Jane Bunnett is a Juno Award-winning jazz musician, composer and bandleader. Her latest release (with Hilario Duran) is Cuban Rhapsody. She will be performing at the Royal Conservatory of Music in Toronto on Oct. 20.
How long is a lifetime? How long will yours be?
Well, that is really the question. My mom is 93. My grandfather was 97 – 98. They showed good moderation in how they conducted their lives. I tend to be more extreme. I chill out for a while, then I go full throttle and have to take a few days off because I’m so wiped out. So I don’t know.
Should lifetimes be measured in years alone or in accomplishment? Can leading a life full of accomplishment and dying at 45 be considered a good, full lifetime?
Yeah, I guess it is. You see people who lead pretty boring lives and they say, “I wish I’d done this and I wish I’d done that.” What stopped you?
What does stop people from completing, or even compiling, a so-called bucket list, a wish list of things they want to do or experience before they “kick the bucket”?
You are on that treadmill of how you measure success, sometimes by other people’s standards, and you don’t really conduct your life terms in fulfilling what you want – as opposed to what you think you should be doing, what the norm is. And I guess there are a lot of people who actually sacrifice, for their family or for other reasons, their own wish lists. It is sad.
Some would call bucket lists “pipe dreams.” What’s wrong with pipe dreams?
These are great. I’m all for them. You dream big. When I was starting out as a musician, I had a dream I’d love to play with Don Pullen. I remember seeing Don Pullen in San Francisco with the Charles Mingus band. I thought, “Oh, God, I’d love to play with him some day!” And then there I was, 25 years later, given an opportunity to play with him. Yeah, pipe dreams are to be fulfilled, as crazy as they may be.
What is on your bucket list?
- I’ve never had the time to bicycle across Cuba. I’d like to do it with a box of paints and rolled-up canvases, taking my time and biking across the various provinces and painting landscapes. When I have been in Cuba, it has always been very rushed and project-driven.
- I’m mesmerized by Egypt and everything Egyptian. I’d love to be able to travel up the Nile and go on an archeological dig with my niece Cassie. She has just gone off to London to study archeology and she is pretty passionate about it. It is something I can do when she gets really out there and starts going on these expeditions.
- There is this herbal component called ayahuasca, which is native plant material from Peru. It’s a hallucinogen. I have experienced it once and it has great healing powers. I want to go to Peru and go to a traditional Peruvian ayahuasca ceremony.
- I love to paint. I often give my paintings away, but I am starting to put the ones aside I really like and I’d like to work up to having a show.
- I’d love to go with a whole bunch of friends on a train from Paris to Perpignan. Lots of people don’t know it. It was the best of France and the best of Spain, all the gypsy musicians. It was so exciting. I’d like to have this train trip with all my friends and wine and cheese and sausage and have this huge party from Paris to Perpignan.
- I have frequent dreams about swimming with whales. Swimming up a river. If there was ever an environment [where] you could do that, I’d love to.
- I’d love to tour and collaborate with musicians in Africa. My husband and I have an organization called Spirit of Music focusing mostly in Cuba, taking instruments to the conservatories in Cuba for the young students. But we are stretching out more in an international way. We are going to Cameroon, taking instruments there.
- Kind of pathetic, kind of sad really, but get my driver’s licence.
- I’d love to play Justin Trudeau’s victory party. I hope he is more than a pretty face. Believe it or not, in 1984, I was in Brian Mulroney’s campaign band. It was the most bizarre thing. It was cash, no receipts.
- To create a retreat for artists at a crossroads. It happened to me a few years ago. I hit the wall, questioned whether to continue on with music. We have a place up in Algonquin [Park]. Down the road, I’d like to expand it for musicians. In the arts, you can hit the highs and lows and the lows can come often. I went to a couple of retreats and they really helped me – the solitude. That’s what I’d like to establish in my lifetime.