Tell us about your story and about your beginnings in music and jazz.
My father was a tap dancer and a trumpet player. He was fascinated by American culture so I was already listening to Jazz in my mother’s womb. I started learning how to tap dance at the age of 4, and took up the trumpet from my father when I was 9. I was already working in a dance band in the US military base at the age of 13. In a way, I guess you could say that I started off following the path set by my father. But I never once thought about giving up on trumpet. This is all I've got. When you stop pursuing your greatest passion, you are done. It should last until the last minute of your last day.
What are the values promoted by jazz? Why do you think a day like International Jazz Day is important?
I think International Jazz Day will be instrumental in having people all over the world to communicate better. Events like this will help people develop positive consciousness, socially, educationally and culturally. It will be beneficial for our young people who will lead the next generation.
The decade of people of African ascent (2013-2022) is being organized by the United Nations. As a jazzman, which role will you play?
Our generation needs to return our favor to the world. I believe we have the role to pass on the benefits (we’ve received) to our next generation and give back to the world. I know music can serve a useful purpose in doing so.
I visited the site of Great East Japan Earthquake many times to play for the people there. Every time I visit there, the people in the disaster area would tell me that my music “healed their emotional wound”, or they felt “uplifted”. It’s very strange but the truth is, even though our purpose was to cheer THEM up and give them hopes, we always end up feeling uplifted and encouraged by them. That is the power of music. Music can do miracles, it can help achieve something which cannot be done by politics or anything else. So with regards to the international cooperation for the benefit of people of African descent as well, I believe music (jazz) can play an interesting role in enhancing people’s ability to communicate with one another and I hope that it leads to a better understanding of each other.
What would be your advice to a young artist willing to start his/her career in jazz?
I see more and more people are interested in superficiality all over the world. I hope young people can try to be more grounded and learn more about the fundamental things in life, such as “where we came from (human roots)” and “what we are” as human beings. I know and believe that you can learn a lot about these things through jazz. My hope is that young people start spending more time to think about intellectual ideas.
What is your most memorable jazz ‘moment’?
I have way too many “moments” like that. I have had the privilege of meeting so many jazz “Giants” and learned so much from each of them. I believe I have the responsibility to pass that on to the next generation. Handing what we learned to the next generation is definitely an educational experience not only for the young musicians (who learn from us) but also for us, and those are also great “moments”.
[Translated by Aya Nagotani]
<- Back to: All news