When studying the early years of jazz and the individuals who framed the genre, I was amazed at the level of respect that musicians had for one another. In the wee hours of the morning, musicians from different sides of the tracks would often meet in secret to exchange chords and riffs. To the creatively hungry, a few stolen moments of cross-pollination with those who set the tempo of a movement far exceeded the risks of being caught. Even the most accomplished would travel miles to drink from the well of the newest style-making, trend-setting, barrier-breaking musician. These cats were not afraid to learn from the best or even copy their styles. Simply put, they were not afraid to be influenced.
For a long time, I wouldn’t listen to a lot of music because I was afraid that I would lose myself in someone else’s style. Little did I know how much that approach was limiting my creativity and stunting my growth. I have since learned that observing, reading or listening to the works of others expands our imagination. It gives us more substance to crush in the crucible of our own styles to create richer and more expressive works of art.
Author and speaker Jeff Goins said, “nothing inspires a writer like reading someone else’s words.” Creators inspire me to create. The truly great ones influence me to do better, be better. In this season I am allowing myself to be influenced without chagrin. I have NO SHAME…none at all.
So if you should ever feel that your work has become stale or uninspiring, search out the work of another artist.
In the Ken Burns documentary on jazz, it was said that in the early days Duke Ellington hit a season when he felt that something was missing from his music. He said that it wasn’t until he heard Louis Armstrong for the first time that he realized what it was.
Thanks for listening!