"It used to be that I studied classical in order to become disciplined and used jazz to let loose. Now I use jazz for my discipline." - from Hartford Advocate by Phil Tankel
About Being a Musician
"I've always had my hand in about a million different things." - from Hartford Courant by David Boraks
"I've found the truer I am to myself, and to my music, the better people react to it." - Ibid.
About Spirits Rebellious (Brazilian-inspired album)
"It puts the whole thing on a different rhythmic basis. It allows me to explore some different things coloristically and sylistically." - Ibid.
"When I started writing the music, I was writing for myself. I really feel like the music speaks for me. It's another step toward knowing myself musically." - Ibid.
"All those bands (70's groups, Traffic, King Crimson, Jethro Tull) hd saxophone and flute players. I don't care about any of the rest of it if it didn't have saxophone or flute. That was my attraction. I think of my first jazz records: Roland Kirk, Sun Ra, the older recordings; Charles Lloyd; the old Chick Correa group, the Brazilian thing that they were doing; and I suppose I'd have to include Herbie Mann in there, plus the famous Kind O' Blue album." - from The Hartford Advocate by Bob D'Aprile
"If I look at my life, it's improvised in a way. All my art is improvised so I try to find a less deliberate way of doing things. I do a certain amount of work. When I play, I want to play. I don't want to play anything contrived." -Ibid.
"I always try to remember and remind all of us that the music exists because we love it, not because there’s any commercial basis for it... It needs everything we can give it." -WWUH radio interview with Chuck Obuchowski
(from an introduction to an unpublished "Book of Compositions")
"This collection of compositions represents my work in the years between (roughly) 1985 to 1990. They are inspired from within, and formed by a wide variety of influences, as I love to allow the creative Spirit--to take me, the hearer-observer, wherever called, and it is called both far and near.
"The distinction betwen inspiration and form is made because most of these compositions were arrived at by focusing on a predominant _feeling_ (certainly one melded with another that has the impetus, to write music!) and let it find its own expression or form. What results is the most emotionally direct and simples piece possible. Writing and playing music gives me great joy, and, God willing, will bring more joy and light into other peoples' lives as well.
"To me, Music is a river, and he compositions is a cup tht is dipped into the river to hold just a little of that precious Water. The compositions written here were largely arrived at by listening to the river within. We must remember though that 'music" on the page is only like empty cups...
"Of course as I disclaimed before, this is not an exlusive "method" for receiving the music, and there are very recognizable (conscious) as well as un-recognized (unconscious) influences in these compositions. They are all the many names, many faces of the Creator from whom all Music emanates. Thank you, Lord!
"If all of us take time to think and feel and _be_ in these thoughts, we would find them to be true and very real in our hearts. It is true that our artistic impulse is our divine nature speaking to us, (creative) and through us."
" 'Lens' [an unperformed composition] -- written from a "vision," a feeling that, while meditating, _someone was watching me_ as if through a lens or mirror. A curved in (spherical almost) Eye which encased me, that turn out to be my Self."
About Spirits Rebellious
"It's totally different than anything I've ever done before. The Spirits album is something I did creatively that was largely composed. I used the electronic medium to do it, using tape, overdubbing and adding parts." - from The Hartford Advocate by Bob D'Aprile
"When you listen to that, if I had sat down and tried to compose it I couldn't have achieved any better result. It would have been much more contrived. Not to say it wouldn't have been nice...but I did it in an improvisational way." - Ibid.
"Cuts on there like "Uroboros", that's something I did here at home on the four-track tape machine. I just took pan flutes and did a rhythm with them over and over again, achieving calliope-like sounds, and just improvised the flute part over it." - Ibid.
"You step out onto the stage and you're all alone. And you don't know what's going to happen... And what's great is that you don't know what you're going to do. I don't know what I'm going to do. And I like that." - from film Dancing Chicken Man directed by Terri Castillo, 1991
"Improvisation is so vital. When you feel something, that's the time to feel it. Things only happen once in the way that they happen." - Ibid.
"Roland Kirk was really important to me in terms of how I came into jazz. He's a person who is neither in nor out, who is both. Also, the term doesn't apply. He's so deeply rooted in tradition and yet the spectrum in which he operated was total. I wasn't raised on jazz, so I was just finding this stuff out for myself. It's the way the man thinks. There's a great deal of variety in his music. A great deal of span and range, in his music and in his sonic palette, which is very large." - From Coda Magazine by Gary Parker Chapin
"...When you start listening you don't think of things like 'in' and 'out.' You like it or you don't like it. I listened to Charlie Parker and Sun Ra. And Sun Ra is rooted. Everything is rooted somewhere. Ornette Coleman is rooted in Texas and blues and bepop. All those guys are. They may have taken a different branch than other guys, but it's all part of the same tree. It can't be otherwise. It seems so obvious to me." - Ibid.
"...Anima is 'life spirit.' In Italian the word means, 'soul.' It represents to me the mysterious feminine—the creative force. That's the well that I am trying to drink from. And for me, the truly great musicians are the ones who draw from that well. I've always liked the shamans, the medicine men of the music. Roland Kirk, for example, he dipped heavily into the dream world. And Sun Ra, he just lives in that magic kingdom place." - Ibid.
"Playing, for me, is about changing my state of mind, moving out of my ordinary self. I've noticed that when I play, it's almost like a different person takes over, someone who I don't deal with in my day to day life, but who is inside me. I try to let this creative force take over. I try not to get too much into my conscious thought. It's more a matter of setting up conditions—gaining mastery of my instrument, mapping out structures, that kind of thing—that will allow the conduit to open. And when the conduits do open, when that other person takes over, I just sit back and watch the show, and see what comes out. To me, that's what's divine about all of this. That's why I love to play." - Ibid.
"...Somebody who has a personal sound on their instrument, to me, is ideal [to play with], this is what I strive for in myself—my own voice." - Ibid.
"Sometimes I approach the saxophone differently from the saxophone. Often I try to play the instrument in a way that I don't know how to play it, and I don't know if that's a good idea. Sometimes I try to play it from a different angle within myself. A feeling will come over me, and I'll just strive for some different sound, like some different personality that wants to say something. It's very interesting to watch." - Ibid.
"...I've spent a lot of time in free improv situations, and I've found that the forms arise very naturally. Whether that was our conditioning from playing written music or hearing it, how our minds formulated it...well, it wasn't a conscious thing. I'll just be improvising and out will come an idea that will strike me, and I'll say, 'Hmm, here's a point for further exploration.' That's where the writing process starts for me. It's very inspiration oriented." - Ibid.
"There are ways of contriving things and there are ways that you can contrive to spur yourself on to do things you wouldn't normally do—and you have to do that, it's required of you—but sometimes you hear the contrivance in the music, and sometimes you don't hear the contrivance. I prefer not to. In other words, the concept is merely the vehicle for an emotion—though I don't mean sentimentally emotional—I mean a very direct communication." - Ibid.
"Composing on the alto puts a heavy emphasis on melody and counterpoint, as opposed to the harmonic things that you tend to get into on the piano. Also, when you write on your instrument, the ideas that will come out will be formed differently. They'll fit that instrument well." - Ibid.
"In 'Hat and Shoes,' and during the second part of the A section, the devil part, I'm leaping around the low register. This gives it a certain kind of pop because its articulated in a certain way. That wouldn't have happened on the piano. On the piano I don't think I would have done it like that." - Ibid.
"Compositions are a balance. It's like saying, 'for every poison there's an antidote'—if a composition gets too sweet, you have to mess it up, on purpose." - Ibid.
About the Trio
"The trio seems to best describe where I exist musically. It encompasses a lot of different material, but we remain ourselves. I think the more you embrace the more you become whole. This is true musically, and I'm not just talking about playing different styles." - Ibid.
"Once in a while I like to listen to polkas—that's no sin." - from Sound Views by Paul Semel
"Like anything else, you learn by imitation. And beyond that you learn by practice; you learn by putting into practice what you've learned from listening to other people. And what happens is that you discover these things for yourself. It becomes a reality for you. Even when you imitate, nobody puts something together in the same way." - Ibid.
"I was basically a timid person, so my role [seven years as musical director] in Lionel Hampton's big band helped me to be a leader." - from The Villager by Robert Hicks
"All my ideas are influenced by my work in Lionel Hampton's big band, but it doesn't encompass the whole range of what I do now." - Ibid.
"Built into my music is a lot of sarcasm. I like to have fun. I like to tease." - from Jazziz by Robert Hicks
About Insomnia (trio plus brass album)
"I took the vocabulary of the trio and expanded it into these broader pieces. I tried different approaches compositionally. I try to give the instruments a variety of roles... " - Ibid.
"Different motives relate to things that I've heard in the past. They come up as dream fragments in a way. There's a chicken call in there. Different elements of things I've heard from Ray Charles, James Brown, and old time swing bands. The melody is very much like "It Ain't Necessarily So"; it's just re-rhythmized and fooled around with a bit." - Ibid.
"There's a woman who has recurring nightmares. Nightmare images and ticking clocks are recurrent themes. It has a lot to do with cutting our usual state of mind, which is sleep." (On the influence of a Twilight Zone TV episodes on "Insomnia" and "Coup d'etat") - Ibid.
"'Golgotham,' with its Latin rhythms and funk grooves, places the tuba up front. There are a series of duets as well as bit of band unison lines. It's basically a romp. It's kinda like Halloween with a bunch of skeletons jumping around toward the end when I cry, 'Golgotham!' and the band yells, 'Bone dance... '" - Ibid.
"On 'Equatorial,' I wanted to move blocks of sound at different rates." - Ibid.
About Being a Musicician
"There are a lot of different ways to structure your life and your music. Some people need to define what they are. I don't. For me, it's not a matter of negating things. It's about accepting all that's out there and selecting... One day last week I worked with Mario Bauzo's Afro Cuban Orchestra, recorded a demo tape of flamenco with a chamber ensemble for a Spanish dance company, and played Brazilian jazz with Avantango at the Nuyorican Poets Café." - New York Daily News by Gene Santoro
"If I'm really going to be a 'free' musician, I should be free to do whatever I want to do. I should be able to step in and out with equal facility. If I want to play it all inside and it feels good, then why not?"- Jazz Times by Greg Robinson
On In and Out Jazz
"I've always been sort of running on two tracks. Even when I was playing with Lionel Hampton, at the same time I was playing with free groups. I can't say that it's a transformation from one thing into the other. You get to the point where there's very little distinction between any of it. You're dealing with sound, and sound is organized in different fashions. It's all music." - Ibid.
About the Trio
"It balances me out to do this kind of (Trio) project. I've always been sort of running on two tracks. Even when I was playing lead alto in Lionel Hampton, at the same time I was playing with free groups. I can't say that it's a transformation from one thing into the other. You get to the point where there's very little distinction between any of it. You're dealing with sound, and sound is organized in different fashions. It's all music." - Ibid.
"The situation (with the Trio) is very freely harmonic. It's the place where I give my imagination free rein." - The New York Daily News by Gene Santoro
"I'm definitely looking for ways to create suspense and drama with three instruments. To accomplish that, I might have each musician improvise over different material on the same piece or we might expand or contract the written material. It might not be immediately apparent to the listener what's composed and what's improvised, either." - Pulse! by Art Lange
"Everyone goes through an AM radio phase, and so did I, but I quickly got bored with kid music and I didn't give a damn about lyrics. The groups I thought were not too bad all had horn players. Jethro Tull, for instance. But I soon discovered that Ian Anderson's flue playing was based entirely on that of Roland Kirk, and well, once you start listening to him, you find out how it's supposed to sound. Kirk was my gateway to jazz, not just because he played sax and flute so beautifully, but also because of his strong sense of history: through him I came into contact with all sorts of older styles." - De Volkstrant by Frank van Herker
"I wanted to gain experience in a big band, as almost all jazz musicians used to do in the past. There weren't that many large orchestras left when I came up, so I considered myself lucky. I did it for five, six years, and I enjoyed it; some of the gigs were a little stuffy, but there were also nights when the young guys in the band could play whatever they wanted. Hamp was open to everything, as long as it swung... " - Ibid.
"I learned a lot from Hampton. Later, when I led my own groups, I realized how much. Timing, for instance; not just in your playing, but also in the way you structure a concert, working towards certain effects. The showbiz aspect. A positive attitude. And that you always have to stay relaxed, even at the fastest tempos. Make sure you always know what you're playing, instead of just standing there spraying notes." - Ibid.
"I'm exploring different kinds of music. I'm a 20th century – soon to be 21st century – man, and this is the era we live in. We have a lot of information at our fingertips. But that's only one aspect, an informational aspect. You want to be as free to follow where you heart leads you as possible." - The Boston Herald by Bob Blumenthal
"As I mature, I get a greater sense of the history and continuum of the music. You have to have this sense of where it's been, where it is and where you'd like to go. Where I am right now is seeing a wider perspective of things...I want to span the breadth of what's out there. How can you ignore what's been? Why can't there be some sort of integration of styles and ideas? It's only natural." - De Volkstrant by Frank van Herker
About Being a Musician
"I thought: Will I be able to make it on my own? I took every job I could get. Chamber music, country & western with a band from Kentucky. I played flute in a flamenco ensemble, anything, as long as I could finance my own thing. My colleagues often grouse about their work. There's an old joke: 'How can you make a jazz musician complain? Give him a gig.' You should always realize how great it is that you can play what you want." - Ibid.
"Every musician worthy of the name knows that that is the purpose of your art. You should prepare for a concert as if for a transcendental journey, which allows you to reach something higher in yourself. Some musicians do this in all sorts of destructive ways, others meditate. I just try to be as clearheaded as possible, and completely focused on what I want to do... " - Ibid.
"That's why the stage, to me, is one of the most real places on earth. People often regard a performance as something less real than reality, but in fact it's often much more real, because it reveals your true nature... " - Ibid.
"You can also hit people softly." (On his flute playing in Spirits Rebellious) - Ibid.
"You need opposition, friction. Without friction there is no heat, no energy, no life. You strive towards higher things, but you also have a body that wants to swing, that has erotic desires, that has to eat. Those are the devils, good and bad, that you should remain on good terms with. Sounds that are nothing but sweet end up not being sweet at all; it's when they're bittersweet that they become beautiful... " - Ibid.
"A very simple example of productive opposition are the CDs I record for Arabesque: on those, I work with a pianist who outlines chord changes. These are limiting; my playing with the trio is very free. But while searching for possibilities within those restrictions, I often get ideas that would never occur to me otherwise... " - Ibid.
On In and Out Jazz
"It's a natural thing for me to mix it up. It's all valid material to use. You can take it where you want to take it. The artist needs to be free to do his job as much as possible. That's what I got into it for and that's what my commitment is." - from The Boston Herald by Bob Blumenthal
About the Trio
"We (trio) sometimes use African rhythmic patterns or Asian scales, but we don't shove them in people's faces. That's also because our line-up is so spare. And we sometimes play in old-fashioned big band style, in which the bass and drums function as entire sections. So that you don't sound like an orchestra and not like a trio, but like something in between. There's always something happening orchestrally: I back up a bass improvisation with percussive sax licks, the bass and sax play riffs behind a drum solo. There's a continuous dialogue especially between me and the drums; the bass is more like a hammer..." - from De Volkstrant by Frank van Herker
"The energy you can generate this way is phenomenal. I think that music should elevate people's spirits to a higher plane, change the way they experience themselves and reality. They should leave the concert as different people. Just like in church. You take the listener on a spiritual journey, with you leading the way, but once you're on the road you get so much energy back from the audience that together you start to form one big generator. " - Ibid.
"An important condition for this elevated state of awareness is that the audience should be truly present, truly listening. If they're talking, they're not open to your music. For such cases I have a couple of showbiz tricks to get their attention: a little fanfare, or a shocking racket, immediately disavowed ironically. Jazz is the ultimate coming together of showbiz, art and spirituality. These three elements don't exclude each other... " - Ibid.
"Another effect I like to use is making the trio sound like a ticking mechanism that slowly gets up to speed, or winds down. This works on several levels. It's a humorous way to heighten the tension, or to release it gradually. You make the listener aware of what you're doing. And it evokes images which people can fill in themselves. Everything is so literal nowadays. MTV forces very unambiguous dreams on you when you listen to music; it's much more fun if you allow them to come to you." - Ibid.
"I'm someone from Manchester, Connecticut, who attended Phillips Academy in Andover and happened on jazz. I remember listening to a Boston radio station that began a jazz show with a Coltrane invocation each morning; then someone gave me a Roland Kirk record by chance that changed everything. Before that, I used to dance and jump around as a little kid, and I took some piano lessons like everyone at the time. You get into things like dirty music, and then the rest of it is a process of purifying and getting down to essentials. Underneath is this ball of magnetism you're trying to polish and refine." - from The Boston Globe by Bob Blumenthal
"I began at the University of Miami, but bailed out real fast. Then I went to Hartt College (of Music, in Connecticut) and Rutgers (New Jersey). Saxophone/educator Paul Jeffrey, at Rutgers, really taught me the be-bop catechism; and we played gigs rather than concerts. I never took the time to transcribe solos and copy other players. I've always preferred to grab a bit of this and a bit of that and make my own mud pies." - Ibid.
"I think of Lionel Hampton, whom I spent so much time with, and that joy he communicates is what he's about." - Ibid.
"It was never a transformation, because the trick, when you're in a situation like a big band is to know in your own mind that you're on your own path. Jazz is essence expressing itself through personality, and I just started feeling that Thomas Chapin thing happening." - Ibid.
About Being a Musician
"Music was a state of being, it was never something I had to consider. I've never taken a day gig. I've always supported myself playing music. And the music I play is what I need to do. If I was playing weddings, I'd die spiritually. There is a drawing power of the spirit, and if you're lucky, you get aligned with it." - Ibid.
"Playing music is like a workshop on the subject of life. It's a microcosm of the way everything works. It instructs us about the principles of the workings of the world. All music is food. It just depends on how you digest it." - from the Herald Tribune by Mike Zwerin
"It's hard; it's very hard to create music. It's a clean slate every night. Yet somehow I'm here, playing music in paradise [Perugia Jazz Festival]." - Ibid.
On in and out playing
"I hate to define things in these terms, but I have the mainstream side to me." - Ibid.
About the Trio
"A friend [Bruce Lee Gallanter, owner of Downtown Music Gallery] asked me to put something together for a mini-festival in the summer of '89. I had a sextet at the time, and thought a trio would be a little different. Mario and I had already played together for eight years, and Mario introduced me to Pheeroan ak Laff, our first drummer. The same friend hooked me up with the Knitting Factory, which recorded our first gig – with Steve Johns on drums – in December '89 and put it on Volume 3 of their anthology series. They started Knitting Factory Works soon after that, when Mike Sarin joined the trio. We were the label's third signing, which gave us the forum." - Ibid.
"I'm constantly amazed that we can play anything, with no restrictions, and people always seem to relate to it...We're always rooted, and if you can begin with something people can relate to and take them a little further, it's like show-and-tell. That's what I'm supposed to be doing." - Ibid.
"Our appearance at Newport Jazz Fest 1995 was a milestone for the trio, and while I didn't realize it would be, this festival [Perugia] is, too. I've gotten into a very intuitive area, particularly with this group, where I don't really know what I'm doing. I don't want to know, because it's a better area." - Ibid.
About A Legacy
"When you die...the melody remains. It's the song of your life." -Connecticut Public Radio interview with John Dankosky
"Give blood... Give blood in everything you do." - at Knit Fac Benefit Concert, NYC
About Being a Musician
"I loved the feeling, the freedom, the potential of each moment that comes through the music. I suppose it's sort of corny, but it's the love of the universe coming through the music. It is a way for us to connect to something bigger than us, but as performers and as audience. It's a ritual that can be immensely uplifting. Music is so central to the human experience." - from The Hartford Courant by Owen McNally
"We're in the realm of the miraculous at this point. This is where we are living day to day. Life really is like that anyway. But that's usually invisible to most of us most of the time because we're not in a position where we feel our life can be taken from us at any moment. But, in fact, that's always the case. So we all lull ourselves into believing that we have time for everything." - Ibid.
"In a way the disease kind of presents an opportunity. You're alive. It's something you're going through. It's something that's very difficult, but it's not something that is purely wasted. It's something that can be transformational as well. You've got to make what you can out of what there is. It's a rough lesson because it's never what we want. Our mission sometimes does not go the way we want to go. But, nonetheless, we are in life for some kind of purpose in all things that you might come across, or might come across you." - Ibid.
"I love my life... I've had a great life!" - spoken in his year of illness
"I'm at peace... because [I played] on Sunday." - spoken ten days before his passing on Feb. 13, 1998.