Episode Description

In this podcast hosted by Jean Louis Baudoin, you will discover our "Jazz & Collaboration Workshop".

Jazz and the Art of Collaboration

The workshop invites you to take part in an exclusive, concrete and living experience, with a commented Live concert, designed to transform the participants mindsets and approaches.

Jazz sculptures in silhouette - Donald GIannatti

Our workshop illustrates on the one hand the theoretical links which exist between Jazz and organizations and on the other hand, demonstrates those links through a "live" concert given by a combo reuniting 4 of Belgium's top musicians plus Jean-Louis on the bass.

This live module's objective is to enable the audience :

  • to discover and feel a new Art of Collaboration based on Focus and Freedom, active Listening, Improvisation and Creativity within a structure
  • to understand how you can apply and practice it in a Business Environment for enhanced performance and enjoyment

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Contact us to organise a customized session

Episode Transcript

Tanscript of Jazz and the Art of Collaboration

Hello, my name is Jean-Louis Baudoin, and I am the co-creator of a workshopcalled Jazz and the Art of Collaboration.

We created that together with Aline Frankfort a few years ago.

I am particularly suited to talk about Jazz because I am a Jazz musician.And I go back a long way into the Jazz story and practice. It all started in1949. I was 14 at the time, so guess how old I am today. The gift I receivedfrom my uncle for my birthday was a record by a saxophone player from Americacalled Charlie Parker. And Charlie Parker was a saxophone player who playedsaxophone like nobody had played before. And he was involved in a movement witha few others like Dizzy Gillespie, Thelonius Monk, and others called Bebop.Bebop was a new style, a new way of looking at music, of playing it, ofharmonizing, creating rhythms, showing how reactive, progressive and creative Jazzwas.

I was fortunate enough to live in a city called Liège in Belgium. And Liègeat the time was the capital of Jazz not only of Belgium, but of Europe involveda number of good musicians who became world famous like Bobby Jaspar, like ReneThomas, Jake Pelzer. And through my uncle, I knew all these guys and went tojam sessions and watch them play and became quite friendly. And one day Iremember, René Thomas told me “you know, you should play the bongos becauseAfro Cuban Jazz is fun. And we don't have any Bongo player around. So why don'tyou play the bongos? So I bought some bongos and started playing, and I had aradio broadcast then, which was fun. And we went on from there to drums, and Iplayed drums for a while. And one day I was in a gig and the bass player didn'tshow up, he was sick. And the piano player told me “Jean-Louis, pick up thebass and play the bass”. I said “I can't play the bass” and he said “don'tworry, you pull the strings and, you know, see what happens”. So I plugged thestrings, and apparently it went well, because nobody complained.

So, during my Law Studies at the University of Liège, I had five years witha lot of free time to study the instrument, practice it and play in local clubs,jam sessions and orchestras. I became a rather good bass player and played withtop notch musicians in festivals like Comblain-La-Tours, world famous in the60s, and I had a good time doing that.

What happened then is, as I grew up, and became a little bit more consciousof processes and ways things were going on, and my studies also helped me, Irealized that Jazz was a form of miracle of human relations. Jazz meant thatpeople who've never met before, who belong to the category of Jazz musicians, canget together, having never played together and can play in a very constructive,fun and interesting way. Although they have not rehearsed, they have not playedtogether before. And that really was impressive. It probably influenced my lifea lot until up today, because what the workshop does is reproduce exactly whathappens in a Jazz orchestra. It's what I call instant inclusion. You goanywhere in the world, you're a musician, you go to a Jazz club, and you say,Hello, I'm whatever, trumpet player or saxophone player, bass player fromBelgium. May I sit in with you guys and play? And they usually say, Oh, yes.And ask you the guest “What would you like to play?” So you say, let's say,Autumn Leaves, very famous tune and 1,2,3,4, and there you are, you're playingtogether! You don't even know their names, and it works. So, it's reallyimpressive as a process of operation, process of sharing, process of creation,process of respect, process of fun.

Two examples that I personally lived. One day I was in Madrid for my work,and I heard there was a Jazz club called the whiskey Jazz club. Owned funnilyenough, by Jean-Pierre Bourbon, whiskey company. And I went there and sudden satin with the Spanish music. And the next day they took me out and they helped mevisit Madrid, the way Madrid person would do,  not tourists. And another time I was in Hanoi.And Greg Houben, trumpet player told me that there was a Jazz club in Hanoi,called Binh Minh. And I went there and said, You know, I'm friend of Greg Houben.He had played there. I'm a bass player. May I sit in with you guys? They said  Oh, yes, sure, of course. And we played, and Ididn't even know their name. We found out after that, who they were, and theytook me out the next day to visit Hanoi, and discover real Vietnamese food,street food and it was wonderful. So Jazz is a wonderful traveling companion,encounter companion and friendship generator.

Why did we invent the Jazz and Collaboration workshop, because Jazz seemedto us better adapted metaphor of the times we're going through now, as opposedto the pyramid metaphor that was used before. The pyramid metaphor is anorganization with somebody at the top. It's like what the people used to callthe symphony orchestra, like Herbert von Karajan at the top, choosing therepertoire, choosing the tempos, choosing everything and imposing his will tobetween 100 and 120 people who are reading scores, pre-written scores, turningpages and having nothing to say about anything.

The same was true with companies like General Electric, for instance, wherea man like Jack Welch was the Herbert von Karajan of industry and GeneralElectric was to Berlin filarmonica. Jack Welch made a lot of money for theshareholders. But that was probably it. So, the metaphor of Jazz enabled us tomove from the pyramid and the silos to the combo of Jazz, which is a combinationof musicians who have decided to play together around not a leader, but someonewho is even better and recognized as a master and attracts young talents toplay with him in a small group.

The pyramid is therefore abandoned, the pyramid being characterized bycommand and control, as we saw, and the combo being characterized by focus andfreedom. And I may want to go a little bit more deep, deeply in the notion offocus and freedom. There are four elements that are important to consider whenyou talk about Jazz as a Jazz metaphor. The four elements are the following

1.  First of all, isthe mastery, mastery of the instrument.

2.  The second isthe focus.

3.  The third iscreativity and freedom.

4.   And the fourth is the playing together

If I may, I'd like to go into more details for each point.

First of all, the mastery the mastery, of course, if you are not a masterof your instrument, and music reading, you have nothing to do in a Jazz combo.So forget it, so that the technique is no longer an obstacle, but a source offreedom and Liberty. Mastery is key to a relaxed approach to producing,performing and making things happen.

The second, which I want to talk about is focus and focus takes manyshapes. Focus is maybe on the sound of the group. How are we going to sounddifferent, original, interesting? The focus may be on the repertoire: how arewe going to identify ourselves with a certain type of composition, a certaintype of sound? The focus may be on the number or the tune: we're going to playnext. And the focus may be on the tempo, the key, the rhythm, and thedifference between the tempo and the rhythm is interesting. Tempo is the speedat which you're going to play number 1234 or 12341234. That's tempo. Rhythm isthe style of rhythm. Are we going to play let's say a famous tune called autumnleaves? Dada Dada Dada Didi? Are we going to play it in G minor in E flat?let's all agree on the key, let's agree on a tempo. And let's agree on arhythm. So, example, da da, da, da, da, da, da, da, that's the tempo. And wedecide to do the introduction in Afro Cuban, da, da, da, da, da, da dun, dunda, da, you see the difference. So all these elements are elements on which tofocus on. Focus, very important.

The third element is freedom. Now, what is freedom? Freedom is the Libertyyou have within well identified constraints. And the constraints we just talkedabout some of them: the key, the tempo, the rhythm. Another country may be theaudience, are we playing for people who know or are mature, etc, etc. Freedomis something that makes things possible.

Freedom is not chaos. Freedom is organized Liberty within well identifiedconstraints. And then when you have that freedom, you can play well, andactively and precisely without taking any risks of being outside of the limits.

And the last element is the playing: playing together involves many things.First of all, the playing together means that you are serving a whole W H O L.E - we're not talking about golf here. Serving the whole means that you're atthe service of the orchestra of the sound of the cetera, sharing the hole, youhave to be exactly aware of what's happening, you have to be bringing yourwhole self to the scene, your best self, your generosity, your friendship, yourauthenticity, and the trust you can develop for others on you. There is nothingworse in a band than people competing to be the star. I was in groups likethat. And it's really difficult. We live that in Séville when we were with Ericlevy playing industrial and we were a very good trio, and then came in Americantrio, who asked if they could play a tune, and they were competing, the bassplayer was trying to be better than the drummer, who was trying to overtakeeverything and be better than both a pianist and a drummer. It was horrible. Sobringing playing together is really key. And the only way to play together isto trust, to respect, to listen carefully, to bring ways of making the othershine. And moreover, in the combo, you always have a piece of stardom, becauseyou solo at one time, and your solo is you your moment of glory.

So that's exactly what Jazz can do for you is a new way of working togetherin total respect, in fun, which is also a dimension which is important andrarely found companies. And believe it or not, it works. And it has worked foryears because over 30 years ago, people like Ricardo Semler in Brazil, forinstance, had invented a sort of liberated company and invented the concept of IndustrialDemocracy, the origin of the liberated company, which is so popular now, andillustrated in the book, by this young Belgian, and another guy in California,by the name of Chris Ruffer, had invented the self-management concept. In thecompany, everybody was his own boss, there were no titles. There were nospecial privileges. Everybody had the right to sign a check for a useful toolfor the exercise of their job. So now we're rediscovering things that existed along time ago. And it worked. People are still doubting because command andcontrol is still a very strong principle of management. And to tell you howstriking and shocking the Chris Ruffer was at the time, a guru of management bythe name of Gary Hamel wrote an article in the business review of the HarvardUniversity (which is not a fun club, as you know) and he wrote an articlecalled “First let's fire all managers”, which raised a few eyebrows.

So that's what I have to say about our workshop, the workshop Jazz andcollaboration enables to jam together, have fun together. And we've practicedit in many companies so far. And we got wonderful results and smiles on faces,which is important. I remember when one case we were working with a huge groupof 50 people working on 14 projects. And we were talking about Jazz andeverybody was listening carefully, and one guy was smiling all the time. So atQuestion time, I asked him, Sir, why are you smiling? So is it because whatyou're telling us is so wonderful. And it's such an ideal! And I say, Well, areyou working on a project said, Yes. What kind of project is that? What's thename of the projects it? Well, it's Project 85/92/4. And I said, Gee, that'sexciting. You know, you wake up in the morning, and you say, I'm working onprojects on so so so. And what's the project about? And he said, Well, we haveinvented a tile, which is going to deacidify rain. So I said that’s great. Youknow, it's wonderful. Why don't you call it “Thinking in the rain”? I'mthinking in the rain, and he's laughing. Everybody laughed. Do you like that? Yes,I do. Do you need a drummer? Yes, I’d like to have him. Why? Because he keepstime and is good at delays. It's good, you know, working weeks and so forth.Fine. Well, would you like a bass player? He said yes, I'd like him. Why?Because he sends good vibes. Okay, fine. You need a piano player. And in 15minutes, he had a team of “metaphorical musicians”, all smiling and lookingforward to jamming together.

That's what it's all about.

John Carter

Entrepreneur & Podcaster

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