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Sligo Jazz Project 2013: Days 4-6

Sligo Jazz Project 2013: Days 4-6
Ian Patterson By

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Don’t think this is good or this is bad. Keep judgment out of it – it’s the fastest way to lose your way. —Janek Gwizdala
Sligo Jazz Project
Various Venues
Sligo, Ireland
July 16-21, 2013

After three action-packed days at Sligo Jazz Project, with SJP founder/bassist Eddie Lee and drummer David Lyttle's world premiere of The Barinthus Suite providing an unforgettable highlight, the first signs of attrition amongst the students were beginning to show. The non-stop nature of the SJP is one of its attractions, and there were absolutely no complaints about value for money; world-class tuition, workshops, master classes and individual lessons by request all took place at St. Edwards primary school. There were jam sessions downtown in the afternoon and late at night, and a top-rate international jazz festival was held in the Hawk's Well Theatre every evening. And the lunches had been great too.

Murderous Mornings

But just a couple more hours of sleep would have helped. Bags began to appear under eyes, the coffee flasks were emptied at an alarming rate, and fewer musicians went to the late night jams. Up at the Yeats Village where the majority of students were staying in student digs, there was a slightly grating wake-up call each morning for the lighter sleepers caused by crows, and hundreds of them—great, black scavenger crows. There are several collective nouns for crows, including 'murder,' but so numerous was the Yeats Village brood that a Hitchcock of crows seemed more apt.

Downtown, just a stone's throw from the jam session venue Source Sligo is an old pub called Shoot the Crows. It turns out, that in the early part of the 20th century local farmers were so incensed at the decimation of their crops by crows that a bounty was levied on the feathered fiends. Memories are long in Sligo, it seems, and perhaps it's no coincidence that Eddie Lee plays in a band called No Crows.

Day 4: Mike Nielsen/Janek Gwizdala Workshops

Guitarist Mike Nielsen's early morning talk on Friday covered micro-tonality, equidistant intervals of octaves, the overtone series and temperate system, consonance and dissonance. It was challenging and stimulating in equal measure. But in truth, given the complex theoretical nature of his talk and the amount of information he imparted, thirty minutes was rather too short. Some students mentioned that handouts would be useful for such presentations, as taking notes in double time wasn't conducive to listening.

Bassist Janek Gwizdala's workshop for all musicians repeated a lot of the advice that he gave during the first day's master class, but many more students had the chance this time to listen to his sage words: "Instrument-specific stuff is the last thing on my priority list," he said. "A good part of my practice every day is on the fundamentals of music." He also warned students against the dangers of slipping into overly comfortable practice routines and called upon them to exercise mental fortitude: "A favorite lick or rhythmic pattern is like a safety blanket. You need to get away from it."

Like double bassist John Goldsby, a few days before, Gwizdala advised students not to think while they are playing: "I record every concert, every practice session. I do the thinking afterwards. Don't think this is good or this is bad. Keep judgment out of it—it's the fastest way to lose your way." All students have a pretty good idea if the practice they're doing is meaningful or unchallenging and Gwizdala wrapped up his short presentation by reminding them of this fact: "Honesty," he said, "is the deal breaker."

John Goldsby & John Riley: Master Class

The pre-lunch master class by Goldsby and drummer John Riley was one of the best of the entire week. Simplicity, concentration, control and support were the watchwords. Though specifically oriented towards bassists and drummers playing in a trio context, the wisdom of these two veteran musicians held a universal truth for all musicians. "The bass and drum relationship has to be secure before we can play too much with the piano," Riley said.

"If John [Goldsby] plays intimately with the pianist then I have to play a more supportive role. We have to do the simple things together and if we can't do the simple things together then there's no way we can do more complicated things," Riley emphasized. "It can become more conversational but without losing the purity and simplicity. You need the concentration and the restraint to recognize what's important. That's a challenge and a sign of maturity when you get to that point."

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