This is an essay that I used to include in my "20 Studies book. It explains my attitude about who "The Best" jazz musician is.
Who's the Best?
In ancient Greece, Aristotle made it clear that he despised the idea of musical contests or competitions. At that time, music was an event in the Olympic Games. Today we don't need to make music an Olympic event because there's enough competition in music without it. At the very core of the musical society is the desire to compete, or to be "THE BEST". This would be understandable if music truly belonged as an event in the Olympics; but it does not. The term "THE BEST" does not apply to music as an art.
Who is "THE BEST" trumpet player today? Many will reply, "Maurice Andre, of course!" Others will name people like "Bud" Herseth, Wynton Marsalis, Ludwig Guttler, Rolf Smedvig or Anthony Plog. If you had to choose the best of these players, who would it be? On what criterion would such a judgment be made? Would it be decided according to sound? Each of these players has a different sound. How can you say one good sound is better than any other good sound? Perhaps you would choose according to the persons range (I hope not). No matter how you try to stratify these players into a rank, their individual qualities will defy that ranking. In reality, each of these players deserves acknowledgment. What need is there of ranking them in order of greatness?
As an alternative to the term "THE BEST", why don't we say "MY FAVORITE"?
After all, isn't that what we mean anyway? "Maurice Andre is my favorite
trumpet player." Yes!!! That statement rings with a tone of truth that
disputed. While some things that a person says may be debatable, the statement of a person's feelings is not. Think of this the next time you find yourself paying verbal homage to "YOUR FAVORITE" musician.
Eddie "Tiger" Lewis