When I was studying with Tal Farlow at his house from 1992 – 1997, he always had some of Jamey’s Play-A-Longs going when I would come over for a lesson. Sometimes he would be just listening to them as background music while he did chores silently. I think he would be soloing in his head while doing the dishes, etc. I started doing that too after I saw him do it. Then you can create lines in your head that would not be limited by one’s technical level on the instrument. After practicing with a Jamey Aebersold Play-A-Long in your head without an instrument, when you go back to playing with it on an instrument, a different place is reached and physical cliches are left behind.
A few weeks ago, on a Friday night after the NAHS football game was long over I drove into the school parking lot to ask some students who had won the game. I found three that looked to be middle school age and asked them. They told me the score and one boy, after noticing the JAZZ on my tee shirt tells the others, “Hey, that’s Jamey. He’s the one that does the no smoking program.” I told him he had good memory. He then said he saw the word JAZZ and knew it was me.
Bb BLUES (concert key)
The JAZZ BLUES is 12 measures long. THE most common song form. Is usually played in 4/4 time but can be in 3/4 or 6/8 etc. Usually played in SWING TIME but can be Latin, Bossa, Rock, etc. Harmony/Chords are played over and over (12 Bars Repeated). Is played slow, very fast and all tempos in-between.
Too many people have never considered improvising on their instrument because they’ve been “Chained to the Written Page.” You think you can only play music when you have a music stand with some written music on it. That’s not true.
All you have to do to get started is try something as simple as playing Mary Had A Little Lamb starting on any note, maybe D concert. I think you’ll be surprised how quickly you can play simple nursery rhymes. After a little success, I encourage you to move ahead and try to play songs you’ve heard on records, radio, TV, etc. Check out my Volume 1 “How To Play Jazz and Improvise.” Have fun. No need to be stuck to the written page!
I began thinking about all this seriously when I first heard the Bird interview of Paul Desmond and Bird said he practiced 11 to 15 hours a day for three to four years. That was the beginning of me realizing that practice and desire are THE key elements in getting the music out of one’s mind.
Since I’ve been doing clinics for many years and hearing students, people of all ages play their instruments on something as simple as a Dorian minor scale and still not really make any music, there must be a reason why they can’t play MUSIC. I mean phrases that replicate what they would sing with their voice or think with their mind. It comes down to one thing: they don’t have the facility on their given instrument to produce what their mind is hearing. The connection between mind and fingers isn’t complete and in most cases, never started. If you ask them to sing, like I often do, (I had a stage hand at ISU during one clinic sing with me playing chords slowly on the piano) they sing VERY SOPHISTICATED phrases and pick out all the beautiful notes. Their voice never sings a wrong note like their instrument does and the audience hears MUSIC. Ask them to do something similar on their instrument and the world stops dead in its tracks. No music comes out. Frustration raises its head and says “I told you. You can’t do this. Jazz is too hard. It’s not for you! Stop embarrassing yourself. Get back to the written page!”
Everyone can sing and follow complex harmony if the tempo is slow and they are not scared. It’s really exciting to hear people sing while I play and then hear the audience genuinely applaud. THEY ARE MAKING MUSIC. Lack of time spent with their instrument is the culprit.
Once you start to get the train of THOUGHT, matching the fingers, you need to work on articulation, sound, tone, etc. in order to continue playing on your instrument what you hear in you mind. You can’t give up once this process begins. There will be set backs, but they will be overcome with more practice on the instrument. Your mind will always be way out in front of what you can actually play and that’s good. Here’s where listening becomes an important factor in progressing on a daily basis. The thousands of jazz recordings become your private teacher. Listening over and over and then trying to match some of what you hear the jazzers play becomes an exciting part of learning to express yourself and ultimately finding your own musical personality.
Jazz is a special kind of music. It’s for everyone. Not just a few that we may call special. It’s ever new. All of us who are teaching jazz need to realize the music inside every student is worth of our time in coaxing it out of the students mind and into the open via their instrument so WE can hear it. And everyone hears differently and that’s the special part of all this.