Rail: What led you to Charlie Parker’s music?
Samuels Smith: When I started the whole Charlie’s Angels process, I was very frustrated with popular music. I didn’t feel it was inspirational with what the dance was doing. Dance—particularly tap—has been evolving consistently. But I feel like some popular music has de-volved. And it doesn’t encourage the tap dancer to create for that music. Tap dancers of the past have had great popular music to work with. In the heyday of tap, obviously, the popular music was jazz and swing. But then even as Gregory Hines was popular, he had rock and funk and hip-hop, and all these styles that were just cutting edge. He was doing something old but adding something new to it, which made it cutting edge. And then you had Savion who came in with the transition of funk and disco and rock into hip-hop, and he had the golden era of hip-hop. Now I don’t really know where music is. It’s kind of like “dance” music: Everything has a club-techno feel to it and it’s kind of monotonous. In the ’90s, there was a broader range of popular music and styles to choose from. I think it also just goes with getting older. I’m starting to look at the music like, [growling] “What are these young people doing here? They don’t know what they’re doing.” At the same time, I’m not that old, so I can’t be that standoffish about it. It’s still my generation that’s creating this music. But the music of bebop, this is still encouraging me to create right now. And that’s really where the whole thing about Charlie Parker came from was to say, “Wow. We can still innovate by going back to this.” Not to say we can’t create something new and go in a whole new direction with music. But that era was so incredible and those musicians, they were inspired by tap dancers. So that cycle, as well, is really obvious to me. When I hear their phrasing, I’m like, “That sounds like tap already.”