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Q Who are some of your favorite singers?
A El DeBarge is one of them. Luther Vandross, Frank Sinatra.
Q Who are your favorite instrumentalists?
A Probably my biggest influence is Herbie Hancock. When I first heard that blend of funk and jazz he came out with, really in the ’70s, that just had an enormous effect on me. That was sort of “Man, I want to do something like that!” I’m sort of a big fan of the history of jazz piano players, like McCoy Tyner, Bill Evans, Horace Silver, Thelonious Monk — piano players with Miles Davis. Hancock and Chick [Corea] as far as modern piano players; Keith Jarrett is one of my favorites.
Q Tell me about the time you ran into your idol Herbie Hancock near the ice machine.
A We were both staying at this hotel in Florida. I open the door about to go out to the ice machine and there was Herbie. It was late at night. He was on a mission to get some ice cream. He invited me to come along and so I got the chance to get to know him quite well over a few hours. Before that we had met briefly here and there at some jazz festivals. He was gracious; allowed me to ask him all the questions that I have been saving up for years. I think it was Häagen-Dazs.
Q Do you have to stay with your wife since she gave you a kidney?
A Not only do I have to stay with her, but she wins all arguments from now on. Basically, I just say, “Yes, dear, you’re right about that.” It actually makes life a lot easier. I was very, very lucky. A number of years ago I had end-stage kidney disease; polycystic kidney [disease] actually affects a lot of people, but people don’t know about it. We were a perfect match. I’m very grateful. I’ll tell her something good happened, like, “Hey, my record came in at No. 2 on the charts,” and she’ll say, That’s good, I want you to work hard, that’s why I gave you my kidney. [Laughs]
Interviews are edited. Reach C.J. at email@example.com and see her on Fox 9.