements.  These phrases had the feeling of a verbal statement and also an arc, with a clear point of departure and arrival.  These were the phrases that seemed to be common among all jazz players – the ones that comprised the language that I wanted so desperately to learn.  So, rather than transcribing a player’s entire solo (which I realized I’d never have use for anyway), I’d go for these isolated phrases.  Also, that way, I could pick from a variety of players, on various instruments, as sources of information.

JI: Talk about how you compose music.

BB: Most often some part of the music will seem to just pour out.  Usually an idea for a melody, then I’ll have to work a little to find the harmony that I want, or that which fits best.  I would like to write more often, but I don’t like to feel like I’m forcing creativity.  I can write when I need to however, like when there’s some kind of deadline.  I guess composition is about following your ideas through to completion.

JI: How do media critics influence your perspectives or your music? 

BB: They don’t really.  I have to be the final judge of what I’m offering, otherwise, my feelings may have been hurt a long time ago and I might have stopped playing music.  How can I pay serious attention to what critics have to say, when musicians and fans are telling me one thing and critics are sometimes saying something entirely different and for different reasons? I have never read a negative review of myself that has been an insightful commentary or critique, or that doesn’t seem in some way inherently negative.  A lot of the time these people are self-appointed experts, who are not very well informed and are just reacting to what they like or think.  They have a right to their opinions, but what gives them the authority to professionally document commentary regarding someone else’s art?  Rilke says it best in Letters To a Young Poet,  “[aesthetic critiques] are either prejudiced views that have become petrified and senseless in their hardened lifeless state, or they are clever word games.  Their views gain approval today but not tomorrow.  Works of art can be described as having an essence of eternal solitude and understanding is attainable least of all by critique.  Only love can grasp and hold them and can judge them fairly.” 

JI: Dan Boorstin, former Librarian of Congress stated that “The greatest obstacle to discovery is not ignorance, it is the illusion of knowledge.” How have you experienced and dealt with this in your life? In dealing with others?

BB: We all deal with this, always.  Especially because western society has been built upon the illusion that knowledge is power.  I think the important questions then are: what knowledge and whose power?

JI: What suggestions do you have about avoiding an inflated ego, as opposed to developing quiet confidence, as an artist?

BB: I believe that an inflated ego is a result of insecurity.  If I’m secure in my place and I don’t feel threatened or inadequate, then I can just move about without needing to create fanfare around my existence.  I can do what I do to the best of my ability and have that speak for itself.  As human beings this is something that we have to try to be aware of.  Because by playing music we’re sharing such a personal thing, it takes a delicate balance of confidence and humility to be in the right place.  How can I think I’m so special when before me there exists the work of generations of great artists who I received inspiration and knowledge from, directly and indirectly?  I can feel pride in knowing that I’m getting something right or doing something well, but there will always be some things that I can’t do or that someone else will do better than me.

JI: Could you discuss what ideas or activities outside of music you engage in and how they provide fulfillment for you?

BB: My home/family life, exercise, creative writing, my dogs (a German Shepherd and a Chocolate Lab/Rott or Doby mix?), reading (sometimes)… These are all things that give my life meaning and balance.

My relationship with music has been a constant for me, but it can’t be everything.  Life has so much to offer.

JI: What foundational understandings are the guideposts by which you live your life?

BB: I don’t know if I can sum it up that neatly, but I think in all I’ve said here one can get an idea of where I’m coming from.  Some of it has to do with acceptance, which is something that is never a finished state of being for me because things keep changing all the time.  But this is one of the important things that I’m striving toward.