Q: How do you chill out?
A: There hasn't been much of that lately. My wife Gayle is a wonderful singer and we make music together. I also have a collection of classical music scores I like to look over when I have time. We live in Clearwater, Fla., and we like to swim, so we've got some nice beaches for it.
Q: Jazz used to be America's popular music. What do you think could make it more appealing to contemporary listeners?
A: A couple of nights ago on the bus I watched Michael Jackson: Live in Bucharest. I told the guys that Michael sets the bar as far as performance goes. I've never seen another live performance so emotionally impactful, artistically rendered, and as musically spot-on and beautiful as that. Jazz musicians could learn a lot about communication from artists like Michael, Stevie Wonder, Sting and the Beatles – pop groups I consider very musical who also reached out to a broad public. Most jazz I ever got interested in was instrumental music, of course, but performance is performance.
Q: Where should someone who'd like to get into jazz start out?
The record I recommend to friends who find it difficult to listen to instrumental jazz is John Coltrane's Ballads. Trane plays slow, romantic melodies in his beautiful style with his classic trio. He made another fine album of standards with singer Johnny Hartman. Those records usually melt people who like good music. I also recommend all four recordings Miles did with Gil Evans's orchestra: Miles Ahead, Porgy and Bess, Sketches of Spain and Quiet Nights.