My daddy thought - no, he expected - that my brothers and I and our generation would make the world a better place. He was correct in his belief because he had lived in an America of continual social progress, depression followed by prosperity, segregation by integration, and so on.
Swing is extreme coordination. It's a maintaining balance, equilibrium. It's about executing very difficult rhythms with a panache and a feeling in the context of very strict time. So, everything about the swing is about some guideline and some grid and the elegant way that you negotiate your way through that grid.
I'm not a person who writes really abstract things with oblique references. I look at abstraction like I look at condiments. Give me some Tabasco sauce, some ketchup, some mayonnaise. I love all of that. Put it on a trumpet. I've just got to have the ketchup and Tabasco sauce. That's my attitude about musical philosophy.
What I've learned how to do as I've gotten older is to take all of the information that I have, and push it aside, and try to distill each song into an emotional theme. The hardest thing that I've ever had to learn how to do in playing music is use the sound of my instrument to create an emotional effect.
I feel that for years of teaching in the country and reading criticism in books, I feel like the things most needed in our culture are the understanding of the meanings of our music. We haven't done that good of job teaching our kids what our music means or how we developed our taste in music that reminds us and teaches us who we are.
Jazz music is America's past and its potential, summed up and sanctified and accessible to anybody who learns to listen to, feel, and understand it. The music can connect us to our earlier selves and to our better selves-to-come. It can remind us of where we fit on the time line of human achievement, an ultimate value of art.
The main three components are the blues, improvisation - which is some kind of element that people are trying to make it up - and swing, which means even though they're making up music, they're trying to make it up together. It feels great, like you're having a great conversation with somebody.
I grew up in the South, and our way of dealing with each other was teasing, ribbing, making fun and scrapping in the street. Criticism doesn't bother me so much. It actually made me, when I was younger, more aggressive. But you get into middle age, and you lose interest in that stuff. It's not serious.
Everything comes out in blues music: joy, pain, struggle. Blues is affirmation with absolute elegance. It's about a man and a woman. So the pain and the struggle in the blues is that universal pain that comes from having your heart broken. Most blues songs are not about social statements.