LESSON: When people are using your talking points, arguments and rhetoric, you’ve won. If you’re the only one saying it, you might be unique, but you don’t have influence.
Apropos: Paul Bley told me about doing a George Russell gig with fellow pianist Bill Evans.
They played improvised call-and response sections. Bley knew he was doing something harmonically different, and introducing the far more famous Evans to a new musical vocabulary. Everything Bley tossed at him, Evans was able to assimilate into his solos. After the session, he was terrified that Evans would go on to use elements of Bley’s harmonic innovation on his own gigs—and make Bley himself superfluous on the scene.
You can hear the recording here:
So he went to see Evans, probably at the Village Vanguard or at Birdland. He was nervous, but when Bill opened with “Someday My Prince Will Come” it was obvious to Bley that he hadn’t stolen anything. And he was relieved.
The insane competitiveness of the New York jazz scene in the late 50s and early 60s was something else; it was basically a zero-sum situation. Political discourse today is different. The people who are important know what you’ve contributed. They’re paying attention.