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Jazz School Experience Series

Posted by David Bloom on Feb 5, 2011 9:55:00 AM

Escaping Yourself to Be You (Part 2)

I had a student named Peter who had already played with numerous national stars when he first came in for an evaluation. During our first meeting he played only fast notes. It was clear to me that he had spent a lot of time on technique and was an accomplished guitarist but not a strong musician. His self-conscious desire to impress was greater than his desire to express. In his first exercise with me, he was forbidden from playing flurries of fast notes. This restrictive demand was the best thing that could have happened to him. Over time he discovered his individual expression, sense of lyricism and learned that technique must always serve an expressive idea.

Another student, Bob, was an excellent example of the converse. When he walked into the school the first time he had very poorly developed physical dexterity but as I listened to him, he revealed a selflessness and intuition for musical direction and expression. The last thing on his mind was that I was in the room. He ad given in to the music and there was nothing to prove. The music had eclipsed his ego.

Self-consciousness on the bandstand can be heard, and can easily be noticed when the player is looking around the room to see if anyone is watching them while they are playing. They are taking "affirmation inventory" as they play; checking out who likes them or who looks impressed with them. Another example of self-consciousness occurs when a musician plays a barrage of undirected notes that communicate that they have no reason to be played other than to demonstrate to the audience that the player has Olympian technique and is "bad" (meaning dangerous). Hiding ones vulnerability with this desperate and cynical approach gives jazz a bad name. These musicians seem to give in to their worst feelings about themselves, which is, that they can't be appreciated for being themselves and have to put on a dog and pony show to elicit a favorable response.

Great jazz players teach you an appreciation of what you have inside you and what you love. Conforming to conventions, attitudes and behaviors is only about what other people think and do. Discipline, focus, sacrifice and heart are the tools used to respect your own life and to conquer your demons.

Topics: chicago jazz, jazz programs, jazz classes, jazz school