I know drummer Dennis Chambers can't read - and it certainly hasn't stopped him from being able to recall complex arrangements or interaction.Originally Posted by nonottes
I guess the question is what is reading? In my opinion it's a tool - a valuable one, of course - but not necessarily a predicator in a musician's ability to become great. I think being able to read gives you an advantage, as you have a means of articulating your ideas in a clear and concise way. But there are definitely players who get around that.
An interesting notable example is a young blind Ottawa guitarist who won the two scholarship awards at this year's Jazz Festival. Speaking with John Geggie, who worked with him as part of the Galaxie educational programme the week of the festival, it's clear that the kid has plenty of knowledge, and an incredibly big set of ears. He has to learn arrangements by memory, but seems to work just fine with that. He sounds almost like a young Terje Rypdal (surprising, since when I mentioned that he didn't know who Rypdal was!), with a broad harmonic sense and strong rock edge.
Anyway, all this in a rambling way to say that I think reading is a good skill to have, but it doesn't make you a better or more intuitive musician. There are other ways to acquire the skills - albeit a little (sometimes a lot) more awkwardly.