As a bandleader, I think it's important that we rehearse, develop repertoire and refine our ensemble sound and style. At the same time, I try to emulate the Miles Davis approach: hire the best cats, give them lots of freedom, and embrace the music, wherever it leads.
I'm working on eliminating nonsense phrases from my improvisations -- the musical equivalent of "like," "ya know" and "umm."
There are certain cliches that I tend to reflexively insert when grasping for the next idea. I'm training myself to embrace more negative space during those searching moments -- to simply be still and listen, to just pay attention, rather than compulsively fill the space.
I try to phrase like a singer, so I listen to a lot of vocalists, especially Ella Fitzgerald. And because I favor a melodic, lyrical approach to improvisation, most of the jazz instrumentalists I listen to are also from that tradition -- people like Stan Getz, Miles Davis, Paul Desmond, Chet Baker, Art Farmer and Ben Webster.
The interrobang is a punctuation mark that combines the functions of an exclamation point and a question mark. It's also an excellent symbol of my approach to improvisation.
I intend to "tell a story" with conviction, intentionality and a strong sense of internal logic. At the same time, I hope to convey a sincere searching, listening quality, an openness to what comes, and something of the mysterious beauty in jazz.
"The goal of learning is to become capable of doing new things, not simply repeating what other generations have done. Three phases of development must be mastered. The first is the COGNITIVE or 'post hoc' phase. You understand you want to do something, and you see the path ahead of you. This is the trial and error phase. The second phase is called ASSOCIATIVE or 'ad hoc.' You achieve awareness in the moment. The simple aspects of the new skill appear fluent and polished, but the more complicated aspects demand concentration. The third phase is the AUTONAMOUS or 'pre hoc' phase. You've learned the skill so well that you can perform it consistently, fluidly and in an aesthetically pleasing manner. The motor programs involved are stored in the long-term memory so the mind is free to invent something new. The secret? You must pass through phases one and two to get to three." ~Jean Piaget
"Mastery is attainable through SHU-HA-RI. SHU means to learn, to obey the teacher and to protect the fundamental forms. HA is to detach, to forget the self, and to become one with your practice. RI means to leave home, to separate from the master, and to forge a new way. RI is the way of transcendence, the way of nature. Forms are left behind and only spirit remains. You are probably not yet ready for RI." ~Morihei Ueshiba
"There are three stages to learning jazz: first, you have to study how the masters did it. Second, you practice until you're so comfortable with the tradition that you make it your own. Only then are you ready for the final stage: forgetting what you've learned and finding your own voice. IMITATION, ASSIMILATION, INNOVATION. Always in that order. And be patient, because you'll spend most of your life working on step two." ~Art Farmer