“Stefon Harris: Every mistake is an opportunity in jazz.”

redazione / 15 May 2015

Stefon Harris talks about how a mistake can become an opportunity on the stage

The bandstand, as we call it: this is an incredible space, it is really a sacred space. And one thing that is really sacred about is that you have no opportunity to think about the future, or the past. You really are alive, right here in this moment: there are so many decisions being made when you walk on the bandstand. We have no idea what key we would gonna play in, in the middle we sort made our way into a song called “Titi Boom”….but that could have happened, maybe not. Everyone is listening, we are responding: you have no time for projected ideas. So, the idea of a mistake, from the perspective of a jazz musician: it is easier to talk about someone else’s mistake. So, the way I perceive a mistake when I am on the bandstand: first of all, we don’t really see it as a mistake. The only mistake lies in that I am not able to perceive what it is that someone else did. Every mistake is an opportunity in jazz. So, it’s hard to even describe what a “funny” note would be. Someone could conceptually perceive that as a mistake. The only way that I would say it is a mistake is in that we didn’t react to it. It was an opportunity that was missed. So, it’s unpredictable, we’ll paint this pallet again, we’ll play it: I don’t know how we will react to it. But something will change: we’ll all except his ideas…or not. Jazz, this bandstand, is absolutely amazing, it’s a very purifying experience. And I know I speak for all of us: we don’t take it for granted. We know to be able to come on the bandstand and play music is a blessing. How this is sort of related to behaviour of finance? We are jazz musicians, so stereotypically we don’t have a great relationship to finance. The other dynamic of it is that we don’t micromanage in jazz. You have some people who do, but what that does is that actually limits the artistic possibilities. If I really want the music to go there, the best way for me to do it is to listen. This is a science of listening: it has far more to do with what I can perceive than what it is that I can do. So, if I want the music to get to a certain level of intensity, the first step for me is to be patient, to listen to what’s going on, and pull from something that’s going on around me. When you do that, you engage and inspire the other musicians, and they give you more, and gradually build. A totally different experience when I am pulling ideas: it is much more organic, much more nuance, it’s not about bullying my visionary things. It’s about being in the moment, excepting one another, and allowing creativity to flow.

Written by Marco Tantardini