How would you characterize the current group and how has its music has evolved? Will you continue recording/performing with them?
The quartet that is on my two ECM CD's is kind of a dream come true group on every level. They are unbelievably accomplished players, composers, and bandleaders who are always willing to give themselves up to making my music the best it can possibly be. They all have extremely strong individual voices, yet they are also very generous and giving human beings. Over time, I've learned that I can bring in virtually any music, and they will invariably make it better than I could have imagined- and I have a vivid imagination! I'd be a fool not to keep playing with this band whenever the right opportunities reveal themselves.
What is the state of the Baltimore jazz/improv scene? Creative Differences and Windup Space (and also An die Musik) seem to have given it a solid home base. What do you think of that development? Any others that are particularly exciting/intriguing?
Baltimore is a great city for artistic collaboration. I feel that the improv and creative music scene reflects that, and also reflects the influences of other music scenes , i.e. Brooklyn. In turn, it has begun to produce it's own culture that influences other scenes, for example the Out of Your Head series at the Windup Space and the High Zero Festival. High Zero has been around a lot longer, and does some great things, but doesn't really offer much to the more jazz influenced younger musicians. I feel that there is room for more than one aesthetic when it comes to jazz and improvised music and more than one venue in which to perform. Bernard Lyons understands this, and his Creative Differences series is an important part of our scene. He loves the music and invests heavily to keep it going, but people need to support it. I wish that the local press saw the value in this and gave it the proper attention. It would only help to reinforce the idea that we think that arts, music, and culture are an important part of our city and our lives. Full disclosure: I live in the county, but am culturally much more connected to the city.
What role has Peabody played in that evolution? And what about other schools such as Towson and UMBC?
They're all important. The Peabody Jazz program helped things a lot by presenting performances in and outside of Peabody. And it helped by bringing in faculty and students, who aren’t from here, to the local scene. This helped to open things up a bit, for sure. The students are performing and attending gigs, as they should be, although not as much as I'd like to see. Dave Ballou has done great things with the TU program. I see the Towson students out at all kinds of gigs all the time. This is an important part of their education, and I think they get that. Also, Matt Belzer is doing a great job at UMBC.
What's next for you?
After all the new CD release performances I'll just be teaching (at Peabody), playing, and composing for a while. I have a few different groups now, both in Baltimore and in New York. I have a nice band with my son, Peter on saxophone, Dave Ballou, and Mike Kuhl called Four Cool Blue Maniacs, that's a lot of fun. We played at ScapeScape 2012 in September. I have some other projects in mind but nothing definite at the moment.
What's the best undiscovered gem, music or other-wise, in this city?