Surround Yourself with Genius

John Coltrane (foreground) and Miles Davis record together.

There can be little doubt our environments affect our performance.

Whether leading or being led, a situation’s confines guide results. Sometimes these boundaries foster imagination or, at others, conformity.

Success is driven by innovation.

In the history of music, there are a handful of albums which can be said to have redirected a genre. Kind of Blue by the Miles Davis Sextet is one of them. Considering his tendency towards minimal direction, the man at the helm in Columbia 30th Street studio must have known a simple fact:

Creativity is the byproduct of free thought.

Each performer was invited because he brought the requisite skill to the converted church on Manhattan’s Lower East Side. Cannonball Adderley and John Coltrane both had skyrocketing reputations on the saxophone. Davis held Bill Evans’ work on the piano in high regard, often calling just to have the phone’s receiver laid beside his playing friend.

In order to squeeze the best from yourself, be surrounded by genius.

The brilliance produced throughout by every artist–each a virtuoso in his own right–makes it one of the finest musical achievements ever. Melody, tone and rhythm emanate from the instruments in exquisite harmony. The ensemble is at a peak, moving from note to note deftly before giving way to a counterpart.

Witnessing another reach heights of inventive ecstasy can only inspire you to do the same.

All this sprung from disjointed sketches and sparing guidance given to men of tremendous ability. Consciously or otherwise, Davis managed to change jazz by heeding the words of General George S. Patton:

Never tell people how to do things. Tell them what to do and they will surprise you with their ingenuity.


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