The Creative Process and Jazz

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How do we create?  How do we take random things, and make them into something interesting and useful?

Creativity is intelligence having fun.

I have a small jazz trio, and at one of our first gigs we had about an hour’s worth of music “prepared”.  We played well, and people loved us so much that the guy who asked us to play at his restaurant wanted us to play for two more hours!  We were excited that they wanted us to keep playing–but we had run out of music!  So we did what humans do best: improvise.  We took some basic chord progressions and quickly decided on the right “feel” for the next song, and decided on some basic ques, and went with it.  It worked.


Granted, we are all experienced musicians (so we weren’t just making noise), but for all intensive purposes we created 2 hours completely new music without “practicing”.  We were able to do this because we had that foundation of experience and a decided form to go off of, and decided on a “lead” (someone who would take-point) for each new song.

I think the creative process boils down to:

  • Decide on a leader who can complement the group
  • Think through what you want to communicate
  • Have a form (the chords) and then forget it as the song dictates
  • Have the technical ability to back your ideas


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