This is another question we were asked at our College of the Desert workshop – and another one for which there’s no easy short answer. We present these thoughts:
“At the workshop, we cited the following quote from trumpeter Clark Terry: Imitate. Assimilate. Innovate. Every great musician, jazz and otherwise, is the sum of their musical experiences not just as a player but as an audience member. Many people get discouraged when they find themselves stuck in the rut of imitating their heroes. Remember though, imitation is an important part of the creative process. Beethoven’s early music was heavily influenced by Mozart, Haydn and other composers of the era, but by the time he died, he had created a body of work that bore little resemblance to what came before. The Beatles’ early music was influenced by rock’n’roll, skiffle and other styles, but by the time they broke up, they had shattered the mold for what people expected from a rock band.
Another quote to keep in mind comes from Miles: ‘You have to play for a long time before you can play like yourself.'”