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Live Reviews

Sligo Jazz Project 2013: Days 4-6

By Published: August 1, 2013
Practical demonstrations illustrated various key issues and students got the chance not only to play for Riley and Goldsby, who offered up precise analysis, but with them as well. In response to a musician who was rather too busy on the drums, all but drowning out the bassist, Goldsby likened the interaction to meeting someone on the street: "The first thing you say when you meet someone is, 'hi, how are you? Boy, it's hot today.' You don't kick in with, 'my grandma's from Arkansas.' The analogy of mad social behavior caused much laughter, and probably upon reflection—all things need time to be absorbed—helped raise greater self-awareness among the students.

When students' timing began to stray, Riley underlined the importance of visual clues: "If the drummer can't hear too well he watches that right hand and gets in sync." In response to a clumsy finish to a blues tune Goldsby's simple advice to the drummer was "learn to sing a blues tune." How many times during the week did students hear the professionals encourage singing as a means to improve musicianship? Maybe there's something to it then.

Friday Jam Session: Source Sligo

The Friday afternoon jam session at Source Sligo underlined the come-one-come-all nature of the SJP. Australian singer Aminha Hughes is shortly to release her debut album featuring the great guitarist Tommy Emmanuel; Northern Irish singer Louie McDonald is a student of jazz composition in England; Jerry Fehily is former drummer with legendary Irish folk-rock band The Hothouse Flowers; Lars Schmid studies jazz piano at the Zurich School of Arts, and 13-year old Charlotte Kinsella is a classically trained flautist who had never played jazz before enrolling in the SJP 2013.

Of course, in the SJP school students were grouped as far as possible according to level, but on the jam floor everybody was welcome. Well-known Sligo multi- instrumentalist Seamie O'Dowd guested in Aminah Hughes ensemble and played outstanding slide guitar on the Hughes original "You Don't Need"—an old-school blues of some power. Hughes, a strong, soulful singer, brought real nuance to "Hold on my Love," another original whose contours were evocative of singer/songwriter Joni Mitchell
Joni Mitchell
Joni Mitchell
. Bassist Aron Salzmann and pianist Schmid—two names to keep an eye on—provided intuitive support.

Schmid learned about SJP through his teacher Chris Wiesendanger, who had been a tutor at SJP in 2006, and the experience has clearly been a positive one: "It's cool to have so many equal-spirited people coming together and sharing their passion for music," he said. "It doesn't matter how old they are or how good they are, or what their instrument is. You just get together and work at whatever level you're at. Everybody plays at the jam sessions no matter what their level is." Schmid was also full of praise for the teachers: "The teachers are great," he said. "They speak to all levels about the mindset—to get rid of the pressure of trying to sound good.

"Actually, I was quite relaxed," adds Schmid. "There's such a good atmosphere here; it makes you feel okay. "I'm on holiday to be honest, and I'm not trying to learn that much," he admitted, "but by not trying to learn that much I learn much more [laughs]."

Schmid's enthusiasm for the SJP experience was tempered with a pragmatic view of the wider challenges: "I do feel pressure, though" he admits, "just for myself, struggling to become a professional musician. It's not easy."

As for taking on board all the advice about practice gleaned from his tutor Kenny Werner
Kenny Werner
Kenny Werner
once back in Zurich, Schmid said: "I'll try. The hard part about this experience will be to keep the energy going. It's easy to fall back into old patterns, but I've got Kenny's book and I've got Kenny's DVDs so I'll try to maintain that spirit."

To students who maybe feel their level is too low or their experience insufficient to attend SJP, Schmid only has words of encouragement: "It's a great thing to do. It's great for beginners because it gives them the opportunity to play with people on their level and with some of the greatest jazz musicians ever. When confidence comes playing will follow."

For some students, the experience of playing in front of a public was daunting. For less experienced jazz musicians in particular it took real courage to get up and play. Apprehension, bravery, motivation and inspiration all went hand in hand at the SJP. The joy at playing before a public—albeit the floor of a cocktail bar—brought to mind the words of Irish poet William Butler Yeats, penned in 1916: ..."I seem to myself most alive at the moment when a room full of people share the one lofty emotion."

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