WW: The medical profession, especially in oncology, is very demanding of one’s attention, one’s focus and one’s emotions, but the emotions have to be kept in check somewhat to function. If you take every patient, their illness and their outcome very personally, you have a very short life expectancy in the medical field.
WW: So a lot of that gets buried and it comes out with the music. Mostly now a lot of what I’m expressing at the keyboard is sort of the joy for my family, though. I have a young son and he’s been my inspiration for the last CD more than anything else.
Smitty: Yeah, I can imagine.
WW: It’s just a wonderful thing. I’m reliving my childhood through him.
WW: Better the second time or not?
Smitty: (Laughs.) Yes, always.
WW: The really great toys. He’s got some really great toys I never had as a kid.
Smitty: Oh, we can all attest to that, that’s for sure. So talk to me about your first project. I mean, when you cut your first CD, what was that like? Was that a turning point for you or just a stepping stone to the next CD?
WW: Well, it was a combination of a lot of stuff that I had been doing for many years before in terms of daring musical styles, trying to corral all of that into one semi-cohesive thing, and once it was done it freed me up to kind of focus into this certain realm, you know, sort of that Smooth Jazz realm. What was on the first CD, I mean, it represented several years of several different positions in my life….different places. It kind of showed the classical background and the progression into jazz. Looking back at it, there are some really nice moments from that. I wonder where it came from.
Smitty: I know what you mean. Talk a little bit about those profound moments that have really enhanced your career to this point.
WW: Well, for instance, on the first CD, the track “Eye for Wilda” was named after a patient I had when I was back in medical school. An AIDS patient who was losing her eyesight and I kinda bonded with her, you know, she kind of became a friend of mine. It was a very sad case. She was the daughter of the hospital chaplain who got herself into bad stuff like drugs, she was young, I think she was about 29 at the time, and just kinda watching her demise over a span of about a year and a half that I’d known her and the tune was named because she was kinda going blind at the time.
WW: Yeah, that had a very strong impact on me. There was a period of time right around when that first CD came out and afterwards when I kinda felt like I was floundering.
Smitty: I can just imagine.
WW: I didn’t know where I was going in my career geographically, trying to put everything together, and that’s about the time when I started to write all the stuff for Cobalt Blue.
Smitty: Yeah, what a great record. Man, that’s one of my favorites and I can remember when that one first came out and I remember saying to myself, why don’t I know this guy? Where has he been? But we’ve kept up with your great career and we’re just so excited that you’ve cut another album, and I really like this album, and I can see the natural progression in your music from Cobalt Blue to now with The Hear and Now. What a great ride.
WW: I was going to say that it has been a challenge trying to find my place in terms of the musical realm, for a few reasons. Number one, I’m not really a performer. I don’t have the time or the luxury to do that, so to get my music heard I wanted to be somewhat within a genre where I have the forum to have it listened to. Straight ahead jazz, if you get something on the airwaves, it doesn’t have the frequency of play that you get in Smooth Jazz. On the other hand, Smooth Jazz is a more limiting field in terms of expression. Right now I feel like I exist somewhere in between the two.
WW: There seems to be a void there where a lot of musicians seem to live and cry out for an avenue. I don’t know what you’d call it. A new genre? It’s sort of a fusion realm? But again, I’m trying to live in that Smooth Jazz area, but there’s a lot I wanna say yet. Something I realized recently is that what gets remembered is what’s profound and what’s not safe.
Smitty: Yeah. Well, music is such a free expression and your fans want to hear what’s in your heart, what you have to offer, and I think you express that well, especially with this latest CD, and sometimes we wonder when we do anything, any kind of project, we wonder, well, how is it going to be received and let’s see what happens with it. And most of the time we find that there’s a connection between the fans and the artist and the music that we didn’t realize was there, and sometimes it’s almost like having a conversation with someone and finding out you have so many commonalities, and so the music is that voice or that communicative mechanism that connects people all the time.
WW: Absolutely. I guess where I was going with that is that I feel at this point I’m ready to take another leap, to really kinda free up where the music is going.
WW: Harmonically, melodically, kinda go more out there, if you know where I’m going.
WW: I’ve been listening to some Brad Mehldau lately and it’s just been blowing me away thinking, you know, you’re saying a lotta stuff that I’d like to say in a slightly different way but, I mean, it’s that freedom that I think is the next step.
Smitty: Yes, man, well, Brad is quite an inspiration, that’s for sure.
WW: Oh, absolutely.
Smitty: Wow, that’s very cool.