Friday, April 20, 2012


Today on my way in I listened to two pieces of music that got me thinking about the nature of creative partnerships.

The first was a 7:17 minute piece from an album called "Mulligan Meets Monk" featuring of course Gerry Mulligan and Thelonious Monk playing a song called "Sweet and Lovely." The second was a piece of music from an Atlantic Ray Charles album called "Pure Genius." This is a recording of a rehearsal session of "Losing Hand" with a dialogue between Charles and his arranger, producer, partner, the great Quincy Jones.

Let's start by saying that I regard all four of the people mentioned above to be in possession of genius. And I think they each regarded their partners as possessing genius as well.

Mulligan and Monk play together, they rise in melody and harmony, but they also battle. At times what they play seems to fight. Monk hitting broken chords while Mulligan is sweet and sad. At other times, the roles are altered. Monk is playful, almost childlike while Mulligan is delirious, dissonant and atonal. Their relationship through this 7 minute piece is strained, tense, periodically combative but ultimately positive. They don't agree on everything--but they come through with the goods.

Charles and Jones have a different relationship. Jones puts his brilliance on the back burner and defers almost wholly to the surpassing genius of Charles. This might be somewhat like the famous line about the brilliant mathematician Johnnie Von Neumann: "There are three branches of math. Applied. Pure. And Johnnie Von Neumann."

Jones in this cut is extolling the Charles branch of music.

If you spend the $1.29 and listen to this track you'll hear Jones feeding Charles his lines. You'll hear Charles wrestle with them and then with his demons. Then you'll hear the lines soar with the pain of life, loss and love.

This cut is all about Charles. But Charles is Charles because Jones is Jones.

Each scenario I think can be extrapolated to be about advertising partnerships, whether they're the traditional art-director/copywriter partnership or account/creative or agency/client.

Find a way to push and pull, to play off one another. Find a way to fight amiably and productively. Find a way to serve a surpassing idea or talent.

Doing so makes great.

PS. I couldn't find a You Tube recording of the Charles/Jones rehearsal. So what's posted above is just Charles. With Jones' reverb.


dave trott said...

The best definition of that relationship I heard was from John Hegarty. He said "A great ad is 80% idea and 80% execution."

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