I'm a big fan of Miles Davis. His music is brilliant, but what I admire most is his approach innovation.

One of his most innovative albums was 1970's "Bitches Brew". Here's a sample:

Bitches Brew was a departure from the cool jazz and hard bop sounds people associated with Miles. It was new and experimental. Miles' story is fascinating, and I encourage you to research it, but I want to share just a couple of things about Miles' approach to innovation that I've found particularly inspiring.

Never get comfortable

In the early 1970s, Miles Davis asked Keith Jarrett backstage after a concert, “Do you know why I don’t play ballads anymore?” “No,” Jarrett replied, “why?” “Because I love ballads so much.” - Beyond Kind Of Blue

If Miles were to just dig deeper into the cool jazz sound he had perfected he might only be known as a good trumpeter. Instead, he made himself uncomfortable and experimented with new sounds with new musicians. The results changed the music world.

Miles also liked to keep rehearsals short and loose. Some rehearsal time was needed to add structure and organization to the large, complex ideas Miles was aiming for in his songs, but more often than not, musicians were given little more than a tempo and some chords. The movement of the song depended entirely on the group listening to one other as they played - picking up on new ideas, beats, and melodies as they unfolded before them. You can hear this really clearly in the live performances of Bitches Brew songs.

Never said no

For the live performances following the release of Bitches Brew, Miles recruited a variety of very young musicians to be his band. He surrounded himself with guys who would bring new ideas and challenge his art in unexpected ways.

"Miles would of rather had a bad band playing horrible music than a band of great musicians playing something he'd done before" - Keith Jarrett

Many of these young musicians point out that despite their insignificance in comparison to him, that Miles would never say "no". If they played a riff on the piano, Miles would riff back and build on the idea. He didn't shut them down.

One thing you'll notice in the footage of the Bitches Brew performances is that for long stretches of time Miles leaves the stage and allows the band to play without him. He shows them an incredible amount of trust and empowers them to own the song, in whatever form it's taking. After several minutes, Miles reemerges from backstage and picks up on the riffs his band has been playing. He didn't dictate the melody or direction of the song. He jumps into whatever idea the group was building.

This sense of trust and empowerment on behalf of the group was necessary to create such an amazing new sound, and Miles understood that. He created a space for everyone to discover things and push forward together. I strive to do the same.