I recommend listening and singing along with records of the mastersusing them as a reference point, playing the tune ourselves, and saying, "What's the difference?" Usually it's pretty painful. When I was first playing jazz I can remember saying to myself, "I don't even know where to start. There are so many things wrong with what I'm doing." I tell my students, "You've got to find at least one thing right. It can't be all bad." There are nuggets of gold in everybody's playing. It's a question of percentagesis it 60% or 97%? It's a huge difference. That's what separates someone who's kind of talented but doesn't have it together from the masters.Teaching
I teach piano, composition and improvisation. I've worked with saxophone players, vocalists, and other instrumentalists as well. Of course I can't address technical issues with horn players. I'll say, "What might be your next step in your personal evolution?" We do a lot of clinics and master classes wherever we go. We did one in Switzerland, and we just finished one at San Jose State University. We do the Jamey Aebersold
clinic two weeks every summer. We really enjoy them. It's a combination of our performing, talking to the students, answering questions, and showing them the important things to practice. We have the students get up and play. Then we give them very specific things to work on that hopefully will make a difference as soon as possible. We have them slow things down so they can hear when they're in, and when they're output them in a state where they're relaxed enough to really hear what's going on without freezing up. I encourage students to use their vocabulary to create languageto be in the moment on the spot. To use an analogy with speaking we don't repeat each paragraph we've read in Newsweek today. That would be absurd. We learned words a long time ago, and as we read more and talk more throughout our lives we learn to put words together, and we learn to communicate. It's the same with the language of jazz.Play alongs
I've recorded a few of the Jamey Aebersold play-alongspiano, bass, and drums play different standards. The student is able to play along with the trio or isolate on certain tracks and play along with bass and drums alone or just the bass. That is a phenomenal practice tool. Even though it's frozen in time they're really playing with people instead of with a metronome.Recording vs. live playing
Recording allows you to scrutinize your work. Knowing there's a microphone on can have a big effect on what you're doing. In a live performance you feel energy from the audience. Both are critical to the evolution of a musician. We often prepare a tune by playing it on the road before we record it. After we record it we keep playing it. Often it can take a completely different direction. I honestly don't listen to my own recordings all that much. I'm concentrating on going forward except when I'm doing radio interviewsthen I have no choice. I have to listen to my own stuff! Sometimes I say, "I wish I could do that over." Some things I listen back to and think, "Yeah, that's alright!"