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tv   The David Rubenstein Show Peer to Peer Conversations  Bloomberg  July 17, 2021 1:00pm-1:30pm EDT

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david: this is my kitchen table and also my filing system. over much of the past three decades, i have been an investor. the highest calling a mankind, i 've often thought, was private equity. i learned how leaders make it to the top. >> i asked him how much he wanted, he said 250, i said fine and did no due diligence. david: i have something i would like to sell. you don't feel inadequate being
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only the second wealthiest man in the world, is that right? [laughter] david: if there is one form of music america is famous for, it is jazz. invented in the 20th century in new orleans, jazz has become synonymous with american music, not just in the united states but around the world. america has produced incredible jazz legends like dizzy gillespie, louis armstrong, and duke ellington. but today, at the top of the jazz world is the founder and director of jazz at lincoln center, he is a performer, an educator, a composer, and he lives jazz 24 hours a day. do you get tired of people calling you a jazz legend? do you feel older when they say that to you? wynton: i like the word jazz. i don't like the legend. [laughter] david: let's talk about your family for a moment. sadly, your father passed away in april at the age of 85
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because of covid. it must have been a very sad loss, because you were very close to him. wynton: yeah, for all of us -- for me and my brothers, of course, he was our father. he was such a kind man with a large worldview and also a large family. he didn't do small things. he was very philosophical. he was not a touchy-feely type of person. he was not from that type of generation where there wasn't a lot of hugging. but, underneath, there was a lot of resolve and seriousness and just deep love, not just for us, but also, he had many students who loved him and loved to tell stories about him. and he supported a lot of us. david: so for those who may not be familiar, your father was a very, very prominent jazz pianist. when you were growing up, you obviously looked up to your father. was he someone who said, "i want you to be a trumpet player. i want you to be a jazz trumpet player?" or did he not push you into any of that? wynton: no, he didn't push any
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of us into anything. i always hung out with him. my father really struggled when i was growing up. he was trying to play modern jazz in an era of segregation and in clubs and with a populace that didn't like that style of music. so much of my experience was going to sparsely populated clubs with him in colorful areas. so i loved to go, because i was always the only kid in the room. and it started when i was 3, 4, 5 years old, and it continued until i got into high school and started to work myself. but i always went with him and identified with his struggle, really, because he continued to play even though he didn't get audience support. he was not well known, he wasn't famous. he struggled financially. he never complained and he was very high-minded in his belief in jazz and his belief in the necessity of it, as a tool for healing people and raising consciousness and things like that. david: so when you were growing up, you obviously experienced racial discrimination because it
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was a segregated area then, is that right? wynton: yeah, that defined the entire -- segregation, discrimination, racism, that was part of life. like it's not something you could -- this is not philosophy i'm talking about now. it was just how your neighborhood looked a certain way, the white neighborhoods were a certain way. black people generally lived in our area on one side of the railroad tracks. we had ditches in our street. any kind of system always worked against you, and it was what the system was. you didn't have distance from it so you didn't have -- it's easy to look back on the thing and experience it not the way you experienced it when you grew in it. when you grew in it, it was very much a fact of life. i happened to be someone who never liked it. so i fought with it a lot and had a lot of problems in that system. but most people adapted to it and were ok with it. they didn't like it, but they -- sometimes, you're in a bad
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situation. in this case, we're talking about racism. it could be anything. it could be a health situation -- the degree to which you're willing to fight against it, really, is based on your ability to accept the pain of fighting against it. david: so are you surprised about the black lives matter situation? here we are in the year 2020, well advanced past the time you grew up, and we still have racial problems of that type. wynton: yeah, we're not anywhere near advanced past what i grew up with, so no, i am not surprised by it. i had the honor to go into so many american schools throughout the 1980's and 1990's and early 2000's, probably well over 1,000 schools. so we have a segregation in our systems in general. so, no, it doesn't -- none of it is surprising to me. david: so today, as a famous jazz musician, you're recognized all over the country and many places around the world. do you feel you are still suffering from racial discrimination? do you still feel, even despite
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your exalted status in the music world, you are really not treated the same as you would if you were white? wynton: yes, i feel that. i feel it in terms of the kind of intellectual patronization that i receive, the low level of criticism of our music. i'm subject to things -- of course, nothing like what i grew up with, nor do i make a habit of complaining about it constantly, because i'm also treated in a way -- with so much respect by so many people, that for me to complain would be past gratuitous. so if you asked me the question directly -- yes, i would say i've been treated unfairly by newspapers, the new york times, the way our jazz institution has been covered is abominable. even though we get articles, the quality of those articles are always very poor, poorly researched. the writers, often times, don't do the history and lack the intelligence and depth of engagement with the form to be
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qualified to speak on it to people on their paper of record. but because it's jazz, it doesn't matter. so that's only in direct response to your question, because i don't want to confuse it with when i was growing up or the situations that i found myself in or my father's situation or grandfather's going back generations. i'm not doing that. and i'm very, very grateful for how i've been treated by people all over this country of all kinds. david: so there's a story that, when you were 10, your father had you sit down with i think al hirt, and maybe it was miles davis, and they said, "how would you like to play the trumpet?" and they give you a trumpet to play. is there anything true to that? wynton: no, when i was a six, my father was playing with al hirt, and al hirt gave me a trumpet for my sixth birthday. so that is true. and my father, later, was talking to miles davis and said, "i'm getting my son a trumpet." before al got me a trumpet, my father was talking to miles. he was standing with al, and miles said, "don't get that boy
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a trumpet. it's too hard." so that's a true story. david: so as you grew up, you were actually, as i understand it, a classical musician more than a jazz musician. and when you went to julliard, where you went to college, you were interested in classical music. is that true? wynton: no. i grew up always wanting to play jazz. but jazz is always much more difficult to learn, in that time especially, than classical music. because my father was a jazz musician, i was always around the music. i was raised in the culture. i loved the musicians. my father was a modern jazz musician. he wasn't playing new orleans jazz. but, at a certain time, when i was maybe 10 or 11, he started to play new orleans music, and i also played in danny barker's fairview baptist church band, which was a new orleans traditional band. jazz was difficult at that time, for a person my age and my generation, to figure out what it was because it was not a part of the american mythology. whereas, with classical music, you had competitions and classes you could go to, so you could get a track record on your
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resume. like if you say, what did i do? it would say when i was 14, i won a competition to play the haydn trumpet concerto with the new orleans philharmonic. but i was playing jazz the whole time. what could i say that i did? i played in a club on a wednesday. david: but in one year, you won a grammy, the only person to win a grammy in jazz and classical music in the same year. wynton: it's a funny story about my father. he went to the grammys. he was not into those kind of things. and he sat through the whole show, and he was, like, "wow, this is the grammys." at the end of the show, i won, i was in the hotel with him and my mother, getting ready to go out to a party or something, and i was like, yeah, and my dad looked at me, and he was wondering, he said, "i'm glad that was the grammys, i'm glad you won. don't get me wrong, it's great, but you don't think this means you can play, do you?" [laughter] so, i started laughing, because i was like 22. and i knew what he was saying, because i still, of course, had
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a long way to go to learn how to play. david: what did people say, initially, when you said we need to do more jazz at lincoln center? wynton: the initial problem at rockefeller, they didn't like the music. it doesn't matter. the constitution wasn't written with the rights of afro-americans and native americans in mind. but the constitution can be amended, and it has been amended. ♪
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david: you could argue classical music came from europe, and you could argue that other parts of music came from other parts of the world. but jazz was invented in the united states, and it's a classic american kind of invention, i would say. but why is it so hard for some people to understand? you've written a book about it, and you make it, in your book,
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sound like it's almost a religious experience to play jazz and understand jazz. it's important to be an individual who can play well, but also to play with a team. can you explain why jazz is almost like a religion to people who care about jazz? wynton: well, jazz is our national art form. and as such, it objectifies a lot of our basic principles. and if a group of people are blessed to have an art form, which you can have a civilization and a society and you may never create an art form that has -- that does that. it's a blessing. so america was blessed with a group of musicians and a social condition that produced this music. the music has three fundamental elements. the first is improvisation, which is our kind of individuality and what we believe in. we have rights and freedoms and things that are about the individual. then swing, which is about nurturing common ground, finding balance with other people, working out an agenda as you go along under the pressure of time. and then the blues, and the blues is an optimism that's not naive.
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so the blues also implies an acuity. that's a democratic thing. now, suffice to say that everything in the music ties into things we do, down to the three branches of government, like the rhythm section are. to amend the constitution is like adding to an arrangement. i could go on and on. and after a while of giving you these examples, you realize these are not superficial things that are contrived, that they actually come out of the american way of life. now, to kind of give you -- it's going to be a little longer answer, but it's important. because the simple question of jazz's position in our country concerns the relationship of slavery to the american identity and our mythology as a country. black americans, by and large, in our country, have little or no knowledge of jazz. and jazz is the greatest achievement of the afro-american culture in the context of the american culture. meaning it's afro-american, but it applies to all americans. as many things in american culture apply to all americans.
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our poor public education system makes sure that a certain group remains ignorant. and the average white jazz writer is actually a rock fan who's, for a long time, wished that jazz would actually be something else without black folks at the core of it, like if maybe jazz would just die away. that's why, if you study jazz, there's a long-standing tradition of article after article and decade after decade saying, "is jazz dead?" that's probably one of the most questions that have been asked since the 1930's. now all of this investment and the destruction of jazz is to further obscure a big lie that jazz uncovers, and it's important to look at this, because it's a serious thing to consider if we are to transform our nation. if we say our nation is based on human freedom and we're the first on earth founded on the glorious celebration of human freedom, dignity, and rights, how do we then reconcile and correct the systemic
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dehumanizing ownership and brutalizing of a large underclass of people for free labor because of their skin color? it's too much injustice to correct. so we're forced to say that those people are responsible for the problem. "they're less than human, and it's just their condition." but if they aren't, if it's not their condition, it means our mythology and belief about ourselves is not true. now is elvis going to not be "the king?" [laughter] man, where are you going to put jazz if elvis is "the king?" david: so, let me ask you, if i were to go to listen to a tchaikovsky concert or a beethoven concert, it's going to mostly be sounding the same, no matter where i'm going to listen to it and no matter what orchestra. they basically might play slightly better, slightly different, but basically, you know what you're going to get when you sit down. with jazz, am i wrong in that a jazz musician can kind of expand on what has been composed and kind of play it differently every time? is that part of what jazz is all about? wynton: that's the improvisation part. that one part allows you to -- you have a lot of latitude to do
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things. it's like the way americans conduct business. all the innovations we have, the freedom we have to speak. the fact that we think we can step into a space and use our personality to transform a tradition. yes, we have that freedom. but balancing that freedom is we have the responsibility to extend a courtesy and an understanding to other people who have those freedoms and nurture that common space. that's the part of jazz we struggle with. david: so in your book on jazz, you talk about some of the greats who either played with or who influenced you. and i'd just like to ask your brief comments on some of them. first is louis armstrong. you originally thought he was, as you say, an uncle tom, but you obviously changed your view, i guess? wynton: yes, because it's hard for later generations to understand the challenges of earlier generations. and norms and things of show business and what louis armstrong did. it doesn't mean that, necessarily, even with my -- now i understand more of his genius and who he was and what he
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played, but it still doesn't mean, when i look at the movies he made, the positions he went, i still don't necessarily like that. i don't like a lot of where black people are in any american movies of the 1930's, 1940's, and 1950's. and as a matter of fact, some of it now. a lot of it now, that has that same type of destructive mythology. if you consider the fact that, when i was a teenager, the heroic figure for black youth in movies were pimps. i mean, what is it for a pimp to be your hero, to be at the top of your mythology? but to not get sidetracked with that, yeah, i thought that. but later, i learned and understood who louis armstrong was as a musician. that's a totally different story. that man was a genius of such magnitude, you cannot even -- you could lie about how great he was and you still wouldn't be saying enough. david: so you're a composer as well as a performer, educator, conductor, and so forth. one of the great composers in the jazz world was duke ellington. did he have any influence on you? wynton: great. you know, i love duke.
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and duke's intelligence, his dedication, over 2,000 pieces -- i love him. and because i grew up also listening to classical music, i love beethoven. david: what about dizzy gillespie? was he an influence on you? wynton: the thing about dizzy gillespie that hit me first was the depth of his intelligence. i met him when i was 14. and just when he started talking, the way my daddy and other musicians listened to him. dizzy was very intelligent. he's part of the reason that we developed jazz at lincoln center. because i didn't want to play in a big band, because i always wanted to play small-band music. dizzy told me -- i called and asked him, what do you think i should do? he said, "to lose one's orchestral heritage should not be considered an achievement." so he was telling me because you need to figure out how to keep our orchestral heritage. we paid a lot of dues to build up orchestral music in jazz. and for us to just give it away and say the big band is old-fashioned, that's not intelligent. david: let's talk a bit about jazz at lincoln center.
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so you began playing jazz at lincoln center when, in the late 1980's? wynton: yeah, 1987. david: that evolved into jazz at lincoln center, which you're now the artistic and music director of jazz at lincoln center orchestra, is that right? [jazz trumpet playing] wynton: we wanted to fill a space in the american arts and provide enough education and music and advocacy, enough concerts for us, as a nation, to have our native art form when it came time for us to address our mythology and correct it, so that we can move forward as a nation. so we've succeeded beyond any of our wildest imagination with the volume of concerts we've been able to do. we built three concert halls in the middle of manhattan on 59th street, the house of swing. we've put on concert series over 30 years. we have 12 education programs. and even since this pandemic, i
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mean, we've put out over 500, 600 pieces virtually. we're deeply engaged. david: so when you started at lincoln center, when lincoln center opened in the 1960's, people thought, ok, this is opera, symphonic music, classical kind of music. you came along and said maybe we can have jazz. what did people say initially when you said we need to do more jazz at lincoln center? wynton: we had a lot of support from the top of the organization. everybody was dedicated. and, you know, when it was founded, maybe the lincoln center didn't think about the music or maybe the initial founders, the rockefellers, didn't like the music, it doesn't matter. the constitution wasn't written with the rights of afro-americans and native americans in mind. but the constitution can be amended, and it has been amended. david: how do you divide your time between playing, conducting, composing, and teaching? wynton: i work all the time. so i don't separate anything. my work is also my hobby. ♪
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david: let me ask you, on a normal time, before covid came, and hopefully when covid is gone you'll return to the situation you had before -- are you on the road half the time and half the time in new york? how do you divide your time between playing, conducting, composing, and teaching? wynton: well, i do many things. i'm also the managing director of our organization. so i deal with everything in our staff. our executive director, greg scholl, and our management team, they're all fantastic
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colleagues. if anything -- i mean, i work all the time. i don't separate anything. my work is also my hobby. and this pandemic has -- i always respected all of my colleagues. but i'm going to tell you that the pandemic has given me such a greater appreciation of the quality of people i've been blessed to work with. our orchestra, we still have a vast majority of our staff on, we're open for business, we're getting things done. the orchestra is so supportive of the mission of the organization. we have 11 arrangers in our orchestra. that's something that has never happened. composers, teachers, the phone calls i get. then, when you get to our staff and our managers of every division, of our building, our financial, our cfo. i can go position to position. people's dedication will bring me to tears. and that's why, you know -- we're struggling, like all other arts organizations are, because we have lost the ability to earn revenue. but we are so for real about our mission and achieving it, even
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under this type of duress. i think it's really the greatest blessing i've had in my life, has been to work with this high quality people for this amount of time. so i'm so grateful for that opportunity. i don't even consider it to be work. david: when you go overseas, is jazz popular outside the united states? wynton: jazz has never really been popular. so no, it's not popular like funk was popular, like rock 'n' roll is popular. it's not popular. it is -- jazz is meaningful, and it's necessary. so those who are interested in that like jazz. those who are not, they don't like jazz. there's a lot of other things to like. we need to teach our kids about the music. it is a national art form. and i always make the point -- people say, "what's going to be new in jazz?" i say, people are going to listen to it. that's what's the new thing. david: let's suppose somebody says, i've never been exposed to jazz very much. i have just listened to wynton marsalis, i'm persuaded he knows what he's talking about, so i'm
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going to listen to jazz. what is it you would tell people about why the jazz experience, as a listener, is so compelling compared to other forms of music? wynton: well, because it has a development section. so you have to follow what musicians play from one point -- it is like what i loved about that beethoven symphony. it was not just one thing repeated over and over again. it was one thing, and another thing, and another thing. jazz is the music most in the world like conversation. jazz is a music that prizes individuality. you have a lot of individuals you can interface with, from lester young, to billie holiday, herbie hancock, you can name musicians. you have great groups that play in different forms. and you have the whole afro-latin form of jazz that takes you everywhere from brazil to cuba to puerto rico. it integrates your citizenship and your understanding of the world, and most importantly, it gives you tremendous pride in being american. because we didn't have to cut anybody down or denigrate
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or do anything negative to anybody to create this. it's a non-predatory form. it's a symbiotic form. and you can be as rich as you want to be in jazz and nobody else has to be poor. david: you're a teenager by my standards. so you're very, very young, but you will continue to do this for another couple decades because this is what you love doing, am i right? wynton: man, i still smell similac on you! i don't know what you're talking about. david: you are young. wynton: i'm going to do this until i die, if i can, the good lord willing, and people will have me. i have been blessed to do something abstract and get unbelievable support from people. that is why, earlier when i , answered the question of racism, for somebody like me to complain, i'd have to be out of my mind. ♪
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>> this week on "bloomberg green," europe unveils its sweeping plan to cut emissions drastically over the next 10 years. does it go far enough? >> this is europe. we have a lot of convincing to do with member states. if we can get them to agree with us, we can meet the goals. >> how will the eu's plan affect different industries? >> it would be difficult to ask more of a company of our size and scale. >> the battle to become the first carbon neutral cop them. we speak to joe biden's climate czar about america's net zero.


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