Jazz in Shenyang


MONDAY MAY 7  THE NEW YORK JAZZ WORKSHOP BEBOP/POST BOP COMBO BLOG MARK SHERMAN

I was the drummer for combo yesterday, but of course it does not hold the combo back as I love to play, and can control any situation from that vantage point. Having grown up studying with Elvin and playing a lot I can really give the combo the feel it needs, and spread the depth of the rhythmic structure of the music itself. Much of my concept on piano and vibes has arrived as a result of my rhythmic concept, which I got, from playing the drums.

We had Vinnie on bass, a newcomer who played very well, and our other normal diligent players. Dave, Rob, and Matt. We ran through Birdlike (Freddie Hubbard), Black Nile (Wayne Shorter), Beatrice (Sam Rivers), After You’ve Gone, and we attempted to play T Monk’s Pannonica. A difficult set of changes to master. After we played Black Nile the second tune we played, I stopped the band and began to talk about anticipation, and the technique of thinking ahead of the changes, and actually playing ahead in order to command the direction of the line. I demonstrated how being ahead of the changes is always best, and that falling behind is a terrible place to be. Trying to catch the train as it sails by. I demonstrated this a bit at the piano, and then instructed each player to take more choruses of soloing on Black Nile, but this time to play 1-2 quarter notes ahead of the changes. Well I never heard Matt Mayer sound so good. He was jumping ahead and resolving in a way that he never did before. This technique is a vital part of improvisation. Especially when dealing with lots of changes at fast tempos. Playing ahead of where the music actually is in real time is a very effective, and sensible way to be in control of the music and not to get caught by the changes. It has always worked for me, and it was a thrill to hear it change Matt and the others approach on negotiating the changes on the tunes. That anticipation drill helps you lead the direction of the music. After all the music will not stop, so it is easier to be ahead of the game, and use silence or resolution to allow the music to catch you, than for you to be behind the changes, trying to run after the music while negotiating the harmony. Sort of like being ahead of the ball game in the ninth inning, rather than playing catch up ball!!!

Deep stuff really if jazz improvisation is your life as it is mine!!!


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The Quartet

The Quartet

It’s been two weeks since my return to the US from the month long Rhythm Road/US State Department tour of Russia, and Asia. It has been quite an emotional adjustment since on the  tour we were treated as if we were diplomats from the United States. Driving in embassy limos. Being wined and dined constantly, and of course the 50-100 people who mobbed us after concerts and master classes to get a picture or an autograph, or to just talk about music. Most importantly I miss the day to day music. We played over 30 events, Everyday was another bit of magic from the music. We drove the music to higher levels. That is what happens when you do many consecutive events. My dream since I was 13 years old has been to do just that. Back in New York it has been a small adjustment from playing concerts, and master classes daily, to more occasional opportunities to do this. I miss the daily hang with the band as well. We all bonded like family. I am looking forward to Europe upcoming in the fall, Australia in the spring, and back to teaching in the university, and conservatory I work in. Hats off to the band of Tim Horner, Jim Ridl, and Tom Dicarlo for the completion of that month in Asia. We all worked our butts off, but the music made it all worth while.

Xu Cunyu, and Lu TIng Ting

Xu Cunyu, and Lu TIng Ting

Xu Cunyu, and Lu TIng Ting

Xu Cunyu, and Lu TIng Ting

Our final day in Shenyang China was spent at the Shenyang Conservatory. This is music like I have never seen before. There are 13,000 students studying at this school. I guess it is in line with the fact that there are 6-7 million people living in the center of Shenyang, and 23-25 million living in all of Shenyang including the suburbs. So with that huge population I suppose 13,000 students is not that much. It services students from elementary school all the way through college with music studies as well as academic studies, but I think mostly music. The campus is huge. We arrived and were escorted to a really beautiful concert hall lined with flowers, and the beautiful Chinese style of decoration throughout the hall. After the set up and sound check. We were escorted to another beautiful lunch at yet another traditional Chinese round table with tons of food and drink. Our concert was successful as normal, and then we were treated to performances by some of the conservatories finer traditional Chinese musicians. This was truly enlightening, and educational for all of us American musicians. First a very serious looking young man named Xu came out in traditional silk Chinese attire, and played with amazing command, and personality a guitar like instrument called a Pipa. I think John McGlaughlin, or Paco Deluca would have gone crazy hearing this kid play. He had fantastic command, and stage presence. He bowed to the instrument, and to the audience with deep respect. He played his ass off, and Tim, Jim, Tom, and myself were truly mesmerized. The a beautiful young female student named Xu Cunyu came out and sat behind a Zither, known in Chinese as a Yanghi. It is on a beautiful wooden stand and struck with thin wooden sticks with a little paddle on the end of the sticks. It is tuned for the constant use of the pentatonic scale, and she played a really beautiful composition. Then a absolutely knock you dead gorgeous girl named Lu Ting Ting came out in a really long blue full length dress and played the Erhu. This instrument is a 2 stringed violin type instrument that is bowed, but the bow is permanently fastened between the two strings. It uses mainly the Asian pentatonic scale as it is tuned to D and A. It is really a gorgeous sound and the girl who played it was emotional, and flashy. All three of these musicians had great stage presence. We were all really impressed. Afterwards when we were asked to comment, I said I was really enlightened by these sounds, and that as we go all over the world as educators bringing our American jazz music to all the different cultures, I felt as if I had just gotten an education. It was really a fantastic thing watch. There is sure a lot talent out here in the world, and I know Jim Ridl, Tom Dicarlo, and Tim Horner, and myself all fell very grateful to have witnessed this innovative, and traditional Chinese music. We were really moved.

v

Quingshan Lu Percussion Professor

v

The Zither (The Yangqui)