People ask me how could I go from country to jazz. It's been a natural convergence for me.
My roots have never left me... because the very first memory I have is my mom singing and me singing with her.
I want to take people away from the ugliness and sadness around us every day and bring beautiful, deep music to as many people as I can.
There's enough dismemberment going on in the world without writing music about it.
Hoover's Music Store in Springfield, Missouri - I would listen to records there for hours.
Bluegrass is in my blood and in my ears.
I didn't play a lot of bass as a kid, but I sang it.
I wanted to do 'Oh Shenandoah' because that's the town I was born in - as a tribute to my mom and dad for giving me all this music. I don't really sing this as a singer, because I'm not a singer. But I wanted to do it for them.
I had to learn right away how to improvise behind Ornette, which not only meant following him from one key to another and recognizing the different keys, but modulating in a way that the keys flowed in and out of each other, and the new harmonies sounded right.
I'm always searching. It's the reason I'm here. It's not really about music: it's about searching for meaning.
Mostly I play with records. I play with my friend Bill Evans.
I grew up around guitar players.
In L.A., I played with Joe Pass and Gabor Szabo. Mick Goodrick plays guitar in the Liberation Music Orchestra, and he's a real special player. Then I did a duet concert with Jim Hall at the 1990 Montreal Festival.
That's what I tell my students at California Institute of the Arts where I taught for 27 years. I taught them if you strive to be a good person, maybe you might become a great jazz musician.
I want people to feel what it was like in the '40s. That's when popular music in the United States was so beautiful. Frank Sinatra, the Pied Pipers, Duke Ellington, Fletcher Henderson, Tommy Dorsey, Billie Holiday. That's when popular music had deeper values, to me. This was music that was selling millions of records.
One of the things my mom used to do - I don't know why she chose me, but she chose me out of her six children to take to the African-American church that was in the town that we lived in Springfield, Missouri. And we would go to the church, and we would sit in the back row, and we would listen to all of the spirituals in the hymns.
I came from being a singer going into jazz. And that's one of the things that polio did for me is it took away my ability to sing with a range because it paralyzed my vocal chords, so that was when I started playing. But I hear the music as if I were singing even when I am playing.
I want to expand jazz; I don't want to keep the audience limited. I want to reach people who have never come to a jazz concert before. One way to do that is by making records that have a lot of different kinds of music on them.
I can write a song about my hero Che Guevara and call it 'Song for Che.'
I listened to classical music. I listened to jazz. I listened to everything. And I started becoming interested in the sounds of jazz. And I went to a concert of Jazz at the Philharmonic when we lived in Omaha, Nebraska, and I saw Charlie Parker play and Billie Holiday sing and Lester Young play, and that did it. I said, 'That's what I want to do.'