“The beauty of the music that brings us all together”
Taylor Eigsti interviews Jim Nadel about 50 years of Stanford Jazz Workshop
Grammy-winning pianist Taylor Eigsti first came to Stanford Jazz Workshop as a precocious student at age 11—then joined the SJW faculty just four years later. He has been featured many times in the annual Stanford Jazz Festival— including in this summer’s 50th Anniversary edition. In May of this year, he joined SJW founder and artistic director Jim Nadel by videoconference for the following interview.
Taylor Eigsti: SJW is so well established now, it’s easy to forget that it once was just an idea or a dream that you had. What prompted you to launch Stanford Jazz Workshop 50 years ago? What was the original spark?
JIm Nadel: In summer 1972, I had just graduated from college and I was trying to think of a way that I could continue to learn about the music and play music with my friends. I’d been involved with a couple of bands and was playing some jazz and I was into it. I wanted to stay involved while I figured out the next steps in my life, because I didn’t have a long-term plan. So I imagined a gathering of musicians who would come together to play on Monday night [at the coffeehouse], and on Tuesday night would gather upstairs [at the student union] to share ideas. We’d listen to music together, talk about changes, what chords to use at the bridge, some things to practice for the next week. I had studied basic Western music theory and analysis, so I had some idea of how that could be useful as a tool for developing jazz players, and I could share that. It was mostly the idea of “Consider this sound. Consider this sonority. Do you like it? Can you hear it? And if you like it, here’s a way you can find your way back to it. And if you really dislike it, if you hate it, then now you know how to avoid it in the future.” So that was the original spark. Somewhere in the back of my mind I had this idea that if you could bring people together into community where there was a sharing of information and a lot of different points of view are represented, that might be a powerful thing. It started in ’72 and it’s still going on today.
TE: Yeah, you don’t see too many jam sessions that go on for 50 years— although some solos I’ve heard kind of seem like they’re approaching that time. [laughter] Reflecting back, in the past 50 years, what’s changed the most in jazz education?
JN: Well, in ’72 jazz education was not that developed yet, compared to what it is today. You had big bands in most universities and colleges, but there weren’t very many combos in colleges. Today you have combos in college, and big band, and you have combos in some middle schools now. So there’s more music being played in school than ever before. The other thing was back in 1972 there were very few jazz publications—jazz education publications. Of course, you had DownBeat and other magazines, but there were only a few books out, so you read every book there was. Today, there’s been a huge boom in the jazz education industry, and you have tons of books available and lots of play-alongs, and summer camp programs popping up everywhere.
TE: What would you say has changed the least since then?
JN: I think it’s always been true that you learn this music by playing this music. You need to learn by doing. I’ve always resonated with that Duke Ellington adage, which is still the case today, that there are only two kinds of music: good music . . . and the other kind.
TE: [laughs] Yeah, I would agree with that. What SJW achievements of the past 50 years are you the most proud of, both as an educator and as an administrator?
JN: Well, I think that as an administrator, being able to conceptualize and build and nurture this community as a place to study and play the music, and one that allows creative input from the many brilliant musicians who participate—that has been a major personal achievement for me. As an educator, I really am proud that we as a community came up with this focus on the idea that you hear something first, and then you sing it. And then you play it. So it’s like sing and then play. If you can sing it, that kind of proves you can hear it. It’s possible to be able to hear it and not sing it, but if you can sing it, you heard it. And then, if you can learn to play that on your instrument, to play what you’re singing, then you’re making the basic jazz connection, and it fills everything you do with authenticity.
Specifically about curriculum, I think it’s been a great achievement that at the Workshop we developed what we call Musicianship classes, which are basically call-and-response on your instrument, the idea that ateacher could challenge students to play something back and then create ways to move that idea, that motif into different keys, but using your ear to guide you. This is a part of learning to play that I think is critical to jazz, and it’s a great part of our curriculum.
TE: If you could go back to the very start, is there anything that you would do differently?
JN: I would buy Apple Computer at 14, before it split 10 times and then, of course I would sell it a couple of years later, and I would have bought a permanent building in in Palo Alto for Workshop headquarters and some concerts. I think I probably would have done that, if I had thought of it then.
TE: If you could go into the future and time-travel to see SJW at its 100th anniversary, what aspects would you like to see had changed in that 50-year time span, and what would you like to see had remained the same as now?
JN: The main thing I would hope is that people would still gather to share and enjoy music together as players and listeners. I would hope that would still be happening. I realize it might be in a completely different format. We might be having direct brain connections, and it wouldn’t even look like something that we can imagine today. But in 100, years, you know… a lot can happen.
TE: Here’s another question—I just thought of this. How has the sound of the music that you hear changed from 50 years ago to now?
JN: Oh, wow. You know, anybody that listens to recorded music would know that there’s been a huge revolution of just tremendous growth in in the ability to record sound. And production standards and what we hear can be greater than ever. Though, ironically, if you are only listening to MP3s, you might have been better off with vinyl records. But we do have the capacity to record music, as we never did in the past. In live music, that’s carried over as well. Back in the day, bass players used to wrap a microphone in a towel and kind of cram it behind their bridge. Nowadays, you have sophisticated pickups, and you have better sound reinforcement. Even at Dinkelspiel, we have 109 microphones that are hanging and disguised in the area, and speakers that are balancing the sound. So you get better sound than could even be imagined back then. So yeah, this has been a tremendous time period of growth for technology.
TE: SJW camps and classes have helped launch many successful careers in jazz. SJW has also helped form a lot of amateurs into better players and listeners. But regardless of a given student’s individual talent or their ultimate career path, what do you think are the most important learnings or insights that all or most students take away from SJW?
JN: Jazz is going to teach you the importance of listening, for sure. And it’s also going to teach you teamwork and perseverance, and you’re going to get good at the ability to think on your feet. And importantly, you’re going to know when to step forward and when to step back. And I think all of these things are going to impact the rest of your life in what you do. And when I say teamwork, I really mean teamwork in people working together towards a common goal. It’s not like a sports team, where your goal is to win. The goal is to play something that’s uplifting and beautiful.
TE: I’ve been a part of SJW for 26 years, and one thing that I noticed from the very beginning was you always had a nice combination of faculty that was a younger generation and an older generation. What inspired you to make that such an inclusive thing? Because to me it seems like you’re going to get different insights from someone who’s been playing jazz into their 80s than you will from someone in their 20s or 30s.
JN: I think that the whole idea of mentoring is built into jazz, as it is in so many human endeavors, and I like that idea. I also like the idea that your community is going to represent a lot of different approaches to jazz, because there’s not one successful way to do it. And so, you have examples of people from all backgrounds. And you have so many different styles. But also, everything that ever happened in jazz is probably happening right now. There are people playing trad jazz that would have been cool in 1920. And there are people playing 1960s hard bop, and there are beboppers. And it’s all happening right now. So if you can have that all in your community, a student can wander through that and find what resonates for them and pick and choose their influences. And having people that are young and people that are old coming together only enriches that community.
TE: I’m sure it’s hard to narrow this down, but can you think of one moving or inspiring experience that stands out to you?
JN: I’m flooded with ideas, so I’m going to give you more than one, but I’ll start out with a very personal one. I had a newborn when the Workshop was happening in late July. When he was just a few weeks old, I took him in my arms into the back of Campbell Recital Hall. Mulgrew Miller was playing a piano concert, and I came into the room just after the lights had come down. And the baby didn’t know what was going on—we were just in a dim, kind of quiet place. And Mulgrew starts the concert by striking one amazing chord and lets it ring. And my kid in my lap looks up at me, and his eyes just kind of widen, it’s like, there’s this moment…. That was moving and inspiring to me.
In a more general way, it happens so often, when a teacher is able to recognize out of all the possible things they could draw to the attention of a student, that one thing that would be the most valuable next message for the student to hear. When that happens, and the teacher is able to communicate that in a useful way, it’s pretty inspiring. That moment of understanding, when you hear something in a new way that kind of opens up the previously unimaginable possibilities. You hear something that’s always been there, but you hear it in a new way, or you understand the new sound. And then, funny, that new sound starts to pop up everywhere, once you know what you’re listening for.
Everybody has their share of these inspirational jazz experiences. For me, the first time that I encountered the laid-back, deep melodic swing of Lester Young, or Sonny Rollins and his fierce rhythmic drive. Or you listen to Coltrane play a ballad that’s achingly beautiful. Or you’ve got Josh Redman coming up with an exquisite idea. It’s astonishing musically, but almost the most amazing thing is that he heard it in his mind and played it at that particular moment. So that everybody’s going to have personalized experiences of what what’s inspiring to them
In general, just being at the Workshop, being around the joy that music can bring, and hanging out…. Right now, I’m thinking of a master class with Tootie Heath, Billy Higgins, and Eddie Marshall—and the friendship was so deep, and there was so much laughter, and so much fun and creative energy. Just being around jazz musicians—they’re some of the most creative people that you could spend any time with, and it’s never a dull moment.
And I have my favorite combinations of musicians that were so inspiring, like that show that you played with Esperanza Spalding. When you think about that band coming together, with you and Ambrose [Akinmusire] and Julian Lage and Tupac [Mantilla] and Linda Oh. That was an amazing gathering of people that I’ve never heard since.
Then there are the moments when something astonishing happens. We put together a band that had never been together. Ravi Coltrane was here, and we had some of his good friends that he been to school with—George Colligan and Ralph Alessi. But let’s put them together with Eric Revis and and Dafnis Prieto. It was an amazing thing that happened, where they played a great concert, and as they got more comfortable, they got better and better, and they got a standing ovation. They played an encore, and the encore had a tune where it switched from swing to Latin, swing to Latin, every 16 bars. And Dafnis, every time they went into Latin, he just cranked it up a notch. And when they came back into the swing it was just thundering at new levels, and the thing just built and built until it took off the top of the whole audience’s head. It was just an amazing moment of a kind of ecstasy, for 600 or 700 people in Dinkelspiel.
And that same week we had George Cables play with Anat Cohen and Ravi Coltrane—something that had never been heard before. Or when Joe Henderson sat in and played the whole night with the Ray Brown Trio, with Benny Green on piano and Greg Hutchinson [on drums]. That was something that had never happened—Joe had never played with Ray Brown. Actually, they played in Europe in a big band, but they didn’t really connect. But this was the first time, and no one had heard that. They were both at the Workshop, and we got to experience that, and it never happened again.
There was a similar night with Sphere, with Kenny Barron, Ben Riley, Buster Williams, and Gary Bartz. They were playing a concert, and it just got better and better, and at some point the trio was just screaming, it got so good, and everybody was at the edge of their seat. And Gary Bartz had been offstage listening, and he comes walking on, blowing his alto, and the whole thing just went up to this other level. And it’s another one of those ecstatic, great human experiences—we all get them, and it’s always fun.
And on the educational side, there was a moment when Mulgrew Miller was in residence for a week, as was Chucho Valdés. That was in the year 2000, and we had an event—what we would now call a “special”—but we had two backlines on the Dinkelspiel stage: two drum sets, two grand pianos, and two bass amps. And on stage left, we had Billy Higgins, Ray Drummond, and Mulgrew Miller. And on the other side of the stage, stage right, you had the Chucho Valdés Quartet. And they were all Cubans. And so to start out, they took turns, and they each play “On Green Dolphin Street.” And you got to hear it with two great piano players, two completely different players. There wasn’t any discussion—it was just like “look at this” or “hear this,” and then the two piano players switch chairs, and they each play with the other guy’s rhythm section, and it went on like that. It was an extraordinary event. As I said, there wasn’t much to say, and there was a little bit of a language barrier, but it was just a great moment in music education. And how does that happen? It takes something like the Stanford Jazz Workshop to pull that off.
TE: I’ve been lucky to be there for a lot of those things that you mentioned myself, and I remember being blown away by that experience. It feels like there are so many unique combinations that only happen there. I’m sure at least some part of that answers this next question: What’s the most satisfying part of your job?
JN: You just hit on one of those things right there, which is putting together a unique combination to imagine a new sound in your head, and a new combination of musicians who don’t normally play together, and you wonder about the possibilities. And then, to be able to be in a position to realize it, to eventually get to hear it and share it with the community. And the musicians explore the creative possibilities, and it goes in a direction that no one has ever heard before. Last summer was a perfect example. There was a concert with Joshua Redman, Zakir Hussain, Joel Ross, and Zach Moses, and that particular combination had never played together. The idea of the vibes, and the tabla, and the acoustic bass, and Redman—I was just thrilled that this concert came together, and the musicians made it great just far beyond what I could imagine.
It made me almost think of the first time you visit a foreign country. Like when I went to India the first time: for six weeks before I went, I kept imagining in my mind what it was going to be like. I built up a whole idea of what it was going to feel like to be in India, and then you get there, and the reality of it is so different and extraordinary, and the sounds and the smells and even the vegetation are all different. And it just completely replaced what I’d imagined in my mind. So that’s a great satisfaction.
And then to have somebody that I meet as a young person—you’re kind of the perfect example—I get to know you as a young person and watch how you grow and develop and then do one extraordinary thing after another. And congratulations on the Grammy, by the way—that’s a landmark!
TE: Thanks, I appreciate that.
JN: But it’s been amazing knowing you, and I can’t think of a better example of that kind of satisfaction that I get. There are other folks—Ambrose [Akinmusire] and Dayna Stephens—watching them from kids grow to become important players. Certainly, YosvanyTErry coming here as a kid and becoming an important figure in jazz and ending up at HarvardTEaching. And Dafnis Prieto, who’s now at the Frost School—he’s become a great composer and has a Grammy as a bandleader and even got the MacArthur “genius award,” but we all knew him when he was just merely brilliant. And so on. Another great example is Josh Redman, who I met when he came to Jazz Camp, when he was in high school at Berkeley High, and now years later, he’sTEaching at the Workshop. All these people I mentioned have come back and areTEaching at the Workshop, and Josh is even a colleague of mine on the faculty of Stanford’s academic program. So in a more general way, it’s deeply satisfying to me that students and musicians who I admire want to come back and participate and be part of this community, time and again.
TE: I think the longevity of SJW… one of the cool things that that allows for is… from my perspective, I got to know you when I was 9 or 10 actually, because I was doing Frank Sumares’ late-night class, and my dad would take me to that, and that was even before I went to the Workshop. But I’ve always noticed that there’s this cool cyclical quality to people. I remember learning so much when I was a student, and then being there as a teacher, I got to know some of my own students there really well—people like Richard Sears and Julian Waterfall Pollack. And now what I’m finding, 26 years after I first became a part of the Workshop, I’m learning so much from a lot of my former students. Anytime I want to find a good sound on a Nord [keyboard] for a show, I’ll look up a video by Julian Waterfall Pollack, who now has an immense following and goes by J3PO. But it’s always his videos that I turn to anytime I need some keyboard things, and someone like Richard Sears has just become an incredible arranger. And so I do think it’s an incredible thing that just cycles in on itself, which is a really cool aspect to that. I can imagine that that would be a very satisfying thing, where it generates different generations that are all a part of this and learning from each other.
I want to get your take on the mechanics of what makes a good jazz performer. And I’ll attach a secondary question: what makes a great jazz educator?
JN: It’s a vast question, so I’m going to keep it simple here. For a jazz performer, of course you have to have the love for the music. You have to have the time to pursue it, and you have to have the life circumstances that afford the time to both listen and play. Because it’ll engage you as much as you have time to do it. And probably there’s some luck too, because if you get to play with Miles Davis when you’re a young person, that puts you on a different trajectory than if you didn’t have that opportunity, and that could be just random. So you have to have some luck, but you just have to have the time. And I guess, if you have a deep, deep love for the music, somehow you’re going to find those other things. Though if you’re living in a war zone somewhere, you’re just not going to be able to do that. So… circumstance.
In terms of a great educator, you’ve got to have the listening skill. You’ve got to be able to listen to what the student’s playing and what they’re in on a deeper level. And if you can understand, as I mentioned earlier, what’s the best thing out of all the things you could say, what’s the thing they should hear now. And then, if you can have the communication skills and the ability to connect with a student and inspire. There’s a lot of different ways to do that. Like in a drum master class, when Eddie Marshall was there, and he was so beloved by the students, and these kids would almost be climbing all over him like he was “Grandpa” or something. It was so clear, the love and affection that he had for these kids, and they were inspired by his playing. And then you have someone like Ndugu Chancler, who came more from the “tough love” side of it all, but was a greatTEacher too. And the thing that made that work was that the love was there, you could really feel it, and if the student made an effort, Ndugu would just shower them with praise. So that’s pretty much what makes for a great jazz performer and a great jazz educator.
TE: So on the flip side of that, what makes a great jazz student?
JN: Well, once again, the love for the music, because if you don’t have that you’re not going to be able to stick with it. I think it’s very helpful to have a degree of humility, at least internally, because you have to become aware of what happened before you and what’s going on around you. And then you have to somehow develop the understanding that really, you are your own teacher. You’re going to have to figure out how to teach yourself. Somebody can help, but you’re going to have to figure it out. And then the willingness to work on your weaknesses. Otherwise you’re not going to improve as fast as you can. And there’s all the basic skills you have to learn that are so demanding with jazz. You’ve got to develop the technical ability to play what you’re hearing, and you’ve got to learn something about tension and release, and that probably means you’re going to have to study some harmony. And you’ve got to know your instrument, because every instrument is going to have specific expressive possibilities that are unique to it. You’ve got to be able to develop ideas that you learn by doing and by listening to others, so you’re not just playing a string of notes. And again, as I think I mentioned, you’ve got to have a daily practice. But everybody has to find their own path. And that’s the beauty of it too.
TE: Most definitely. I think one of my favorite aspects of how you’ve organized the faculty over the years is that variety in teaching approaches, because I think people learn in all different ways. That’s another unique aspect about the Workshop—there’s enough different approaches by the teachers that really cater to a lot of different types of learners. I’ve always thought that was a really cool thing. That diversity within the faculty just allows that to happen. I certainly remember from my experience as a student too—I loved getting different perspectives from different people, and that still continues very much to this day, where there’s people who have all sorts of different approaches as communicators and educators, and I think that serves the people who are there to learn from them by giving them that diversity and variety.
JN: You came on so early as a teacher on the faculty—I think you might be the youngest teaching faculty member that we ever had. I think you were there before we even really had the Mentor Program. But the Mentor Program is for emerging professionals, and they come to Stanford Jazz Workshop, and their first week that they’re there, they’re shadowing faculty members. So they’ll go around and they’ll visit a dozen different combos, where each one has a little different teaching approach. And they’ll go sees advanced theory taught by three different people. And it’s the same curriculum, but there’s a different approach to how it’s done, and they’re learning something about teaching. I just thought of that with what you had said about being around the different styles and different approaches to it.
TE: Yeah, one of the biggest moments in my own development as a musician and person was when you guys threw me into the fire, when I was 14. Every year there were the soloist awards at the end of the week, and that one year, you guys gave me a thing and said, “Now, you’re faculty.” But the cool thing about that is when you are thrown into the fire, then you learn about how to communicate those ideas. And so I was learning just as much from that experience, and then being on the other side of it and getting to join the faculty at a really early age. That really helped me to discover how to articulate certain ideas and how to help people and find the things that they enjoy in their own playing and bring that out. So I really appreciated having that opportunity when I was younger, and I’m glad that that kind of function continues today too.
JN: It makes me think about the Mentor Program, for you in that situation. To a youngster, even younger than you were, or maybe even your peers at that point, they could see, “Oh, there’s a step between me and McCoy Tyner, and that step is Taylor Eigsti. I don’t have to be McCoy Tyner, but I’m going to move in that direction.”
TE: Yeah, it was cool being a 14- or 15-year-old leading a combo of people that were sometimes a little older than me. That was such a powerful experience in my life, getting a chance to do that, and I very much appreciate the opportunity to do that.
I’ve got to ask: what have been some of your favorite backstage, behind-the-scenes moments at SJW?
JN: McCoy Tyner did a solo concert one time. The Dink stage, as you know, is built partly over an orchestra pit, so it’s incredibly resonant, and the stage actually vibrates. You don’t notice this so much when there’s a whole band playing, but when it’s just a solo piano you realize it’s such a resonant thing. There was a red curtain we used to have hanging there, and the piano was on the audience side of the red curtain. Just standing a couple of feet away from McCoy Tyner but completely out of sight on the other side of this curtain, you could actually hear the music really well, and you could feel it in your feet, because he was thundering on the keyboard. And the vibrations were just resonating, the whole stage was moving, and you could feel him coming up your feet. I was there with my wife, Elizabeth, and she sits down on the stage, and then the next thing she’s lying down on the stage—a few feet away from McCoy but completely out of sight. And I lie down next to her. We’re lying down there on the stage, and the stage is just vibrating, and you’re feeling this music, in a way I’ve never experienced it. And then someTEchs come walking by and they see us and pretty soon there are about 15 people backstage, lying there on the stage, feeling the McCoy Tyner thing. It was kind of a unique backstage experience.
Now I’m going on a left turn here. I’m thinking about other solo piano players and what was very surprising to me, when we had Cedar Walton play solo piano. I don’t know if I ever told you this, but he was not so much into solo piano. He was a trio piano player in his mind, you know. And he came in, he played a solo piano concert in Campbell Recital Hall at my request, and what blew my mind was he played as if he was in a trio. In other words, he played rootless voices in the left hand, and you had to imagine it was a bass player. He was imagining a bass player and imagining a drummer, and he was playing the piano that way. Whereas McCoy would drop these roots at the bottom—you know how he does anyway, even if there is a bass.
And then we had another extraordinary Campbell concert with Muhal Richard Abrams, who conceives of the music completely when he’s at the piano. It was just an amazing concert, and I love that room for solo piano. I love Campbell Recital Hall. It’s one of my favorite rooms in the the Bay area, one of my favorite rooms ever.
But wait a minute. We’re talking about backstage moments, and here’s something which is just the difference in how musicians prepare to play. Everybody’s got their own thing, and we always offer a meal to the musicians before the concert, and after soundcheck. Some will eat it, some will want to wait ’til later on, and then sometimes there are complications. Way back, we had a concert with James Moody, Lewis Nash on drums, John Clayton on the bass, and Mulgrew Miller. And I just remember trying to get the dinner figured out, because we had one omnivore, one vegetarian, a pescatarian, and then the other guy was like a precursor to a vegan. But we got that all worked out. I don’t often get to see artists just the moment before they go on stage, but this time, I was walking towards the stage to go make my announcement, and they were all gathered in a little cluster—and they were obviously consuming something. And It made me curious. And for a second I recalled all the stories I’d heard about what some bebop musicians might consume before they went on stage, and I wondered what these guys were doing. It turned out that at least one of them was really into bee pollen and ginseng root, and it was kind of a phase of their life, and they were all got on board before the concert. So that was just a funny thing.
And then there was Kevin Mahogany—big guy, great singer—and just before he was getting ready to go on, he got me to go over to the coffee house with him, and he just rapidly consumed four large baklava pastries. It was a huge amount of honey and whatever. But on the other side, you have people like Denny Zeitlin—he would really calm his mind and get centered in his quiet space before he went out to play the piano.
And opposite of that you have somebody like Stan Getz. I learned this about him: if he’s not feeling inspired, he might purposefully stir things up. He might create a conflict. Like one time at Dink Getz’s trio with [Jim] McNeely and Victor Lewis and I think it was Rufus [Reid] were already out on stage, and they were playing a song, and Stan was going to come out and join them after the song. And he’s backstage out of sight, out of sound of the audience. And I’m standing with him, and he makes a couple of demands. He says, “Hey, could you get me a glass of orange juice and a glass of water?” And ITEll the guy next to me, “Get Stan a glass of orange juice and a glass of water.” And then he says, “Can I get a stool, to sit on stage?” And at that point, the stage manager, who didn’t know Stan, went up and slightly berated him for not requesting that stool earlier, when he had to fill out a form and whatnot. And he didn’t know Stan was waiting for him, and Stan just unleashed this stream of profanity that was astonishing in its force and its flow and its duration. And the manager looked like he was being knocked backwards by a firehose. And then, at the climax of it all, Stan just spins on his heels, walks out on stage, picks up the mic with a big grin, all energized, and says, “Good evening, ladies and gentlemen!” And then he plays stunningly beautifully. So, you know, people are pretty different in how they prepare to make music.
TE: So this brings me to somewhat of a big and vague question, but… what is jazz?
JN: [laughs] Well, there are so many nice answers, you know, that many people much smarter than I have come up with. But I think jazz is an art form that celebrates human expression, and an essential quality is individual improvisation, as part of aTEam. And so that depends on the development of some kind of extraordinary skills on your instrument, and also the ability to really deeply listen—to learn the music and also to communicate with the others while you’re playing it. But basically: improvisation. You have to be able to play what you feel and think at the moment that you’re feeling and thinking it. And this has to be able to integrate with the others that you’re playing with, because it’s a collective endeavor. And so you’re taking what’s inside of you and expressing it in combination with others, making music in the moment with others, making music in a spontaneous way. And at its very best, the musicians are also trying to create something of beauty and something that’s uplifting to others.
TE: Beautiful! Any closing remarks?
JN: I was lucky to realize early on that there was more than one way to make this music, so there had to be more than one way to learn it. And everybody’s going to be unique in this approach. And this idea of a community really turned out to resonate with both musicians and students. And I’m really grateful for that, and I think it’s really important to say that the Workshop as it is is really an expression of the input from so many people, of the love that so many people have for this music. And I’ve been the person who was able to create the space where new ideas are welcome and where info can flow freely, and to encourage that, and with the values that the musicians—whether they’re artists or teachers—are respected. And somehow, people have become inspired to contribute, and the Workshop has grown and evolved. The best ideas rise to the top, and the program continues today to get stronger and stronger. But it’s only been possible because so many people have given their ideas and their energy and their spirit to this endeavor. And that, collectively, is what Stanford Jazz Workshop is. It’s not me—it’s really the power and the beauty of the music that brings us all together. Jazz is a unique kind of communication. There’s really nothing else quite like it. And at its best, it explores the heights of human potential. And at the same time it can be universal. It speaks across cultures and borders, it can bring people together, it can be a healing force, both individually and collectively, for us. And I hope there’s a lot more jazz that’s shared worldwide, because this is a time when we need more music and more jazz. Hopefully, this will be the beginning of a new 50 years, a new chapter, and we’ll see where it all goes.