One of the most sensitive questions to ask a musician isn’t always personal stuff.
Instead it tends to be “who is your biggest influence?” You might not want to put it quite like that or you might get a bit of a look. You can tease it out usually or just guess laying out a few hints here and there and then the interviewee will either light up in recognition or make you feel as if you are the most ill-informed person in the world ever for having the temerity to think, let alone, suggest that.
It is, in a way, another highly personal question as great music is about individuality, having your own sound, saying something that’s yours and no one else’s. But usually, despite this, the most aware (and more self-effacing?) musicians will, if they know they won’t be misinterpreted, happily talk about their heroes and those who have influenced them even if the process might take a few years until their careers have caught fire and they have nothing to lose.
I’m not saying that people should analyse their own styles because that’s not needed but put it this way if someone knows every solo Charlie Parker ever made or every fill Elvin Jones created or knows the weight and decay of every time Charlie Haden put finger to string then analysis is replaced by deep knowledge that needs to find self-expression.
Somebody who is a perfect stylist and they’re still relatively early into their career may at some stage change to throw everything aside and somehow use what style they have meticulously absorbed as a way into their own thing.
They might just as easily, however, reach some sort of fork in the road, just be happy with their lot as a stylist, and go still deeper into that style choosing to play in the same vein all their lives.
Names aren’t needed but there are a huge number of jazz players out there in this latter distinction and they remain great players and engender tremendous loyalty. Going to their gigs you know exactly what you’re going to hear stylistically and sometimes you might even dig out their heroes’ music beforehand and listen to it to get in the mood.
The fascinating end result is what the disciple produces may well allow new insights on the original inspiration itself and fills in the missing bits never created in the first place or takes what has been created a big step further, dancing to the music of time. SG