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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).

DYJA-AdminImproving your jazz Improv!
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