There was a point the other night when Wynton Marsalis took his bow after we finished performing his Swing Symphony with the Sydney Symphony Orchestra when he looked around at the band and I could sense a strong wave of emotion. You could see it in his eyes - a deep sense of pride. Not the kind you might get from the standing ovation he was currently receiving, or the clear admiration from the members of the orchestra and conductor, But the kind you feel when you realize for the past 60 minutes your colleagues have just put 100% or their soul, ability and feeling into something you’ve created; made it come alive, jump off the score with humanity and love and expression.
I often feel the journey is the most important part of creation - the research, discovery, trust, instinct and problem solving that you go through when composing a piece of music. The performance has often felt like a smaller part of the overall experience, that the deepest part of the experience came from the creation not the performance. At times the latter it even felt anti-climactic. All that work and it was over in a flash. But in that moment the other night, while Wynton looked around with a spiritual fullness at the band, I could feel that, especially when it involves so many people making their own personal journey through interpreting and giving themselves to the music, the performance can even surpass the creation.
When the right musicians bring their insight to your music it is a blessing. Having composers play your own works is a huge privilege - it’s as if they understand the journey you have gone through and become part of the composing process.
Jazz is such an amazing form of music because much of the accompaniment is improvised, so it’s different every time. Improvisers are often described as instantaneous composers.