Sunday, April 27, 2014

A Concert Experience- Learning from the masters

This past week I went to Berklee College of Music to attend "The State of Jazz Composition Symposium". I went to a few events from this six day symposium and concert series, and learned a great deal from some of my heroes in jazz.

I went to numerous concerts, workshops, panel discussions, and more and in each one there was a sense of unity- unity for the love of not only jazz, but for life.

A Concert Experience- Learning from the masters

Every person taught me something different, yet they all taught something that didn't just relate to jazz, but to life in general. Here is what I learned: 

From Dave Fiuczynski: 
No matter what system of tuning you use, microtonal or not, a groove is a groove. 
Be influenced by nature, and the beauty of natural sound. 

From Rudresh Mahanthappa: 
Interact with the musicians you are playing with. Close your eyes. Get into the music. Feel something and have passion for every note you play.
Be influenced by your culture, and add those influences into your own music and your own personal sound. 

Danilo Perez
From Danilo Perez: 
Jazz music has been influenced by so much of the world's music. "Four four time" is really a combination of different world rhythms and poly-rhythms in disguise. 
Learn the history of jazz music, and the influences. This is American music, but like America, it is a melting pot. 
Experience the world, and put the beauty of nature, of people, of stories into your playing.
Two key elements in any musical collaboration are trust and space. This is true for any relationship in life too.
You should be able to hold a conversation while tapping the swing feel- because improvising over it is a conversation too.
Ever since the beginnings of jazz music, it has been used as a music for the people- for communication- for freedom. Express what it means to be free, and the jubilance of living! 

From Joe Lovano: 
The best players may sound like they are playing straight quarter notes, or simple rhythms, but the influence, the world knowledge is all there. In simplicity there is complexity. 
When you improvise, interact. If you hear someone play a rhythmic phrase, play a rhythmic phrase in response. You are improvising to communicate, so make a conversation, make a dialogue. 
"I don't ask what jazz is. I ask how. How can jazz communicate your personal story?"

From Eric Gould:
"We are not jazz composers. We are composers who like jazz. Actually, no, we are people, human beings that compose music that speaks to us". 

From George S. Clinton: 
As a film score composer, you have the choice to include improvised music to add that element of "real time". 

Here is a video of Miles Davis improvising to a film

Terence Blanchard
From Terence Blanchard: 
You never need to dilute yourself when you are in a new situation. Bring your honesty and your authenticity to everything you do. Never just become what others expect you to be. Bring your personal style to every music you play, and trust your instincts. 

From Billy Childs: Just because you think others want you to play a certain way, trust what you think you should play or compose like. You don't need to change your personal style to fit a certain mold. Authenticity is what makes people want to hear your music- a personal sound is more important than fitting a mold. 

From Vijay Iyer: 
Be influenced by a variety of sources. Read books. study nature, study cultures, and incorporate everything you learn into your music. 
Depth in your own music comes from the depth within yourself. 
Collaborate, and allow other musicians to have their own freedom within your music. 

Maria Schneider
From Maria Schneider: 
"I know I am finally done with a piece of music when I can finally sleep without thinking about it!"
To compose without boundaries or expectations.
When you need new material for your composition, go back to what you already have and see what you can do with that. 
When writing music, allow the improvisers the freedom to express themselves and their individuality within the concept of your piece. Help them understand the intention behind your piece so they can convey that in their own way. 
So much of jazz is a culture- the culture of the music. 

From Terri Lyne Carrington: 
Jazz music will live on if people accept their own influences, and do not remain simply purists. If you are open to new music, and incorporate different musical elements that you personally like, and make your own sound, your music will be heard. 
You have to be fearless to play jazz.
You aren't a complete musician until you can get to that place where one or two notes mean so much that you can make someone cry. No scale can do that. Life can do that. 

From Don Was: 
The albums that continually are being sold and played are the ones that were groundbreaking, that challenged the status quo. (Like "Out to Lunch" by Eric Dolphy). 
If you want to be noticed, just be yourself. Don't add elements to your music just because you think a label will like it. Write and play the music that speaks to you, because if it's honest, people will want to hear it. 

Geri Allen
From Geri Allen: 
When you collaborate with others, listen to them closely. They have their own personal sound, and they are communicating with you. If you listen closely, you can respond in your own way. 
When composing, know the strengths of the musicians you are writing for and help to highlight them.

From Patrice Rushen: 
In order to become a complete musician, you must become a complete person. Learn who you are. You can be the best player, but if you don't know who you are and what you stand for, what are you communicating?
Don't be afraid to break boundaries. You don't just play jazz- you play music. Don't be afraid- you aren't confined to jazz. 

Final Thoughts: 
By simply being surrounded by some of my heroes, and seeing them not only play, but talk, was extraordinary. Each musician had a unique philosophy not only on jazz, but life. Their immense wisdom inspired me to not only want to learn more about jazz and composition, but to also expand my own personal knowledge, and become more of myself in order to get to that pinnacle of music- communication. 


  1. Replies
    1. Thanks bro, I am glad you read it :)
      Let's go to more concerts together soon!

  2. grace - i still love this blog so much! it's nice to see maria schneider, too, i love her! keep up the great posts! (:

    1. Thank you so much for reading my blog- it is so sweet of you!!! <3