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young musician I was unable to grasp the liberation in this statement.

It soon became obvious that listening to musicians outside of my instrument would broaden my inspirational pool exponentially. Furthermore, by keeping an open mind to other genres of music– rhythm and blues, classical, reggae, rap, etc.–I could increase my potential to become inspired even more.

I have always done my best to encourage young musicians looking for inspiration to create music and/or to play their instruments at a higher level, to fi nd one recording that really speaks to them and ask themselves this series of ques- tions. “What is it about this recording that I like so much?” Perhaps it’s the players. Maybe it’s the groove. Perhaps it’s harmony you’ve never heard before? Whatever the case, zone in on these fac- tors and develop a routine of checking out all of the members in the band and fi nd other bands similar to them.

If taken to heart, this process can quickly provide one with an abundance of new material that with any luck will translate into a boat-load of inspiring informa- tion. As improvisation is a major part of what I do as a saxophonist, I’ve noticed over the years that once I have become inspired by a particular musician, I strive to learn as much from them as I possibly can–their harmony, rhythm, etc.–all fac- tors that contribute to the “language” of improvised music. Whether it’s the saxophone solo on “Pick up the Pieces” or John Coltrane’s solo on “Resolution,” the ability of both of the musicians to perform the way that they do is a result of their understanding of the “language” for the musical context they are in.

I was extremely fortunate to have studied with Larry Harms during middle school. Without his teachings of the foundations of harmony I would have not chosen jazz performance as a career path. T at said, I can vividly recall being able to absorb scale patterns, exercises, and other tech- nical aspects of the horn with relative ease, yet I grew increasingly frustrated when unable to sound like the musicians I was hearing on recordings.

T e obvious answer was to listen, listen, LISTEN, and when I was done with that, listen some more! Just how important it was and certainly continues to be to

Fall 2011 |

ACTIVELY listen to music all the time cannot be expressed enough. Chances are good that you are not going to absorb, for instance, the be-bop language by just listening to the records over and over again and never putting the horn to the face while doing so; yet, you will without a doubt become equipped with a deeper connection to the elements that make the music sound the way it does–groove, phras- ing, articulation, swing, and the list goes on. When your ear becomes acquainted with the sound of the music, then a task such as transcribing to fi nd out how the information translates to the instrument becomes signifi cantly less daunting.

Finding the right place to start this process can certainly be challenging; but, it is an extremely rewarding and exciting journey for those who are up to the task. I am consistently referring back to the idea that the tools one needs to be creative, and therefore “create” music, are all part of a language, the components of which are readily accessible and open to exploration. Just as we learn a language, we start with the most basic ingredient which is a collection of letters that form a sequence called the alphabet. Once we understand the way each letter sounds, and what their functions are, we learn to put them together to form words. Words strung together then form sentences and the process continues until, as improvisers,

we are able to make concise statements with control over our intent just as we do when we speak words. T e information is there. T e question is “Will you be brave enough to seek it?”

Until next time.

Best, Adam Larson

Originally from Normal, IL, 21 year-old Saxophonist-Composer, Rico Reeds and BARI

Mouthpieces Performing Artist

Adam Larson, began playing saxophone at the age of 11. At age 19 he was described

by critic Howard Reich of T e Chicago-Tribune as “ a player for whom the word ‘prodigious’ was coined.” Larson has garnered numerous awards that showcase his abilities as a performer and a composer. Among those was being selected as the winner of the 2010 Yamaha Young Performing Artists Competition for Jazz Saxophone He was also a member of the National Foundation for the Advancement of the Arts Jazz Fellows Sextet, receiving the Silver Award for Jazz Saxophone, a member of the prestigious 2008 Gibson/ Baldwin Grammy Jazz Ensemble, 2007 and 2008 Monterey Jazz Festival Next Generation Jazz Or- chestra, 2007 and 2008 Jazz Band of America, 2008 Betty Carter Jazz Ahead Residency Program, 2008 Telluride Student Jazz All-Stars, was the Jupiter XO Solo Competition winner, and was one of fi fteen invitees to the 2006 Steans Institute for Young Artists at Ravinia, Chicago IL. Larson was also featured in the April 2008 Edition of Saxophone Journal.


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personal attention of a small, private college. The music program at Bradley prepares students for careers in teaching, performing, composing, and music business. Scholarships are available to many students who major in music. Come join over 100 music majors and the 350 students who participate in our ensembles and lessons.

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Bradley University • Department of Music Peoria, IL 61625 • 309-677-2595 E-mail • 1-800-447-6460 55

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