Valentin’s visit has made quite a difference. This morning I made an assault on Chet Baker’s amazing solo from “Bea’s Flat”. I spent an hour or so looping sections of it at half-speed and trying to capture every not and every nuance. It’s coming along quite well, I think – I’ve learned about 75% of it (at half speed). Another hour on it and I should have it, and then I can start speeding it up.
After that bit of work I opened up a blues file in the same key, C, in my computer and was delighted to find I could fit bits of the solo from Bea’s Flat quite nicely here and there. This ties in very immediately with something I read last night in Paul Berliner’s book. Here it is:
Rhythmic ingredients can also constitute the fundamental idea for original figures. Walter Bishop Jr. says that after absorbing Bud Powell’s phrasing he “began to thnk like Bud” so he could abandon Powell’s precise lines and create his own “in the same idiom, playing with the same kind of feeling and intensity”. Arthur Rhames views the process as analogous to emulating personal styles of speech. Because all artists speak with “their own natural rhythm and sequential order.” it is possible to “emulate a person whose speaking you like, using his same effect – how he comes into a sentence or the way he constructs his things” – but without saying the “exact same thing”. That is how Rhames learned from John Coltrane.
“Without directly copying his melodic line, I tried to get the feeling of the line, the phrasing, which allowed me to understand how Trane was talking when he played. What I wanted was the form, the basket that he was using, but the contents I wanted to fill myself. I knew that I had something to say, and I wanted to deal with that. So what I copied was the way John constructed his phrases and their rhythmical base, the stems without the notes, and I put my own noes and harmony – the things I thought about – on top of it.”
Valentin Garvie came around this evening. He had phoned up to say he was in London for four days between a tour around Sweden and a pile of work with Ensemble Moderm in Germany, so I invited him around straight away. We played through a few blues pieces and one or two standards, all with the Aebersold playalongs.
To summarise what came out of the evening:
1. I’ve improved a bit since the last time we tried this together, which is encouraging in itself, but in addition Valentin was particularly encouraging. He’s very good at delivering praise and encouragement wrapped up neatly with some constructive criticism.
2. My polycarbonate mouthpiece is really not bad – we did a sound test and the differences were not quite so obvious as they had seemed last time we compared it with his Bach 1.5C
3. Valentin is a really good jazzer! I don’t know why he hasn’t been doing more of it. As we got warmed up he got much better, very rapidly, indicating that he has been very good at jazz improvisation in the past but has let it get a bit rusty. After half an hour or so he was producing some amazingly impressive stuff and by comparison I felt I was sounding worse and worse. The most noticable thing for me was that I don’t seem to have any sort of style, rather I play in what might be called the “Blandissimo” style. Some gin didn’t help. For a moment or two I felt like giving up but then Valentin managed to find yet more encouragement, somehow.
4. He agreed wholeheartedly with “Really, the best way to learn is to take tunes off records..”. (see previous post, here).
5. He thinks that rather than trying to learn all the turnarounds, all the two-five-ones, all the blues progressions in every key etc. (not that I have been, entirely…) I should I should stick to the simpler more common keys only and concentrate my efforts more on learning a big repertoire of patterns, licks, riffs, whatever they are called, extracted from recorded solos. I must find a ways of chaining chunks of this sort of remembered material together in my improvisation. Hopefully, this should to prevent me meandering around aimlessly, which is what I tend to do when I’m reading chord symbols.
Now, that’s a lot of learning in one evening – and all it cost me was the preparation of a bowl of stif-fried vegetables with rice and a gin&tonic!
(6. I must persuade Valentin to come over more often.)
I’ve just played a couple of concerts in Mallorca. I was in a new group – a brass sextet called “Tuba Mirum”. the instrumentation was like a regular brass quintet line-up but with an extra trumpet part. The players as follows:
Trumpet: John Wallace
Trumpet: Andreas Koenig
Trumpet: Valentin Garvie
Trombone: Leon Ni
Tuba: Oren Marshall.
What a fantastic four days! We had the luxury of two whole days for rehearsals before the concert days and the group really worked well together, right from the start.
It was quite a varied and dangerous program. The audiences were very responsive and the atmosphere was great as a result. John, Oren and I played solo pieces, which were possibly the most challenging for our audiences. Mine was called “Lost In Space” – a 7 movement improvisation involving the use of a flugelhorn on the opposite side of the stage, linked to where I sat with my horn by a long length of hosepipe.
Valentin did brilliant arrangements of a couple Tangos for the group and nobody seemed to mind me trying to do some jazz improvisation in the extended take-it-in-turns middle section. I swaggered out to the front, aimed high and blasted out my stuff as loud as I possibly could. It must have been a complete load of rubbish! Still, it was fun – and at least it felt like jazz. The trumpet felt really comfortable and natural in my hands.
Valentin Garvie came to visit today for a jam. He’s recently landed a great job – principal trumpet with Ensemble Modern, based in Frankfurt. He’s a wonderful trumpet player – from Argentina – and a really simpatico bloke.
The first thing I did was to get him to listen to me playing on a Vincent Bach “ordinary” mouthpiece and then switch to the transparent polycarbonate one for comparison. Amazingly he knew straight away that one of them was a plastic one – and knew which one it was!
However, he did concede that it is indeed a very good mouthpiece.