Today, in a rehearsal, I played a set of tunes I'd been working on for some time. My friend and musical partner was here listening as I played it mostly correct, but with a few errors, missed notes, etc. After I played, she very kindly and not critically said she'd heard me play the set much better.
I agreed. Well, my mouth was dry and it was hard to play. But that's not really what was going on. What was going on (I didn't tell her this part) is that while I was playing, I was hearing all sorts of interesting variations in my head and had reached for them unsuccessfully.
The good part is, I reached. The bad part is, I missed.
We all know this, don't we: If you want to extend your bounds, you must reach, but there's always the risk that you might miss. But better to have tried and missed than to never have tried at all.
I once saw an interview with clarinet player Artie Shaw ("Begin the Beguine"). A contemporary of Glenn Miller in the big band era, but with his own, more edgy big band, he said this:
"... I didn't like Miller's band, I didn't like what he did. Miller was, he had what you'd call a Republican band. It was, you know, very straight laced, middle of the road. And Miller was that kind of guy, he was a businessman. And he was sort of the Lawrence Welk of jazz. And that's one of the reasons he was so big, people could identify with what he did, they perceived what he was doing. But the biggest problem, his band never made a mistake. And it's one of the things wrong, because if you don't ever make a mistake, you're not trying, you're not playing at the edge of your ability. You're playing safely, within limits, and you know what you can do and it sounds after a while extremely boring."
Agreed. Playing perfectly is nice. It sounds good for a while, but playing safe eventually gets us, well, nowhere.
Let's make some mistakes. It, also, may get us nowhere. But how much more fun it will be!