I had dinner with a bunch of jazz musicians last night. The conversation went around usual topics – how work was, what gigs you were playing, opinions on various jazz albums/musicians.

You’ll notice in company like this that the legends of jazz are referred to by just their Christian names. Miles, Elvin, Wes, Wynton, Wayne.

One Irishman gets that treatment – Louis Stewart, or Louis. The Dublin guitarist regularly inhabited that elite company, and is respected and loved at home and abroad, almost as much for his wit as his music.


Stories of Louis’ one-liners were flying around – how on his deathbed when asked by his family if he would like to be buried or cremated he said ‘surprise me’.

How before a show one time when a fellow bandmate said to have a good gig, Louis replied – ‘don’t tell me what to do’.

However, if I was having dinner with a different group of people and spoke about Louis – they might not think of this man at all. You might have an uncle Louis, or he might be an old friend from school. Yet among Irish jazz musicians, everyone knows straight away.

And so I wondered, when making choices in life, is it better to try and reach as many people as possible, or rather have a small number of people know immediately who is being referred to when your first name is mentioned?





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