Clinics Teach Jazz - From Technique to Soul
BOSTON — CHRIS JORGENSEN has one dream about his future as a jazz musician: He says he would like to change the sound of saxophone playing ``the way Jimi Hendrix changed the sound of the guitar.'' ``I like to shoot big,'' says Chris, a junior from Scituate High School in Rhode Island.
Such a weighty aspiration may not be characteristic of every student who came to the High School Jazz Ensemble Festival at Berklee College of Music, but an impressive number of them want to pursue jazz seriously.
Teenagers carrying trombones, trumpets, and saxophones crowded into a small rehearsal room, anxious to hear sax player Andy McGhee coach them on improvisation.
Such clinics with Berklee's faculty took place throughout the festival day, giving interested kids a break from the marathon band contest.
Mr. McGhee had an alto sax slung around his neck, and a pianist, drummer, and bass player from Berklee behind him on the small stage. ``Does anyone want to come up here and play the blues?'' he asked with a grin.
Nervous laughter came from the kids, shifting in their seats. To improvise with someone who has played with Lionel Hampton and Woody Herman was daunting. But finally Chris Jorgensen rose from his seat and joined McGhee in some rips.
``Young players, once they want to play jazz, they think it has nothing to do with learning fundamentals like scales and chords,'' McGhee told the class in between songs. ``But bad technique produces bad jazz!''
First of all, McGhee said, ``you need to get a good sound.'' He blew a long, sustained note that grew from pianissimo to loud and back again. Practice that over and over, he said.
Next, ``learn your instrument.'' Playing scales isn't just for classical pianists over at New England Conservatory, he warned.
``Listen to music'' was his third piece of advice. ``If you're going to be a jazz player, you have to live with the music. Listen to famous players and try to copy what they're doing.''
Don't worry if you can't improvise right away, he said. ``Some people are very gifted with the ear, but others have to develop it.'' The other essential element besides technique, he added, is ``feeling'' or ``playing from the soul.''
After the class, Chris seconded McGhee's comments. ``It's not just the way you play - it's not just honkin' and stuff - you have to practice on scales and everything.''
Chris decided that Charlie Parker and John Coltrane were at the top of his list of favorite musicians. He listens to them regularly.
``I live for the music. I get up in the morning, put on the radio, put on some good jazz before I go to school. When I'm in school, I spend a lot of time in the band room practicing.''