Streams of Consciousness 1 | 2

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Where does the Music I play come from?

It comes from the air. It comes from all the experience I've had. No, I didn't really study classical music. That was a temporal hoop I had to jump through, and it helped my fingering and my technique to go to the Peabody Conservatory all those years.

But it's not really responsible for my clarity of expression.

Yes, I practice. But I never do it too much.

Sometimes I play 14 or 16 hours straight at home. Then there are days I don't play at all.

I don't want to let all the notes out before I perform a concert, so I usually touch the piano not at all on the day of the concert.

California is a beautiful state, and a state of mind. It's just stupidly, obscenely expensive. You can't easily live a sustainable life in CA, and the stress is increasing.

But I couldn't live in a place that didn't welcome African Americans and Jews and Native Indian Americans and gay people and Jamaicans and Hispanics and, well, everyone.

I need the water too. The Pacific Ocean is a direction, a gravity well, a womb, a presence I feel and see out of the corner of my eye. I can't be away from her for too long.

I wonder about the desert sometimes, though. A different kind of beauty.

Back east, I learned to lay back from the beat and stay ahead at the same time. Like Lee Morgan and Dexter Gordon. All laid back and leaning forward.

I don't rush that beat. THE TIME IS SACROSANCT.

It's the bedrock of jazz, of all great music.

Am I afraid to go out in front of a thousand people and play poorly?


Everyone has 'one of those days.'

Monk came off the stage one night unimpressed with what he had just played, and while the audience was on their feet and applauding in appreciation, he said to the stage-hand, 'I played all the WRONG mistakes.'

Those people know what I'm doing. I'm working it out. I'm looking for God. When I hit that place of fluidity and serendipity that I call the Sacred Ground, everyone seems to know it.

It's also called the 'luminous ground'.

It's worth the wait and it's worth the risk.

It gets old just playing what you KNOW. I get old playing what I know.

I have to play what I HEAR and FEEL. If that isn't what I prepared for, tough for me. I go for it, as long as the audience is with me, and they usually are.

People are really way nicer than the media would have us believe.

People in America, for the most part, are absolutely wonderful people. Some are very unhappy, and troubled, and over-worked. Some are very angry, and lost, and frightened.

All the things that you and I have been and may be again. Because they're us. The whole world is like us, and we like them. Don't feel superior. If you're in a warm house with food to eat, you're doing OK. If you have someone to love, you are doing GREAT.

If you have 19 BMW's, you are probably NOT as OK as you might think.

I don't think too much of those Bosendorfers with the 97 keys. It's like owning two swimming pools.

I like things to be the way they are supposed to be. A piano with 97 keys just confuses me. I'll take a Bleuthner or a Knabe or a Steinway any day.


There are petty fabrications. Harmless ideas that help us live our lives. Whether it's the tooth fairy or the comfort of a certain belief system or the use of anti-depressant medications, some people really need help getting through this life.

No harm done.

And then there are the evil lies. These are the lies that cause pain to others, illness to the inner self, and can even cause rampant genocide if left unchecked.

One such lie is that of racial superiority.

It's pretty obvious that our country has a long way to go before anything like racial parity and equality is reached.

Martin Luther King's great speech

He speaks of Jews and Gentiles, White and Black, ALL of the world's people. Getting together. Loving one another.

His dream is MY dream. It is the dream of billions of people.

When I play, I'm told that lots of people can HEAR what I believe. Just by listening.

This dream, this desire is so great and so deep, that it breaks through in all great Art and Music. I hear it in Coltrane. I hear it in Jarrett, and I hear it in Miles.

I hear it in Beethoven.

I think the Music is my way of working for FREEDOM.

MY MUSIC IS MY MINISTRY, I said recently to a packed house in Yakima, Washington. I said that again in Seattle.

I said it last year at the Kennedy Center, and I'll probably say it this year when I'm there.


Cannonball Adderley said this. He said:

"I don't much like crowds 'less they came to see old Cannonball."

I am DOWN with that!


I found out that George Clooney has back problems. he said so on a talk show.

I like him for that.

If you've seen him in some of those action flicks he's made, he does a GREAT job of hiding his pain. Back pain isn't something you can hide easily.

Take it from someone who knows (about L5-S1 and lamenectomies and paralysis and sciatica...)

You can't just take a Vicodin and act normal. It messes with your movements and your balance.

He's always great to look at, and now I really like him. I admire him for that. And, given some of the roles he's played, I think he can actually ACT!

George Clooney is OK.


Michael Jackson is NOT OK. I hope he stays away. I became very weary of seeing him and listening to him explain himself ad nauseam. He should go very far away and leave the children alone. I think he's ill. And he hasn't made any music at all for many years.

Good riddance to bad luggage.


I miss The Beatles. I miss Strawberry Fields Forever!

"Living is easy with eyes closed,
Misunderstanding all you see...
it's getting hard to be someone but it all works out...
it doesn't matter much to me.

Let me take you down, 'cause we're going to...
Strawberry Fields...
Nothing is real...
And there's nothing to get hung about...

Strawberry Fields Forever!"

Rapper G just doesn't get it for me. No aspersions.


I listen to the waves pound the shore. I think of that really bad movie that Marlon Brando made. It was a western. He was sitting on the Pacific Shoreline. Not far from where I live right now.

His line was, "Les' go rob a bank or suppem'. Ah'm sicka listenin' to these here waves flopping."


Imagine that. A cinematic moment to remember.

And then a good movie, recommended to me by my good friend Andy; Peter O'Toole in My Favorite Year. His friend tells him "Two things Jewish folks are really good at. The first is suffering...and the second is finding Chinese food at 4 am."

Worthy of Woody Allen. Great flick.


And I saw The Big Sleep with Lauren Bacall and Humphrey Bogart a few nights ago. It was wonderful.

Bogey says to Bacall "all these people with all these crazy what's wrong with YOU?" and she says without a pause "nothing you can't fix."

They don't write lines like that any more. Nobody would believe them.

Truth is, there's still some of us who actually talk like that. And we mean it. Life's fun when you're coming up on sixty and feeling like you're twelve.


War is wrong. Torture is wrong. Killing is wrong.

Lying, deceit, treachery, murder, torture, rape, molestation and abuse, human rights abuse, civil rights violations, illegal detentions in undisclosed locations, racial prejudice...all these things are WRONG.

Years from now, these words will seem silly. (A silly restatement of what every sensible, healthy human being knows in their heart and in their biological core.)

Now, at this moment in our history, these words would be considered treasonous.

Now, at this moment in our history, these words are considered wrong.

So NOW, at this moment in our history, these words are NECESSARY.


I will always play the Music that is in my heart, with all of my heart, and never veer from that course.

I will never change my Music to fit the whims of a record producer or a music promoter. I will never let a record producer or music promoter tell me who to play with, how to play, what to play, or when and where to play.

I will never accept less payment than what I think I am worth for my Music. My Music is a Force that has healed and brought happiness to many thousands of people, and to have it maligned or reduced in value is an insult and a moral crime that I will not allow.

Each of us sets their own value based on their intimate knowledge of their Art and their feelings of self-worth. No one has a right to set these values for another.

I will play always out of love; never out of fear. If my environment is antithetical to the creation of Art and love, I will do everything in my power to turn the poison into medicine and to turn the fear into love.

My primary goal is to heal people and to report on the personal primacy of my own experience as a maker of Art in this world. My first goal is to heal and enlighten; my motivation is to capture my experience and express it truthfully and lovingly.

I will never compete. I will never play through my ego. I will always play through my heart (meaning the Music will play itself and I will listen and facilitate it.)

I already do all of these things. Those who take issue with this way can be of no concern to me. Anyone who has experienced the river flowing knows that I am not its source and that the source amazes me as much as it amazes others. It's not my job to explain the source.

I just let it flow.

Streams of Consciousness _01 / Streams _02