Why Jazz?

This week in our series talking to Melbourne Jazz Jammers, Mike Hirsh and Colin Garrett give us a bit of an insight into what Jazz means for them.

Mike Hirsh
In terms of being a Jazz musician the reason I like jazz music is because it commands the best technique that a performer can give in both exploring and practicing ones  chosen instrument.

To me, Jazz music playing epitomizes not only the techniques to master, but also contrives people to communicate in a way that only progressive and improvising musicians can do, which can be both inspiring, enjoyable and educational.  I also believe Jazz jamming is a great way to form long lasting friendships, which I believe is an essential element of our interpersonal social development, from which groups and ensembles can be encouraged to perform to our local audiences and indeed to audiences around the globe.
Mike Hirsh,  Drummer Producer   

Colin Garrett
Tell me why you like jazz?:  I like most types of music but jazz offers far more variety of sounds and rhythms and I enjoy the emotions that can be transferred through improvisation when either listening or performing.

Why do you like the jam sessions?: Another outlet for  playing and the challenge of playing new pieces that are presented by performers each week. Apart from playing, I get heaps out of the social involvement with both the players and the listeners. Life was quiet dull before getting involved.

What you are planning this year?: To continue to work on becoming a better player and particularly improve my reading skill. Will attend three jazz festivals (Halls Gap, Inverloch and Merimbula) where lots of great things musically can also happen.

Favourite players?: My favourite players, singers groups has varied over my life time. Currently favourite saxophonist: Joe Henderson , locally Peter Mitchell
pianist Keith Jarrett , locally Andrea Keller
male vocalist Kurt Elling, Locally Hayden Jones
female vocalist Renee Marie, Locally Kristin Barradi
Colin Garrett

Kylie Minogue!

The jazz jams are a great opportunity to meet other musos, do a little networking on the side, set up the Next Big Thing, or Medium Sized thing if you prefer, try out a toon or three, whatever. Kylie Minogue won’t be there this week. Probably. I haven’t checked with her management.

Why Jazz?

I recently asked some of the jazz jammers who perform around town to answer a few questions for our readers. One of the first to reply was a pianist Ade Ishs who I think you will hear much more of in the future. Other musicians will be featured in coming weeks. RM

Ade Ishs

Why I like jazz: I don’t know for sure. Perhaps because I had exposure to it early in my life. My dad liked big-band and orchestral vocal jazz stuff. And then my brother brought electric fusion (Chick Corea Elektric Band, Lee Ritenour, Dave Grusin, stuff like that) home. I started playing fusion stuff in the 1990s, when I got influences from Bob James, Lyle Mays, Pat Metheny, and others. During that time, I joined a Pat Metheny cover band. I rarely played standards until early 2000s. My musical training was largely classical piano performance, although I shortly studied jazz organ performance and composition.

Nevertheless, my playing techniques are largely derived from what I learned in my classical piano training. To me, that works. And if the crowd likes it, that’s a plus. I often try to draw connections between classical music and jazz. I guess I benefit from learning J. S. Bach’s music melodic techniques and also ambidexterity. From W. A. Mozart’s, structure. From Debussy’s and Chopin’s, dynamics and harmony. And so on. By no means I imply that I haven’t learned, for example, dynamics from Mozart’s, or anything else from other giants not mentioned. I’m just saying that probably they’re my main influences from the classical world. Jazz is one of my means of practising awareness with my environment and adjusting to it accordingly, and manners with others, plus other things. Maybe that’s why I like it.

Why I like the jam sessions: Isn’t it obvious? Because I can practise jazz! Also, to find potential people with whom I can play in a band.

What I’m planning this year: More gigs, particularly with my trio with drummer Chelsea Allen and bassist Daigo Nakai. Also, preparing materials for my next album.

Favourite players: Many. Pianist Lyle Mays, guitarist Pat Metheny, drummers Jack Dejohnette and Billy Stewart, bassist Marc Johnson, and the list goes on.

You can read an extended interview with Ade here


Sunday Jam Session: Not a Chart to be Seen!

I have never taken a chart to a jam session yet, but soon realised that this wasn’t a good idea with so many of the regulars away. McCue, Scotiish legend and editor extraordinaire saved the day by fronting with a full book of charts. As is his way, he insisted on me playing first, only to realise too late that I had played all the easy ones, and left him with the hard ones. Well, it was his book of charts . . .

In the absence of any serious contributors, The Halls Gap Weekend B Team Reserves took over and duly mangled every song in sight – marvellous fun really, and although we are all guilty as charged,  meself and Taariq should at least have known better. We nearly got it sorted by about round 11, but luckily came to our senses and kept playing the same old rubbish until way past my bedtime, for the sake of consistency. Jo, Sandro and Jenny sang, Tom, Danilo and Bruce played drums, Peter and Ali on sax, Eammon/Amon on guitar. Wrapped it up with the obligatory Route 66, Glen on drums, before we all rolled out into the last of the evening sun, claiming innocence or industrial deafness, I am not sure which.

Props to Glen for installing a new PA system, and a mighty fine system it is too – check it out next week.

If I haven’t mentioned your name and you played, consider yourself lucky . . .


Mozart – Too Easy!

‘Too easy for beginners; too difficult for artists’. So said Artur Schnabel of Mozart’s sonatas.

Schnabel’s distinction between beginners and artists is an interesting one. I am hardly a beginner, if time is the criteria, as I have been playing piano for a very long time. On the other hand if you want to listen to an artist playing Mozart try Glenn Gould here:

http://youtu.be/jGcg7cqrd-s  – Glenn Gould playing Mozart Sonata K330

Mozart himself was a fabulous improviser. In fact his greatest works (the piano concertos) are extended piano improvisations and for a backing band he uses an orchestra which he duly recognises by giving the orchestra “solos”. It is said he wrote some of his most famous pieces in something of hurry, dashing out the orchestra parts at the last minute.

Well on Sunday at the Leinster it was a little bit like that. Not many charts and a bit of last “minuteitis” about the playing. Where there were charts they were a bit skimpy on details. One example had chords but no music. “This piece is in Cm but play it in Am” was another.

Mozart would do something of the sort. Where he expected the piano soloist to improvise he would write out block chords for the piano part and expect the player to extemporise using that as a framework. This is much the same as a jazz improv. In the sonata played by Gould above the movement ends with 9ths, flat 9ths and sharp fives. This is supposed to be Dizzie Gillespie territory!!

Nevertheless, one jammer actually produced charts for everyone and wanted the thing played just as it was written. After what had gone before this was a surpise, though a pleasant one.

I suppose the moral of the story is that not all of us are like Mozart even though Dizzie was.