The Doncaster Youth Jazz Association

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Latest News

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    Improving your jazz Improv!

    Type “Jazz Improvisation” into your search engine and you get “making up new melodic solo lines or accompaniment parts. Improvisation is composing on the spot” (Wikipedia).

    You can just about smell the fear of competent young musicians wanting to cross over into the Jazz genre and bumping up against improvisation as a reason not to!  Running a Jazz association means that there is no getting away from the importance of learning to improvise.  Ironically, improvisation demands musicians not just to play as individuals but to master playing as part of a whole, wider big band and team.

    By its very nature, improvisation sounds as if it cannot be practised or rehearsed, that it highlights an on the spot ability to connect with, hear and respond to the music. It commands musicians to draw upon reserves of courage, musical creativity and sensitivity as well as set aside inhibitions and expose musical ability to peers as well as audiences. It seems strange, therefore, that there is method to this creative madness called improvisation.  So many do not realise that there is a musical process, an ability to improve and learn the art of Jazz improvisation….

    Mark Ellis, saxophone tutor at the Doncaster Youth Jazz Association –  “Learning to improvise starts like anything else – with the basics.  The Blues is the foundation of all modern music and so I like to start with that. The beauty of using the Blues scale at first is that musicians can improvise without the knowledge of complex chords and chord changes.  Melodic concepts such as sequence and repetition can be introduced easily and in a very methodical way one a student has mastered just one Blues scale. It’s a skill anybody can learn once they possess the learning blocks to do so!”

    On Sunday 4th June Doncaster Youth Jazz Association will open its doors to host our first Jazz Improvisation workshop with Mark Ellis. DYJA are opening this workshop to any musician, young and old, interested in gaining confidence with Jazz improvisation. How would you like to walk away understanding the basic concepts of jazz improvisation and coming to the realisation that this is not a “dark art” but rather a skill that anybody can learn?!  If this might appeal to you please do get in touch to book onto this session.  To book onto this session contact the office. Costs are £20 for a three hour tutorial! (Places limited)


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    Mark Ellis, a graduate of the Berklee College of Music, teaches saxophone, clarinet and flute to students in Yorkshire both privately and in several private schools of notoriety. He also leads his own Jazz quartet, a full Big Band (BUDO), a Jazz-Funk group (CTI Project) and recently set up his own agency that provides Jazz ensembles and function bands for corporate events (VIBE Music) – most noticeably providing all the live  entertainment at the last 3 St Leger Festivals at Doncaster Racecourse.  2011 and 2012 saw Mark’s most prolific years to date, performing as sideman in Dennis Rollins’ Badbone & Co at The Jazz Café, supporting Maceo Parker with CTI Project, not to mention sharing the stage (and solos) with funk legends Pee Wee Ellis and Fred Wesley (James Brown’s horn section). He also performed at Ronnie Scott’s with a DYJA alumni group sharing the bill with Groove Armada.  Over the last few years he has also performed with Candi Staton, The Temptations, The Stylistics, Deniece Williams, Jimmy Ruffin, Percy Sledge, Ben E King, Billy Paul, Freda Payne, Dorothy Moore, Peabo Bryson.  Mark has performed at The Jazz Café, The Royal Albert Hall, Queen Elizabeth Hall, Windsor Castle, Buckingham Palace, St. David’s Hall (Cardiff), Ronnie Scott’s, Montreux Jazz Festival, IAJE Jazz Festival and The United Nations (NYC).

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    DYJA-AdminImproving your jazz Improv!
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    DYJA and Ronnie Scott’s Charitable Foundation working together for 2017!

    Doncaster Youth Jazz Association are excited to be delivering some of it’s 2017 music educational programme in partnership with the Ronnie Scott’s Charitable Foundation. From January 2017 we have a host of new projects planned that are designed to get the Yorkshire region’s young jazz musicians engaged in music.  Look out for “Trombones on the Slide” a pilot programme engaging with local primary schools with the hope of producing a new round of trombonists. (more to follow in the next few weeks). Or perhaps, as a budding young musician one of our Masterclasses headed up by the likes of Quentin Collins (trumpet), Lee Gibson (vocals) and Dennis Rollins (trombone), takes your fancy. All activity is FREE to attend. Watch this space for more information coming in the next few weeks!

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    DYJA-AdminDYJA and Ronnie Scott’s Charitable Foundation working together for 2017!
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    Are you brave enough to “cross over” into the jazz genre?

    When it comes to the world of jazz we have often encountered sharp intakes of breath from experienced, classically trained musicians. Recently, one jovially remarked that it would be like “crossing over into the dark side,” not quite understanding the types of jazz on offer and the palm sweating arena of musical performance. For certain, there seems to be reluctance by some to even consider venturing into the “jazz” genre. Never has there been a little word such as this one. “JAZZ,” that simultaneously captures a rich heritage of music but fails to define the vast spectrum of different types of jazz on offer.

    So what are the major differences you need to consider as a musician perhaps classically trained but interested in giving it a go?

    One major area of concern is improvisation.

    We’ve all sat in awe as we’ve watched musicians trill away happily having been given the conductor’s “nod” to go for it within a set piece. The younger they are the less inhibited they seem to be and the easier improvisation comes to them….And yet for all its organic splendour improvisation requires the most steely of disciplined musical minds.  The irony of improvisation is that some of the finest youngest improvisers at the centre can be heard week in and week out in the rehearsal room practising, practising, practising. Improvisation is about learning a whole host of scales; major and minor bebop scales through to the altered scale are just a few of them, developing the listening “ear” through a variety of ear training exercises, and a relentless exploration of theory to give them an understanding of the immediacy of jazz. The bigger your toolkit of understanding the easier improvisation becomes.

    “But wait a minute” insists John Ellis “improvisation is an option. Not everyone wants to improvise and being given the freedom to be able to play within part of a Big Band environment is just as rewarding.  Enjoy the orchestrations and the challenges they present within themselves. There are many different jazz elements dependent on what you play.  And don’t forget you will become musical heavy weights with the ability to play for continuous periods of time, perhaps a key difference with other genres of music.”

    As an organisation DYJA has started looking into some of the issues young people face when coming into our centre as jazz novices albeit excellent musicians.  In preparation for our upcoming educational season (launching with a joint weekend of jazz with the National Youth Jazz Orchestra (NYJO) from the 16th – 18th September this year), we will be hosting workshops open to all interested in “crossing over” into and de-mystifying the jazz genre. We’ll be posting further more in-depth articles on learning and getting involved in jazz genres over the coming months.

    In the meantime our range of Jazz Education Workshops start on Saturday September 17th 2016 and can be booked here.


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    DYJA-AdminAre you brave enough to “cross over” into the jazz genre?

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