Sunday, April 18, 2010

The world’s greatest coolfarmers – what we can learn from Jazz

Yesterday evening I was part of a great coolfarming experience. It was the final performance of Jazzaar, a one week workshop of practical music for talented young musicians culminating in public concerts on Friday and Saturday evening. Jazzaar is the brainchild of Fritz Renold, a Jazz musician, composer and music teacher. Every year since 1998 Jazzaar invites internationally renowned Jazz musicians to Aarau, where they teach and play with the most talented and motivated young musicians age 14 to 24 of the Canton of Aargau.

For me how Jazz musicians play together is a great blueprint for how creative teams should work together. In Jazz, improvisation isn't a matter of just making old things up. Jazz, like any language, has its own grammar and vocabulary. There's no right or wrong, just some choices that are better than others.
According to “A Passion for Jazz”…”Jazz players will choose phrases that seem to be preordained so they intuitively know where they are going, even though it's being created at the instant they are hearing it. The musicians are actually spontaneously creating a very intricate form of theme and variation; they all know the tune and the role of their instrument. The guitar, piano, bass and drums, while all able to solo, basically provide the rhythm and harmony over which the soloist will create improvised variations. The structure is flexible so that the soloist may venture in various directions depending on the inspiration of the moment.”

With their rotating lead among the soloists, this model of collaboration - based on a common language - is precisely how COINs should operate.

Yesterday Saturday evening was the final concert for this year, in the sold out KUK (Kultur&Kongresshauss) Aarau. As the official guest of honor, the Swiss President, Doris Leuthard, was there with members of the government of the Canton of Aargau and the City of Aarau.

It was a great evening, with the band made up by famous professionals such as Buster Williams, Corey Allen, Mark Gross, and half a dozen others. The conductor, Kevin Fields, was marvelous. But my vote for greatest coolfarmer of all goes to the singer, Roseanna Vitro, who did a tremendous job integrating the audience and sharing credits for all the pieces she performed with the other soloists. The soloists were always made up both by famous stars and young musicians from Aargau. The climax came when, after frenetic applause, she led into the encore. She asked the audience to sing along, which we did soulfully. And then she asked the young soloists to improvise along with the old experts. It was a decisive moment for the young artists, because all the other pieces and solos they had played until now they had carefully practiced the previous week. But at the end of the concert, with an enthusiastic audience, the young players dared unlocking their own creativity, and one young soloist after the other, bass, sax, piano, trumpet joined in, taking control of the performance for a short, but infinitely intense moment and then passing on leadership to the next.
Coolfarming at its best!