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tv   The David Rubenstein Show Peer to Peer Conversations  Bloomberg  November 27, 2020 9:30pm-10:00pm EST

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and be healthy. get off the floor and get on the aerotrainer. go to aerotrainer.com, that's a-e-r-o-trainer.com. david: this is my kitchen table, and also my filing system. over much of the past three decades, i've been an investor. the highest calling of mankind i have often thought was private equity. then i started interviewing. i have learned in doing my interviews how leaders make it to the top. >> i asked him how much he wanted, he said 250, i said fine, i didn't negotiate, i did no due diligence. david: and how they stay there.
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you don't feel inadequate now because you are the second wealthiest man in the world? if there is one form of music america is famous for having invented, it is jazz. ♪ invented in the early part of the 20th century in a new orleans, jazz has become synonymous with american music. not just the u.s., but around the world. america has produced incredible jazz legends, like duke ellington, count basie, dizzy gillespie, louis armstrong. at the top of the chart is wynton marsalis, founder and director of jazz lincoln center. he's a performer, educator, composer, and 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 because of covid.
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it must have been a very sad loss, because you were very close to him. wynton: for all of us, me, my brother, we loved him so much. he was such an example for us. such a kind man. a man with a large worldview and a large person. he didn't do small things. he was very philosophical. he wasn't a touchy-feely person. he was from that generation where there wasn't a lot of hugging and "i love you's" going on, but underneath, there was a resolve and seriousness, just kind of a deep love. not just for us, but he had many students who loved him and loved to tell stories about him. he supported a lot of us. david: for those who may not be familiar, your father was a very prominent jazz pianist. when you were growing up, you looked up to your father, was he someone who said "i want you to be a trumpet player, a jazz trumpet player?" did he not push you into that? wynton: he didn't push any of us into anything. i always hung out with him.
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my father struggled when i was growing up, he was trying to play modern jazz in an era of segregation. and in the clubs, the populace didn't like that style of music. much of my experience of going to sparsely populated clubs with him in colorful areas. i loved to go because i was always the only kid in the room. this started when i was 3, 4, 5 years old, and continued until i got into high school and started to work myself. i always went with him and identified with his struggle, because he continued to play, even though he didn't get audience support, was not well known, was not famous, struggled financially. he never complained and was very high-minded in his theories of jazz and belief in the necessity of it as a tool for healing people and raising consciousness, things like that. david: when you were growing up,
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you experienced racial discrimination, because it was a segregated area? wynton: that defined the entire segregation, discrimination, racism, that was part of life. it is not something you could -- it's not philosophy i'm talking, it is just if your neighborhood look 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 public system always worked against you, and it was what the system was. you didn't have distance from it, so it's easy to look back on the things and experience it not the way you experienced it when you grew in it. when you grew in it, it was a fact of life. i happen to be someone who never liked it. i fought with it a lot. i 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 -- sometimes you are in a bad situation, in this case, racism, it could be anything, a health situation, the degree to which you are really willing to fight against it is based on your
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ability to accept the pain of fighting against it. david: are you surprised about the black lives matter situation? here we are in 2020, well advanced past the time you grew up, and we still have racial problems of that type. wynton: we are not anywhere near advanced past what i grew up with, so i am not surprised by it. i had the honor to go into so many american schools through the 1980's and 1990's, and early 2000's, probably well over 1000 schools. we have a segregation in our systems in general. none of it is surprising to me. david: today, as a famous jazz musician, you are recognized all over the country, in many places around the world, you are still suffering from racial discrimination, do you still feel even despite your exalted status in the music world, you are not treated the same as you would be if you were white?
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wynton: yes, i feel that. i feel it in terms of the kind of intellectual patronization i receive, the low level of criticism of our music, i'm subject to things, of course, nothing like i grew up with, nor do i make a habit of complaining about it constantly, because i'm also treated with so much respect by so many people, that for me to complain would be past gratuitous. if you asked me directly, i would say i am treated unfairly by newspapers, the new york times, the way our institution is covered is abominable. the quality of the articles are always very poor for their research, the writers often don't do the history and lack the intelligence and depth of engagement with the form to be qualified to speak on it to people of record. because it's jazz, that doesn't matter.
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it's only in direct response to your question, because i don't want to confuse it with when i was growing up or the situation i found myself in, or my father's situation, my grandfather's situation, i'm not doing that. i'm grateful for how i have been treated by people all over this country of all kind. david: there's a story that when you were 10, your father had you sit down with al hirt, maybe it was miles davis, and they said "how would you like to play the trumpet?" and they give you a trumpet. is there anything true? wynton: when i was a six, my father was playing with al hirt, and he gave me a trumpet for my sixth birthday. my father was later talking to miles davis and said "i'm getting my son a trumpet." before al got me a trumpet, my father was talking with miles. he said "don't get that boy a trumpet, it is too hard." that is a true story.
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david: as you grew up, you were a classical musician. more than a jazz musician. 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 around the music, raised in the culture, i loved the musician. my father was a modern jazz musician. he wasn't playing new orleans jazz. when i was 10 or 11, he started playing new orleans music, and i also played in danny barker's fairview baptist church with 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 part of the american mythology. whereas with classical music, you have competitions, classes you can go to, so you can get a track record on your resume. if you say what did i do, you
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would say i won a competition to play the trumpet concerto with the philharmonic when i was 14. but i was playing jazz the whole time. i played in a club on a wednesday. david: one year, you won a grammy, the only person to win a grammy in jazz and classical music in the same year. wynton: funny story about my father, he went to the grammys, he was not into those things, and he sat through the whole show and said "that's 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 my dad looked at me and 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] i started laughing, because i was like 22. i knew what he was saying, because i still had a long way to go to learn how to play. david: what did people say when
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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 was not written for the rights of african-americans and native americans in mind, but the constitution can be amended, it has been amended. ♪ david: you could argue
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classical music came from europe, and other music came from other parts of the world, but jazz was invented in the u.s., it's a classic american invention, i would say. why is it so hard for people to understand?
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you have written a book about it, and you make it sound like it is 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 a religion to people who care about jazz? wynton: jazz is our national artform. as such, it objectifies a lot of our basic principles. if a group of people are blessed to have an art form, which you can have a civilization, a society, and you may never create an art form that does that. it's a blessing. america was blessed with a group of musicians in a social condition that produced this music. the music has three fundamental elements. the first is improvisation, which is our individuality and what we believe in, we have rights and freedoms that are about the individual. then swing, which is about nurturing common ground, finding balance with others, working out an agenda as you go along under the pressure of time. then the blues. the blues is an optimism that is
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not naive. the blues also implies an acuity. that's a democratic thing. suffice it to say everything in music ties into things we do, down to the three branches of government. like the rhythm section. to amend the constitution is like adding to an arrangement. i can go on and on. after a while of giving you these example, you realize they are not superficial things that are contrived, they come out of the american way of life. it will be a longer answer, but it is important. 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. jazz is the greatest achievement of the afro american culture in the context of the american culture. meaning it is afro-american, but applies to all americans, there are many things in african-american culture that apply to america. our poor public education system
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makes sure a certain group remains ignorant. and the average white jazz writer is a rock singer who for a long time wished jazz would be something else without black folks at the core of it, like jazz would die away. that's why if you study jazz, there is a long-standing tradition of article after article and decade after decade saying "is jazz dead?" that's probably one of the questions that's been asked most since the 1930's. 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. it is a serious thing to consider if we were to transform our nation. if we say our nation is based on human freedom, and we are the first on earth founded on the glorious celebration of human freedom, dignity, and rights,
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how do we reconcile and correct the systemic dehumanizing ownership brutalizing the large underclass of people for free labor because of their skin color? too much injustice to correct. so we are forced to say those people are responsible for the problem. they are less than human, and it is just their condition. but if it is not their condition, that means our mythology and belief about ourselves is not true. is elvis not going to be the king? where are you going to put jazz if elvis is the king? david: if i were to go to listen to a tchaikovsky concert, or a beethoven concert, it will mostly be sounding the same, no matter where i listen to it and no matter what orchestra. they might play slightly better or different, but you know what you will get when you sit down. with jazz, am i wrong that a jazz musician can kind of expand on what has been composed and play it differently every time? is that part of what jazz is all about?
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wynton: that's the improvisation part. that one part allows you to get a lot of latitude to do things. it is like the way americans conduct business, the innovations we have, the freedom we have to speak, the fact we think we can step into space and use our personality to transform a tradition. yes, we have that freedom. but balancing that freedom is the responsibility to extend a courtesy and understanding to other people with those freedoms and nurture that common space. that's the part of jazz we struggle with. david: in your book on jazz, you talk about some of the greats you either played with or who influenced you. i would like to ask your brief comments on some of them. first is louis armstrong. you originally thought he was an uncle tom, but you changed your view, i guess? wynton: yes, because it is hard for later generations to understand the challenges of earlier generations, norms,
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things of show business. what louis armstrong did, it doesn't mean -- now i understand more of his genius and who he was and what he played, but it still doesn't mean when i look at the movies he made, the positions he went, i don't necessarily like that. i don't like where black people are in any american movies of the 1930's, 1940's, and 1950's. as a matter of fact, some of it now, a lot of it now 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. what is it for a pimp to be a hero, the top of your mythology? to not get sidetracked, i thought that. but later i understood who louis armstrong was as a musician. that's a totally different story. he was a genius of such magnitude, you could lie about how great he was and you would not say enough. david: you are a composer, as well as performer, educator, conductor, so forth. one of the great composers in the jazz world was duke ellington. did he have any influence on you? wynton: great, i love duke. duke's intelligence, dedication, over 2000 pieces, i love him.
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because i grew up listening to classical music, i love beethoven. david: what about dizzy gillespie? was he an influence on you? wynton: the thing about him that hit me first was the depth of his intelligence. i met him when i was 14. just when he started talking with my dad and other musicians. dizzy was very intelligent. he's part of the reason we developed jazz at lincoln center. i did not want to play in a big band. i always wanted to play small band music. dizzy told me -- i called and asked him what he thought i should do. he said to lose one's orchestral heritage should not be considered an achievement. so he was telling me you need to figure out how to keep our orchestral heritage, we paid a lot of dues to build up orchestral music in jazz. for us to give it away and say big band is old-fashioned, that's not intelligent.
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david: let's talk about jazz at lincoln center. you began playing jazz at lincoln center in the late 1980's? wynton: 1987. david: that evolved to jazz at lincoln center, which you are the artistic and music director of jazz at lincoln center orchestra, is that right? wynton: we wanted to fill a space in 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 we can move forward as a nation. so we have succeeded beyond any of our wildest imagination with the volume of concerts we have been able to do. we built three concert halls in the middle of manhattan, on 59th street, the house of swing. we put on concert series over 30 years. 12 education programs. even since the pandemic, we have put out over 600 pieces virtually. we are deeply engaged.
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david: when you started lincoln center, when it opened in the 1960's, people thought this is opera, symphonic music, classical music. you came along and said maybe we can have jazz. what did people say 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. when it was founded, they didn't think about the music or gave -- the initial founders didn't like the music, it doesn't matter. the constitution was not 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. i don't separate anything. my work is also my hobby. ♪ >> i deal with everything in our
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staff. our management team. they are all fantastic. if anything, i work all the time. i don't separate anything. my work is also my hobby. and this pandemic, i always respected all of my colleagues, but the pandemic has given me such a greater appreciation of the quality of people i have been blessed to work ith. our orchestra, we still have the vast majority of our staff on, we are open for business, the orchestra is supportive of the mission of the organization. we have 11 in our orchestra, that never happens. composers, teachers.
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the phone calls i get. then when you get to our staff, managers of every division of our building, our cfo, i can go position to position. people's dedication will bring me to tears. that's why we are struggling like other arts organizations, because we lost the ability to earn revenue, but we are so for real about our mission and achieving it, even under this type of duress. i think the greatest blessing i have had in my life is to work with this high quality people for this amount of time. 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 of 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.
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it's not popular. jazz is meaningful, and it is necessary. so those interested in that like jazz. those who are not, they don't like jazz. there are other things to like. we need to teach our kids about the music. it's a national art form. people say who will be new in jazz? i say people just have to listen to it. david: let's suppose somebody has never been exposed to jazz very much, just listen to wynton marsalis, they're persuaded he knows what he's talking about, so listen to jazz. what would you tell people why the jazz experience as a listener is so compelling compared to other forms of music? wynton: because it has a development section. you have to follow music, what to play from one point. that's why i like beethoven's symphony, it wasn't repeating one thing over and over again, it was one thing, and another thing. jazz is the music most in the world like conversation. jazz is a music that prides individuality. you have a lot of individuals you can interface with, billie holiday, herbie hancock, you can name musicians.
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you have great groups that play in different forms, you have the whole afro-latin form of jazz. it takes it everywhere from brazil, cuba, puerto rico. it integrates citizenship and understanding of the world, and most importantly it gives you tremendous pride in being american, because we didn't have to denigrate or cut anybody down, or do anything negative to anybody to create this. it is a non-predatory form, it is a symbiotic form. you can be as rich as you want to be in jazz, and no one has to be poor. david: you are a teenager by my standards, you are very young. wynton: [laughter] david: you will do this for a couple of decades, because that's what you love doing? wynton: i still smell similac on you, i don't know what you are talking about. i am going to do this until i die, the good lord willing. and people will have me. i have been blessed to do something abstract and get unbelievable support from people.
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that's why early when i answered the question of racism, for somebody like me to complain, i would have to be out of my mind. ♪
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david: turning the page as the trump chapter comes to the strong way close, markets world anticipate how a chapter written by president biden will read. i'll to a special edition of bloomberg "wall street week." this week, edna mont of connecticut. >> in terms of support, let's put in place some strategic vaccination plans, let's fund that so all of our 50 states are working in lockstep. david: special contributor larry summers of harvard. a: i think supply shocks can be good both good and bad and we could have a good supply shock

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