10 Fingers: Burniss Earl Travis

By Ella Campbell

Burniss Earl Travis is one of the bass calls for Gretchen Parlato and the Robert Glasper Experiment. He is pretty off the radar – the only websites we could find were his MySpace and other blog interviews. Maybe he has an old Xanga floating around or something too.

He’s the youngest of the Ben Williams/Etienne Charles generation and has quite the youthful spirit to prove it: singing all the signs we passed, “Fox The-aaaa-ter Pa-harrkk-ing,” singing our names, “El-la-aah.” … Wearing suspenders and a belt. Adorable.

In a car ride from Ann Arbor, where he played with Gretchen Parlato, to Detroit (Burniss’ first time to the Motor City!) to see Etienne Charles, Rodney Whitaker, Diego Rivera, Reginald Thomas and Randy Gelispie perform, we asked him a few questions.

He mentioned something about Chris Dave and Alan Hampton. The reason I have those names in my notes escapes me, but here’s some information about them anyway:
Chris Dave
Alan Hampton

1. What is your favorite booty music? James Brown

2. What is your favorite brain music? Depends. Right now I’m listening to Djivan Gasparyn, Ask Me No Questions. He plays the duduk. It’s kind of like a type of flute. Or oboe. Only not.

3. What music from your childhood has stuck with you? Anita Baker, James Brown, Michael Jackson and The Temptations.

4. What was the first album you bought that you couldn’t stop listening to? Wayne Shorter, The Soothsayer

5. What is your favorite basement music? Well, I live in the moment. Whatever seems right at that moment, whatever people want to listen to, we’ll listen to it.

6. Name some musicians, alive or dead, that you’d like to get the chance to see perform live.
Oscar Pettiford
Miles Davis
John Coltrane
Tony Williams
Elvin Jones

7. What song did you have stuck in your head today? I haven’t really listened to much today. Just been chillin. (This is contrary to what Gretchen had to say….)

8. Who is a young musician that we should be looking out for? The Whitfield Brothers.

9. What is the most profound moment you remember having in a private lesson? I can’t think of one. I am still a student. I can and should still think of myself that way. The best way to learn is to play live. I figure it all out by playing it wrong first, this way I learn on the spot. I play based on a combination of many profound moments that have come along by living.

10. Who is your favorite musician to play with? “No one is my favorite. You should just play with people who have the same energy that you do. It’s just like how you hang out with friends, you gravitate toward people with the same energy.

I have discovered and appreciate a lot of different people’s individuality. Even my own. So, everyone needs to embody their individuality. Be your own self. I just try to be the best I can be. This is a natural world, we find our friends naturally, and we find musicians naturally. Explore this natural world, it’s full of beauty. Enjoy it. Live.

In the car ride he chose to listen to:
The Roots: A Peace of Light and others from How I Got Over
Emily King: No More Room

Keep your eyes peeled for an article about Gretchen Parlato – our first female interview for the jazz-girl blog! Yes!

Swing sisters, swing!


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