Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Jazz Goes to College

Three notes on Guildhall School's seminar, discussing the relationship between jazz musicians and their audience, and also a performance with Guildhall jazz students featuring Tim Garland.

Jazz in Academia

If there is a passion about jazz, inside you, there is no 52nd street anymore, to go there and blow the horn or hit the keys. There is no enough time to put the 78 rpm on, and imitate the sound for weeks and months to became next Horace Silver. There is not that much live gig opportunities to transform a person from an enthusiast listener, with a horn hidden under his coat and hungry for being invited on stage, to the next Jackie McLean. There is no funeral or wedding job with live jazz, to makes a couple of bucks, and in the meantime, gives the pleasure of being heard for the very first time. That's the time jazz education enters the picture. As Jon Faddis makes it clear, "the scene has changed, and jazz education is a very important part of the jazz scene."

Nat Hentoff discuss the subject of jazz education, extensively, in his last book, At The Jazz Band Ball: Sixty Years On The Jazz Scene, and Guildhall College of music and drama in London tries to find practical ways for what have been told and discussed before to educate the young cats.

Nobody would deny the necessity of jazz education, but its economy has still lot of unbeknown corners. One of the neglected aspects of educating jazz is its benefits for elder musicians who can not work in that pace that makes a living possible. Securing a vital future for this music only fulfills when we pay attention, simultaneously, to its economic and its aesthetics. Education a good and young jazz musician is meaningful, only when there is live gig for him or her, or a radio broadcast and record opportunity for him, otherwise it would be like teaching people to became blacksmiths. But who needs a blacksmith now? "A university should reflect the needs of society. Too many lawyers is a drag, but they always get a gig, but too many tenor players is uncontainable," would say mister Phil Woods about jazz in universities and colleges.

Tim Garland
Tim Garland's Saxopiano Playing

Tim Garland, born in 1966, was a graduate of Guildhall himself. He cut his first album when he was 22, and he is also a product of academic jazz. The highlight of this gig, beside some very well executed post bop materials of his own (which I found them more effective than his treatments of standards like Round Midnight or Body and Soul), was his playing into piano box! Yes, he was blowing his saxophone inside the open box of a Steinway, and he created most moving sounds from there without touching the strings. Strings were producing the magical sound, only by the waves of air that Garland saxophone was making. Very beautiful and unforgettable!

Robert Brockway
We'll Hear More of Him

Among the trio that was accompanying Garland in that evening (including Robert Brockway on piano, Andy Robb on double bass, and Joe Sweeney on drums), the great discovery was Brockway, a very young gentleman who plays very interesting solos, with a confidence only seen and heard in men, a generation older than him.

He demonstrates the benefits of that advanced jazz educational programs. He has something to say, though he still needs time and space to find the ways of expressing them. At this point, the best school of music for any young musician is listening to the rich heritage of recorded jazz, on and on. As far as I am concerned, I was born in the wrong place, and in the wrong time, and I hadn't this chance to enter an academic environment to study jazz, but despite the fact of not being a musician myself, most of the time I was lucky enough to be a student of universal jazz school which exists eternally on records. In this case the words of a great teacher, Clark Terry, always rings in my ears:

''Don’t spend it all in one place. It’s just as basic as that: Spread it out. Don’t try to say everything you know how to say in one chorus, you know. Use the space and time is something we were fortunate enough to have learned from Basie, but Duke and Strayhorn, they knew how to put things together. For instance, they would put minor seconds together, and that was something kind of unheard of, as far as jazz was concerned. And they put it together and made notes; it made you learn how to listen and say, “Oh, he’s out of tune . . . oh, no, he’s not!” If you listen closely, you’ll find he’s very much in tune. But they knew how to do that, and they knew how to supply themselves with people who were aware and knew how to do it so it was a marvelous thing. They were both very, very instrumental in the perpetuation of jazz and the colorations of sound and so forth.''

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