My book The Living Jazz Tradition: A Creative Guide to Improvisation and Harmony will be on sale for $37 this weekend (Friday through Sunday) on Amazon. Only 20 copies are available at the discounted price. Amazon Prime members get free shipping.
Stephen Colbert on John Zorn:
Using your metronome in creative ways can help you internalize pulse, subdivisions, groove, meter, and syncopation.
Courtesy of Flickr/Paco
I’d like to begin unpacking the saying “jazz is a language.” Insight from Louis Armstrong and a recent breakthrough in neuroscience can help us better understand the connection.
Courtesy of Flickr/greeblie
Follow your appetite. By running away from something, you are running toward something better.
The great soprano saxophonist and composer Steve Lacy gave me this advice in 2002 just a couple years before he passed away. His words help me whenever I feel lost or overwhelmed. Running away from uninspired music or projects isn’t cowardly. It guides you toward more meaningful and expressive work. Steve’s advice reminds me of Joseph Campbell’s famous follow your bliss quote.
Lacy was a leading interpreter Thelonious Monk’s music. In 1960, Lacy recorded with Monk and wrote down Monk’s colorful advice in his notebook.
My favorite quote is, “A note can be as small as a pin or as big as the world. It depends on your imagination.” (You can read a typed transcript here.) Enjoy!
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Several folks have asked me why I started the Creative Music Blog. Here’s the story.
Although my career as a freelance musician and educator has been successful in many ways, it was not financially sustainable. I was teaching saxophone lessons to earn a living, but my family was scraping by because I chose to invest considerable time and money into my book and recording projects. With a young daughter at home, I had to make a change.
“I believe creativity comes from limits, not freedom.”
This is not a quote about music. It’s how Jon Stewart describes preparing for the The Daily Show with his team of writers (from an interview with NPR’s Fresh Air).
Stravinsky employed a similar process:
My freedom will be so much the greater and more meaningful the more narrowly I limit my field of action and the more I surround myself with obstacles. Whatever diminishes constraint diminishes strength. The more constraints one imposes, the more one frees one’s self of the chains that shackle the spirit.
– Igor Stravinsky, Poetics of Music in the Form of Six Lessons
Bringing out-of-the-box experiences to school music programs is one of the most fulfilling parts of my career as a freelancer. The kids are fearless! Experimental play, in conjunction with traditional skills-based practice, helps empower creative and independent music makers for life.
After working with a high school concert band last month, I asked the director why improvisation is valuable for his entire program. He said, “because musical permission empowers students.” The word “permission” jumped out at me. It seemed odd because the students don’t actually need our permission to play creative music. But it started to make sense in the context of how students are asked to learn in school.
Most jazz educational resources aimed at beginners start with theory, chords symbols, modes, patterns, and licks. If you like that approach, this article isn’t for you.
I work with lots of students, amateur musicians, and educators who are overwhelmed and confused by theory-first jazz education. If you also feel stuck, I hope this material helps.
Courtesy of Flickr/GigNRoll.com
Yesterday’s post, Where Jazz Theory Got it Wrong expanded my audience from a few dozen to thousands overnight. It’s a little overwhelming! The article has resonated with a lot musicians, ruffled some feathers, and spawned some interesting conversations.