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Timeless advice from two jazz masters.

Thelonious Monk and Chick Corea are two of the most dynamic and thrilling pianists in the pantheon of great jazz artists.

Thankfully they left behind their recordings, songbooks, and a great deal of wisdom. Below is written advice for musicians from each of them.

Thelonious Monk's advice on the left, and Chick Corea's advice on the right.

Side by side comparison of written notes by Thelonious Monk and Chick Corea

To me, these read like favorite recipes from two celebrated innovative world-renowned chefs. As an artist, I can't help but note that there are overlapping points made by both great artists.

Both talk about the importance of leaving empty space in the music, and creating with intention, not just playing everything that passes through one's head: exercise discernment. Both make a point of being true to one's own artistic aesthetic — one's "genius" is in their authentic originality. Both make a point of making those who play with them and surround them sound good — elevate others. Both of them talk about the importance of contrast in a composition or performance — contrasting sections make the other parts sound good.

Here, in these two pages, is a consolidated expression of wisdom from each artist that can take a lifetime to unpack and apply, and yet can be applied immediately. Every time I return to them, I have added perspective on how to work with these concepts in my own music.

I recently read a wonderful book, "Decoding Greatness," by scholar and psychologist Ron Friedman. In "Decoding Greatness," Friedman talks about patterns for success. To observe a pattern is to make note of common traits, steps, and actionable behaviors that those we admire embrace as part of their practice. Through emulation and adoption of common ideals, we may be able to achieve our own unique expressions embued with their philosophy. To be alive is to be in a state of growth and movement. I return to these pages from Chick Corea and Thelonious Monk regularly to check in with them and how they reflect within me. The one line that always hits hard for me is Monk's: "A genius is the one most like himself."

Do these resonate with you? Are there other advices that you have revisited throughout your life and creative journey? Please leave a comment below and let me know!

Please note: there are no affiliate links here. My views are my own and are not paid referrals.



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