Some of my all-time favorite musicians are true originals. They don’t sound like what had come before. They are innovators. Some of my true favorites: Jimi Hendrix, The Beatles, Stevie Wonder, John Coltrane, Charlie Parker, Sonny Rollins, Billie Holiday, Frank Sinatra, Duke Ellington, Gil Evans, and because this is more or less a trumpet blog: Louis Armstrong, Miles Davis, Dizzy Gillespie, Clifford Brown, Roy Eldridge, Lester Bowie, Clark Terry, Dave Douglas, Woody Shaw, Don Cherry, etc. Really the list goes on and on in all genres of music. But the real thing is that these musicians created something on their instruments that had never been made quite that way before. And sometimes the music they created was extremely new, maybe shockingly new.
Sure, as I’ve written on here before, everyone has a daddy. There would be no Miles Davis had there not already been a Louis Armstrong. Jimi Hendrix wouldn’t have been Jimi Hendrix were it not for the blues and rhythm and blues bands and players that he played with and emulated. And I think it’s also important to note that these musicians didn’t just appear out of thin air, fully formed as innovators (the Beatles took a few years to really find their true creative path, but when they did, they became, on so many different levels, some of the greatest innovators of the 20th Century). Instead they followed the model that Clark Terry always talks about: imitate, assimilate, innovate – most musicians never make it past assimilate. And if they are lucky enough to get past assimilate, then maybe they are lucky enough to become a stylist on their instrument – no small feat. True innovators are indeed a rare breed. They somehow go past what came before them and truly create something new.
What about hearing “Purple Haze” for the first time?
Ray Charles' “I Got A Woman.” This is powerful stuff! Original stuff. Like nothing that had come before. That’s pretty special. See what I'm saying here? Good food, good beer, and some Bo Diddley – the finer things in life.