Master Class

Master Class
Tim Horner lectures about music

Tim Horner lectures about music

Working with Professor Hui Yu

Working with Professor Hui Yu

Talking about musical cooperation

Talking about musical cooperation

We had another nice Master class and concert at Shenyang Normal University for the music department there. The Dean of the music department is Professor Hui Yu. He is a doctorate of Ethnomusicology from Wesleyan University in the US. He lived in the US for 16 years, and spoke English better than anyone we have come across in the other venues. This made it quite easy for us to communicate throughout the afternoon and evening.

At the beginning we were told that the students were mainly classically trained, and that they would be shy when it came to asking questions. Actually once we got going there were many questions from the students. After the first was asked, they all began to open up, which of course helps us, as we want them to participate. One of the best questions asked was, “How do you reach musical cooperation on a piece of music”? I found this to be a great opportunity to demonstrate just how we as professionals get together to rehearse original music.

I started by acting as if I was making a phone call to Jim Ridl.” Hi Jim. Do you want to come over to my house and work through some new music?” Jim says YES! Then to Tom Dicarlo the same question, and to Tim Horner the same question. SO we get together, and Jim pulls out his new tune “Sun On My Hands”, which is dedicated to his father who was a farmer in North Dakota, and had very dark hands from working outside for many years.

I spoke of how after 35 years of practicing the language skills need for negotiation the chord changes, and harmonic language used in jazz improvisation, it was very easy for us to knock out a performance of any song right on the fly, as the cooperation, and conversation takes shape on its own when the musician are of a high level. I spoke of how Jim might play the first A section of the melody, and then I would play the 2nd A section, then Jim would play the B section, and perhaps I would answer with the last A section. Then Jim might solo on one A section, then I would solo on the 2nd A section, and we would join together at the B section, and complete the tune with a great moving, emotional performance. That emotion and spirit in the music can happen in my house. It does not have to be in a concert situation. Anyway this really demonstrated the mutual cooperation between musicians in jazz performance. It really sent the message to the students.

Then the professor of clarinet named Zhao’ Jie’ came running up on stage very excited about this piece of music he wanted to play with us. His music was written in the key of B flat for clarinet, and Jim had a piano part with no chord changes at all in C. Tom on the bass had no chart at all, and Tim on drums had nothing either. I had to transpose the B flat melody down one step. Within 5 minutes we came up with a good plan to make this work for the clarinet professor. I set it up with a little vamp, and away we all went. It was really good, and Jim, Tom, Tim and myself made something happen. The magic of jazz improvisation.

Afterwards Tim Horner took the microphone and mentioned how this unexpected jam session with the clarinet professor was a perfect example of how us musicians must always be using our ears to negotiate the music. For example Tom Dicarlo, and Tim Horner had no music at all, and Jim Ridl, and myself were using music with no harmonic definitions (chord changes). So listening and using the ears are vital in this situation.

Afterwards the trombone professor Zhou Gang who was the first to ask a question in the master class came up on stage with us, and jammed on an F blues. We all had a lot of fun, and I felt we really reached the students.

Afterwards we were hosted to a beautiful traditional lunch, and then a short rest, and a concert performance, which went well as usual. Many pictures, and autographs were taken as normal with all performances we have done. Another triumph for this band!

Zhao Jie' jams with the quartet

Zhao Jie' jams with the quartet

Setting up the jam with trombone professor Zhou Gang

Jamming with Trombone professor Zhou Gang

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