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Miles, Trane, and all that Jazz!

November 21st, 2014


Fascinating. Davis and Trane, the greatest forces in music, and team dynamics. While using jazz as a metaphor for leadership and conflict management has become a cliche’, this is a huge piece on how it manifests. For the individuals, the group and the audience or the world outside.

Firstly, it is interesting to note that Coltrane came back to play in Davis’ sextet after being slapped and punched by Davis. Clearly he saw value in the association, and could put his ego away. He knew this final stint will help him find himself better and frame his music, as he moved away from Davis’ modal approach.

Secondly, while he played incredible, individualistic music while being a part of the band, he clearly had a plan. Coltrane took the road less traveled, as he became enamoured by Ornette Coleman and “free jazz”, before moving on. Coltrane liberated his sound from the dense chord based improvisations he pursued in the late ’50s and early ’60s — first adopting Davis’s modal approach, and then emulating Coleman in exploring improvisations free from harmonic structures altogether. And on this journey, created music unmatched to this day.

John_Coltrane_03_465x262And thirdly, even if Trane’s playing appeared obtuse and opaque, even downright wrong to the audience, Davis doesn’t seem to be complaining! Is it one genius recognising another’s value, not just in terms of the creative inputs, but also with regard to Coltrane driving the other band members to perform better? Even if the “others” were stalwarts like Wynton Kelly, Jimmy Cobb, Paul Chambers and Cannonball Adderley!
At the end, the output is spectacular, orbit-shifting and new. And we are all happy. But in terms of teams, working with brilliant minds and amazing talents, and bringing many such talents together to create such sublime music, the challenges must have been huge.

And they remain so, for jazz bands and organisations alike.

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