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Personal Notes (Notes, get it?)

post # 62 — April 27, 2006 — a General post

Warning: this blogpost has nothing to do with business and is purely personal!

I got a note from Bill Peper, who has been an active participant in the discussions on this blog (Thanks, Bill!) He wrote:

I appreciate the great information on your site and the insights from your blog. Your writing has influenced my career more than any other author. I have a passion for the issues you discuss. I am an attorney serving as a full-time independent contractor for Standards for Excellence, a voluntary continuous improvement process for GM dealerships. I carry a few of your handout in my brief case, as they have proven handy. I also “assigned” lecture 3 of your new podcast series to all of my managers.

I also suffered from severe sleep apnea for 30 years before a friend diagnosed it last year.And I am a vocal music junkie — but my tastes tend toward jazz and the Great American Song Book. I would love to see you identify some obscure singers whose music you enjoy.

Well, Bill, let’s restrict ourselves to the Great American Songbook. (if anyone wants to encourage me, we can discuss jazz and pop some other time.) I actually do not seek out obscure singers. My philosophy has always been that as long as there’s an Ella Fitzgerald recording that I don’t have on CD, why would I want to hunt for anything else? And when the time comes to play a CD, if it’s a choice between Ella and somebody new – well, quality beats variety any day. (I have over 200 distinct Ella CDs.)

The same is close to true, for me, with Peggy Lee. If it’s not Ella playing, it’s likely to be Peggy. And (and this one may surprise you) I’d put Doris Day a close third. She developed an unhip persona, but the lady can sing. I have over 100 of her CDs. Not an unlistenable recording in the bunch. I first fell in love with her on a recording of the soundtrack she did of the ANNIE GET YOUR GUN, with Robert Goulet singing all the male parts. (It’s on one of the Doris Day Bear Family boxes – absolutely essential!)

Finally, you want obscure? That’s tough, because different people ‘know’ different artists, but are you familiar with the Boswell Sisters (from the 1930s)? Backed by the Dorsey brothers, they recorded the swingy-est, close-harmony, swooping, stop-start vocals you’ll ever hear.

OK, everybody. Let me know. Do you want me to stick to business? Or would you like to have (VERY occasionally) some music conversations here? Let the people speak!


Shawn Callahan said:

I like the idea of occassional blogs on non-business topics. As long as they are not too long. It give a fuller picture of who you are listening to. It’s like engaging in pre-seminar chit chat in the foyer that gives you a better context for the information you are about to hear. Plus I’m a music ignoramus but keen to learn.

posted on April 27, 2006

Jon Sacker said:

What, no Bee Gees!

posted on April 27, 2006

David (Maister) said:

This post is about the Great American Songbook, Jon. We’ll save the Bee Gees for the “Really unhip but truly great pop peformers of all time” blog – if anyone wants me to continue in this vein, of course. You may just have helped me to scare them all off!

posted on April 27, 2006

Bren said:

Keep mixin’ it up, David! Love this kind of stuff. (heading off to look for the Boswell Sisters)

posted on April 27, 2006

David Koopmans said:

At the risk of being tagged as a miser, I want to read about business; there are a zillion blogs out there about every conceivable topic and you are really good at yours. That is why I take the time to check your blog every day. But you do have impeccable taste in music…

posted on April 27, 2006

Bill Peper said:

As the rascal who launched this blog, I withold my music comments (For now at least!)

For those interested, explore http://www.musicmatch.com—or a similar streaming service. I pay about $40/year to have the ability to play 1 million songs (orgainzed by albums) on demand. While I have to pay .99 to download a track, I can test drive virtually any singer/album. For example, MusicMatch has 2,325 Ella Fitzgerald tracks available on demand, 508 Peggy Lee tracks, 205 for Doris Day, and 12 for the Boswell Sisters.

For what it is worth, the original question was an example of the kind of questions we discussed in the “Person Behind the Mask” blog earlier in the week.

I also think it is fascinating to analyze these types of lists. Notice that David picked all female vocalists who have a similar voice. Johnny Hartman, Ella Fitzgerald, and Frank Sinatra are my most frequent choices. (My abstention from offering musical opinions lasted only a few sentences!)

Thanks for the insight David.

posted on April 28, 2006

David (Maister) said:

Bill, why is it so surprising that I prefer female vocalists for the Great American Songbook (which are mostly love songs)? Among heterosexuals, don’t most people prefer singers of the oposite sex? Or have you truly found out something profound abut me? And if so, where does my love of the Bee Gees fit into that analysis?

posted on April 28, 2006

Bill Peper said:

There is nothing amazing or surprising about your preferences, or your fondness of the Bee Gees. I find it fascinating that you prefer to listen to the same vocalist, while I prefer to sample dozens of vocalists on random playlists. To me, that is fascinating—even if it does not represent a profund insight.

BTW, The incessant and obsessive analyzer that I am, I mulled how to make my question about the Great American Song Book a relevant topic for this blog — rather than additional preparation for my conference calls later this morning. I had to stop myself at five ideas or that unstoppable brainstorming adrenalin would start:

•If your top client, like David, had 200 Ella Fitzgerald cds, how could one leverage that fact to deepen the relationship?

•If David was your client and ask you whether to expand the readership of this blog by including topics outside of those management (principally music), what would you advise him? What questions should you ask?

•What if you client holds a specific belief that is objectively stupid (anyone can manage, money is the only reward that motivates employees) with the tenacity that David believes that Ella’s version of a classic is the best ever done? How do you move him to a more rational position

•If you were trying to sell David advertising time on http://www.accuradio.com (an incredible, free site of streaming music, by the way), how would you convince him to advertise on the country and western channels (the most popular with the best demographics) or a channel of pop stars covering the Great American Song Book and not the female crooners channel.

•How could you introduce Ella and her talent to new generations of fans when she is identified with “great-grandma’s music” and there are no free radio stations that play that kind of music?

If David were my client, I would send him three links in light of this post, all written by the best columnist writing today (who writes several columns a week on varied topics), Mark Steyn. The first is a tribute to Peggy Lee, the second a link to Steyn’s weekly column on songs from the Great American Song Book:



posted on April 28, 2006

Stephanie West Allen said:

Hello, David. I must say I was amazed to read your post about music. I have been in e-mail communication with a jazz trumpeter at Harvard who is getting his doctorate in organizational development. We have been talking about how jazz relates to business. My husband has the Colorado Jazz Workshop (http;//www.cojazzworkshop) with three big bands and four combos and for the last ten years that I have been exposed to this music, I have often thought of the many business lessons one could find in watching and listening to jazz musicians play together.

Colin Fisher, the trumpeter at Harvard, recommended that I read the book Thinking in Jazz by Paul Berliner and I have been doing so. As I read, I am delighted to see how jazz relates to business processes.

One of the CJW big bands is directed by Hugh Ragin (trumpeter listed in chapter 5 of Berliner’s book as one of the jazz trumpet greats). I sometimes will attend rehearsals because what he says to the bands has wider application than music and I learn much by listening.

I sent you by e-mail an article Colin sent me that you may find of interest. It is from the October, 2005, edition of Negotiation Journal; Colin is one of the authors of this article entitled “Improvisation and Mediation: Balancing Acts.”

Wonderful that music is in a biz blog! It belongs there in my humble opinion.

posted on April 28, 2006

David (Maister) said:

I really do think Bill offered a perfect illustration of how to romance someone (get to know more about them and earn their friendship) with style and grace – I feel like I’ve been seduced by a master!

And, having read the article that Stephanie cited, I can report that it IS truly fascinating. Thanks, Stephanie.

So, back to our music chat.

For Great American Songbook fans, here’s an opinion and a question.

Since the songs are so familiar to many of us, I’d argue that when comparison shopping for great performances, it’s as much if not MORE (than the singer) the contribution of the arranger that makes a great recording.

Who do you think the great arrangers were (are?) and what would you nominate as one of the all-time great reconceptions of a standard?


posted on April 29, 2006

Bill Peper said:

I would love to receive that article Stephanie. My e-mail is pepesfe@comcast.net.

As far as arrangers the two that jump out at me are Nelson Riddle and Johnny Mandel. Riddle’s work with Sinatra and Ella alone are the best in the history of American music.

I love Johnny Mandel’s arrangements, although I do not really like his compositions. What he is doing with Michael Buble is (as the NBA would say) FANTASTIC!

posted on April 29, 2006

Stephanie West Allen said:

David, I am glad you enjoyed the article. I think you will appreciate these, too. I post this here with the Mr. Henry’s permission. He writes:

Frank Barrett has an excellent article: “Creativity and Improvisation in Jazz and Organizations: Implications for Organizational Learning,” online at: http://www.leader-values.com/content/detail.asp?ContentDetailID=961

In it he talks in detail about seven features of effective jazz, and how they relate to effective organizational work:

1) Provocative competence: Deliberate efforts to interrupt habit patterns

2) Embracing errors as a source of learning

3) Shared orientation toward minimal structures that allow maximum flexibility

4) Distributed task: continual negotiation and dialogue toward dynamic synchronization

5) Reliance on retrospective sense-making

6) “Hanging out”: Membership in a community of practice

7) Taking turns soloing and supporting

Frank also gave a great presentation on this topic at the Second International Conference on Appreciative Inquiry. Here are notes: http://appreciativeinquiry.case.edu/intro/conference04Destiny.cfm. A DVD of the actual presentation is available. (We use an excerpt of this excellent presentation in our Appreciative Inquiry Facilitator Training programs offered through Company of Experts. Info at http://www.CenterForAppreciativeInquiry.net).



There are many futures; the one that comes to be is up to us.

Rich Henry, president

UnifiedField Associates

Bellevue WA


posted on April 29, 2006

Bill Peper said:

While I am not sure “reconception” fits exactly, I immediately thought of four often-recorded standards that jolted me when I heard these remakes for the first time enough to replay the track.

They are “You are Too Beautiful” by Johnny Hartman featuring John Coltrane; “Peel Me a Grape” by Diana Krall; “Like Someone in Love” by Allen Harris; and “My Shining Hour” by Lee Lessick. Allen Harris is sensational!

BTW, here is a great site to discover the Great American Song Book for free:


posted on April 29, 2006

Bill Peper said:

Thanks Stephanie for the link to the article by Rich Henry. It is full, and I forwarded it to several of my teammates already.

The article reinforces why I love listening to the Great American Song Book rather than other forms of Jazz. I do not understand the brilliance of John Coltrane’s solos. It is almost like he is speaking French—and I don’t. I only started to listen to jazz because a law school buddy took the time to explain the format and drag me to several jazz performances.

Since I know the standard melodies and lyrics of the chestnuts in the Great American Song Book, I can pick out a variation and appreciate the musical innovation.

A similar thing happens around Christmas, as people who listen to mind-numbing Top 40 cannot get enough of jazz-flavored Christmas carols. In the Detroit market, the most successful Top 40 station goes all-Christmas in November.

I think there is a business lesson for us in all of this as well—making sure that we provide our clients enough context to allow them to grasp the benefit of our suggestions

posted on April 30, 2006