Primary Scene: New York
In his own words:
A multi-instrumentalist, composer, storyteller, instrument-builder and educator living in East Harlem, New York City, my approach to music goes beyond simple categorization.
Though what I do now is informed by Creative Improvised Music and the jazz avant-garde, my ears are rooted in the Gospel, Blues and Bluegrass traditions from where I came, rural segregated Virginia.
I was born to a working poor African-American family in 1946 in a house built by my grandfather. We had a piano. As a toddler my teenage sister held me in her lap as she practiced.
My parents thought music a high calling. One Saturday in August of 1954, my mother, the minister and Sunday School teacher of our church, and the first-grade teacher who taught piano, sat down at the kitchen table where serious business was discussed and decided that I would study piano so that the black community would in the future have a musician.
I was called and chosen to serve.
My first recital was in Sunday school six months later. The future also had me playing tuba in high school, majoring in flute at the Catholic University of America and at the Berklee School Music, moving to New York City and founding Studio 501 Canal in 1973, a co-operative living and performance space housing four different bands.
Little of what I know of music and performance has come from any formal education but from individuals, some mentors – Emery Smith, Huntington Harris, Jimmy Hopps, Cleve Pozar, Lawrence Wheatley, others collaborators – Juma Santos, David S. Ware, Diedre Murray, William Parker, Alan Michael, Adam Lore, Jill Becker, Stephen Kushner, Marlies Yearby, Lori Carlos, Kim Winkler, Carl Hancock Rux, Tiye Giraud, Assif Tsahar, Chad Taylor, Michelle Valerie, Arthur Wilson.
From them I learned to compose; edit; be on stage; engage young minds when teaching in a classroom; that it’s not about me, it’s about service; the world isn’t fair; and to never never ever give up. So I continue on, teaching, touring, recording.