John McLaughlin vis-a-vis Chuck Close

“The only instructions Miles Davis ever gave me were, ‘play it like you don’t know how to play the guitar.’ It’s not something you can logically understand. To me Miles was a very advanced human being—a Zen Master. I’m standing with this piece of music, and he totally threw me out of my normal state of mind. I had no idea what I was doing when I was playing after that request. And yet Miles loved it. That was the ‘In A Silent Way’ recording. I can tell you that I had no idea what I was doing until I heard the playback.

“Which is the way you should be when you play music. You cannot be in an ordinary state of mind.
You have to be kind of inspired. You have to have some kind of joy—some kind of exultation. You need basically what’s inside everybody, but in music we have to be able to bring it out.

“I remember we were in the middle of a session and he wasn’t happy. He stops the band and walks over to Jack DeJohnette. He said, ‘Jack: ba……..Ba…….boom…..Ba….Ba…ok?’ Now what do you make of that? Jack says, ‘OK, Miles,’ and his playing changed dramatically from that point. He just cut right loose; he freed right up. That’s the genius of Miles. Never ever would he speak about reading or guiding—you had to watch him, and see what he was doing, and how he was doing it. It’s as important to know what you don’t want as it is what you do. I learned just being with him as a sideman.

“‘Bitches Brew’ is a classic example, in my candid opinion. Miles didn’t know what he wanted. All of BB he didn’t know what he wanted. But he knew very well what he did not want. So that left the door open for all kinds of opportunity.”

“Ease is the enemy of the artist. When things get too easy, you’re in trouble.”

“All the best ideas come out of the process; they come out of the work itself.”

“Get yourself in trouble. If you get yourself in trouble, you don’t have the answers. And if you don’t have the answers, your solution will more likely be personal because no one else’s solutions will seem appropriate. You’ll have to come up with your own.”

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