Having known jazz musicians off the stand from my teens on, I was struck-contrasting with most of the adults I knew-by their dedication to their life’s work. Louis Armstrong, for example, distilled how he and the music were one in an interview long ago with Gil Millstein of the New York Times. Armstrong said, “When I pick up my horn, that’s all. The world’s behind me. I don’t feel no different about that horn now than I did when I was playing in New Orleans. That’s my living and my life. I love them notes. That’s why I try to make them right. Any part of the day, you’re liable to see me doing something toward playing that night. You got to live with that horn.”
I thought about that essence of the jazz calling when I heard a penetrating interview with Sonny Rollins on National Public Radio on April 28. It was by Howard Mandel, the seemingly tireless engine behind the Jazz Journalists Association and a valuable historian of the music. His conversation with Sonny ought to be anthologized (it can be downloaded at npr.org).