Wednesday, July 11, 2007

how to swing

Context, edited by Martin E. Marty, June 2007, Part A, p. 6-7, quotes Wynton Marsalis, who says “Swing is a rhythm, an era in American history, and it is a worldview. In this worldview there is a belief in the power of a collective ability to absorb mediocre and poor decisions. When a group of people working together trust that all are concerned for the common good, then they continue to be in sync, no matter what happens. That is swing: It’s the feeling that our way is more important than my way. This philosophy extends to how to treat audiences, consumers, staff, or dysfunctional families. This may seem idealistic, but think about how church congregations recite, nearly together and completely unrehearsed. They proceed by feel. Swing is the single objective. It is the core that makes us all want to work together.”

Hot corporations know how to swing
Wynton Marsalis shows how to put jazz to work
[FINAL Edition]

USA TODAY - McLean, Va.
Author: Del Jones
Date: Jan 15, 2007
Section: MONEY
Document Types: Interview
Text Word Count: 1325


A: The farther away from the sun we are, the colder it gets. To know the essence of a thing requires us to go back to the origination of that thing, because time erodes meaning and enthusiasm. The originators of jazz were a second generation out of slavery and victims of rigorous forms of segregation in which humanity was routinely and institutionally denied. You would think that they were thinking about getting revenge, but in actuality, they were thinking about sharing and communicating with all kinds of people, and they became masters of achieving balance with others. These early jazz musicians worked out a perfect way to co-create using improvisation and a basic unit of rhythm called swing.
A: When I was younger, just beginning to play jazz and getting publicity, almost every critic and older musician came out of the woodwork to say that my playing was inauthentic -- lacking soul and feeling. They said it was too technical and young. I had not paid enough dues to play with meaning or feeling. The great jazz trumpeter Sweets Edison, who played in Count Basie's 1930s band, asked me "Where are you from?" I said, New Orleans. He said, "What did you grow up doing?" I responded, "Playing." Then he said, "Why are you trying to act like what you are? Be what you are." This was a profound lesson in creativity. It's about being yourself, valuing your own ideas, mining your own dreams. You can be creative inside or outside of tradition. Outside of tradition, you create a new world. Inside of tradition, you create a new way to do the old things much better. Both can be innovative, because in one you reinvigorate a tradition. In the other, you counter-state it.

Q: Is there a boss in a jazz band who takes charge?
A: In jazz, hierarchy is determined by your ability to play, not your position in the band. The philosophy of jazz is antithetical to the commoditization of people. It is rooted in the elevation and enrichment of people. The reason that jazz is the most flexible art form in the history of the planet is because it believes in the good taste of individuals. It believes in the human power to create wonderful things, and it embraces that instead of attempting to administrate it away with senseless titles and useless hierarchies.

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