the question i've always had about this national monument is... how did they pick those four guys? who decides? i get lincoln, one of the most popular and influential presidents of all time. i think i get jefferson, probably the smartest president (with competition from clinton and nixon) that our country has ever had. i suppose i can understand washington, being the first, and it makes sense for roosevelt to be up there since he championed the whole national monument/park crusade. and i know that the timeline of conception-to-fruition doesn't allow consideration to fdr, truman, ike, jfk, and the bushes (tongue firmly planted in cheek).
i often pose this topic to fellow musicians, asking them to place their top four people in a musical version of mt. rushmore. this is usually pretty interesting. would i do all instrumentalists? all saxophonists? do composers or singers make it? can i spread this out amongst different styles of jazz, let alone across multiple genres of music? i think you've gotta be specific in order to find a justifiable quartet of music folks.
saxophones? i think bird and coltrane make it, but can i include sonny or dex if i've already got trane? and, do i need to stick a soprano (could be trane, i suppose) and a bari player (umm, there's gerry mulligan...)? the trumpet argument gets dicey, because miles is probably less of a player than most others, but he absolutely needs to be up there. lead players, soloists, flugel, chet baker? the discussion blows wide open when picking through rhythm section legends.
a sizable component of this boils down to personal taste. two stories: #1 i met a guy in casper when i was broke down there a couple of weeks ago who, when posed with this quandry, rattled off arturo sandoval and chick corea before skidding to a halt on the other two. he asked me who else he should consider, and i told him that - first of all - there's no way either of those two make my monument. #2 several years ago my students, most of them new to jazz and dependent upon me to show them the way, submitted their top four in a blind ballot. the kids all voted for artists who i was currently listening to, which didn't include ellington or armstrong or sinatra or brubeck. i was pumped, then instantly aware that i really had a lot of teaching to do.
so... the best solution i can provide is to pick the top four that provide a current and thorough reflection of musical luminaries that have framed your personal makeup. i don't really listen to saxophone. i like bands. i like hip hop. sometimes i listen to jazz, but certainly have a special spot in my heart for certain jazz acts (and even country). my mt. rushmore? honorable mentions go to pee wee herman, the bad plus, new edition, dolly parton, bobby mcferrin, ornette, harold & the purple crayon, and prince. the winners are...
quite possibly the most important figure in jazz history. i love the way he worked with side men, musically speaking. his efficiency is vital. his phrases extend beyond conventional cadential points. his sound is instantly recognizable, a catalyst for his bandmates. and the autobiography!!!
i am astonished at his saxophone playing, i'm a sucker for extended techniques and dig the way he has codified a way to weave them into his own unique musical language. i also like his reverence for tunes and ability to straddle several fences. how can you argue with a genius?
there is just something about her that drives me wild. her voice is an unbeatable blend of strength and fragility and focus and wonder and sincerity. i marvel at how she stands up for her art amidst criticism and ridicule but, more importantly, i love the way she sounds. i try desperately to get my tone to be in her general vicinity. and of course, she's incredibly gorgeous.
my buddy matt bernemann turned me on to django back in college, and my life has never been the same. i am in awe of how he can harness his swirling musical imagination long enough to put it to paper and create artistic masterpieces. he has the midas touch in my book, and i never ever get tired of hearing anything that he has done.