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COMMUNICATING MUSIC

and refreshed, ready to concentrate on the task ahead. Whatever is happening in your life in general (especially circumstances that dictate the amount of time and focus you can give to your musical studies), will always have an effect on your musical voice at that time. It is this organic process that should make jazz music a very appealing prospect to any listener. Unlike a pop concert, the notes played will always be different from one evening to the next; the music you hear on any one occasion is unique (a direct result of all the aforementioned factors). However, none of this will matter if the spirit of the music is not successfully communicated to the audience. It may be technically impressive, but if the intellectual engagement isn’t harnessed by the human connection between performers and listeners then the impact of the performance will be lost. When I’m giving a masterclass to a

large group in a limited time, I don’t see the merits of wading through technical specifics. What I find it more useful to focus on instead is analysing the dynamic of each group of students as they step up to perform a jazz standard. You can very quickly judge the general level of each student on his or her own instrument. A situation where individuals are performing in an invariably soulless practice room in a school or college is not always the

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greatest setting for meaningful music to be made. I know from my own personal

experiences studying in a music school and college that the fear of judgement from your peers can be an extremely restrictive influence over the ability to be creative. Often the feeling of having to prove yourself in these situations leads to the individual’s contribution becoming very introverted, and sabotages any chance of communicative music making within the group.

The first symptom of this is a lack

of eye contact and general physical openness between the musicians. In jazz, there are generally two types of performing situation you can be in. The first is when you’re working with people you know musically very well, and often with repertoire that you’ve rehearsed thoroughly. The second, which requires by far the most on- stage communication, is when you’re playing with people you don’t normally work with, even if the material is familiar to you. As a young player getting into jazz music for the first time, this is the common situation for everyone.

Eyes and Ears

Without eye contact it is very difficult for anyone to take responsibility for what happens during a performance. A common scenario is that the ensemble chooses a piece everyone knows,

Above: Gwilym Simcock Trio: Left to right: James Maddren (drums), Gwilym Simcock (piano), Yuri

Goloubev (double bass)

Top right: Cambs workshop, Gwilym leading a Yamaha- supported jazz workshop at Hills Road Sixth Form College, Cambridge

Opposite: Gwilym gives students attending his Cambridge jazz ensemble masterclass a preview of some of the music from his

Blues Vignette

album

starts to play it, but the musicians don’t communicate to each other (visually or through their playing) what is going to happen at the crucial points in the architecture of the tune. This results in a performance shrouded in indecision. Maybe the individuals don’t give a clear physical indication when they’re finishing their improvisation and passing it on to the next player. Or at the end of the solos, perhaps no-one takes the lead on taking the band back into the final rendition of the melody... almost immediately followed by the recurrent problem of how to end the whole song! These sets of problems can easily be addressed if students are taught early on to take responsibility for music that they are involved in, and to anticipate these essential points in the music in the same way you anticipate the choice of direction at the next junction. Attention to these details will also

very quickly heighten the listeners’ enjoyment of what they hear. And it is an undoubted truth that we listen almost as much with our eyes as with our ears. A positive atmosphere has the instant effect of relaxing the audience, regardless of the individual technical level of the musicians, whereas at the first sight of indecision and lack of leadership within the music, we very quickly lose the subconscious trust and belief we have in what is unfolding before us. This is Page 1  |  Page 2  |  Page 3  |  Page 4  |  Page 5  |  Page 6  |  Page 7  |  Page 8  |  Page 9  |  Page 10  |  Page 11  |  Page 12  |  Page 13  |  Page 14  |  Page 15  |  Page 16  |  Page 17  |  Page 18  |  Page 19  |  Page 20  |  Page 21  |  Page 22  |  Page 23  |  Page 24  |  Page 25  |  Page 26  |  Page 27  |  Page 28  |  Page 29  |  Page 30  |  Page 31  |  Page 32  |  Page 33  |  Page 34  |  Page 35  |  Page 36
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