An important musical lesson Sheila Jordan can teach us all

I'm producing video marketing for my Jazz Master Savvy product and I was reminded of a priceless clip from my interview with the great singer Sheila Jordan. In fact, I put her clip into one of my ads as an example of some of the gems from my library of interviews and other conversations.

Here's a short clip containing the snippet I put in the ad. Sheila is talking about originality in some great singers and her personal view on what it means to sound like someone else (as well as her hope for the future of jazz).

Remember Sheila's comment on individuality as you perform and record jazz. It will provide you with some honest direction for your playing.

Sheila Jordan own voice excerpt thumbnail copy

It also connects to something I wrote at the beginning of my book Self-Discipline Superpower:

While much of this book focuses on the existential aspects of discipline such as making the best use of your time, energy, your body, and so forth, one critical aspect of discipline has to do with a much more fundamental aspect of your life.

A happy, successful, and fulfilling life requires that you practice discipline in the name of discovering your values–to think and evaluate, and eventually choose the values you want to pursue. One value is your identity as a musician. What do you want to say musically? Who are you?

It’s easy to put off those choices, opting instead to follow the crowd, and coast through life defaulting to the easier path, the safe one borrowed from others, requiring no commitment to choosing long-range goals or values.

The discipline to which I am referring very much relates to you playing jazz.

To stand up and play the music that reflects you as an individual requires discipline. Choosing your own path, reflecting who you are as an individual, and resisting the temptation to sound like the safe voice of others is anything but easy.

As drummer Adam Nussbaum once said, "You just don't luck up on this." [playing jazz]. It takes effort.

In a prior email, I linked to a Soundcloud playlist of a bunch of rhythm tracks, and I challenged you to play something over one or more of them that reflected you as an individual. With just you and a microphone, what does that sound like?

A few years ago I was producing original music under the name Electrik Project. For years, I sent out one piece of music each month to my email list (you might have been on that early list). With each piece of music, I set out to create a reflection of me told through a personal musical story.

One piece from that monthly experiment was a tune I called Spock's Trombone. I wanted to create something using the alto trombone to form a sonic atmosphere beyond the usual sound of the instrument.

Take a listen.

Spock's Trombone thumbnail

The path to an authentic musical voice is not only through an abstract tapestry of sounds, I'll leave you with one other piece from my Electrik Project. It's called Andromeda Lullaby. I first created a one-minute sonic background over which I challenged myself to improvise a short story. No licks allowed.

Andromeda Lullaby thumbnail

Think about your unique voice on your instrument living outside of the 'box' so tempting to crawl into. Do you have the discipline to escape that box to find and speak your personal voice?

To paraphrase Sheila, make music about YOUR life.

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