Thursday, May 14, 2015

mistakes as style

While listening to both Miles Davis (Miles Smiles) and the JGB (10/11/75) yesterday, I was thinking about this great quote.  

"The higher up you go, the more mistakes you are allowed. Right at the top, if you make enough of them, it's considered to be your style."
-Fred Astaire (not sure of the source; I found it at the NPR Writers Almanac)
In spite of the astonishing facility of the musicians, Miles Smiles has its share of fluffs and mistakes.  Davis accepted them in the name of capturing freshness and spontaneity and that willingness to fuck up became one of the stylistic hallmarks of that band, who are arguably one of the great improvising ensembles of all time.  Garcia, well, he might have made the occasional mistake himself, and often for the same reasons.  When we hear those mistakes and respond positively to them, though, how much of that response is conditioned by our blind devotion and how much is more of a response to his style?  (to be fair, that 75 show wasn't remotely as inspiring as Miles Smiles, but, well, anyway).  

I like the ambiguity of what Fred Astaire is saying, too.  Are the mistakes overlooked and accepted because of the artist's greatness or because of the artist's persistence and longevity?

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