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Jessica Lurie: In It For The Long Haul

Paul Rauch By

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"I really didn't have any women role models. I wrote this grant called 'Play Like a Girl.' When I have girl students, especially on saxophone, I tell them, 'Get a big sound, no wimpy players. You can play really fast, but if it's not a big sound, nobody can hear your ideas.' It's more like big than it is loud. Get a big sound, then you can control it. The term 'play Like a girl,' refers to things like 'run like a girl.' I was thinking it would be cool to do some kind of project where you have girls from elementary school to high school, and have them do some sort of elaborate writing. It could be like a generational women's group that involves something about composition, and can bring in stories and a narrative. Songs are like a big umbrella, where there can be lyrics, there can be a narrative, there can be composition. Bring in players who can actually play their compositions, but somehow dispel this idea that women are wimpy players. That they can't be dynamic. It doesn't have to be an all women band," says Lurie.

Technical facility is in service of one's creative emotions when playing, the connection where practicing technique and facility can further enhance your ability to directly express emotion when improvising. Modern music continues to blur the lines of genre as traditionally interpreted. Lurie's music has grown through the jazz tradition, and has evolved to a very free place that while unleashed from many harmonic ties, still has broad based compositional context streaming from her cultural roots, and classical training. Her unique approach to melodic improvisation on saxophone, flows through a free verse Whitman like narrative.

"I think if you hear something you can do it. You're connected to your idea. You can get stuck in changes, you have to work on knowing them so you can get beyond them. I think technique helps a lot, it's easier to connect to your music and to your instrument. It's many things coming into play, I think that's when you really feel that you have your ideas flow, you can actually play what your ideas are. I hear it when my fingers want to go in a certain pattern, I think of what I can do to break up that pattern. To approach it differently and not get stuck. One thing about classical players is you learn a technique where you slow it down, and play it really well slow, and then you can play it fast, or you can just make it sound beautiful. Put emotion into it, don't let it be boring. For me, the more I practice things where I can slow things down and really try to work on facility and also being able to have a narrative, it enables me to be able to articulate that narrative. To be able to articulate things the way you want to," explains Lurie, her ideas flowing much like her playing-with emotion, strength, and strong articulation.

The proliferation of jazz in the twenty first century offers its community more music, more musical access, and more talented instrumentalists than perhaps anytime in the past one hundred years. Why then, do so many modern compositions sound as if the notes are scattered on a tabletop like Scrabble tiles? While Lurie's music is often referred to as being avant-garde, or "outside," her compositions include a strong melodic sense, classical dynamics, and a harmonic structure that expresses the many moods of her musical personality. Her melodies, and her approach to composition are expressed through movement, through energy, and like her improvisational prowess, possess a strong sense of tension and release. Her methodology is unique and very much grounded in modern urban movement, inspired by ambient sounds.


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