Tuesday, February 24, 2015

All That Jazz

If you haven’t yet read Judith Searle’s The Literary Enneagram or Tom Condon’s The Enneagram Movie & Video Guide, you’re missing a world of pleasure. 

Those who’ve had the good fortune to be in workshops with panels of exemplars know the value of seeing and hearing from a wide variety of individuals. The evidence for Enneagram style is in the stories people create out of their lives: their language, their pace, how they view the world. And – when the stories are well told – you can distinguish among Enneagram styles in film and books as well as from a live panel. This is a pleasurable way to improve your observation skills.

I’ve been drawn to jazz from the first note I ever heard and was happy to discover Nat Hentoff's Listen to the Stories, a collection of his essays about jazz and country musicians. Because I’d read in Condon’s Enneagram Movie & Video Guide that Thelonious Monk is style Five, I looked for evidence in Hentoff’s essay, “Memories of Thelonious Monk:”

"…That day Monk, for a while, was more talkative than usual. At other times his silences could last an hour or two or longer. A brilliant young musician, Gigi Gryce, came rushing in during one of the silences and said to Monk with great delight, 'I got in! I got in! I’m going to Julliard!' After about ten minutes, Monk looked at the still radiant Gigi and said, 'Well, I hope you don’t lose it there.' 

"Although there's plenty of room for improvisation by Monk and his colleagues, each piece is precisely structured. Monk not only knew what he wanted from his musicians, he refused to accept anything less. Gigi Gryce once told me: 'I had a part Monk wrote for me that was impossible. I had to play melody while simultaneously playing harmony with him. In addition, the intervals were very wide. I told him I couldn’t do it. ‘You have an instrument, don’t you?’ he said. ‘Either play it or throw it away.’ And he walked away. Finally I was able to play it'…

"For a long time, Monk… was treated by many jazz critics as a semi-comic eccentric rather than as an original. And that diminished his chances to work… Eventually, he made many recordings and played a growing number of festivals and clubs. But Monk began to stay more and more within his own mind. The silences grew much longer… 

"Monk knew his own stature. At a recording session, when Coleman Hawkins asked Monk to explain some of his music to him and to John Coltrane, who was also on the date, Monk looked at the magisterial Hawkins: 'You’re the great Coleman Hawkins, right? You’re the guy who invented the tenor saxophone, right?' Monk turned to Coltrane: 'You’re the great John Coltrane, right? Well, the music is on the horn. Between the two of you, you should be able to find it.'"

In the above excerpt, note a Five-ish tendency to withdraw into silence, Monk's long pauses, his disdain for emotions, his minimalism, his certainty about his own carefully thought-out views and expertise, and his tendency to expect others to learn the way he did – to figure it out for themselves.