Another teaching year has started. I really enjoy helping people learn about jazz and watching people’s music and grow. It is tricky to work out where to start with new students.
Last year I was lucky to organise a teachers conference with clinicians from Jazz at Lincoln Centre. One of the main topics they delivered was about jazz ‘syntax’.
While this isn’t new material for me it made me realise the importance of it. It’s not something that is written into the music but rather something that is part of the aural tradition of the music.
I started an orientation week presentation talking about this to the new incoming students. I explained it similar to how we read. An example of this would be when you read words, like you are now, the inflections and the pitch of the sentences are not written above or below the words. Punctuation is used but it doesn’t give the total understanding of the sound of English language. However when we read it is natural for us to put these inflections and differing pitch as we are used to the way our language works in order for it to make sense.
The same is for jazz. This is one of the most exciting things about the music as everybody can put their own personality into their playing. It is the way a particular rhythm is played.
A couple of weeks ago jazz legend Clark Terry passed away. He was big into the idea of syntax and its close relationship to the human voice.
I’ve found from listening to more recent recordings (recordings made in the last 10 years) that there is less personality in this area of “syntax” than what there was back in the old days. However the recently recorded music does have a more technical and clean approach to it. I don’t know if that represents the social context of society right now but maybe it does?
Anyway, on other news, I’ve got some gigs coming up. Regular weekly gigs in March on Thursdays at the Jubilee Hotel from 4-7pm and Sundays from 11-2pm at the Sofitel Hotel in Brisbane CBD. I also run the jam sessions at JMI on a Thursday night. If you’re in and around Brisbane at any of these times please drop by and say hello or better still come and sit in and play some music.