Compatible Quotes: An Occasional Series

It bugs me when people try to analyze jazz as an intellectual theorem. It’s not. It’s feeling. —Bill Evans

Originality’s the thing. You can have tone and technique and a lot of other things but without originality you ain’t really nowhere. Gotta be original. —Lester Young

A chimpanzee could learn to do what I do physically. But it goes way beyond that. When you play, you play life. —Jaco Pastorius

I can’t stand to sing the same song the same way two nights in succession. If you can, then it ain’t music, it’s close order drill, or exercise or yodeling or something, not music. —Billie Holiday

Master your instrument, master the music, and then forget all that sh__ and just play. —Charlie Parker

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  1. says

    “If you don’t live it, it won’t come out of your horn.” Charlie Parker

    “I’m sure critics have their purpose, and they’re supposed to do what they do, but sometimes they get a little carried away with what they think someone should have done, rather than concerning themselves with what he did.” Duke Ellington

    To an associate who sympathized with his struggle to complete a suite and told him that he needed more time, Duke Ellington fired back, “I don’t need more time! I need a DEADLINE!”

  2. Joel Elkins says

    Thank you Doug for these simple but profound reflections of some great and eloquent artists. Bill’s comment was especially profound.

    As one who is not a musician it was an especially pertinent insight.

  3. says

    I love Dizzy’s quote, which Gene Lees passed along: “You can’t steal a gift. If you can hear it, you can have it.”

  4. dick vartanian says

    I can’t find anything there that’s arguable. That’s how it should be done-but sometimes isn’t

  5. David says

    To hear Bill analyze jazz as an intellectual theorem, check out his “Piano Jazz” episode or the interview with his brother on “The Universal Mind…”

    • Jim Brown says

      Both pieces are great. Several years ago, I led a sort of class for seniors, whose primary objective was to listen and watch to jazz videos. I used much of that video, and also his exchange with McPartland.

  6. Terence Smith says

    Love all these quotes, especially Billie Holiday’s. In fairness though, I think Jimmie Rodgers, the “Singing Brakeman,” may have demonstrated (via his Blue Yodels 78 RPMs) that yodeling doesn’t always have to be classed with close order drill. I am partial to Blue Yodel #9, “Standing on the Corner,” in which Louis Armstrong and Lil Hardin seem to support the yodeling of “the Father of Country Music” all the way !

    • Terence Smith says

      Oh boy, I just went to Doug Ramsey’s handy link to (1930) “Blue Yodel # 9,” from which YouTube beckoned me to Louis Armstrong and Johnny Cash “recreating” it on TV in 1970. Comparisons are odious, but it stands up very well with the Rodgers 78, to say the least! God Bless Johnny Cash and Louis Armstrong (damn his trumpet is tasty!), and they truly turn yodeling duo into an art form Billie can approve of! & Thank you Doug Ramsey for so many compatible things!

      • Doug Ramsey says

        Here they are on The Johnny Cash show in 1970, the year before Louis Armstrong died.

        • Rob D says

          After a morning of being assaulted by the pop music of our day (don’t…long story), this was a delightful blast of musical goodness…marvelous.

  7. says

    Here’s a quote from the late Joe Wilder, published in Edward Berger’s excellent book “Softly, With Feeling.”:

    “In both classical music and jazz music, sometimes you can play something, and it just touches your heart. You have no idea when this is going to happen. The music is so beautiful that it seems to come from just someplace unknown to you, but at the moment it happens, you just feel so happy about it.”

  8. Dan Gawthrop says

    It bugs me when people try to analyze jazz (or any form of music) as simply feeling. It’s not. It also requires a fairly rigorous theoretical understanding. Yes, there are some musicians who handle the intellectual side of things almost completely intuitively, and who may not be consciously aware of what their brain is doing. But that doesn’t mean that their understanding is any less thorough, only that their approach incorporates less of the codification that one learns from formal instruction. Feeling is a critical component, no question, but without also having a theoretical understanding, either learned by trial and error or from training, the feeling alone won’t get you far.

    • Doug Ramsey says

      Mr. Gawthrop is an American composer, primarily of choral works, who also writes for organ and large instrumental groups.