Q:When you decide it’s time to make a new record, is that more exciting or stressful?
Ans:Oh definitely more exciting.
Q: How do you shut things out?
Ans:I read, I meditate, I pray, and I play music
Q: How easily do songs tend to come to you?
Ans :Every song has it’s own story. Some come to me in their entirety, ad some need more hashing out of details, and perfecting this and that. I noticed that as time goes by, the latter becomes more rare, and songs come to me more naturally, and more ready made. At times I play the song in it’s entirety the first time I sit at the piano (on which I usually compose), and that’s the way it stays. It comes to me. “Eastern Lullaby” is an example of that. I just played it the first time I set down, and that how it goes.
Q: What’s your motto or the advice you live by?
Ans:To serve a greater good. To be an accompanist.
Q: What is you favorite song to belt out at the bar/in the car?
ANs:I improvise melodies all the time. All the time. Usually those are the best ones.
Q: For our readers who have never heard your music, explain your sound in 5 words?
Ans:Soulful worldly infused spiritual jazz
Q: You write all of your own music; where do you draw inspiration from when you write songs and what’s your favorite part about the process?
ANS:I am inspired by life. My life story, and the world around me. Music from around the world, people from around the world, nature, books I read. there’s a feeling to it, and it comes out in the music. My favorite part of the process is hearing a good take on the record and realize the song is a motherfucker. It moves you.
Q: At what age did you start playing?
ANS:I started playing at age 3, my first instrument was violin. I later played classical piano, and blues guitar, before finding the trumpet around age 11.
Q:Who are your inspirations?
Ans:Miles Davis, Booker Little, John Coltrane, Dexter Gordon, Oumou Sangare, Fairuz, Levicha, Pannalal Gosh, Prince, Daklon, Los Papinos, Tribal musicians from around the world, devotional philosophy and mystic writers from the jewish, sufi, buddhist, and greek traditions, the list goes on and on…
Q: If you could perform with anyone, in the future, who would it have to be?
Ans:Do I have to pick one? Fairuz, Ahmad Jamal, Oumou Sangare, Stevie Wonder.
Q:What is your favorite tune to play live?
Q:Do you have any events coming up or recording going on right now?
Ans: Yes, I’m playing at Smalls Jazz Club in New York on February 8. Than off to tour Germany, and record my next record in Paris, in March. I’m also working on making a record for Borochov Dynasty, and producing a special Gnawa record with Innov Gnawa.
Q:Do you have any advice for anyone wanting to play as a career or just advice about careers in general?
Ans :Have faith. Serve a greater god. Take the load off, and go with the flow. Swing.
Q: If you had a soundtrack to your life what song/songs would have to be on it?
Ans :My records are the soundtrack for the movie that is my life.
Q:When and why did you start playing?
ANS:When I was 2 and a half year old I wanted to play the violin. It was my idea and came to my parents as a shock. I have no idea where the came from. I nagged them enough that they bafflingly took me to a violin maker, who said there is no way I can start playing the violin at that age, as it will destroy my spine, and there is no violin small enough for me to play. He said the earliest is 3 years old, and it’s not recommended till age 4. I haven’t spoke of it since. Then on my 3rd birthday my parents came to pick me up from kindergarten, and as we pass the gate I say “Now we’re going to get the violin?” They were in such wonder that I even remembered, that they took me to the maker and got me a violin, and got me lessons.
Q: Which instruments do you play?
Ans:Trumpet, flugelhorn, piano, surname, hand percussion, and some guitar.
Q: What was the first tune(s) you learned?
Ans:As a kid I went to the piano tried to play the theme from Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition. I played it from ear, and used only the black keys. Pentatonics.
Q: Is your family musical?
Ans:Yes. My dad is a pioneer in the multiethnic music world, and my brother is a musician, my 2 uncles from my mom’s side, and at least 4 of my cousins. My grandfather played violin, and my great-grandmother played the Doira (Central Asian frame drum)
Q: Which famous musicians have you learned from?
Ans:Dr. Billy Taylor, Arnie Lawrence, Laurie Frink, Jimmy Owens, Junior Mance, Curtis Fuller.
Q: What are your fondest musical memories? In your house? In your neighborhood or town?
Ans:My dad used to have rehearsal in the living room. That was just beautiful. To hear the live instruments played: double bass, kanun, saxophone, cello, drums and percussion. That was beautiful.
Q: Were you influenced by old records & tapes? Which ones?
Ans:Oh for sure. We had a turntable at the house and some of the hits were weather report’s heavy weather, Edith Piaf, Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, and Prince.
Q: Have you been in competitions? Fleadh’s? Any prizes?
Ans:In March I will receive the Pomegranate Award for Sephardi Excellence in the Arts. It is a great honor for me.
Q: Do you perform in public? Describe those occasions? Concerts, radio, TV?
Ans:Oh yes. I’m on the road quite a bit. There’s hardly a month that I’m not traveling and playing live.
Q: How do you handle mistakes during a performance?
Ans:Fearlessness. As Miles Davis said “Do not fear mistakes. There are none.”
Q: Do you get nervous before a performance?
Ans:Sometimes yes. I used to be very nervous and had to come up with many ways (some healthier than others) to calm my nerves. But nowadays after doing this for so many years, we just have a good time.
Q: What advice would you give to beginners who are nervous?
Ans:Learn to loose control. Don’t take yourself too seriously. Know that you are in fact not in control. Whatever you do won’t matter, so just go with it and enjoy the ride. Swing.
Q: Do you attend sessions? What makes a good session?
Ans:When cats are there to create music and have a good time, and not try to impress and show off. That’s when it’s good.
Q: How often and for how long do you practice?
Ans:Every day for an hour to six hours.
Q: What do you practice – exercises, new tunes, hard tunes, etc.?
Ans:At this point of my life it’ becoming harder to explain my process as it’s refined. I am finding ways to librate the music from the consternates of the physical.
Q: Do you teach music?
Ans:I take students, when they are serious, and I give masterclasses. I love teaching. Technique wasn’t natural for me, and I developed my chops late in life. I was vert limited till I was well into my 20’s, and now I’m quite boundless in my abilities on the horn. Since it didn’t came natural to me, I had to really figure it out, and I can really show people how to achieve that.
Q: How do you balance your music with other obligations – mate, children, job?
Ans:Balance is a principal of life and I try to live by it. I’m not sure if I developed specific tricks, I just do my best to keep that balance, and to enjoy life!
Thanks for taking time out of your day:)