We don’t need to invent “creativity,” we need to live it.

Is “creative” necessarily “better?”

This question came up for me twice today. (I’ll relate what happened, but I don’t want to give names.)

Case #1: I went to an theatrical production a few weeks ago. The whole production was excellent, except that the actor who played the leading role gave the character a very unusual personality, with contrived mannerisms. The whole play revolves round this character’s passions, and I found his choice to be bizarre and very ineffective. I went online this morning to read the New York newspaper’s review of the production and found that the reviewer agreed with me.

Having worked extensively with actors during my career, I’m fairly certain that this actor tried to be “creative,” and do something “different” with the role.

Case #2: One of my favorite jazz recordings is Wayne Shorter’s “Footprints,” from his album Adam’s Apple. All the musicians play wonderfully on it and Wayne’s solo is one of his best (which is saying a lot!).

This morning I started reading a book about Miles Davis wherein the author spends a few pages “proving” that the Miles Davis Quintet version of “Footprints” is superior to the one Shorter recorded as leader (although Wayne did play on both). The author’s “argument” is based on the more sophisticated harmonies and rhythms that the Davis group brought to the tune.

Now, I like the Davis recording too, but does “groundbreaking,” “innovative” and “creative” mean that something is automatically better? A lot of times, no.

Sure, this is all subjective, and that’s part of my point. But a bigger part of my point is that sometimes performers sacrifice quality in the name of “creativity.” I think the famous actor I saw did this exact thing. His ineffective interpretation made it much harder for the other actors to play their parts. Miles Davis, on the other hand, was simply interpreting “Footprints” in a way that corresponded to the sound of his group at the time. In this case, it’s the author of the book I read who’s placing too much emphasis on a silly notion of “artistic progress.”

Let’s just try to do our best. We don’t need to invent “creativity,” we need to live it.

For Musicians: 10 Ways to Improve and Invigorate your playing

Take your left hand playing to a new level with my free ebook: Left Hand Techniques for Jazz Piano
You’ll also get my weekly jazz newsletter with practice tips and inspiration

Leave a Comment

Sign up for Blog Updates