What piece of art changed your life? How did it affect you?
John Coltrane’s “Giant Steps” made me aware of what was necessary to learn—scales, chords and rhythms—in order to perform jazz music at a higher level and have audiences appreciate my performance. Coltrane was an excellent mentor and teacher. During my visits to New York City, I was able to spend personal time with him watching and listening to him practice. He would explain (to me and my brother, Earl) how chords worked with the melody of tunes, which is important when you’re writing a song. I first saw the changes to “Giant Steps” on one of my New York visits, when Trane was practicing with pianist Bobby Timmons. His explanation of the changes and his performance of “Giant Steps” led me to understand that this was the path for my future—performing jazz music. This was the defining moment for me.
Baltimore native Carl Grubbs grew up at the feet of the master—his cousin, Naima, was married to Coltrane. These days, Grubbs qualifies as a master himself, and he has a new piece that figures to reinforce that lofty notion. With BSO violist Peter Minkler, Grubbs has refashioned his Inner Harbor Suite (originally released in 1994) as a chamber jazz piece featuring his quartet and a string section. Grubbs and Minkler, who've both won Baker Artist Awards, will premiere their collaboration this Saturday at the Walters. Presented by An die Musik, the show begins at 8 pm.