JAZZed in the Classroom

January 22, 2009

Brad HoweyJeff Munro was my piano teacher’s son, and to me, he was the coolest guy in the world. I was 11, and Jeff was in high school and played in the jazz band. He was way into jazz and began inviting me over to listen to records. I didn’t know much about jazz at the time, but wanted to hang with Jeff, so I thought I would check it out. He would play big bands and small bands; famous players I had heard of, and others that I hadn’t. And we would listen. Jeff started telling me everything he knew about each recording, like who was playing what, and when. He was so enthusiastic you couldn’t help but get into it all. He taught me to read the lineup for each band so I would get to know the players, and I began to recognize them from one recording to the next. He taught me about form: to count measures to figure out a blues from a song-form tune, and he would start the record over as many times as it took for me to get it right. He taught me to listen to style: from swing, to Latin, to fusion, to rock. He would dig the way some players would lay way back almost falling off the back of the beat while others would snug up tight to it and even push things. He helped me hear the differences between players: the way Phil Woods would play with so much passion; the way Paul Desmond would play with so much grace. He helped me hear how Sonny Stitt sounded a little like Bird, and how no one sounded exactly like Miles, but Miles. Jeff was teaching me not just to hear, but also to listen, and it opened up a whole new world.

I started buying records. One of my favorites was a Quintessence Jazz Series recording of the great tenor saxophonist, Sonny Rollins, called Now’s The Time. When I first put it on, as a 12 year-old who was new to jazz, it sounded like a bunch of noise. Jeff would encourage me, though, so didn’t give up. I listened to that record over and over again, until I could sing every line right along with Mr. Rollins as he played his horn. And as I did, the music began to make sense to me. Now, I don’t mean it made sense the way a professional would hear it. I just mean that as I tried hard to listen to what was happening on that record I began to really enjoy it. Sonny Rollins has this huge, fat sound, and has a way of sounding like an entire orchestra. I have been a jazz fan ever since.

I have asked some prominent jazz musicians to share with you what their favorite jazz album was when they were growing up, and why it meant so much to them. As you read through their favorites, I hope you will think about your favorite jazz records, and why they mean so much to you.

In the Classroom#149;Activity

The JAZZed
In the Classroom
Recording Review

Listening to jazz is such an important part of learning to play, sing, and understand jazz music! That’s why we’ve put together this super-cool Recording Review form. It is our hope that your teacher will ask you to fill out turn in one of these forms regularly. You’ll need a favorite recording that is worthy of your incredible reviewing skills, a pencil, and a separate sheet of paper labeled with your name. So dig in, and enjoy!

The Basics

1) List the name of the recording you are reviewing followed by the name of the group
2) List each musician on the recording followed by his or her instrument.
3) Describe why you chose this particular recording.

A Trivial Pursuit

4) List one other recording by this group.
5) Choose one performer from this recording, and list at least one other recording on which he or she has performed.
6) Choose one song from this recording that is recorded somewhere else-and list the “somewhere else!”

Digging Deeper

9) Choose one player from the recording and list five separate words that you feel best describe his or her playing.
10) Elaborate on one of the five words you just listed. What did you mean, exactly?
11) Choose one track from the Recording and describe it as if to someone who has never heard it (the type of tune it is in terms of style and form, who plays when, highs/lows, et cetera).

So, what do you think?

12) After listening to the entire album:
* Describe what you liked best about this recording, and why.
* Describe what you didn’t like about this recording, and propose a reason for why you didn’t like what you didn’t like!

In the Classroom…
Follow-up Activities for Directors

I feel very fortunate to have had Jeff Munro as a teacher. How fortunate your students are to have you as a teacher. Sometimes jazz can sound a little like noise when you are just getting started. It is helpful to have someone to encourage you, and to “start the record over” again when necessary.

In a world where listeners have literally thousands of possibilities to choose from, the music we listen to has become a very personal reflection of ourselves-which is why listening is sometimes best taught outside of school. This is where your students will do most of their listening, and where you can show your students with a little less formality that listening to jazz can be a heck of-a-lot of fun. Here is an activity to help you do just that.

After a couple of months of recording-reviews (one a month would probably be plenty), consider getting your group together for a listening party. Have everyone bring a favorite jazz Recording and some junk food, and get things started by sharing a recording that means a lot to you, and why. The rest will be easy. Except, or course, for the clean up.

Jamey Aebersold Internationally-known saxophonist and authority on jazz education; perhaps best known for his “anyone can improvise” approach to jazz education “I guess if forced to choose one album it would have to be Charlie Parker’s Now’s the Time. I thought Bird’s facility and his execution of his ideas was so fantastic. I was just learning to play alto saxophone at the time, and he was the master!”

John Clayton Grammy-winning bassist/composer-arranger/bandleader; student of bassist Ray Brown; co-leader of The Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra “When I was 16 I heard The Trio by the Oscar Peterson Trio (with Ray Brown and Ed Thigpen). The tune “Billy Boy” just turned my head around! Soon after that I found out that Ray Brown was teaching a bass class at UCLA. So I quit my classical lessons, saved the class fee, and enrolled! I really loved Ray’s sound, and the way the three of them worked/played together. I loved their excitement, Ray’s bass lines, and the overall totally sizzling vibe.”

Jeff Hamilton Professional drummer; driving and technically accomplished; featured on over 200 recordings; currently touring with Jeff Hamilton Trio, The Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra, and Diana Krall “It would have to be Oscar Peterson’s The Trio Plays (on the Verve label). I liked the way the trio sounded as big as a big band. There was relentless swinging from everyone-and they could show restraint in terms of dynamics, while keeping up the intensity. Each player had such a full sound and incredible dexterity. Every time I put on that record my feet would start tapping…it would instantly put me in a good mood!”

Tamir Hendelman Professional pianist; hard-swinging, virtuosic and sensitive; member of The Jeff Hamilton Trio and The Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra “My choice would have to be Kind of Blue, with Miles, Bill Evans, Wynton Kelly, Cannonball Adderly, John Coltrane, Paul Chambers and Jimmy Cobb. The unity and individuality of all the players was just incredible on that album. Bill Evans brings his own flavor to the group-he is so minimalistic on his solo on ‘So What’ – he doesn’t even try to compete with the others! Wynton brings such a sparkle to “Freddie,” and the differences between Cannonball and ‘Trane are so evident (with both of them expressing themselves so freely); yet their dispositions are so clearly different, you can really hear their personalities. I am so impressed with the way Miles put this session together. He chose his musicians so perfectly, allowing them to really make the magic happen.”

Ira Nepus Professional trombonist; known for vast studio work as well as recordings/performances with Benny Carter, Woody Herman, Quincy Jones, and many others “When I was first starting to listen to jazz my father brought home Ambassador Satch with Louis Armstrong and his All-Stars. It was one of my very favorite albums. The incredible energy of the music and the soloists really got to me, and the strong sense of swing was so compelling-I wore that album out!

Claudio Roditi Professional Brazilian trumpeter/flugelhornist; integrates post-bop elements with Brazilian rhythmic concepts “One of my favorite albums when I was growing up was Miles Davis’ ‘Round Midnight. One of the things that I enjoyed the most was his muted trumpet sound. It was so hip! And his use of space! When he left space for it, Red Garland on piano would complement Miles’ phrases. Coltrane also impressed me a lot.”

John Stowell Professional guitarist; has toured with a wide variety of ensembles, including with bassist David Friesen; known for his beautiful/virtuosic approach to the guitar “One recording that I heard as a young jazz musician that had a real impact on my development was the Jim Hall/Bill Evans duo recording, Undercurrent. Both men played so beautifully on that album-really improvising together in the moment. Their interaction, interplay and ability to respond to one another are the essence of jazz to me. Their music feels complex and simple at the same time, like refined conversation that flows beautifully and organically.”

So now it’s back to you! What is your favorite jazz album, and why has it meant so much to you? Post your answers on the JAZZed ‘In the Classroom’ bulletin board at www.jazzedmagazine.com. Your answer may just be printed in a future issue of JAZZed “In the Classroom”!

Brad Howey is an award-winning author and an active performer and a PhD candidate at the University of Idaho. While teaching high school music in Alaska, Brad founded and directed the Sitka Jazz Festival bringing artists such as John Clayton, Steve Turre’, Paquito D’Rivera, The Air Force Band of the Pacific, and others to Sitka to teach, inspire, and perform.

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