Art Works Blog

The Wisdom of the Masters

Washington, DC

Compiled by Victoria Hutter

Dave Liebman (foreground) swings at the 2011 Jazz Masters Ceremony and Concert. Photo by Frank Stewart

This morning, the NEA's new class of Lifetime Honors recipients was announced. As we congratulate our new honorees, we thought we'd also take a look back at past NEA Jazz Masters. The Jazz Masters are not only fine musicians, wonderful teachers, mentors, and advocates for all that jazz is, but many of them are also eloquent speakers. Below are a few of our favorite quotes gleaned from interviews over the years.

"Be sincere and seek knowledge. That's what so fascinating about life: there are so many wonderful things to understand with our mind, our eyes, and our ears." ---Yusef Lateef, in response to the question, 'What advice do you have for younger musicians coming into jazz today?'

"I think the most important thing that I can offer young musicians is once you get up on the bandstand, understanding that you?re now asking this prayer to come through you. When you think about music it?s got to be that way. Just the thrill of being able to play another note, not to win anything or get a trophy." ---Bobby Hutcherson

"If we could ever find that moment, maybe thousands of years from
now, where all the musics of the worlds would be communicating with each other, there would be no more wars, there would be peace." ---Gunther Schuller

"I carry my flute around everywhere I go and pull it out. It actually becomes a panacea for me, for things that go on around me. It really gives me relief and calmness, tranquility." ---Hubert Laws

"When you stand next to somebody and play with him, that?s a universe completely secret and only those who have been there know that. It's like breaking the sound barrier." ---Dave Liebman

"I sort of drifted into the music. I was too slow for track, too short to play basketball, and too light to play football and music was the only thing that was left for me." ---Ellis Marsalis

"The fact that so many individuals can come to a decisive conclusion
but still maintain their individuality is the great thing about jazz." ---Delfeayo Marsalis


"I have no illusions about being a genius musician. I pride myself on being a soldier, a warrior for jazz. I trained a lot of young people, and I've learned my lessons well. I'd like to keep the flame burning." ---Phil Woods

"There?s an old expression that most American jazz musicians shack up with music first, and then they court it and marry it later and that?s exactly what happened [to me]." ---Quincy Jones

"I don?t know if I could write ten easy ways to connect with an audience. I know you have to believe in what you?re doing, you have to believe in your music, believe in your ability, believe that what you?re doing is honest and true and real." ---Ramsey Lewis

"Some of the reason I believe in jazz is the oneness of man that can come through the rhythm of your heart. It?s the same any place in the world, that heartbeat. It the first thing you hear when you?re born, or before you?re born, and it?s the last thing you hear." ---Dave Brubeck

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