One of the first things I decided when I started Next Page, was that we should work like musicians – jazz musicians, specifically.
Musicians don’t compete – at least not in the business sense of the word. They may be up against eachother at the ticket booth and in the iTunes store, but that’s not where the magic happens. Good musicians feed off eachother, rather than on eachother.
For example, other musicians wouldn’t have been better off without the “competition” from Charlie Parker or Miles Davis. They’d be infinitely worse off. By developing new styles of music, reaching new audiences, and inspiring and mentoring generations of musicians, Parker and Davis baked a much bigger pie, for everyone to enjoy.
Musicians collaborate – and jazz musicians seem to collaborate more freely than anyone. They get together and inspire each other, teach and learn from each other, challenge each other, spur each other on and build on each other’s successes.
Jazz probably does this better than other genres because it relies so heavily on improvisation – anyone can join in if they have something to contribute. And where there’s room to contribute and room to improvise, there’s room to soar as well.
I once saw a clip of John Coltrane and Thelonious Monk that blew my mind. (I wish I could find it again.) At one point, Coltrane starts pouring his soul into solo and Monk gets up from behind the piano and starts dancing in a style that’s all his own.
As Coltrane keeps blowing – turning a deep red at first, then increasingly purple as the minutes go by – Monk keeps dancing. It’s clear that as long as Monk’s dancing, and not at his piano, Coltrane is playing without a safety net. There’s no soft landing in sight, but that doesn’t seem to scare him. He just plays harder.
After what seems like an eternity, Monk mozies back to the piano, giving Coltrane a place to put his heavy load. The performance was as awe-inspiring as anything Cirque du Soleil could come up with.
Imagine playing on a stage like that, alongside people who have the guts and skills to create something amazing when they could just as easily coast on routine, and alongside people with the savvy and confidence to get out of the way and enjoy it when their own brand of genius is not needed.
That’s the stage Next Page should be.
Disclaimer: I don’t know nearly as much about jazz as I should. I have the impression that jazz and its legacy is about the meeting of generosity and creativity, but the real history off jazz may not support that interpretation.