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Thursday, October 23, 2008

Jazz Metaphors and Creating...

I know that I’m dating my self here, but I just attended my 30th Class Reunion this past weekend. A very special time!

Sir Scott of Paradiddle’s (also, class of ’78) band “Better Than Nuttin’” played on Saturday. I got see his passion for playing music and creating a lot of happiness for his old classmates.

Okay, so today I was listening to a little "Bela Fleck and the Flecktones" and started thinking about life and music – especially the jazz metaphor. So, I decided to do a little light reading on the subject of “Organizational Science on Jazz Improvisation and Organizing” (It’s amazing what’s out their on the www).

First, I’m NOT a musician (hell, I can’t even play “Chopsticks”), so the idea of improvisation having rules and being organized seems a little odd to me. On the other hand, we often “improvise” well within the rules of our lives (socially, morally, organizationally…). So, I guess it makes sense.

But, can “improvisation” become too predictable?

I think that is what I love so much about Autumn: It’s the chance to go and play “outside” our structured lives. Autumn is like Miles Davis surprising his band and disrupting the routine by calling unrehearsed songs and choosing “odd” keys (at least that’s what I’ve read about him). Every day of Autumn looks, smells, and feels totally different and unrehearsed. But, I think that we have to endeavor to engage it – to create our experiences in it (hopefully I'll become awake enough to do this everyday, no matter the season).

I don’t really understand creating jazz -- but I like it – maybe because it’s more like a n unexpected conversation (as some have suggested) than a speech (symphonic orchestras playing a set music score).

Playing outside. Calling on different, unrehearsed songs. Choosing odd keys.

Sounds like a beautiful way to spark improvisation in our lives – to play the same song in a different way; to create a spark in a life that has become too organized and predictable; to make the most of this very short “jam session” we have on this earth.

Don’t get me wrong. I think that there has to some structure in our lives or it will just become noise. To continue the metaphors, I think we need balance in everything,: Classical music with minimal improvisation; Swing with constrained improve, and Bebop and post-bob with more extensive improvisation of structure and rules.

Thanks Scott, Sir Hook, and all those musicians out there who have reminded me that we all sometimes need to…

Endeavor to improvise and to play “outside” with all the “odd” notes you can find.

Sir Bowie “off to find some Miles Davis” of Greenbriar


  1. A most EXCELLENT post Sir Bowie! I never thought of Fall as Jazz Season...makes sense, or no sense, whichever you prefer. Improv is the most creative state. Whether it be during a sales pitch, playing my guitar at mass or connecting two opposite thoughts into a unified message, improv is exciting, fresh and rewarding. Thanks for reminding me once again the joy we have in playing the unlimited scores in our souls! My rockin' days are behind me now, but I still get a thrill when we sing the song after communion at Mass and the song ends and there are still 3 minutes to fill. The singers stop and it's just me and the piano player riffing for three minutes. It's like a mind meld over the grand canyon, scary as hell but exciting! It's one of the times when I feel most alive. Of course, at my age, it's becoming easy to find those odd notes and keys.

  2. Thoughts on Scott's playing and their reunion
    I met both of these guys when they were 19 - and they're still in my life when they're 48
    It's always fun to see them with classmates and get glimpses of them as young boys and then see the men they have become (one of whom I'm especially attached to after almost 25 years of marriage!)

    Sir Bowie and I did get outside last night in the crisp fall air and took time to do some star-gazing, no music except the music in our souls

    Lady Suzanne of Greenbriar