I read this quote from "A Love Supreme/The Story of John Coltrane's Signature Album", by Ashley Kahn, and was really moved by it:
"Cecilia Foster, cousin to Elvin, tells of the saxophonist's reaction to his listeners' praise:
'Whenever I'd say to John - me trying to be hip - "Boy! John, you really burned on that last set!" he'd look at me for a long time and say, "What do you mean by that? What did you hear that was different? What was so impressive?" When I couldn't explain, he would say, "Don't be like so many people we know. If you can't explain what the difference was that you heard, what impressed you, just don't say anything." He was really quite a teacher as far as I was concerned. He taught me how to listen to jazz, what to listen for, how to be humble and not frontin' on the music.'
I've done the same thing as Cecilia, and never felt very comfortable doing so. Lately, after I hear a great performance, when I get a chance to talk with one of the performers (e.g. Ronnie Mathews at the Glenwood Summer of Jazz), I say something like, "Thank-you. You're performance really affected me."
From now on, when I play with other musicians, rather than say "You burned tonight!", I'm resolved to find something specific to share about what I heard from them. If I don't have anything specific to say, I won't say anything!
I also want to avoid seeking praise and approval, after my own performance.
Thanks, Mr. Coltrane.
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