Following last year’s successful session at the Cambridge Jazz Co-op, I’ll be running another this Saturday, 17th May. We’ll look at various strategies, melodic and harmonic, for improvising over vamps and other harmonically static settings. There’ll be two tunes we use for this:
Dolores in a Shoestand (Esbjorn Svensson Trio):
Wights Waits for Weights (Steve Coleman):
The session starts at 11:00 and runs to 13:30, at the Blue Moon Pub, Cambridge, and costs £10 for members (non-members must purchase annual membership for an additional £10). Full details can be found at the Co-op website.
I’ll endeavor to post some info about what we covered after the session.
I’ve just attended the Guildhall School of Music and Drama’s intensive two-day Advanced Jazz course . Along with about 25 others, I benefited from tutoring with GSMD jazz professors Carlos Lopez-Real, Malcolm Edmonstone and Malcolm Miles, learning a great deal along the way. At £195 it had the potential to be a rather expensive jam but I really felt like I got a lot of value from the experience and the feeling of the other musicians (who ranged from relatively green teenagers to fairly experienced adult amateurs and semi-pros) seemed to be the same and we all had a great time playing together. Each day began at 10am and didn’t end until 10pm, so I really felt like I was getting my money’s worth!
After an initial blow over some blues as a whole group, we were split into 3 combos based on ability, and we then worked in these combos for the rest of the course. My combo was tutored by Carlos Lopez-Real, an alto saxophonist and head of the Contemporary Jazz course at the Guildhall. Carlos introduced us to some great tunes which were mostly unknown to the group but likely to find their way into some set lists soon! These were:
Other groups looked at other tunes and after an informal jam on the first night (including a killing rendition of What is this thing called love? from Malcolm Edmonstone, Carlos and GSMD students Gili and David) we all performed our sets for one another and an audience of friends and guests on the final night in the music room of Sundial Court, which appears to be the main student bar of the GSMD.
Interspersed with the combo sessions were ‘skills sessions’, one with each tutor. Carlos really stretched us with rhythmic challenges (something I had a lot of trouble with!), Malcolm Miles took us through about nine different ways to play over a one-chord vamp and Malcolm Edmonstone gave us an amazing insight into using pairs of triads as a basis for improvisation, laying it all out in by far the clearest way I’ve ever encountered. I feel like in two days I’ve learned about enough things to practice for months or even years to come! There were a couple of current or former GSMD students filling out gaps in rhythm sections (one per combo) and from talking to them it appeared that the content of our course was not that dissimilar from actual classes at the conservatoire. I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend this course to anyone who’s gained a basic grasp of jazz improvisation and harmony (especially that you’re confident in your major and minor modes, can read most changes and follow forms). For those still relatively new to jazz the GSMD also do a week-long introductory course earlier in the summer.
The Cambridge Jazz Co-op is an informal group of amateur jazz musicians that meet on Saturday mornings at the Man on the Moon pub in Cambridge, U.K. to play under the guidance and tuition of professional/prestigious jazz tutors/performers.
It’s a great privilege for me to be invited to share my skills and experience with the group, and I’ve planned what I hope will be a fun and interesting (and a little bit of a different) session:
As players we are immensely lucky to be able to choose from so many great standards, so it’s not surprising that some get called again and again, and sometimes we might get a bit tired of some of them. To keep things sounding fresh, there are plenty of ways to make our solos interesting and new, but there are also lots of things we can do with the material we’ve been given, by interpreting melodies in new ways and by making our own arrangements. These don’t have to be complex written affairs – sometimes a change of feel, adding or taking away a bar here or there or putting the melody somewhere unusual can be all it takes to bring an old warhorse back to life, and this can even sometimes be done on the bandstand or in a jam session!
This workshop won’t be about sitting down with pen and paper and writing things out (unless someone finds that useful). We’ll look at everything through our instruments, and there’ll be plenty of chances to blow as well. We’ll look at fresh approaches to a well-known standard or two, plus an adaptation of an original tune of mine, Night Owl – see an earlier post for a rehearsal video of this tune in quintet form.
P.S. if you would like to come be aware that East Road is completely closed so the Man in the Moon can only be accessed by vehicle from Newmarket Road, via Coldham’s Lane and New Street. Pedestrian/cycle access should be ok but might take slightly longer than usual.