Can you cite one instance that you would say marked the beginning of your career?

I would say accepting a gig playing for the door at Milt Trenier’s, a basement club at Fairbanks & Ohio in Chicago. This was during graduate school, and it meant the beginning of not studying for school & instead boning up on the Jazz life. I did a gig there once a week on-and-off for two years or so, playing for the door & earning anywhere from 0 to 20 dollars a night. I played music with the house pianist, one Karl Johnson, who had led his own all-black USO big band back in the day and was one bad mother. He took me under his wing & showed me in conversation & on the stand what it might mean to be a professional Jazz musician. You can read about Karl further in the context of the second edition of the Guerilla Diaries on this site. I still bump into Karl every once in a while & am very glad every time I do.