Reaching that 40th season means a great deal. It’s really a labor of love on my part and the part of the many players, who are very loyal and committed. When we started out, I thought this would be a band that would have a lot of fun playing music and be very eclectic, but of course I HAD NO IDEA IT WOULD ENDURE THIS LONG.
Over the years, the group’s sound has changed for the better. We’ve gotten much more attuned to one another’s playing. We can do things that wouldn’t be possible if we didn’t have that kind of history together, make certain kinds of musical moves that are ALMOST PARALLEL TO A BASKETBALL TEAM GOING DOWN THE COURT.
After the model of one of my great idols, DUKE ELLINGTON, I write for the specific players in the band. I write to their strengths and try to be cognizant of good musical practice, but also leave a lot of room for freedom of expression.
Boston JazzScape is a multistory suite where we have elements of all things, FROM BLUES TO FREE IMPROVISATION TO THIRD STREAM. It is meant to be as if you were going to a museum to see landscapes and portraits of people, places, and events done in the jazz language.
Jazz itself, the product of African-American and white American interests melded, is A WAY TO LOOK AT THE WHOLE ISSUE OF RACE RELATIONS. “The Journey” takes a look at the movement from the 1848 [Roberts] case in Boston to try to desegregate public schools, which was not accomplished till 1975 with the Garrity decision. With band member Arni Cheatham, I participated in a program that used jazz to HEAL SOME OF THE DIVISIONS and educate both white and black youngsters about this great art form. — As told to Joel Brown
Interview has been edited and condensed.