We are obsessed with the “new.” Anything which appears to be new is given immediate value and becomes the next obsession. But is it really new? And just because it's new does that in itself make it valuable?
The answer to these questions can be found through the study of history. Not just in the most home runs or coldest day but in the study of people and what they do. No matter how time passes and new technologies arise, we continue to be human and do largely the same things in slightly different ways. Every few years there is introduced a “new” math with a bunch of studies and statistics tied to the reasoning behind its introduction. But if you talk to someone who has been teaching for 30 years (as my mother did) you may discover that many of these ideas have been here before. It's like a pendulum swinging back and forth. Its good its swinging because that’s part of a process that will eventually lead to a center (resting place) but every time it swings back to one side from the other that is not new. Unless we don’t know that it was just here. I have discovered so many things about jazz music that I thought were original only to find out from studying history (through listening to older musicians) that they had been done before. Maybe not in exactly the same way but pretty darn close. When I was in college Bill Dobbins pointed out to me that the movement that John Coltrane memorialized in Giant Steps in 1959 was present in a song called Blue Rose written by Duke Ellington in 1953 and recorded in 1955. The song also includes the exact intro from Coltrane’s Moments Notice. I am also told that Ravel used the same movement in a piece of his. I’m not taking anything away from Coltrane. He certainly had a unique, personal style which carried in it profound emotional projection; without a doubt one of our greatest musicians and as one of my favorites a big influence on my playing. However its always good to remember that everything is not always as it appears and only a continued investigation into the music will accurately define value.