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.