LEARNING FROM MUSICIANS
We all know how important it is to get along with others, especially if you can’t reach your goal with just your own limited abilities. There are those who assume to know enough to go it alone. They cross the Atlantic in a small boat in the wrong season all by themselves, except they probably do have a colleague standing by at the radio in case they need help. I think that it is probably better to take that friend along.
Jazz teaches us that it is better to have friends right along side you on the bandstand. A true adventure needs a good support crew, shared cause and shared rewards. Going it alone allows one to have complete control, but often leads to playing the same tune over and over. The novelty eventually wears off.
Having a common purpose and making it easy for the group to stay on course are qualities that I keep seeing work in successful jazz groups. In the future we hope to begin to see a little more common purpose by the rest of us.
Here are some ingredients that help friends make great music together:
Collegiality is the relationship between colleagues, who are those explicitly united in a common purpose and respecting each other’s abilities to work toward that purpose. This is the trait that I keep seeing in the jazz artists.
Camaraderie is a spirit of good friendship and loyalty among members of a group. You might not like your job, but still enjoy the camaraderie of the people you work with.
People who have the quality of congeniality have a gift for getting along with others. They are warm, friendly, and probably well-suited to serve on welcoming committees.
Friendliness is the capability of existing or performing in harmonious or congenial combination
Someone who comes to mind with these qualities is Sean Dobbins.
Sean Dobbins brought his good nature along with his quintet into the Dirty Dog Jazz Café one week last year . When Sean introduced the band he pointed out that one of the five great musicians, the trombonist, Mike Dease, would be playing with the quintet for the first time. He kindly announced how privileged he felt playing with him. Out of the gate the band ‘s cohesive sound concealed any unfamiliarity. They looked like they were having fun as they traded ideas and smiles. How the heck is this done? How does a musician step in and mesh so seamlessly? I have for some time been curious about how jazz musicians carry this off. Is the music that simple? It wasn’t that night. Had they spent days or weeks playing together to prepare for this evening? I think that didn’t happen.
Most often Sean’s groups consist of musicians that front their own bands. A bunch of leaders. They understand the process, and they know that under Sean’s leadership the music will be demanding and complex. They will be playing music that is definitely not off the shelf and not all that simple to play.
Marion Hayden Mike Dease
I got a possible answer during a conversation with the group’s bassist, Marion Hayden. She mentioned two reasons it works ; musicianship and collegiality. She informed me of Mike’s credentials and his command of his instrument. He came prepared to contribute.
Marion smiled when she discussed both Sean’s and Mike’s collegiality.
Not everyone with talent has a bubbly personality. Some talented artists can show:
Churlishly rude or bad-tempered, sullen, uncivil, brusque, irascible, splenetic, choleric, cross; grumpy, grouchy, crabby. unfriendly, hostile, irritable: threatening, malevolent, menacing, threatening:
Picasso’s gift as an artist was his intensity and his love of everything he did. He was not a team player and he remained a soloist and the “disquieting” Spaniard with the “sombrepiercing” eyes his entire life.
Stern and admitting of no appeasement or compromise, of a sinister or ghastly character, having a harsh, surly, forbidding, or morbid air, fierce, savage
Miles Davis lived life with a directness and fierceness that could be offsetting. He also was a gifted collaborator who formed bonds with his fellow musicians that changed jazz. He shared a common purpose with those he played with, which is an essential part of collegiality. He learned to play with muted pain.
When an interviewer asked him: “Don’t you find yourself alone up here?”
Miles replied: “Uh-uh. Not with the musicians I work with. They end up being your best friends. If I ever leave a will it’s not gonna be to my relatives, it’s to the people I function around best. You’re around musicians all the time. You’re not alone.”
Collegial is defined as: with authority or power shared equally among colleagues.
In a band of strong individuals collegiality is essential to success. It doesn’t mean that confident talented artists have to reign it in, it means that they are free to go with it. Luckily for us this is a common trait in jazz musicians, especially among equals.. Every week I learn something new from the very talented collegial folk at the Dirty Dog.
THIS WEEK AT THE DIRTY DOG
JULY 12- JULY 15
Gene Dunlap will bring his talent and grace to the Dirty Dog. He brings the force of Miles Davis with the congeniality that allows Detroit jazz to be so free wheeling.
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