One of the older adages: two heads are better than one.
There's no better way to describe both the allure and the logic of collaboration. Without even delving into its deeper conceptual mysticism, collaboration implies an inherent algorithm: the more different the two heads in question happen to be, the more likely they'll come up with something uniquely cool. This optimistic equation of course assumes a willingness to interact positively and fairly but, once that's covered, having two differing human imaginations -- and two different skill sets -- is a strength, not a weakness.
Adaptability to different personal styles of working is a crucial element of collaboration; for instance, while the last paragraph betrays my suspicion that the more two minds/ imaginations are alike the less any collaboration between them is likely to be terribly interesting, it's also true that issues of pure craft implied by the term "skill set" can benefit greatly from being able to effectively communicate in a common language. The less this is so, the more invention and adaptability is required. And patience; in most of the collaborative work I've done the orchestration/scoring fell under my job description -- it takes a lot of clock time so my collaborators' patience with me has been appreciated.
I've been privileged to collaborate with many great, unique artistic minds. My 18-year collaboration with singer Kurt Elling is perhaps best known and documented; I've also been fortunate to work with many other great singers and players, ranging from individual commissioned arrangements (Regina Carter, Chanticleer) to having an ensemble role as pianist plus arranging (Jackie Allen, Alicia Olatuja, Carter Calvert, etc.) to full-on production involvement (Charmaine Clamor, Tammy McCann), including my latest project, "Shelter From The Storm" with the U.K.-based, inspiring musician/singer Barb Jungr. In addition to co-producing with Barb and engineering maestro Calum Malcolm, Barb and I have co-written three new original songs for this really special recording. (EU release in March of 2016.) The mutual desire for ongoing collaboration is strong there so look for a lot more work with Barb in the coming years.
And then of course there's "Poemjazz", my ongoing collaboration with former U.S. Poet Laureate Robert Pinsky which now includes frequent appearances by master multi- instrumentalist and vocalist Stan Strickland. Robert and I just released our second CD, "House Hour/Poemjazz II", on the Circumstantial label. This has been one of the most rewarding, enlightening and fascinating experiences of my life; it's also a very interesting example of cross-disciplinary collaboration.
Of course I think of my own groups/projects as collaborations as well -- it'd be silly not to try to soak up the wisdom offered by the likes of saxophonist Ernie Watts, who's blessed me by playing in my quintet. And the experience of recording my upcoming trio CD, "Honor Thy Fathers", with bassist John Patitucci and drummer Kendrick Scott, was yet another amazing example of collaborative chemistry; recording a project that intricate with two world-class master musicians -- however without any real history of playing together as a trio, and where we learned/rehearsed everything in the recording studio! (Talk about a learning experience.)
What it comes down to is that, if you're fortunate enough, an ever-evolving string of collaborations with others can have an exponentially fertile effect on one's own (hopefully inevitable) internal collaboration with oneself.
In other words, to borrow from Shakespeare, " 'tis a consummation devoutly to be wished."
To this end -- and I'll add, with a smile, "serious inquiries only" -- I'm always excited to discover new collaborators and further the mutual creative experience.