Following last week’s post exhausting my anthology of adjectives, I’m sticking to Louis Balfour’s simple collection with which he uses to describe jazz… great. If you don’t get that, maybe I can try a Bee Movie reference? Please carry on reading, I’m trying really hard.
The first week of lessons and lectures has been intense! It’s also just been really good fun. I started the week with some practical lessons and I’ve now got a tonne of scales, arpeggios and standards to learn. One of my lessons was with a group of six other guitarists, where we worked through the changes of a jazz blues. It was really great to meet other students who play your instrument; we were able to talk about players we love, our struggles with technique and help each other out with new ideas and approaches to playing. Seeing other amazing players also really encourages you to get practicing even more.
I also had an audition this week for the Contemporary Jazz Orchestra here at LCoM. In preparation, I spent the afternoon leading up to the audition attempting to sight read the guitar parts for some Gordon Goodwin arrangements. It was a rather strange affair for someone like me, who has zero experience in playing in a Big Band. The tutors auditioned a specific section along with a rhythm trio in each group; I went in with the Saxophones along with a drummer and a bassist. In front of each player, other than myself, was a full part written out for their specific instrument of ‘Bohemia After Dark’ by Cannonball Adderley (I hadn’t heard this piece before this point, but it’s a really great tune and you should give it a listen below). All that was in front of me, was page three of the piano part. The leader spent about five minutes going over the first few bars, which were tricky for the saxes, before playing through the whole piece. When the band got to what I assume was my page three, the leader pointed at me and shouted ‘solo’. I really had no idea where I was on the page, only the vague feeling that we were in G minor, so I really couldn’t do myself or the changes any justice. It’s strange, I had expected that a Big Band leader would be looking for players who could read well and follow a chart; I was caught out when he asked for a solo. After the audition, my flat mate Sam and I sat with some third years in the SU bar. It was really great talking to them for a few hours – I learnt so much about jazz, LCoM and student life in general! They were all horn players and at one point there was a rather heated debate when Sam confessed that Miles Davis wasn’t his favourite player. Sorry Sam, the whole world knows now. This debate did also spark a lot of stories about Miles and his antics in the 40s. He was living the life of an absolute rockstar, hanging out with Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie and Thelonious Monk. I think I’m going to get his autobiography to find out more about his incredible life.
Along with along all the jazz this week, I had my ensemble workshop which makes up the Popular music studies part of my degree. This was yet another opportunity to meet even more students from the other side of LCoM. We were put into groups and I found myself in a room with 3 singers, two bass players and a keys player. It was going to be an interesting band with that line up. One of the bassists could play guitar but that didn’t solve the issue regarding the severe lack of drummer. Still, it was great to hear some new music, show off our own and discuss our mutual love of The 1975. We jammed for a few hours and made plans to meet up after we’ve done some song writing – our first assignment is to perform an original song in two weeks’ time! At the end of our session, we discovered that we were missing a member of our group and that a drummer would be joining us next week. Phew!
On Thursday night, I booked a room for the Jazz students to meet up and jam. It was my first opportunity to play some proper jazz with other people and it was marvelous. We played through some standards, Snarky Puppy and Stevie Wonder for three hours. I still can’t believe the amount of amazing players I’m surrounded by here at LCoM. Most of us then headed back to our flat to listen to more jazz and talk about our favourite players, it was lovely.
Friday was my favourite day this week – I had a lecture with Jamil Sheriff to begin with. The other lecturers call it ‘Clapping Club’, which doesn’t really do it justice, although we did spend an hour clapping so I see where they’re coming from. Clapping is easier said than done, however; try clapping a hemiola whilst tapping your foot on the beat and shouting ‘1, 2, 3, 4’ – it’s really hard! We also looked at Dexter Gordon’s rendition of ‘Society Red’ and man, Dexter Gordon is the most awesome dude. He is the definition of cool, calm and collected, and he also has a sweet tone.
Next, I had a really interesting transcription lesson in a rather small group. Our homework this week is to learn by ear ‘Lester Leaps In’ (Count Basie) in 5 different keys. In the afternoon Jamil had organised for ‘Perpetual Motion Machine’, who have just finished their UK tour, to come in and give a workshop. They have a really interesting line up of two guitars, two tenor saxophones, bass and drums. They’re all graduates of LCoM so had a lot of advice for us. They played some of their pieces and answered a lot of our questions. A couple of first years got up to jam with them including a bassoon player! I have to admit I was blown away by their music so was a little too nervous to get up and play myself. I’d describe their music as a hybrid between John Scofield and an instrumental Screaming Headless Torsos. Check out my favourite track of theirs below.
This weekend, the freshers’ flu that seems to be going round the whole of our apartment building managed to catch up with me. So, my Saturday and Sunday has consisted of sleeping, moaning, sneezing, practicing and the occasional wander into town. Now though, I’m recharged and ready for another crazy week!