Right after rhythm is melody. To get the chance to work with Kansas City's best trumpet player, Gary Sivils, for three great years was an unbelievable education in melody. Gary is one of those guys who, no matter what is happening around him, always "tells a story," and he does it with an almost narrative flow. In fact, this "storytelling" quality is something that I think all the great KC improvisers have had in common.
He always played with a kind of inner urgency or intensity that is there in almost all the best players. Also, I'll never forget him for just giving me the chance -- on Paul Smith's recommendation -- when I was 16 years old, and with very little experience, to play with him. My first gig with Sivils was at the old Armor East at 35th and Main. I was really nervous, but Gary welcomed me into the situation and treated me like an adult as he did throughout the years I played with him. It gave me a lot of confidence in myself, and that really helped me out later.