Pip Eastop, Horn player, Photographer, Trumpet player

Horn player, Photographer, Trumpet player

More time with Kenny Wheeler

Hmmm… It’s been 7 months since I entered anything here. What happened? I think I got a bit bogged down and lost my momentum. I had my third keyboard lesson with Ken, in October, and we decided I would come back for another one when I felt needed to rather than book up the next lesson there and then┬áKenny phoned up and left a message with Carrie asking how I was getting on and if I still wanted to go and have a blow with him. I was finding it a bit difficult to pluck up the courage to call him so it was great he called or perhaps nothing would have happened.

I went around to his place on 18th December. I was quite nervous and worried about having to play something to him. Would he laugh at me? I felt a bit silly with my cornet and unable to ask him the right sort of question. He’s a bit of an awkward fellow too, which didn’t help much. Eventually I found myself asking him what goes on in his head when he’s reading chord symbols, improvising over them. He really wasn’t able to tell me but something useful did come out of our meeting: I discovered what for me was THE crucial thing, which was that he always knows what note he’s on and what the “flavour” of the chord is. I had already come to this realisation for myself but Kenny kind of hammered it home and a result of this was that I set my resolve to light up the part of my mind which monitors what notes I am playing, the actual names of them and/or their positions on the stave. A consciously visual, non-aural analogue of the pitches I am playing.

He put on one of the tracks from the Bill Evans book in the Aebersold series and got me to play along with it. He seemed pretty impressed with my “ear”, and somewhat mystified when I told him I had no idea what notes I was playing. We both came to the conclusion that I had to find a way of knowing what notes I am playing. So from that moment – an important one, which got me working at the jazz again – I put a lot of energy into that.

Kenny Wheeler very kindly lent me one of his flugel horns. It’s a beauty with a gorgeous copper bell section and an absolute delight to play – made by Kanstul. It’s incredibly well in tune. Here’s a photo:

Flugelhorn by Kanstul.

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