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29-year-old Gwilym Simcock

is an internationally acclaimed British pianist who has taken the jazz world by storm. Here he explores the importance of communication in music making


uring a hugely enjoyable trip to a Netherlands music festival, I gave masterclasses and

individual tuition at the local conservatoire and played concerts which included working with a big band and orchestra, a local community choir, my own trio and also played arrangements of some Charles Ives songs with the legendary British jazz singer, Norma Winstone. The reason I mention all these things is that I came home from the week thinking not only how lucky I am to be a jazz musician – having the opportunity to enjoy such a wide variety of musical experiences – but also how important one particular element of music making is to us all, no matter what the musical context is: communication.

Communication is absolutely vital

to successful music-making – both the communication between the musicians on stage and also between the performers and their audience. If one of these channels of interaction is missing the impact of the music will be limited; if neither is present the results can be tragic! This is such an important point for us all to address, particularly in the world of instrumental jazz, where attracting an audience to your music is one of the biggest issues we face.

If there is a singer involved it’s so much easier for the artist to connect

with the public, as the sound of the human voice coupled with lyrics has an innate and fundamental ability to engage the heart and mind of the listener. As an instrumentalist, this is precisely the intrinsic connection we are trying to emulate when we perform. The challenge for us is far greater, but the solution is a logical one: we have to transform the sound that comes out of whatever we blow, hit or strum into a focussed ‘voice’ that connects emotionally with the audience and leads them through our musical narrative (a journey which then becomes completely subjective to the individual listener). Developing a style, a ‘voice’ of our

own, is probably the greatest challenge we face as musicians. And let’s not forget that one of the great joys of what we do is that this learning process never reaches a conclusion; not until the day we die.

Telling Stories

One of the most fascinating things about being an improvising musician is that every little element of our life, every detail that affects us positively or negatively as normal human beings is taken on stage with us. The pre- concert meal may have been eaten too close to the start so we feel horrendously lethargic. Or maybe we have been put up in a fantastic hotel just a stone’s throw from the venue, so we take to the stage feeling valued

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