Category Archives: masters-of-innovation


You Say You Want an Innovator, But Do You Really?   

By Kent and Keith Zimmerman
Been carrying this thought around for a few weeks until I realized–ding dong!–that’s what this site is for…to collect thoughts and conclusions, ask a few questions, write it down, post it and see if it flies, or at least resonates. Here goes.
First off, do you have a life philosophy to which you can honestly say you’ve adhered? I sorta can, and mine has been to get into the revolving door with as many creative, extraordinary, one-in-a-million kinds of people–men or women–who have changed their field of expertise, never mind the world. And can any of that one-in-a-million voodoo rub off? For better or for worse, I can honestly say that’s been my life so far. I can’t even begin to list all of the creative, innovative people I’ve been in the boat with, but let me tell you/warn you, it’s not often pretty, though the majority of the time it’s downright glorious.
Recently I was chatting with a young person who is making the job rounds, responding to online employment ads and listings, looking to make


Multi-Colored Miles!

By Keith & Kent Zimmerman

Back in the autumn of 1986, while still editors (and part owners) of the Gavin music trade magazine where we worked, we were entrusted with the privilege of launching our latest lovechild, a weekly Jazz and Smooth Jazz section in the music trade magazine, based on airplay chart information collected from radio stations across the country. According to plan, the weekly Top 50 charts were couched with content we wrote including interviews, record reviews and radio and music articles and profiles. Our sample of over 100 radio stations would feed us weekly data and information towards building the charts. Then we planned our maiden voyage issue, the big debut! Who should grace our very first Gavin Jazz cover? Certainly a no-brainer. Why, Miles Davis, of course.
At the time, Miles had just signed to Warner Bros and was slated to drop his first album, Tutu. The timing was perfect. At the time, Warners’ jazz department of sorts, two affable chaps named Harold Childs and Chris Jonz, were willing and able to make it happen. Holy moly! We


Selling Movies By the Pound

By Keith & Kent Zimmerman

Iron Man hurdles through the air while Tony and Elaine sit a spell on the porch.
As “book writers,” we have to keep a close watch on the film industry–since we currently have works in various stages of movie development. Film rights are tricky and laborious; not to mention a volatile and shark-infested way to supplement your income. But for authors, it’s a necessary evil. Which is why this item caught our eye.
According to an article in the Hollywood Reporter, at a recent panel discussion at USC, no less than Steven Spielberg and George Lucas gave an interesting observation on the innovative future of movies. The good news is that students now studying the film industry are doing so at “an extraordinary time of upheaval.” Then Spielberg suggested a revolutionary breakdown in pricing: Let those watching a $250 million Iron Man sequel pay $25 for a theater ticket while somebody else watching a lower budgeted Lincoln bio pay around $7. Why not have those who demand the multi-million-dollar epics foot the marketing and special effects bill at


2014 FIFA, Adriana Lima and the Joy and Innovation of Futbol in the USA

By Kent Zimmerman
Supermodel Adriana Lima appears on Joe Sixpack’s driveway and converts his Major League Baseball man cave into an international futbol haven. Next, Adriana drives up in a Kia, then sashays across a suburban American football practice field and with one single kick, declares football…futbol!…the summer sport of 2014. It’s a creative bit of two-pronged marketing…an innovative statement not only pushing a Kia automobile, but equally, tauting the world’s most popular sport, futbol, pronounced “foot-ball,” currently worming its way into the North American psyche.
Okay, you got my attention.
If I’m any indication of the average USA viewer, the gradual weaving of futbol’s international spell over North American audiences seems to be working, or at least on me. Eight years ago, I could give a hang. Four years ago, my interest started to pique. This year, I’ve put MLB on the back burner for a month, and have turned my attention to the 2014 FIFA World Cup. I’m following three matches a day, morning, noon and afternoon (West Coast Time), none of them really having to do with Adriana Lima, or


Forget Reality TV, Bring On More Reality Art! Orange Is The New Black Rolls Out Season 2…It’s Creative and It’s Innovative!

By Kent Zimmerman
One of the largest innovations in television over the past 20+ years has been the reality TV genre. I first saw it in London when I watched in awe/horror a half hour show about an ordinary somebody moving from one dingy house to another. It was called, I think…Moving. Soon reality television hit our shores, and especially after the last Writers Guild strike a few years back, reality TV took its stranglehold over basic cable programming. For better or for worse “unscripted” TV and amateur hour talent shows overtook scripted drama and comedy. Mind you, I’m not talking about participatory journalism, as “invented” by George Plimpton (Paper Lion: Confessions of a Last String Quarterback) or Morgan “Supersize Me” Spurlock, a la his latest docu-series on CNN (Inside Man). I’m talking knock-down, drag-out housewives, failing restaurants, biker gangs and Kardashians au go go. Real/faked cinema verite.
Cut to a subject I know a little bit about. Prisons. Been volunteer teaching inside a couple of them over the past ten years. Got to know the system and hundreds of inmates. Even


Art [Pepper]: Why I Stuck With a Junkie Jazzman By Laurie Pepper

By Kent & Keith Zimmerman

Just finished Laurie Pepper’s Art: Why I Stuck with a Junkie Jazzman, the long-awaited follow up to the classic 1979 autobio, Straight Life. As a true DIYer, Laurie Pepper released her new book through Amazon’s self-publishing arm, CreateSpace. Art is the story a lot of innovators can relate to, paving the road as you’re driving down it.
I was first turned on to Art Pepper seven or eight years after his 1982 death when a hi-fi salesman asked me if I was hip to Art, and had I read Straight Life? I recalled the Art Pepper LPs that used to flood into Gavin, mere months apart. Wasn’t smart (or hip) enough to dig into them. Not long after, a CD sampler arrived in the mail, a selection of Contemporary Records tracks from the 50s and 60s, Art’s label’s back catalog, recently purchased by Fantasy Records. CDs were just being serviced to writers, radio and the trades, and jazz sounded especially great on those early digital discs. On the sampler, the lead track was “You’d Be So Nice


On the Street Where You Live: Miles Davis Way, NYC

By Kent and Keith Zimmerman
It’s the rebirth of the cool. The official naming of a one-block stretch of 77th Street (between Riverside Drive and West End Avenue) in New York City after one of its most famous residents, Miles Davis, has finally happened. Yet, what was the genesis? An idea concocted by clever and cultural city politicians? Influential music executives out to sell records? No, actually. It started with one of Miles’ neighbors, Shirley Zafirau.
“He interacted with the community on the street,” said Zafirau to City Desk reporter Daniel Krieger last December. “He really liked being here.”
According to Zafirau, Miles spent time hanging out on the street in front of his building, chatting with neighbors and passers-by. After his passing in 1991, and after noticing that New York City had honored several jazz figures by naming portions of streets after such figures as Duke Ellington, it occurred to Zafirau. Why not Miles? After a campaign of numerous phone calls, emails and visits to local boards, she eventually worked her way up the political chain of command and lined up


Game-Changers Part 2: Miles Davis’ Warner Bros Era of Innovation

Kent & Keith Zimmerman
If you revisit Miles Davis’ albums on Warner Bros, specifically Tutu, Amandla and Siesta, you’ll hear musical sound beds in which Miles later inserted his own brand of melody in the form of spontaneous solos and melodic phrases. Consequently, Marcus Miller and Jason Miles would go back and elaborate on those melody lines. It was a form of innovation that harked back to the heydays of the Gil Evans orchestral sessions where Miles would take a seed idea improvised around the existing structure, which Gil Evans later enunciated on and emphasized with robust studio arrangements.
When they weren’t recording, Jason cherished the down time he spent with Miles socially, even after turning down the opportunity to tour and play live with the Davis band.
“I was never in Miles’ band,” Jason recalled. “but we became good friends. He’d come over to the house, hang out, and eat some great food. We’d watch gangster movies together, and drive out to some horse farms in the country.
Jason Miles
“Here I was, this Jewish guy from Brooklyn, and Miles and I were good


A Desire to Improve; the First Step to Innovation

by Robert Cullen
How does one become an innovator?  The first step is a deep desire, a drive, a passion to improve!!  Innovators want to improve themselves, people, processes and products. Master Innovators are all dedicated to continuous improvement:
“Without continual growth and progress, such words as improvement, achievement, and success have no meaning.”  Benjamin Franklin  (Founding Father, Inventor)
“If I am through learning, I am through.”  John Wooden (Legendary Basketball Coach)
“We cannot become what we want to be by remaining what we are.”  Max Dupree (Leadership Jazz)

It’s really that simple.  One has to want to improve themselves, their knowledge base, their skills, their team, the products on which they work and the environment around them.  Are you ready for this?  Can you do this? Do you have the will power?  We have to fight and overcome many fears– the fear of the unknown, lack of skills, lack of knowledge, comfort in the old ways, loss of security and a lack of willpower to name a few. But innovators want to improve, learn and change.  They are allergic to the status quo.  It


Game-Changers Part 1: A Rare Insight into the Miles Davis Warner Bros Era of Innovation

Kent & Keith Zimmerman
Let’s return to the subject of Miles Davis, because, to date, he is our epitome of innovation, and the subject of our upcoming book, Miles of Innovation: Lessons from the Creative Genius of Miles Davis. In doing so, we contacted our friend Jason Miles, who worked closely with Miles in the studio during the Warner Bros era of the late 1980s–a creative period not a lot of people are quite aware of. So marked a very significant period of Miles’ innovative output, centering around the releases of Tutu (1986), the film soundtrack from Siesta (1987) and the viciously melodic Amandla (1989).
“My tenure was very different from many people who worked with him because, I believe, it was at a very critical time,” said Jason. “Miles needed a game-changer! He had game-changers in the past like Bill Evans, Gil Evans, even Betty Mabry. Maybe she wasn’t a musician, but I believe had there been no Betty Mabry, maybe there would have been no fusion. She got his head into a whole new place. One day he’s wearing Italian