When I first got into jazz — around 1969, I came from playing R&B and Soul in High School. Jazz Rock was in its infancy stage and I was lucky enough to be around to experience the Golden Age of both Rock and Soul and see Jazz embrace that movement while I was trying to learn how to play straightahead Jazz. A lot of my early chances to actually gig were in various Jazz/Rock idioms. I got to play real jazz with Gary Burton and Gerry Mulligan but my real first big time gig was with the Billy Cobham/George Duke band. We got to play in gigantic concert halls and rock venues for excited people who were not necessarily jazz aficionados, but loved the music.
After that band ended, I stayed home in NYC and worked on playing acoustic jazz with my own groups and people like Dave Liebman. I also started an ongoing musical relationship with bassist Steve Swallow that continues to this day. As a jazz bassist and real songwriter (not just a composer) Swallow has influenced me as much as anyone.
In 1982, I joined the Miles Davis Band, answering the call of funky jazz once again. My stint with Miles made me sure that there really was a kind of music that was both funky and improvised at the same time.
After playing with Miles for over three years and making a few more records of my own, I hooked up with ex-P-Funk drummer Dennis Chambers, and we made a group that really utilized funk rhythms. Dennis and bassist Gary Grainger were masters of that James Brown/ Earth Wind and Fire/ 70's thing. It was great having that underneath my tunes.