Smitty: Oh! (Both laugh.) Now you know….
MM: That’s taking it too far.
Smitty: Yeah, man, that’s getting out there. I know you played drums for a while and I’m sure you still play every now and then.
Smitty: But, now, you told the story about how the bass and the drums correlate together and how you really wanted to capture that drum sound with the bass. Talk about that whole correlation of the drums and the bass.
MM: Well, you know, the bass to me is like the instrument that allows the drums to speak to the rest of the instruments, you know what I mean?
MM: I was so into drums, into locking with the drums, and I found myself starting to emulate the patterns of the drummer. I was working with a great drummer, Lenny White, who comes from my neighborhood in New York, Jamaica Queens, and I started trying to play his rhythms that he played on the snare drum. I actually started trying to play them on the bass and started getting into all these complicated rhythms that were so funky and that became a big part of my style, this kind of percussive drum-like patterns on the bass.
Smitty: I could see that so clearly….that whole interplay on this DVD because you and Poogie Bell were really doing some seriously cool stuff.
MM: Oh yeah, and Poogie, who plays drums on the DVD, man, I’ve been playing with him since we were kids, so he knows what I’m gonna do and I have to really work to surprise him so it makes me go to a whole ‘nother level.
Smitty: Yes indeed, man.
MM: You know, if I look back and he’s yawning, then I say “Okay, I’ve got to step it up.”
Smitty: (Laughs.) Yeah, man. Now, you talked about Jamaica Queens, The Southside. Talk about that whole club scene when you were growing up with you and Omar (Hakim) and Poogie and all those guys. Talk about that whole club scene and how you cats made your way through that whole time, that era of time.
MM: Well, it was like the mid to late seventies and New York was a very special place then. There was so much music happening, so many different styles, because no matter where you come from, everybody ended up in New York, so as kids growing up in New York, we got exposed to a lot. Being in Queens, which is one of the New York boroughs, was really special because you had Manhattan and you had Brooklyn, but Queens had basements. All the homes there had basements and all the kids used those basements to practice, so there was always a band. Every block you’d walked down in Queens, there was a band practicing.
Smitty: Wow. That was special.
MM: So we knew every band from the sound coming up in the street. “Oh yeah, there’s New Message. There’s Unique Creation.” You know, everybody had their interesting little band names. It was a beautiful scene and eventually, as we got older the really serious dedicated musicians started hanging out together, so you had guys like Tom Brown and Don Blackman and Lenny White and Omar Hakim, Bernard Wright…just incredible musicians and we were all there together and we didn’t realize how good the guys we were playing with were until we got even older and went around the world and started playing with all these other musicians. You know, I’d be playing with a trumpet player and go “He’s good, but he ain’t no Tom Brown,” you know? You realized that the guys that you grew up with were some of the baddest musicians in the world and so we were very fortunate.
Smitty: Yeah, what a beautiful time. Going back to the DVD, man, I wanna touch on one of the interviews where Herbie Hancock was talking about you.
Smitty: And he talked about the time when he first saw you with Miles (Davis) and he was so impressed with your musicianship that he said that the music not only fit in with what Miles was doing, but he said also you really helped shape the direction that Miles was going musically at that time. Man, what a tribute, what a comment to make. I mean, that’s up there.
MM: Yeah, man. Yeah, that just, you know, I don’t even mess with that. I just leave that alone, man. I can’t even deal with it.
MM: Such a beautiful honor, man, you know, Herbie Hancock and Miles, man. It just, you know, you can’t think about that too much or else you just get paralyzed.
Smitty: Yes, absolutely, man, I tell you. (Both chuckle) But those are some of the beautiful things that have come out of this DVD that I hope everyone gets to see because that’s just the tip of the iceberg and that’s phenomenal in itself what Herbie had to say, but there’s just so much more there, and with all of those great accolades that they have placed upon you, you backed it up with the performance of a lifetime on this DVD. I mean, the combination of everything is just superbly done and just a great recognition of what you’ve done over the years with so many other great musicians.
MM: Oh, nice. Thank you, man. I really appreciate it.
Smitty: Yes indeed. Now, talk to me a little about Patches Stewart because I love this cat’s musicianship. This cat can bring it.
MM: Well, Patches is one of the few trumpet players…I mean, there’s a lot of trumpet players who were influenced by Miles, but Patches was one of the few guys who was influenced by a later Miles. Most of the guys you hear playing like Miles would be playing like Miles played in the fifties or Miles played in the sixties, but Patches loved Miles in the eighties. He loved when Miles really played a lot of mute and you’ll hear a lot of that influence in his playing.
MM: And he combines that with his roots because he comes from New Orleans so, you know, he has that Mardi Gras sound, I call it, and he’s always throwing that in there, so the combination of those two influences really makes for a unique trumpet player.
Smitty: Yeah, man. Oh, and it’s so strong and he’s got some quick fingers!
MM: Oh yeah. No, he’s very talented, man, and he’s got a CD out called Blow that’s really nice and hopefully we’re gonna get to do another one pretty soon.
Smitty: Yeah, absolutely, I love that project. All right, you’ve got this fantastic cruise with an incredible lineup, incredible locations, and you’re hosting. What a great honor to do this. I mean, this is a very nice arrangement.
MM: Oh, it’s called the North Sea Jazz Cruise. It’s sponsored by North Sea Jazz and Michael Lazaroff, who does a lot of jazz cruises here in the States, but this one’s gonna be in Europe.
MM: We take off from Copenhagen and go to some of the European cities; Sweden, Denmark, Gothenburg, Oslo, and Hamburg and then we are going to end at Rotterdam, Holland, where the North Sea Jazz Festival’s happening, and it’s going to dock there for three days during the festival. The ship is going to serve as the hotel for all the people on the cruise so they can go check out the biggest jazz festival in the world, it’s a pretty incredible thing. We’re going to have artists like David Sanborn and they have Dee Dee Bridgewater, we have McCoy Tyner, we’re going to have Kirk Whalum…it’s gonna be an unbelievable amount of artists on the ship where you get to hang out and hear them play without worrying about where you parked your car….
MM: .…after the show you don’t have to worry about those kind of things. You just go to your cabin and the ships are incredible. They’re like Vegas hotels on the water now.