Follow the Music

This is an excerpt of my remarks for the June 19, 2014, Jazz Diplomacy event sponsored by Natixis at the National Archives. 

Into a Black, Brown, and Beige World
Into a Black, brown and beige world went US Jazz Ambassadors, including: Dizzy Gillespie, Dave Brubeck, Benny Goodman, Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington. Leading with jazz and spreading democracy in sound, our finest musicians traveled to far-away places — Africa, the Middle East, Asia and Eastern Europe — collaborating and integrating with various people of the world for more than two decades, beginning in the mid 1950s.Middle East and Africa c 1955

Oh, they had been overseas before. Armstrong and Ellington had toured abroad in the early 1930s — just after the Stock Market Crash of 1929 — but this was different. These were no ordinary gigs. These musicians, who had established themselves as cultural icons at home, were now tasked with representing the nation abroad. Indeed, this integrated bunch whose home country was in the midst of an intense Civil Rights struggle, was being called upon to save the nation’s image, globally. They did that and so much more.

Ike Gets Dizzy
The idea of Jazz Ambassadors was a collaboration between President Dwight D. Eisenhower and Harlem Representative Adam Clayton Powell, Jr., after the successful multi-year Cold War tour of Porgy and Bess. Dwight EisenhowerNew York City Councilman Adam Clayton PowellPowell, who was married to organist Hazel Scott, was able to secure Dizzy Gillespie for the first official tour (Middle East, 1956). In the midst of racial strife that seemed sure to tear the nation apart, Dizzy Gillespie was a bold and necessary choice for leading the new venture.

But why jazz?

Jazz had an established global audience, internationally recognized talent, and was an art form indigenous to the United States. Primarily an instrumental music, jazz did not require lyrics, understanding the English language was not required for participation or appreciation. A “stealth weapon” of the Cold War, jazz was a relatively new art form so exceptional, it could rival the centuries of excellence of ballet and classical music embedded in European cultures and the Soviet Union. (Satchmo, 28) What’s more, jazz musicians weren’t hung up on race or ethnicity; jazz culture was and is inherently integrated, musicians sought and seek the best sounds. Jazz is an inclusive form, welcoming as many instruments as can be played.Global face

Created by Americans of African descent living in the US, jazz could simultaneously combat racial strife at home and promote diversity abroad. Supporting jazz meant acknowledging the cultural value of its historically marginalized populace, an effort that was in direct opposition to the realities as witnessed in contemporary news accounts. Dizzy big bandSeen through the lens of jazz, the United States was not the racist, materialist society others deemed it to be; instead, the US was a leader, a modern, progressive nation unified though its diversity, a disruptive innovator in a world wedded to custom.

Prelude to Chaos
The 1950s were turbulent years in the US. Senator Joseph McCarthy was closely associated with the era known as the “Red Scare” and took the ideological divide between democracy and communism to levels that were positively surreal. He turned his glance inward, accusing fellow countrymen of betrayal; and widened the gulf between races by castigating the socially conscious of every hue. The US involvement in the Korean War (1950-53) divided that country along ideological lines.

Separate, however, was not equal; so said the Supreme Court in its 1954 decision in Brown v Board but society had other ideas. In the summer of 1955, a young boy from Chicago, Emmett Till, was murdered in cold blood because witnesses thought they heard him whistle at a white co-ed during a summer visit to Mississippi.

Emmett Till imageDespite their own damning testimony, his killers were acquitted. That December, Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat to a white patron on a Montgomery, Alabama, bus and so launched a dignified nonviolent economic attack that lasted more than 380 days.Rosa Parks on bus

Segregation has been US social custom. Despite the Supreme Court’s ruling, Governor Orval Faubus of Arkansas sent the National Guard to prohibit nine children from integrating public school. Charles Mingus 2The Little Rock Nine eventually received protection from President Eisenhower who sent troops to protect the students’ right to matriculate. The insidiousness of this violence and the complexities of justice — these blues — were written indelibly into our cultural history with “Fables of Faubus” by Jazz Ambassador Charles Mingus.

Jazz and Life
Jazz had various forms but each reflected life in a unique way. Bebop musicians such as — Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Parker, Thelonious Monk, Roy Haynes, and JJ Johnson — brought forth a sound that illuminated virtuosity, was harmonically complex, and faaaaast! Bebop was rebellious, unsettling, and energetic. Domestically, it reflected the struggle for Civil Rights. Internationally, it appealed to youth and many overseas who struggled (psychologically, at least) and imagined life under a more liberal order.

The swing music of the big-band era with its steady, reliably placed beats, no longer seemed sufficient for capturing the velocity of social change. Incredulous, unnerving social contradictions, were expressed in bebop with sounds that were at once fiercely violent, emotionally dense, and cathartic. In one sense, musicians seemed to intellectualize the struggle; creatively processing its absurdities and indignities. Yet, swing privileged collaboration, promoted individuality through improvisation, and suggested social cohesion in ways bebop did not.

Innovation through Jazz
Legendary producer, NEA Jazz Master George Wein understood integration on a variety of levels. He knew we needed a variety of jazz forms and he wanted as many people as possible to engage the music. In 1954, when the United States seemed to be on the brink of social collapse, George began a series of annual outdoor jazz festivals in Newport, Rhode Island; and the rest, as they say, is history. George Wein & DukeThe idea of jazz festivals democratized the way we experience music. Through jazz festivals, George gave us a template for active engagement, audience growth and development, rotating leadership, and private/public partnership. Jazz reached through socio-economic barriers, dealt with the depths of emotional pain and injustice forthrightly, celebrated the triumph of the human spirit, and made even the most unlikely collaborations possible.

This was music to the State Department’s ears. George had a model that worked and a sizable, reliable network of musicians. The alliance between George Wein’s Festival Productions and the US Department of State was ideal. Musicians were able to expand the audience for their music and develop artistic alliances that would otherwise not be possible. The State Department was able to enter geopolitical spaces in black, brown and beige areas, bridge gaps in understanding, and forge meaningful alliances by bearing culture — not arms.

What’s more, jazz is self-regenerating. Whether swing, bebop, avant-garde, or cool — jazz adapts to change, embraces difference, and enables individuality through freedom of expression. Jazz is always modern and always relevant; it is agile. As Cultural Historian Albert Murray wrote, “The more any art form changes… the more it should be able to fulfill its original function.” (Hero, 72)

The tours of Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union were arguably the most successful. Musicians adapted to their ever-changing environments and audiences. EE Soviet map c1960They formed musical alliances, booked gigs and gave interviews in local markets. The music was sold bootleg and broadcast on the radio. Jazz became the sound of democracy and where jazz went, so too did commerce. Jazz had broad social appeal and reached the “man in the streets” not just those in elite circles of power. This was revolutionary — average citizens the world over had the chance to experience an art form that spoke to them directly and encouraged them to speak back. Jazz availed people of the possibilities inherent in individual self-expression.

*          *          *

The, now historic, Jazz Ambassador tours ended in the mid 1970s. The program left an indelible impact on all those involved; from diplomats whose jobs were made easier because of the way jazz commanded respect and made conversations flow, to musicians who hungered for the breadth of exposure to new sounds and interactions with new audiences, to average citizens who recognized their voice.

Follow the Music
Jazz tours continue today in modified form. Cultural presentation programs are now commonplace but it is no coincidence jazz was an early leader. As a response to economic disaster at home, musicians revealed themselves as entrepreneurs and expanded their networks of supporters and sponsors decades before terms like “social media” or “globalization” would enter into our collective vocabulary. Moreover, the blues — the deep feeling of contrasting emotions transmitted through sound, captured and sustained in jazz — is what connects people to the music and invites them into the shared creative, expressive, space and facilitates the formation of emotional communities. People from far and wide travel to be close to the music and what’s more, jazz musicians will travel to reach the people; they seek each other. As an inherently inclusive art form, jazz works because musicians absorb the sounds of local environments and through seamless collaboration, extend and enhance understanding.
Our efforts to engage the black, brown and beige of the world today — those in our own country and in emerging economies — will require lessons learned best through jazz: collaboration, listening, improvisation, and leading. Follow the music, it will teach you everything you need to know.





Big Data, Change, and Swing

How Big Data is Different” — by Thomas H. Davenport, Paul Barth and Randy Bean (henceforth known as DBB) was published in the July edition of MIT Sloan Management Review and explores the question:

How do the potential insights from big data differ from what managers generate from traditional analytics?

DBB: “Very little of the information is formatted in the traditional rows and columns of conventional databases.”

Global Jackie: We  need people who think in nontraditional ways, who are trained in fields beyond STEM

DBB says: Companies want “To understand their business environments at a more granular level, to create new products and services, and to respond to changes in usage patterns as they occur. In the life sciences, such capabilities may pave the way to treatments and cures for threatening diseases.”

Global Jackie: It’s not just business people and scientists who engage such processes! Jazz musicians understand their environments on a “more granular” level” every time they play the blues. Amidst the complexities of rhythm changes, time and key changes, audience cheers, applause and activity, bandstand dynamics, nightclub culture, and an assortment of randomly occurring disruptive forces, jazz musicians “respond to changes in usage patterns as they occur” and create classic if not legendary compositions and solos. (Listen to Louis Armstrong’s extended solo from 12s – approx 1:44) 

DBB have three on-point recommendations for improving data-handling capabilities and since they, somehow, left out jazz musicians (gasp, shock, horror) and the associated culture, I’ll improvise on the changes they’ve laid out…


               1. Pay attention to flows instead of stocks: In real-time monitoring contexts, organizations need to adopt a more continuous approach to analysis and decision-making based on a series of hunches and hypotheses. Social media analytics, for example, capture fast-breaking trends on customer sentiments about products, brands and companies.

Global Jackie: Jazz is social. Improvisation happens in real-time, there are no second chances, no do-overs. Musicians must process information continuously, coalesce it and  articulate it in a way that makes sense (remember, they must respect time, key signatures) and sounds good. The “hunches and hypotheses” occur as musicians craft  improvisations and new hunches and hypotheses are integrated into each new performance. These are skills that can be learned, honed, and performed in the corporate sector.


               2. Rely on data scientists and process developers instead of data analysts: “Data scientists,” as these professionals are known, understand analytics, but they also are well versed in IT, often having advanced degrees in computer science, computational physics or biology- or network-oriented social sciences. DBB notes that this type of  “upgraded data management skill set” also requires, “business acumen and the ability to communicate effectively with decision-makers.” DBB admits,  “This combination of skills, valuable as it is, is in very short supply.”

Global Jackie: Wow, ya don’t say? A whole team of data scientists and traditional IT people with advanced degrees? Well, I guess I can see why this is an improvement over using only data analysts but geesh, no wonder business can’t swing. Great to train tech people to build social skills but why not also take those trained in design, the creative arts and culture and train them to adapt or apply their skills and ways of thinking, processing and evaluating information to analytics? Not only will you create the disruptions necessary for innovation to occur but you’ll integrate thought processes that can lead to more effective team building, and realize hidden talents within your team. Not to worry, your organization can be trained to build a culture of resilience, innovation, and swing.

DBB: Early users of big data are also rethinking their organizational structures for data scientists. Traditionally, analytical professionals were often part of internal consulting organizations advising managers or executives on internal decisions. However, in some industries, such as online social networks, gaming and pharmaceuticals, data scientists are part of the product development organization, developing new products and product features.

Global Jackie: I like this… a lot because there’s a great deal of integration happening.  Rethinking organizational structures is fun for creative people; designers, musicians, and the like find this fascinating. Making data scientists “part of the product team” is a major step in the right direction. We’ve moved past racial segregation in the US (just go with me on this), let’s address the segregation of knowledge.

3. Move analytics from IT to core business and operational functions. The traditional role of IT— automating business processes — imposes precise requirements, adherence to standards and controls on changes. A key tenet of big data is that the world and the data that describe it are constantly changing, and organizations that can recognize the changes and react quickly and intelligently will have the upper hand.

Global Jackie: A key tenet of jazz is change. Musicians deal with uncertainty every day in every performance and in every articulation of a song. Musicians deal with pitches that vary, disagreeable reeds, sound boards affected by changing weather or internal climate conditions, etc. Constant change, uncertainty and all its associated anxiety, is an inextricable part of US cultural identity. Dudes, it’s called the blues and when individual angst is integrated into complex structures — like jazz, like corporations — we retain the “granular” even as we flow towards Six Sigma like efficiency, even as we swing.  




Facebook, Jazz & the Possibilities of Global Scale

It seems to me that Facebook aspires towards the same openness and global reach as jazz. Moreover, it seems these trajectories converge with diplomatic efforts that seek to grow democracy or sustain relationships with established democratic nations. Each effort is plagued by concerns over the issue of privacy. Exposing vulnerabilities through the release citizen information is a sensitive topic in general but has particular resonance in countries with a history of dictatorship. How do we define the value of Facebook, measure it, and scale it upwards? How do we define the value of jazz, quantify it and make it grow? Hmmmmm

Facebook’s value short-term can be realized locally. People sign-on to connect with one another. This builds and sustains relationships, empowers local citizens, builds and strengthens community-based organizations, local businesses, educational ventures, healthcare facilities and the like. Brian Solis’ notion of leveraging interpersonal relationships and continuing to “explore the intersection of technology and liberal arts to build and ship in ways that continue to define or redefine how people discover, connect, and share” connects the dots to global markets by potentially sharing local preferences amongst global actors.

Peter Sandberg, 5/18/2012
Peter Sandberg 5/18/2012

Facebook & the Blues

Solis’s nod to liberal arts is intriguing because, like the blues, it recognizes people as key actors. Mark Zuckerberg’s mission to “give people the power to share and make the world more open and connected” reveals the power of Facebook; its value is in giving people a voice and when realized collectively, their power is compounded, they can even topple dictatorships. Likewise, and remembering the blues is not the music of despair but of its transformation, the blues empowers people. When used as the foundation for jazz, the blues represents human agency amidst various complexities. The blues is disruptive; people are fickle and the uncertainty they wield is difficult to manage.

Privacy and Transparency

These are serious issues for Facebook. Through openness, transparency, or the honest expression of emotion vis-à-vis the blues, individual agency and collective power are realized. No wonder Zuckerberg is having such a difficult time getting Facebook into China. No wonder Twitter is on again/off again in Pakistan. No wonder Communist nations tried to block the infiltration of jazz during the Cold War. Jazz is the music of collaboration and, like Facebook, represents collective strength. The blues or “people power” is the highly individualistic fulcrum upon which sonic equilibrium hinges in jazz and upon which the power of authoritarian governments rests. Diplomatic efforts to build and/or strengthen democracies also open markets. Facebook is a key facilitator in this effort. Where Facebook goes – where jazz has gone and goes – so, too, do products and services. Facebook has solid long-term value.

The Market Value of Jazz

Patrick Jarenwattananon wants to increase the audience for jazz. He wonders why the immense increase in spending on jazz education failed to produce an increase in the audience for jazz and laments, “Why isn’t there a correlation?” Jason Moran is concerned about the, “functionality of the music” and asserts, “Sometimes we lose sight that the music has a wider context”; indeed, we do. Like Patrick, I’d like to increase the audience for jazz but I’m not so sure it hasn’t grown steadily over the decades. My understanding of audience extends beyond ticket sales and performance venues, a finite number. I am swayed, however, by Jason’s idea and want to give it some more thought.


Let’s change the questions, perspective and metrics. Let’s begin with what we know:


1. Jazz originated in the US in the early 1900s

2. Jazz is an open platform

3. Jazz is embedded in US culture

4. Jazz has been effective as a soft power tool in diplomatic endeavors promoting democracy since the Cold War

Now, let’s identify key concepts in jazz – such as collaboration, improvisation/innovation, and resilience – and measure the extent to which and the ways in which these are employed within and across key sectors (let’s try business and education) locally and globally. So, the question is not “Why did the investment in jazz education fail to increase audience size?” because the investment may have actually succeeded in achieving this finite goal. Instead, we’d evaluate the trajectory of collaboration, innovation and resilience in key sectors annually and over time by monitoring the correlation with business cycles in these areas. Has the “audience” grown over time? If so, to what degree and what are the projections? What happens when we correlate the spread of democracy with jazz and measure the openness of societies, the openness of their markets, and the revenues generated?

Follow the Money

My thought is this: “new money” lies in emerging market areas and these are also areas where democracy has yet to take a firm hold. Facebook’s ability to grant individuals the opportunity to connect and its commitment to openness facilitates collaboration and is akin to the blues and the collaborative elements of jazz. These features of individuality and collaboration are also hallmarks of the current US diplomatic effort. As nations support emerging democracies, in part by investing in open platforms like Facebook and jazz, they will also facilitate the opening of markets. That said – companies and organizations that move towards a more open and collaborative style or structure would be best poised to capitalize on new market areas as they emerge and would also increase their brand value locally.

“I’m Putting All My Eggs in One Basket”

Run, go do this now!

1. Invest in R&D. Get some polymaths on your team, quickly.

2. Increase efforts in corporate social responsibility because these engage local communities horizontally and encourage collaboration. Tie these efforts to key areas such as: education, healthcare and serious humanitarian issues, locally and globally. Staff these teams with local educators, healthcare workers, and civil/women’s rights activists and the like who work with their counterparts on teams in-house with those steeped in corporate culture. This increases the value of your brand locally and works to balance public disaffection with big business.

3. Grow these efforts through social media.

4. Train your middle mangers and senior-level executives to effectively communicate and collaborate across and through perceived/real organizational and community barriers.

Keywords: Facebook,  Jazz, diplomacy, democracy, open markets.

Jazz Ensembles, Diplomacy and Emerging Markets

Collaboration is all the rage. As we figure out how to exist in our increasingly interconnected world, thought leaders have come up with a compelling idea – collaborate with one another to create more unity, deepen understanding and realize our shared objectives. Louis Armstrong did this in his hometown of New Orleans, on the riverboats up and down the mighty Mississippi, and he certainly did this in Chicago when he arrived as a relative – but exceptionally talented – newbie filled with anxiety and confidence to play in Joe Oliver’s Creole Jazz Band in the early 1920s. While the US acknowledged the power of jazz to infiltrate communist philosophy (see Penny Von Eschen’s definitive work in this) during the Cold War era, American Culture centers were disbanded once the ideological war had been “won.” Although President Bill Clinton played a mean tenor saxophone, it was the “Dynamic Duo” – President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton – who reinserted the idea of meaningful collaboration into US foreign policy. You see, jazz ensembles have been practicing collaboration and managing the tricky terrain of uncertainty for decades, well… about a full century now, and the music’s culture represents more than a mere dilettante excursion into the nostalgia of a once popular genre of music. Jazz ensembles offer a model for collaborative enterprise, engaging change and managing uncertainty. Multinational corporations are taking notice – so should we.

In her December 2010 article for Foreign Affairs, “Leading Through Civilian Power,” Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton advances an argument in support of development and diplomacy and outlines a strategy for the joint enterprise.[1] She says, “increasing global interconnectedness now necessitates reaching beyond governments to citizens directly and broadening the U.S. foreign policy portfolio to include issues once confined to the domestic sphere, such as economic and environmental regulation, drugs and diseases, organized crime, and world hunger.” (15) Instead of the typical hierarchy that engages only elites (government officials), Clinton articulates a horizontal strategy that recognizes citizens and engages broad and diverse population bases. In this effort, the needs of the people can be heard and integrated into a plan for disseminating goods and services. This effort implies an inherent uncertainty that comes from engaging previously unrecognized people, forming relationships with them and integrating their needs and desires into larger policy objectives.

Jazz ensembles share much with Clinton’s vision for deeper integration and multilateral discourse. In a jazz ensemble, the structure is horizontal and like Clinton’s idea of moving from solely engaging governments to reaching citizens, jazz structure allows for the deepest integration of diverse sounds. Instrumental sections are arranged in a basic format (reeds up front, brass in back, rhythm to the side) that can be changed according to the conductor’s desires. Chair positions within sections indicate pitch or playing part –  part of an effort to integrate or diversify the sound and enrich its texture, broaden its reach, and illuminate the variety of talent. Improvisation is not a privilege awarded to the best or “elite” performers but is expected of everyone. Furthermore, collective improvisation (such as that typically in New Orleans jazz) is a scenario where everyone is playing his/her own rhythm changes at the same time. The chaos or cacophony that this might suggest is similar to engaging the multiplicity of citizen voices in the diplomatic approach advocated by Clinton. Managing such diversity is tricky business (consider this a hallmark of democracy because dictatorships need not entertain such diversity of pinion and bureaucratic red tape is streamlined) because there is a great deal of uncertainty; one just never knows how humans will behave or what they will say. In a jazz ensemble personnel can be added or reduced laterally in order to balance the sound, there is a place for everyone. Prophetically, Clinton’s 2010 article anticipates the US Occupy Wall Street protests and their focus on the 99% as opposed to the elite 1% where wealth is concentrated. In the interconnected world in which we live, horizontal strategies or structures that encourage broad and active engagement seem most promising for engaging multilaterally.

As it happens, this strategy of active engagement, expanding reach, and diversifying also works in business. Employees who are asked for their opinions feel validated and part of the corporate team. Such buy-in expands the company’s strategy to greater numbers of employees who develop or strengthen a vested interest in the company, neutralize the inherent hierarchy, and feel empowered as thinking individuals. In a Harvard Business Review survey, one of the important takeaways was that Advisory Council members found “the biggest execution challenge is making strategy meaningful to frontline workers.” The findings suggest that, “leaders should consider making strategy formulation more bottom-up and should communicate more clearly – throughout the ranks – abut what the company is trying to achieve.”[2] This, of course, has benefits for the company’s bottom line as Richard Florida and Roger Martin found their research.[3] Likewise, in “Mobilizing for Growth in Emerging Markets” Navi Radju and Jaideep Prabhu note, the strategy of focusing on the elite fails to help multinational corporations reach the “much larger population” or “prepare them for the far greater challenge (and opportunity) of reaching the urban and rural poor” – those customers deemed to be the “next billion.” Diplomacy and Development swing to the rhythm of jazz.

The relationship between development and economic well being is considered vital to sustaining world peace. Clinton asserts, “Economic growth is he surest route out of poverty, and expanding and strengthening middle classes around the world will be key to creating the just and sustainable international order that lies at the heart of the United States’ national security strategy.”[4] As multinational corporations increase “their capabilities in emerging economies by opening more R&D labs, factories and sales and marketing offices that can design, develop and sell locally relevant products and services”;[5] they expand the base, increase the potential for creating and sustaining a middle class, and increase the potential for peace building. Opening R&D offices in the local markets is key because it demonstrates a commitment to better know the people being served. R&D is an investment of time and while companies are committed to increasing profits, the investment of time and associate capital and human resources suggests companies are moving to privilege the long-term benefits of establishing relationships over turning quick profits. In this way, companies like nations can be more successful or competitive long term. Radju and Prabhu note, “These challenges require multinationals to move beyond the value chain localization they’re accustomed to and embrace a ‘network orchestration’ strategy that brings together local and global innovation partners.”[6] The idea of orchestration is on point but not classical orchestration with its rigid framework and written scores with strict performance mandates, but jazz because it is flexible, engages change and requires improvisation. In dealing with diverse citizenry, one should expect flexibility to work better than rigidity… besides, I think we’ve tried that approach already!

Hierarchal systems create inequality and nurture silence. When the top tier of an organization makes decisions, they are expected to trickle down to the bottom tier of employees who will carry out directives but this does not happen efficiently. Moreover, this method segregates people and ideas. While asking employees to “exercise judgment and [involve them in] decision-making” can lead to “innovation and enhance productivity”[7]; too often, “business leaders just don’t care why employees do anything as long as they follow the company’s rules, processes, cultural norms and laws.”[8] Not only is it insulting to expect humans to automate their behavior and so discard the ability to think critically, it promotes dictatorship because individual rights and opinions are not realized or valued. Additionally, influential educational studies[9] that align cognitive ability with GDP coupled with the US mission to increase testing in math, science and reading as indicators of cognitive ability, and student (and teacher) success, moves the nation’s students from innovation to automation; making them ideal candidates for working in a hierarchical system but ill prepared for jobs requiring critical thinking and creativity. In the same way, jazz musicians are ill suited for work in classical orchestras (though not at all due to talent or musical ability). Clinton’s development strategy insists on deeper integration of ideas and people. Jazz bands function successfully this way as well. Multinational corporations such as Nokia, GE and Xerox that have implemented similar strategies have met with admirable success.

Network orchestration would benefit from modeling jazz. “Premised on local and global partners working together to achieve innovation” jazz orchestration would encourage “collaborating with local partners” and give an opportunity for multinationals to “learn about local problems and gain insight into solutions, while at the same time taking into account [issues that arise].”[10] The foreign expertise that is necessary to such development and diplomacy efforts is run-of-the-mill or jazz musicians whose travel schedules can rival that of diplomats or the most successful corporate CEOs. With this in mind, increased cultural intelligence is necessary for successfully engaging not only a nation’s elite but also the entire populace. Guess what? Math, science and reading won’t lead us into success in developing this skill (though they will certainly help make connections meaningful). Managing uncertainty and being flexible will require people-to-people skills. People matter in diplomacy, business and jazz.

Strategies offered by Radju and Prabhu for multinational business success are instructive: (1) Extend innovation partnerships beyond the usual suspects. Engage everyone, hear every voice, integrate various ideas into strategies for success. Work multilaterally. (2) Engage innovation partners strategically with a larger purpose. Don’t let profits rule the day, build relationships that can be sustained over time and profits will, likely, be sustained over time and workers at every level will be aligned with a defined purpose. Consumerism helped destroy US integrity during the era of Cold War cultural diplomacy; let’s not make that mistake again. (3) Trust but verify in a transparent manner. Be nice. Play fair. (4) Assign partner network managers. Assign section leaders who have superior practical knowledge of the instruments (regions, populations, demographics) in their groups; let them articulate their needs and respond accordingly.[11]

[1] Hillary Rodham Clinton, “Leading Through Civilian Power: Redefining American Diplomacy and Development,” Foreign Affairs (November/December 2010), 15.

[2] Harvard Business Review, “How Hierarchy Can Hurt Strategy Execution” (July – August 2010), 74 – 75.

[3] Accessed on March 4, 2012, Florida and Roger Martin, “The US Needs to Make More Jobs More Creative.”

[4] Clinton, 18.

[5] Navi Radju and Jaideep Prabhu, “Mobilizing for Growth in Emerging Markets”

[6] Ibid.

[7] Florida and Martin

[8] Accessed March 4, 2012, Scott Keller and Kaleen Love, “Change Your Employees’ Minds, Change Your Business”

[9] See my February 22, 2012, post “Education, Testing and the Problem with PISA” and specifically the Stanford University study conducted by Eric Hanushek and Lugder Woessmann.

[10]Navi Radju and Jaideep Prabhu

[11] Bold suggestions taken from Navi Radju and Jaideep Prabhu’s article.

All Star Line up, Jazz Studies – Columbia University

Last night, community members, scholars, musicians and other interested people convened at Columbia University’s Faculty House for an All Star line up of Jazz Studies “greats.” Brent Edwards, Kevin Fellezs, Farah Griffin, George Lewis, Robert G. O’Meally, John Szwed, and Chris Washburne explored the “the Future of Jazz Studies.” Ben Waltzer, on piano, opened the evening with a medley of Ellington songs — what a night.

Let me say at the outset, I have admired Bob O’Meally from the day we first met. As a graduate student in one of his English classes at Columbia back in the early 1990s, I remember being confused when he came to class that first day with a record player and played jazz. I was so confused. I don’t remember the song Bob played but I’m willing to bet it was something by Louis Armstrong; probably, “What Did I Do (to be so Black and Blue).” Whatever it was, it didn’t belong in an English class… or so I thought. Bob explained the literature we would study that semester in terms of the music and its cultural connections to the people who made and played the music. He connected the music to the lives these people led, explained how the music formed a sense of community and he never offered an apology for delivering what — in my mind — was material decidedly not designed for an English class! The message for me was clear, I’d have to get on board because this train had already left the station — and what a ride it has been.

Bob continued to change my life that semester by also bringing Albert Murray to class. Murray, a public intellectual and seminal figure in the blues and jazz realm, came to discuss his work and the book we were reading in Bob’s class, Train Whistle Guitar. I was totally captivated by Murray’s thoughts on American culture and committed myself to reading everything he had written. I never had another professor use Murray’s work in class but I did read everything Murray wrote and even wrote my dissertation on him: The Blues and Jazz in Albert Murray’s Fiction. From my study of Murray’s literature, I have moved on to the cosmopolitan nature of his protagonist, Scooter, with whom I have always identified on a very personal level. Like Scooter, I have an unquenchable thirst for life and travel. My current project, Cultural Diplomacy in the Spirit of Pops and Duke, includes case studies from various countries where I’m exploring the relationship between the market demand for jazz, cultural integration, and democratic formation. Please check the “Crossroads” section of my website for updates. Right now, I’m working on Ukraine. If you have any insights on any of the countries to share, please post a response here, email me or reach me on twitter @GlobalJackie

So… last night’s All Star line up was great for me because it was the first time I heard Bob tell the story about how the Center for Jazz Studies came to be at Columbia. Of course I knew Bob had founded it but how and why? When I realized how closely connected Brent Hayes Edwards was to the founding of the CJS, I was hardly surprised. Brent and I were in a graduate seminar together at Columbia. There were four of us in the class; two lowly MA students and two PhD students, Brent and someone else. I took as many notes in class from Brent’s comments as I did the professor’s. Last night, Brent gave me flashbacks of our graduate seminar. He explained a current project, his archival work and his thoughts on archiving in a way only Brent could. I took notes — again — and more on that later…

Farah Griffin is always warm and her intellect envelopes you in a way that makes you think “yeah, I ‘get’ this” or “I can do this, pursue this idea” and “I’m on a meaningful journey.” Farah has broadened my horizons, intellectually and personally. She may not remember but I will never forget, early discussions in her office about challenges I was facing. When I told her I was “keeping to the river, traveling by night and following the Drinking Gourd” she “got me” and rained down on me with advice and kindness that encouraged me and helped me heal. Last night, she recommended three books by scholars who represent the future of Jazz studies: Salamishah Tillet  who is working on a book on Nina Simone and exploring her transnational connections; Meta DuEwa Jones’ The Muse is Music; and Monument Coltrane: the Music of Alice Coltrane.  Funny, last night Farah said she prefers dealing with the past; interesting. Perhaps in making sure the past is a story well told, she creates a foundation upon which the future and all its uncertainties can be balanced more confidently… just my take.

George Lewis stole the show for me. I have seen him often but have never met him or heard him speak. Last night, he told a story about his connections with the CJS. He was funny, insightful and delivers a story with great rhythm, dynamics and style. Through tears of laughter, I sat fully engaged as George told us that ideas will guide us into the future of jazz studies. He left me with the thought that as long as we have ideas, we have a future. Yes, George, yes. In my darkest moments of scholarly and personal angst, ideas have given me light.

Kevin Fellezs is a new face for me at the CJS and I was eager to hear him explain his interests. His current project is on smooth jazz but he has written a book, Birds of Fire: Jazz, Rock, Funk and the Creation of Fusion, that deals with cultural intersections in different musical traditions — sounds right for my own explorations of cultural connections through jazz. I am looking forward to reading the book and to following Kevin’s new project.

Chris Washburne is a trombonist who heads the Louis Armstrong Jazz Performance Program.  Chris is a treasure trove of information and is working on a new book on Latin Jazz (Oxford 2013). Imagine my surprise when Chris relayed a story about Louis Armstrong’s,  “The Peanut Vendor” (1930), a Cuban song that serves as an early example of Armstrong’s transnational connections and sensibility, and a perfect tie-in for my article, “Capitalizing on Cosmopolitanism: Armstrong and Ellington Swinging Abroad, 1930 – 1950” (see my abstract in, Trains of Thought) Thanks Chris…

John Szwed is the current Director of the CJS and has helped me in ways he doesn’t know. When writing my dissertation, John gave me references and put me in direct contact with people whose work helped me transcend an intellectual blockade, move human mountains, and complete my writing. He helped me know the power of community in building ideas.

So, back to Brent and these archives, collecting music, taking notes and cataloguing and such… it will soon be time to transcribe the many hours of recorded sessions I’ve had with Albert Murray. When I was writing my dissertation I’d visit New York often and sit with Murray for 6-8 hours each time; listening as he relayed various tales, had me pull books from his shelves and laugh at some pretty raucous jokes. I’d take notes to capture what I might miss during playback and I also knew when to turn off the recording device. Some of the best conversations were with Mrs. Murray and Michele, Murray’s wife and daughter, who “adopted” me and filled in the details of their lives that took them from the Deep South to far away places like Morocco, Rome, Paris, California and finally to New York City. We shared recipes, stories, pictures, laughs, tears and hugs. I owe it to them to tell the story of our interactions well; replete with words and silences, images and voids, in order to capture the dynamics of the rich lives they’ve lived and the rich life they have given me. So, Brent’s ideas on archiving will be really helpful when I’m ready to delve into my own stash of archival-worthy material. I’m sure Brent will have a book out on the subject, look for it — I will!

Last night’s All Star line up was a journey down memory lane for me. Strong communities certainly endure but they also enrich their surroundings in ways they may never realize.