So what does Philly Soul signify to me? That is a hard question. I do know that when you hear it, you know where it comes from because it sounds unlike any other city. I don’t feel like a lot of the other major cities have really kind of had their own flare for soul. You know, like Detroit, Memphis and Chicago? I think Philly actually kept the thing going. I think a lot of the other places stopped having their own sound, but Philly is still definitely building upon their tradition.
A characteristic that I would use to describe Philly soul is that it has the ability to really speak to your soul — not only are you a musical mastermind, if you don’t mind me saying that (laughs).
You give me too much credit, my dear. (laughs)
You are also quite the philanthropist. Exposing young people to jazz is a lifelong pursuit for you as evidenced in the various positions that you occupy — for example, your appointment to the position of co-director at the Jazz Museum in Harlem. What does you job description entail?
Well, let me back up a bit. Now you are talking about philanthropy. Doesn’t that involve money? (laughs)
Not always. You do what you can. (laughs)
I hope I can get to the point in my life where I can be a Bill Cosby and just kind of dish out money to great universities and programs. However, I have been a part of many different programs as far as trying to bring younger people to the music. My position at The Jazz Museum in Harlem is still very early in the game for a jazz musician to put up a jazz museum. So we are still trying to find ways to create programs to get more people in the community interested.
We started a series called Harlem Speaks in which we invite a lot of great musicians from Harlem, as well as international musicians, to come and do an interview. It is just an interview series, kind of like the television series Inside The Actors Studio. You sit there with the artist and we let them tell their story because there are so many great musicians still in Harlem who really never play outside of Harlem too much.
You know, you have great local players like Seleno Clark and Bill Saxton who never really left Harlem and are legends in Harlem. So we let them come and speak their piece. It’s probably been the single most popular thing that we have started at the jazz museum. But, of course, there is also an education initiative that was started almost a year ago. Tia Fuller, a great young saxophonist, started conducting a youth ensemble that we started made up of kids from all over the five boroughs — Brooklyn, Staten Island, Queens, the Bronx — that has been just as successful as well.