Or what I didn't learn about team-building at Stanford Business School
Ted: "Yet I’ve seen—and I’m sure you have too—amazing people whose skill set can’t be conveyed by their resume."
Case in point: my father. Never finished College, but became an official in the state HIghway Department. Then, the state decided that non-degreed engineers could achieve the same status as College grads by passing a rigorous exam. Somehow, Dad didn't qualify for this exam! But who did they ask to create this exam?
Yup. None other.
This was a very thought-provoking piece. As a Project Manager working in the business world for my entire career, I actually feel Giuffre's philosophy has been confirmed by Harvard Business Review and other corporate influencers I've read who argue that building a team that feels safe, supported, and trusted and embodying principles of "servant leadership" yields the objectively best results in most cases.
In other words, if leaders pick the right people, stay out of their way, and offer them the support they need to work through problems, they will see better outcomes than the traditional methods of top-down control and planning, which simply aren't adaptive enough to keep pace with a much more highly complex, interdependent, and fast changing world than people were living in back at the time of Henri Fayol and other early theoreticians of management .
It was very interesting to read how this had been applied in jazz - the most democratic of musics - decades before the theoreticians and bean-counters had caught up!
You're right about the Duke. Once he got to know his musicians, he cast them in roles in his pieces, like actors in parts. Very few of the bandleaders cared about their sidemen as much.
Giuffre, being a musician, understood harmony, that was especially important with who he played with.
Ted--Love your piece on Giuffre! I had the very good fortune of studying with him in the sixties, when he was teaching at the New School. A lovely man. I’m a guitarist, yet he taught me practice technique and, most important, phrasing.
To me, the phrasing—the swing element--is what stands out in “The Train and the River.” It recalls the Armstrong Hot Fives—no bass, no drums, but did they swing! The swing is the fiber—the neuroscience even—of that music. It is the tendons holding everything together—regardless of the instruments. In William Least Heat-Moon’s “Blue Highways,” the author observes boys flying kites. “No string, no flight,” he writes.
It has been observed that bands play better who play together the longest (viz. Ellington). I think this must comport with everyone being happy and getting along. Otherwise, how could the band stay together?
“The best people take unconventional paths”--right out of Thoreau, who also said, “One generation abandons the enterprises of another, like stranded vessels.” We’re always starting anew, with our “imperfections”! PG
I always felt that that was a key part of the Red Hot Chili Peppers' creative magic, for the "classic" lineup of Anthony Kiedis, Flea, John Frusciante and Chad Smith. There was (and is) always some degree of friendship and camaraderie between the four of them, even with Frusciante's issues and generation gap. (In his recent Joe Rogan interview, Kiedis described his learning music as a way to jam with his friends, and what he said in his autobiography checks out) While all of them are talented, I'll bet that chemistry makes an even bigger difference than that.
Giuffre sounds like my type of cat. I wonder if he also understood something I've often wondered: where one can create as much rock as you like, or as much jazz in a quintet with a select set of instruments, but while it might make lots of music it's all from just those limited combos of instruments. A handful of different combinations in a world full of instruments, much of which features the guitar. Personally, I'm all for more trios with a trombone, clarinet and guitar. Might create a new genre if you add an Irish penpal who plays the bodhran.
Anyone who plays bass clarinet and bassoon is okay in my book!
Audiences love to lump musicians into certain genres, styles if you will, and there are musicians who play to that level. Jimmy Giuffre was certainly not that kind of creative mind. Even when he was criticized for his "changing" sound, he kept right on going. He was an explorer and most definitely inspired his friend Bob Brookmeyer who went to teach composers not to sound like him and not to be afraid to sound like yourself. Thanks for this excellent reminder of why we listen and how we learn!
"Didn’t I know that people are always happier when they were with their friends? So group productivity is an easy problem to solve." [Why does Notes have text formatting, but not comments?]
I thought this was a given.... like, the best bandmates / songwriting partners are people who would be lovers in a different life.
Of course that really depends on what you're trying to create: is it art or just another disposable corporate product?
I recently read that (some? many?) corporations are finding that if three close friends are working in a company, they are less inclined to quit, enjoy working more, and of course are more productive. But yeah, all the ppl I play with are ppl I really like a lot. The last jerk (but great player with many good ideas) I played with was around '06. He got pissed at me and left. Everything's been roses ever since.
Thanks for this.
We learn this as children and then the adults get involved....
“Imperfection is, in some sort essential, to all that we know of life.....” sounds like Monk’s “Ugly Beauty”
It makes total sense. Management is the greatest scam of the last century and deciding everything on data is nothing but counterproductive. Both are an oversimplification of how reality works with no room for the subtle. Artist know that.
No work of art ever went down in history because someone follow the rules to the letter. What's happening is pretty much the opposite: we remember the rule-breakers, the trailblazers, the artists that were deemed too crazy.
So glad to see you writing about Jimmy Giuffre again. He's long been one of my personal heroes for the way in which he continually evolved, whether or not it was popular or profitable. He made choices that would have been hard for a large group to follow, but he could create fabulous small ensembles by fostering a common vision based on mutual respect. He's a model for how important openness can be in an artist's evolution.
To my mind there are two CEO/companies who have followed this path and I'll refer to their books; Maverick follows Semco and their interviews are by team and not manager, and the Happy Manifesto covers similar practice in a modern IT company. Hiring people who get on is great, but you've got to balance that with diversity of thought, some of the best breakthroughs come whilst (politely) arguing.