“Thad told me this many years ago and it got to me when he said it. He probably doesn't even remember saying it to me. He just said:
Whenever you play, imagine that it's the very last chance or opportunity you'll ever have.
So just that thought is enough incentive to at least not be wishy-washy or do something insignificant. At least it will bring out whatever honesty is in you to be applied to your instrument at that time. hat's the only philosophy I know - just to do the very best you can at all times.”
“When I start, I keep the structure and melody and content of the tune in my mind and work up abstractions or obbligatos on it. I count the choruses as I go along, and sometimes I'm able to decide in advance what the pattern of a whole chorus will be, but more often five or six patterns will flash simultaneously across my mind, which gives me a choice, especially if get hung up, and I've had some granddaddies of hang-ups. If you don't panic, you can switch to another pattern.
I can see forms and shapes in my mind when I solo, just as a painter can see forms and shapes when he starts a painting. And I can see different colors. My cymbals will be one color and my snare another color and my tom toms each a different color. I mix these colors up, making constant movement. Drums suggest movement, a conscious, constant shifting of sounds and levels of sound. My drumming can shade from a whisper to a thunder.
I'm not conscious of the length of my solos, which I've been told have run up to half an hour. When you develop a certain pattern, you stay with it until it's finished. It's just like you start out in the evening to walk to Central Park and back. Well, there are a lot of directions you can take - one set of streets going up, then in a certain entrance and out another entrance and back on a different set of streets. You come back and maybe take a hot bath and have some dinner and read and go to bed. You haven't been somewhere to lose yourself, but to go and come back and finish your walk.”