Friday, January 22, 2010

Jazz and business

I like music.  I like lots of different types of music.  I don't like polka and country.  I have a strong preference for music that is well played; that is played very professionally.  I like energy.  I like intensity.  I really like changes in intensity--the build-up and powerful crescendo followed by mellow denouement.

I find a lot of that in jazz.  But I don't find a lot of jazz that I like.  We lived in New Orleans for three years and I heard lots of jazz there.  It was very hit-and-miss for me.

I understand the jazz model.  An ensemble of musicians plays a rolling, swinging, flowing song, and one or more of the players will step out of the melody to play a solo--maybe several different solos in the span of one song.  The solos are often improvised and demonstrate a virtuoso skill.  While one player is soloing, the others may extend or alter the base melody of the song in reaction to the solo.  This requires a tremendous amount of practice, skill, and teamwork.

I recently picked up Miles Davis's Kind of Blue and John Coltrane's Stellar Regions.  I really like Kind of Blue.  Much of Stellar Regions I do not like.  On the surface these records seem very similar.  Both are highly rated and highly regarded.  John Coltrane plays on both records--and his solo work is outstanding on both recordings.  To my untrained ear the style and structure of the songs is very similar.

Stellar Regions just contains a number of (for lack of a better word) discordant moments where the solo and the background melody clash.  In a few places that clash is very bitter.  I've just stopped listening to those songs.

The fiftieth anniversary of the recording of Kind of Blue passed the other day.  I had listened to the album in my car that day, and then saw the notice on the internet that night.  I clicked the link and read a little bit about the recording of the album.  I found a note about the recording that stuck out with me.  According to Wikipedia, Miles Davis instructed the players to bound their solos on "modal scales" as opposed to chords.

I'm just beginning to explore modal jazz versus other forms.  But the written descriptions I have seen seem to jive with what my ears have been telling me.

Jazz is a very creative art form.  Musicians are given a tremendous amount of freedom of expression.  But in my experience that freedom often leads to discordances that could be easily avoided if the musicians would limit their freedom of movement to certain boundaries--modal scales.

The same principles are often true in real life, I think.  We often overlook how we are playing ensemble compositions in our marriages, families, and businesses.  We often see advice books for how to be a better husband, or wife, or salesperson, or whatever.  But these books rarely consider the ensemble that we are playing in.

One of Journyx's problems, while I was there, was that we could not decide if we were a product or service company.  I ran the service department, and I wanted to transition us to being a service organization.  I have a lot of respect for Walter and Phil (the two VPs of Sales that I worked with.)  They both made efforts to steer towards becoming a services organization, but they never got there.  I'm sure there are things I could have done better to help them.  I'm not blaming them.  I'm just saying that as a team we were unable to ensemble well.  My services department was discordant against the underlying melody of the product focus of the rest of the company.  And when push came to shove my services department was let go.

Next time I will focus more effort on playing in tune with the rest of my ensemble.

1 comment:

  1. "Kind Of Blue" is a favorite of mine, and I love the modal style of playing - even when it comes to something like rock guitar, I prefer modal intertwining of melodies over the typical chordal styles. Nice tie in to relationships in general btw.