Sligo Jazz Project 2013: Days 1-3
Kenny Werner Master Class: How to Build a Chord
The difference between knowing theory and producing it was a central theme of pianist Kenny Werner's post-lunch master class. "If you haven't practiced it enough to absorb it then it's not going to be in your playing," he stated. "The greatest theory book ever written was by Schoenberg," he continued. "Nobody broke as many rules, but you have to know all the theory to break that many rules."
In response to one student who paraphrased Monk's oft quoted statement that "The piano ain't got no wrong notes" Werner replied in a flash: "Yeah? But when people don't know what they're doing it's obvious." In Werner's opinion, jazz has progressed more proactively than any other form of music: "Jazz is a laboratory," he said, opening up an analogy that surely leaves unstated the need for jazz musicians to experiment and to question the status quo at every turn.
In demonstrating building chords, block by little block, Werner observed that most pianists don't integrate both hands, and stressed the need to do so: "The greatest thing I'm sharing with you is not what you practice; it's how you practice. You're not practicing what you're going to play, you're practicing what will affect what you play."
In a fascinating lesson, Werner underlined the need to absorb and to add color to the music:" If the fingers are comfortable playing it, the ears are comfortable hearing it. It's one of the most concrete lessons in jazz," he said. The next day student Martin Devek, a classical pianist from Dromore, County Down coming to jazz for the very first time, described the impact Werner's master class had made on him: "It was life changing," he stated simply. "Because I was open it worked. After the class I went back to the hotel, borrowed a keyboard and practiced for two hours."
Phil Ware: Master Class
In the afternoon's other master class pianist Phil Ware echoed Werner's comments on the need to work on voicings for both hands. In one of the week's wittier responses to a student's suggestion that "awkward voicings can be interesting" Ware responded without skipping a beat: "Very, very drunk people can be interesting for a short while." With regard to practice regimes Ware quoted pianist Bill Evans, who when asked what he practiced replied: "The minimum," which, Ware was at pains to emphasize, didn't mean that students could afford to be lazy but rather that they should focus on improving small areas of their playing.
Linley Hamilton's Student Ensemble
In one ensemble class, trumpeter Linley Hamilton shepherded his mixed- level sextet through the troughs and peaks of their attempts at guitarist Kurt Rosenwinkel's "Minor Blue," Northern Irish pianist Scott Flannigan's "11" and, in the only nod to the tradition, singer/songwriter Cole Porter's "You'd be so nice to come home to." Hamilton, whose Taylor Made (Lyte Records, 2011) is one of the most enjoyable jazz recordings to come out of Ireland in recent years, is an indefatigable jazz advocate. In addition to hosting Radio Ulster's After Midnight show dedicated to contemporary and classic jazz, he also works as a producer, educator and trumpet for hire.
His students were in very capable hands and Hamilton coaxed them a little outside their respective comfort zones. Initially, Hamilton spoke about the vocabulary and grammar of music, note selection, scales and chords, motif development, substitutions and inversions. It was a lot to take in, when there were very basic group dynamicslike looking at each otherto be ironed out, but Hamilton persevered with admirable focus and clarity. His analogies were vivid and to the point: "There's a lot of space," he said in reference to "Minor Blue" but you don't want to fill in every crack in the pavement at the same time."
After each false start, each hurdle encounteredand there were manyand after each stuttering phrase or clumsy hand-over, Hamilton took the students back a step, tweaked and gently cajoled. He spoke of the need to break up the length of a musical sentence and urged the musicians to make a statement, to tell a story when they soloed. The improvements, in small incremental steps, were instantly noticeable.
Janek Gwizdala Trio/The Olllam: Hawk's Well Theatre