This is a beautiful interview in which guitarist Russell Malone retells his first interaction with B-3 great Jimmy Smith. Well worth the 10 minutes, if you can spare them.
Here is the blow-by-blow:
1:20 Russell Malone is introduced to Jimmy Smith as a young guitarist with a lot of potential.
2:00 Malone invited to sit in — and he hot-dogs for his friends in the audience.
2:50 Smith recognizes a teachable moment, so makes a move to put Malone in his place. Malone struggles.
3:50 On the set break Smith speaks to Malone: Whenever we let youngsters sit in, we like to make sure they learn something. Did you learn something today, young man? Ouch. Smith continues to give it to him in no uncertain terms.
5:15 Smith invites Malone to hang out after the gig. They talked about music and musicians until the wee hours of the morning. Some time later Smith hires Malone for a 2-year road gig.
7:00-10:00 STORY 2: Malone gets schooled by another of his heroes, guitarist Kenny Burrell.
. Kenny Burrell shows up at Malone's gig in Philly in which they're playing standards straight down the middle.
. Burrell was getting encouragement from young musicians in the audience for playing out.
. On his break, Malone sought out Burrell and asked him if he could hear what Malone was working on.
. Burrell gives it to him. Again, in no uncertain terms.
. Among other comments, Burrell tells Malone that "it takes a lot of courage to play what the situation calls for." And, that "any time you try to prove anything to anybody, the music is not honest."
Malone learned a couple lessons in a seemingly harsh way. But, he was lucky: the masters were kind and loving enough to tell him what he was doing wrong, and what he should be doing in order to do it right.
Sometimes we're not so lucky — we just don't get called again and are left to wondering why.
But, the theme here is summed up nicely in Burrell's first remark about the courage it takes to play what the situation calls for.
A good lesson for us all.