Global Bass, December 2001

Stephen Jay
Uncharted Territory

Chances are, you've heard or seen Stephen Jay sometime in the last twenty years because that's how long he's been the bassist for song parodist "Weird Al" Yankovic. Jay has played on all of Al's albums, appeared in several of his videos, and toured with him extensively. But there's a whole other side--almost a whole other world--of Stephen Jay that deserves as much publicity as his work with Yankovic.

A multi-instrumentalist with a BA and MM Graduate Fellowship in composition from the University of South Florida, Jay spent two years studying drumming with griots in West Africa. Selections from his archival field recordings of traditional ceremonies, dances, and solo performances were made into three highly acclaimed albums released by Warner/Nonesuch. He's recorded and performed with a range of artists that includes master drummer Isah Hamani of Niger's Djerma people, Wayne Shorter, Alex Acuña, Hugh Masekela, and Betty Buckley. As a composer for film and television, he's a three-time recipient of the George Foster Peabody Award and has scored more than fifty PBS series and specials. His studio credits include twenty-five gold and platinum albums, two Grammy Award winners, and four solo albums on his Ayarou label. As impressive as all that is, his current project is even more compelling: a bass and drum duo called Ak & Zuie.

Ak & Zuie consists of Stephen Jay and drummer Peter Gallagher, with guest spots by Jay's twenty-year-old son Miles Jay on bass and vocals. Stephen calls their music "polymetric funk," a new style that blends traditional African rhythms with elements of funk, rock and jazz. He plays mostly eight- and twelve-string basses in Ak & Zuie, but that's like saying Picasso used a paint brush. What Jay actually does is thumb-slap melodies that are augmented with hammer-ons, pull-offs, chords, double-stops, ghost notes, raking, and open strings, all while singing lead vocal parts and adjusting his bass sound with distortion, wah, delay, chorus, you name it.

In an intrusive personal aside, I'd like to say that as I make the transition from struggling music journalist to struggling novelist--out of the frying pan and into the blast furnace, yes--interviewing somebody as seriously gifted as Stephen Jay is the perfect way to end my ten-year journey in this field. Before we spoke, I saw Ak & Zuie perform live. It was one of the finest, most inspiring, most purely fun shows I've ever seen. The audience were exchanging glances and shaking their heads, like "Can you believe this?" After September 11, I'd worried that I would never again feel uplifted by anything.

Well, Ak & Zuie reminded me just how genuinely wonderful life can be.


How did you get interested in music?

My mom was an opera singer and a great music lover. Music mattered more than anything around our house, so I was kind of brought up with that orientation.

When I was very, very young, I got to see her lost in this incredible place when she played [Claude] Debussy's "Claire de Lune" on the piano, and I could see her go into this wonderful euphoric state. As a young person seeing that, I said, "I want to go there." That was the first thing that showed me that music wasn't just something that I was supposed to do to please people. Thanks to her, I saw it as the spiritual nutrient that it was.

So I went on with my piano lessons. My sister played guitar, and when she wasn't around, I'd pick up her guitar and plunk around on it. Started joining bands when I was about thirteen. Played bass in bands all through junior high and high school. Somewhere along the line, I heard The Rite of Spring by [Igor] Stravinsky. I was literally shocked that music could break that many rules and produce that powerful of an effect on a human being. It was after listening to The Rite of Spring for the first time that I decided what I wanted to do with my life: I wanted to write music. Stravinsky inspired me. I've always felt that I've had a really blessed existence, that I've been an incredibly lucky person, and so I want to give something back. My main motivation is to not leave this planet without having in some way paid for all the wondrous blessings I've had while I was on it.

You were a composition major in college. What was that like?

I had a lot of incredible experiences studying with some great composers: John Cage, Lucas Foss, Max Neuhaus, Charles Wuronien. I got deeply into serious music and wrote lots of orchestral pieces and smaller ensemble pieces and a lot of avant garde, really out-there things.

By doing that, by pulling so far into the intellectual side of music, I naturally felt a pull back towards roots music by the time I graduated. That's what drew me to Africa, where people play music and don't necessarily analyze what they're doing, and the audience responds in a natural way, and there's not a lot of conceptualism about it, which was the name of the game when I was in college. It was the height of conceptual music, what you can do to break down barriers, the Dadaist approach: "Let's get rid of the old and bring in the new."

Can you give me an example of a conceptual musician big at the time?

Well, John Cage. He was already way beyond that stage, but he was still most famous for his piece 4'33", which was four minutes and thirty-three seconds of silence. There were composers who would put white manuscript paper on one side of the stage and shoot it with a gun, and that would be their concert. A lot of people became notables by doing the thing that could be least identified as music, so the more you could shock and alienate your audience, the deeper you were. That was valid in a certain sense because there were a lot of things to be done away with or broken down or gone beyond, just like there always are. That period of time certainly did it. So I got a lot of good out of it. It was very liberating, and after I was liberated, I wanted to go back to playing music in a very simple and straight-forward way, so that's what drew me to Africa.

Where you went in the other direction.

Yeah. And that gave me incredible perspectives that I value more than anything. One of them is a respect for instruments as living beings. It's a philosophy that's built into a lot of ethnic music, world-music cultures. In West African music, the instruments are viewed as creatures animated by us in the same way that we're animated by something else. So playing music isn't a matter of achieving mastery over a physical instrument as much as it is achieving a relationship with the instrument, a friendship or a partnership where you want the best for it just like you'd want the best for your own child or for a child in general. So that approach was incredible in terms of focusing philosophically on music not as an ego-gratifying sport but more as a magical gift-dance that you are allowed to participate in from time to time.

After you got back from Africa, you auditioned for Frank Zappa, didn't you?

Yeah. He came and heard a band I was in in Tampa. Sat through two sets of our show, paid us some great compliments. I said, "If you're ever looking for a bass player, give me a call." A few weeks later, he called me up and asked me to come out to Los Angeles to audition. And he gave me "The Black Page," much to my amazement. It was this incredibly, complexly notated piece of music that he actually wanted me to sight read, and that was how he was going to evaluate my playing. I don't do too well eleven ledger lines above the bass clef, with a seventh-note figure above it, so I told him I'd have to work on it a little bit, and he said, "Well, we need somebody who can read fast. Next!" So I didn't get to play. And that was after driving out to L. A. from Florida. So that was a real heartbreaker. Tears ran down my cheeks. [Laughs.]

You've got some pretty original ideas about music yourself. Let's talk about some of them. How did you develop the Theory of Harmonic Rhythm?

I discovered it at the University of South Florida in 1970. I had this Deltalab DL4, one of the earliest digital delays. It has a capture switch and a toggle switch that can increment between octaves for the delay factor. I found that when I captured a major third--a C and an E on a piano--and toggled it down five octaves, I started hearing a rhythm, which is the rhythm you get when you play the cycles of a C against the cycles of an E. I was instantly fascinated by the fact that a consonant harmonic interval produces a consonant regularly rhythmic interval. I extrapolated that an octave is a straight-ahead rhythm, the most consonant rhythm there could possibly be, and then I started researching the other intervals and discovered that the parallels were exact between consonant harmony and consonant rhythm. The more consonant the harmony--octave, fifth, third--the more consonant the rhythm is. As you move to more complex harmonies, the rhythmic patterns become longer. In the most complex harmonies, like minor seconds, the rhythmic patterns become so complex that they're indiscernable. When you move a little bit back on the consonance side, like to sevenths and sixths, the patterns become discernible again but as sequences of patterns rather than isolated patterns.

For example, if you take a minor ninth and slow all the pitches down, you come up with a cycle of rhythms that's constantly shifting in meter from 6/8 to 2/4 to 4/4 to 3/8 to 6/8, and they seem to overlap and metamorphize.

So I studied and researched and did experiments. There's lots of ways you can study it. You can use a number of metronomes set at divisions of pitch. For example, if you take an A that's 440 and a C that's 261, and you put one metronome at half of one tempo and the other metronome at half of the other tempo and just watch them, you can see the harmonic rhythm. It's really simple to do. I started mapping all these things out in an effort to find out what it all meant and if it had anything to do with what makes music sound good.

The biggest shock was when I went to Africa and was accepted by a group of griot drummers, and I was taught the sequences of patterns that go into their drum songs, and those patterns were identical to the harmonic patterns I'd discovered by slowing down pitches. It was like someone in the middle of the Sahara desert, with no scientific equipment, had seen through the same microscope that I had set up electronically. The rhythms that propel harmony are the same rhythms that propel folk music, not only in Africa but in other parts of the world. There's a lot more about this in my article "Harmonic Rhythm" on my Web site

For me, this all indicated that there was some sort of universal substance between harmony and rhythm.

How do you apply harmonic rhythm as a technique to your music?

By being aware of how harmony and rhythm focus with each other to achieve a kind of sympathy. An analogy would be if you had a piece of cloth, and you looked at it under a microscope and saw how the fibers of the cloth are shaped, and you noticed that the fibers themselves resemble the weave of the overall cloth in their individual construction. So if you took a photo of that microscopic view of the fibers and then imprinted it on the cloth in exactly the right position, everything would line up. If the photo's slightly off, everything doesn't line up.

That gave me a clue that maybe the way harmony and rhythm line up has something to do with what makes music sound good. In a studio, you can do a lot of takes of the same piece, all of which feel like you played the right notes and the right rhythm, but one of them is going to be really sweet. It makes everybody jump out of their chairs even though the other ones may be technically perfect. It's my suspicion that when that happens, it has something to do with the harmony and the rhythm lining up and producing music that just sings.

A simple example would be if you were going to write a song in A, and you're tuned to A 440, and you make your song tempo 109. Every time you start a cycle in an A 440, then that waveform would always be chopped off before it completed itself because the tempo isn't 110, a subdivision of 440. So by synching up the tempo to the pitch, you create complete waveforms rather than incomplete waveforms. By being aware of the details and the intricacies and the physics of music, I can increase my ability to hold out for those magic takes. It doesn't seem like those magic takes are my subjective opinion.

They're objective reality, then?

That's what I suspect. I suspect that in the future, volumes could be written about the subject and how it works with music, with other researchers taking it steps further. I feel like I'm at the start of a field of interest.

Okay. What is "musical automatism," and how do you apply it?

Automatism is a way of allowing yourself to go beyond yourself by creating a condition where your musical inertia takes over, and music starts coming out that you're not consciously deciding will come out, as opposed to ripping through a chart that you've rehearsed over and over and can finally play it up to speed, and it's super, super impressive when you do. Automatism is about having the ability to get up to that level of freedom and velocity and then letting go of it and standing back and seeing where it takes you.

That's sounds pretty abstract, and that's kind of the way it feels in live performance. In composing, it's a lot more quantifiable. You can go back after recording and find things that magically worked like serendipitous accidents. It feels like there's some other force taking over, as opposed to you consciously making the decisions. There are certain decisions that you want to have a handle on, such as duration or instrumentation. But things like periodic changes, rhythm changes, and even specific melodies are always more appealing to me when they sound above the realm of human thought. So attempted automatism is a great source of spontaneous composition and performance.

What sorts of tools do you use in this process? Are you clearing your mind, or are you aware of certain modes, scales, and progressions?

One of the ways to get to the point where it seems like things are happening on their own is to be completely immersed and well-versed in the actual physics of what's happening. To know every interval as well as you know a person in your family. You have to have a feeling about a major third, just like you have a feeling about your brother Larry. You have to have a certain wary affection for a minor sixth, just like you do for your aunt. Everything has a feel and a character to it. Dwelling on that on a theoretical level, understanding it up one side and down the other, backwards and forwards, to where you know exactly what you're doing and what your preferences are--all of that is in the equation when I'm doing what I do, as long as I don't feel like I'm predetermining what's going to come out.

A composition professor once told me "He who knows exactly what he wants will probably only get that." The key word is "exactly." As long as you keep enough openness to allow the music to have its say, then you can make a balance. I would never want something to be either completely out of my control or completely in my control.

Another specific, sort of accidental tool is recording a couple of parts and then listening closely to the resulting tones. Say you're listening to a bass and drum track, which is where I usually start, and you notice that every time you yank on the D string and the drummer hits his hi-hat in a certain way, you hear a weird harmonic come out. So you go ahead and record that note using another instrument, and then you listen to what grows out of that. Maybe you'll hear a chord. Sometimes you'll even hear a melody that jumps out of the harmonics. When you record that melody, there's a sympathetic amplification that happens from the way the instruments themselves are playing. Writing music that way is like planting a seed and watching it grow. The physics of the music itself combine with your psycho-acoustic perception of it.

Pretty analytical-sounding.

Yes, but the most valuable thing I posses as a composer is my impressions. When something strikes me as nice, that's all that matters. Any other level of theoretical consideration doesn't matter to me. It just matters if I like it.  

What does "playing in tongues" mean?

[Laughs.] Well, it's just a simple analogy. You know about speaking in tongues, when people go into trances and start babbling? I thought that would be a way to describe what Pete and I sometimes do in Ak & Zuie, where by virtue of polymetric triangulation, we feel ourselves rising off the ground and things just start to happen that are like freaks of nature in music. It's really fun, but a different way of saying it would be "discovery." It's the exhilaration of hearing something you never expected.

"Polymetric triangulation"?

Yeah. That's the way I think of focusing in on the groove. We use two meters at once. If you're playing in 4/4, you can nail your groove and feel the inertia, but if somebody starts playing a 3-figure against that, all of a sudden the groove locks. It works the same way as a sextant or global positioning system works, by having two fixed points of reference to determine your point on the horizon. By having two points of reference and your own position, it creates a triangle, so you're able to determine exactly where you are on the earth. In music, you use it to determine where the groove is. 

It's always going to be 2 against 3, whether it's 4 against 6 or 8 against 5, there's always a 2 and a 3 involved. So you and another musician can play different meters, or you can play different meters in your own part simultaneously. Let's say you're playing eighth notes on your bass, alternating between a loud and a soft [sings] DAT-dut, DAT-dut, DAT-dut. You're using an up stroke and a down stroke. Then you switch from accenting every other one to accenting every third one. You go from [sings] DAT-dut, DAT-dut, DAT-dut to [sings] DAT-dut-dut, DAT-dut-dut, DAT-dut-dit-DAT-DAT-dit-DAT-dit-DAT-dut-dit-DAT-dit. Rather than changing your technique to produce a 3-pattern, such as two strokes down and one up, you keep that dupal pattern as your technique of playing but superimpose the accents in alternating positions on that pattern. You've got a really nice 2-feeling going, and you superimpose the 3 on top of it. It has the same triangulating effect as a sextant, pointing you to where the groove is. It can get really complex.

And you haven't rehearsed this? It happens spontaneously as you play?

Yeah. That's what we're interested in. Pete and I have been playing a long time, and we've done a lot of things, so we're always looking for new things to do. We're interested in emotion, human connection. Human emotion and connection seem to be most alive and strongest where new things are happening instead of where formulas are being followed. We keep discovering new stuff that we've never tried before. That produces the emotional effect of exhilaration. It's like "Holy moly, how did we get here?"

What about fun? How does having fun fit in with the physics of music? Your music is a lot of fun. How'd that happen?

It's fun simply because it's so unexpected and so rewarding. By rewarding, I'm referring to those magical moments when I lived in Africa and played with my drummers. They always emphasized incredible attention to the groove and sometimes they actually got there. People dance spontaneously because the drummers have achieved this groove that's almost perfect.

You can call it fun because it makes you feel giddy and happy and wonderful, but it's also incredibly stimulating emotionally. Sometimes Pete and I will just be playing along, and then something will happen that's different from what happened before. I think it comes from getting closer to that perfect groove.

Is that one of the advantages of having just a bass and drum duo?

Well, Pete and I have been playing together for so long we know how to kind of zero in on that thing. We can let it be loose-tight because there's a great beauty in loose-tight. It's very friendly and allows people to fall into the groove; it's not a slot. And that's the way we generally play, in a friendly, generous, "let's-get-it-in-the-pocket-and-go-with-it" kind of thing. But then, as the icing on the cake, the groove does sometimes fall into a slot. You're locked into it like a monorail is locked on its track.

That's the advantage of just playing with bass and drums because as soon as you add the third player to the equation, you have to consider the harmonic aspect of what that third person is doing. It naturally takes attention away from the groove itself.

The greatest thing about playing in a bass-drums duo is hearing the overtones of the bass. Normally, the overtones of the bass are covered up by the other instruments. But having played "normally" for many years, we decided that we wanted to bring out the way the rhythm section sounds by itself. In doing that, we've discovered that certain things work and certain things don't. Any instrument that produces harmonics that are very loud in relation to its fundamentals is very tricky to play music on because of the overtones. The music has to be specially composed for it. We noticed that certain things don't sound good when played just on bass and drums, whereas other things sound stupendous. We'll come across some little interval where when I grab a chord, do a pull-off, hit a harmonic with a fingernail, and leave a certain string open, you get this sound that's much richer than you would expect as just the sum of the notes.

In Ak & Zuie music, which is always written from the bass and drums up, we isolate those physical phenomena. We exploit the overtone aspects, and it makes for a whole different layering effect since it's all coming from just two instruments.

How do you layer with only two instruments?

Let's say I'm pedaling some groovy low part on the lower strings. I may be slapping or plucking other notes up and down the neck in a wide range on top of that pattern, maybe in a different meter. On top of that, I'm flicking one of the high strings or grabbing it with a fingernail so I've got two or three patterns going on at once. I'm creating a sort of exoskeleton of pitches, widely arpeggiated, with vertical and horizontal definitions of the harmonic area we're in. It contains the music, sort of the way an insect's exoskeleton contains its insides, as opposed to it having a spine like a mammal would. Most bass parts seem to function as spines, as the center core of the music. We try to wrap the bass around the music instead because we haven't heard it done very often.

How do the vocal parts fit into the interplay between the bass and drums?

The vocals create a feeling of sustainedness by having floating, long-held notes that serve as a background for all the hyperactivity between the bass and drums. So rather than the vocals being the purpose of the music, they're the thing that the music is supporting. They're more like the skin that covers the structural engineer's work and allows you to see its entire shape rather than seeing all the beams and components.

Is that why you try to write lyrics that are less...

Immediately understandable? [Laughs.] Yeah. I've always enjoyed lyrics that seem to mean something different every time I read them. That's a whole lot more fun than a well-worn message or a crafty way of saying something. I was kind of inspired by the I-Ching back in the sixties, the Book of Changes that's different every time you read it. They're more like wisps of insinuative thoughts, kind of like the visions you have just before you fall asleep.

You've spoken about instruments as living beings. Does that apply to bass guitars?

Absolutely. It's not some theoretical, wishful thing, like "Let's pretend the little instrument can sprout legs and start its little heart beating." It's a machine. We're machines. We don't know why we're alive, but we are. A lot of people want to attribute that to some outside source, a supreme being or whatever. Whatever it is, it sure seems like we're alive, and we seem like machines in the way we work physically. The instrument is also a machine. It's a simple machine that produces sound, and the sound effects people spiritually. It affects their feelings, so it's like a primitive life form. In Africa, animism is the religion, and it ascribes life to all matter and says it has identical will and volition. That sounds like arcane superstition, but its also the belief of some physicists of our day. They've seen how the sympathy between harmony, between the frequencies, seems to keep the whole universe going. One frequency feeds another, and the energy inside the atom is the same inside of us as it is inside a rock. Their view of the world fits perfectly with the African animist view of the world.

The neat thing is how it works for you as a musician. If you think of your instrument as something alive, if you think of music as a life form, something that wants to happen, it takes the responsibility off of you to make it happen. It's an incredibly effective way of liberating the music, whether one sees it as true or not.

Tell me about your basses and amps.

The eight-strings, the twelve-strings, and a lot of my four-strings are Deans. They're amazing instruments to play, and incredibly clear, with low-impedence EMG pickups. There's never any break-up between the strings even under the most extreme pressure. Lightweight, with nice, thin necks, solid electronics, and gorgeous tone. I also play four-, five-, and six-string Warwicks, which I love dearly. Incredibly solid-sounding instruments. I also still play Alembic, which was one of the first companies that started helping me out, and I have older Gibsons and Fenders that I like to keep around in case the situation calls for them. I like playing a lot of different basses, especially in Ak & Zuie, because that's one great way of making changes in our sound. Even though it's still bass and drums, if I switch from the Warwick to the Dean, everything sounds different. Harmonics, tone, everything, so it's like adding another instrument.

I used Mesa Boogie amps exclusively from about 1986 until now. Mesa Boogies always cut through the mush no matter what. They stole my heart and I used them ever since, up until now. Now, I've discovered that with the eight-string and the twelve-string, where you're trying to produce a whole lot of different frequencies out of one speaker, it's like running a guitar into your bass amp. It just doesn't quite happen with a modular speaker system like a conventional bass amp. So I discovered the Mackie SR 1530 Three-Way Active Speaker System. They've each got a 15, a midrange, and a tweeter. It's like a huge home-stereo speaker that produces incredible fidelity. They don't produce the same tube sounds that warm up a Mesa Boogie, but likewise they don't produce the distortion that Mesa Boogies are loved for, where you take them up to a certain point and get a really beautiful melding together of all the frequencies. I've found that with eight- and twelve-string basses, it's mighty nice if you can keep those frequencies distinct, so even if you're playing loud and hard, you can still hear the individual notes.

What about effects?

I use a Korg AX30B Multieffects Unit. A few years ago, I needed to get a really good touch-wah for a gig that I was doing where I had to duplicate a certain touch-wah sound, so I tried all of them out, and I found that the Korg was the smoothest and had the most pleasing vocal quality to it. I also noticed that the way it was designed, everything was really integrated well--the equalizers, the compressors, the choruses, and everything were really nice-sounding. I use two separate Ernie Ball pedals, one as a volume pedal and the other as a parameter pedal to bring the effects up incrementally.

So why do you use eight- and twelve-string basses in Ak & Zuie?

To have an extra player in the band who isn't actually there. They allow Pete and me the range of frequency that you can't always get out of a four-string or five-string. The eight- and twelve-string let you go from just bass and drums to a full range of sound. It's easy to boost the midrange so it sounds like a guitar doubling everything you do. A lot of neat accidents happen too. You may only hit the bass string on one whack, and on the next one you only get the guitar string. It can sound like someone improvising within your instrument, arranging the parts between the bass and the guitar. It creates thousands of interesting little musical occurrences. I also love the eight-string because its like having a guitar player who has the same brain as you, so if you decide to switch keys, he's right there with you. And when you do pull-offs, the harmonics stay discreet between the two strings. It's just such a juicy feeling to reach under this mass of strings and yank on them and then yank on them again with your left hand and feel all this jangling and banging together and get all these combinations and the resulting tones that come about.

How do you keep your technical abilities from swamping the enjoyment of the music?

Music itself is an extremely humbling experience. I don't understand how anyone could feel responsible for music as much as just thankful that they're allowed to be a part of it. We're not impressed with what we do; we're impressed with what music does.

Can you comment on the more populist approach to music versus the more experimental approach?

There are different kinds of audiences. Different people need different music. Everybody knows what they need. Hopefully they find themselves at the right concerts. There's a tour guide musician, and there's an explorer musician. Say you go to Brazil, and you come down to the dock where two boats are leaving. One says "Tours," and the other says "Explorations." The tour guide musician is the musician who's gone to his studio and practiced his licks and written his songs, and he knows exactly where he wants to take the audience, and he takes them there. They line the sides of the rivers with tile and put in refreshment stands and guarantee that the audiences will be safe and comfortable.

The explorer musician is somebody like Columbus. You just jump on the boat with him and see what happens. He says, "I don't know what's going to happen. I'm a great sailor, been sailing all my life. I guarantee that I'm not going to do anything stupid and get us all killed, but I'm not into doing what I've done before. So if you want to come, let's go see what'll happen." And the nature of that is you take a lot of wrong turns. You can't explore and be right all the time. You might go down some path and find yourself in an area of improvisation that's just not doing it. So you move on. It's all about not being fearful of making wrong turns in front of an audience.

For an audience to come and willingly give up those moments of their lives that they'll never be able to reclaim to allow me to enjoy pursuing my little exploration of this art form... To me, there's no more valuable blessing on the planet. I'm exceedingly grateful to my audiences. I bow down to them. I want them to be comfortable and happy as well as inspired and excited.

What are the benefits of playing with "Weird Al" Yankovic?

A lot of playing. A lot of exposure to the elements of the industry: video making, really heavy-duty touring, playing in front of large audiences. And you get to play a lot of music that you might not have played otherwise. With the parodies, out of respect to the original artists, we always try and do the songs as much justice as possible.

Does Ak & Zuie work with other people?

We're really interested in working with other people. Anybody who needs a ready-to-go rhythm section that's about as organic as twenty-five years playing can get you should give us a call. [Laughs.] Aside from being an entity on our own, we're an open space for any musician to jump into. We've got our thing so well-honed as a rhythm section that it's just begging to be incorporated as part of another artist's band.

Which artist would you most like to work with?

Sheryl Crow. She's an absolutely amazing artist. We realize she has a rhythm section, so that gig is taken, but in a fantasy world, anybody who can write a song like "Home" is somebody I need to work with.

I've always wondered what it was that drove people to become musicians. I tried to be a musician, but I didn't have the drive. So what about you? Why do you play music?

It feels to me that music just wants to happen. It's taps me on the shoulder and whispers in my ear: "Hey. Wanna play?" And I can't resist it. 


Stephen Jay's CDs are available at his Web site and at