The Kind of Collaboration

On March 1959, a group of established musicians gathered under one roof to record what would be regarded as the greatest jazz album of all time.

Little did the musicians know what they were to record. They were given sketches, brief instructions, and the freedom to improvise—almost no rehearsal. Recording was to take place in a timeframe of two days. Prior to the album’s existence, Miles Davis had been meditating on the idea of modality. A year earlier he had put this theory into practice by starting small as an experiment with a song titled Milestones. A proof that would transition jazz music from the hot hard bop style and venture it into an ocean of the unknown.

For a few weeks now, the album has been one in my playlist. On repeat during short work breaks and long bike rides. Even my tram rides have become shorter than expected. Yet every time I listen, I discover something new like a Baker Street detective scanning a room with an ear-invented-magnifying-glass. I catch a trail of wisdom transcending through 16 bars in ambient 1959. I wonder about the band setup and work ethic as Coltrane’s sax untangles unseen notes like a no-ink cash register machine printing out a long receipt.

I somehow imagine physical piano keys burning as hot as a stove burner. I imagine Wynton Kelly in a flow state avoiding finger burns. We know this because he taps the keys in short intervals. But more than anything, I listen and think of collaboration. Here are people who have gathered for a common course. How do they seem to make it work under constraints? Their sounds, instruments, and styles are different. They are unique. No one tries to be another. In humbleness I ask myself, as established as they were at that time, where’s the ego? It turns out I get greedy and want that kind of collaboration.