Scott Colley

I first met Scott at one of the semi-regular Jim Hall Invitational Lunches that happened at the French Roast on 6th Ave in NYC. (R.I.P. Jim) The twinkle in his eye caught me.  I was shy and retiring but I knew that once Scott and I got a chance to spend a little more time together, we would be great friends.

Since then, Scott has introduced me to stand up comedy and I have introduced him to the world of women's ice hockey.  He travels all the time, but I managed to pin him down for a TENACITY interview.  Enjoy!  (For more info on the TENACITY series, read the FAQ here.)


From his bio: Scott Colley is the bassist of choice for such jazz legends as Herbie Hancock, Jim Hall, and Michael Brecker. His remarkably empathetic skills, strong melodic sense and improvisational abilities have served him well on the more than 200 albums on which he has played.  He has worked with everyone from guitarists Bill Frissell and Pat Metheny to drummers Brian Blade and Roy Haynes.  In recent years, Scott has flourished as a composer and bandleader.  His writing is strong and melodic (see 2010-release, "Empire" on the CAM jazz label).

What made a difference for you along the way?  Tell me a story about that moment.
I have always thought that the most important moments in the creative process for any artist are not the moments that others actually get to see.  Most have heard of “flow” in relation to art and sports – referring to the moments when time seems to stop, and one has complete focus.  There are no thoughts, no decisions to make; we just do without trying.

As artists, we work towards those flow moments.  But the hardest and most crucial times are when we are stuck.  Those difficult moments are when we must confront the unknown and learn new ways of seeing. It also means we may need to learn new skills, which we resist because of the work involved.  So I remind myself of the importance of pushing through, and working on my instrument or writing, even when I would rather do just about anything else.

When I was studying at Cal Arts, I remember a teacher talking about the creative process using the image of a wheel.  At the top of the wheel you are the most productive and the ideas simply come out.  The bottom of the wheel represents the challenge of looking at things in a new way and pushing yourself back to the place where new concepts and ideas flow.  Every part of the process is equally important.  But you have to work through every turn of the wheel or else you become stagnate.  Sometimes when I have created something I think is worthwhile, it’s because I love making music.  Sometimes I think it is because I have a high threshold for pain.  Ultimately it is probably both.

To whom would you like to ask this same question and why?  Living or dead.  What do you think their answer would be?

When you mention tenacity, I immediately think of my father, who passed away a few years ago. I remember him waking each day to go to work at 5:30am. (My mother said he never missed a day of work in 35 years) I remember him clearly, putting on his work shoes in the darkness of our kitchen and driving 45 minutes to his job as a machinist. Although I think he did enjoy his job, it was definitely not his first choice. He had worked as a rancher during college and that was what he planned to do as a career. But over time, I guess life took over. So I would like to ask him if he was truly happy. Your question “what do you think his answer would be?”: I think he probably would have several reasons, but I imagine the primary reason would be that he did it for us.