Man. I have over three hundred spam in my comments today. Blah.
So yesterday was interesting. I rehearsed with my bud, Jordan. It was fascinating to me to try to understand how he wanted me to play the jazz stuff. I’m not that great at replicating famous jazz pieces on my little Electric Piano while kicking bass. Jordan could feel me goofing up the tempo and the style. We felt a bit of pressure because he had booked in to an open mic night at Barnes and Noble. I can make music up and do interp but when I have to sound like Herbie Hancock or Charlie Parker’s back up band, it takes a bit of doing and more prep time then we had.
Then Nate Walker and his dad arrived. Nate is a bass player in the eleventh grade and is a fine musician. Apparently he has heard Jordan and me play at LemonJellos. He was quiet but interested in what we are doing. He is a bit like me in that he hasn’t had much jazz experience. He quickly fit in with our musical morning and brought a freshness to what we were doing.
Before he left he got on the phone and booked him and me (Jordan will be out of town) to open for a little Jazz group (the What-Nots) that will be playing in Zeeland on July 28th. While he was on the phone he said we needed to have a name…. that is the organizer insisted on it. He put her on hold and we mused about it for a few minutes.
I have been doing a lot of thinking about compositions and web sites and changing my online presence and had actually thought of some names during my vacation. Fortunately I had written them down. When I said “Small Rain” Nate seemed to think that would do. Jordan agreed. So we booked in under “Small Rain.”
I took the phrase from the poem:
Westron wind, when wilt thou blow?
That the small rain down can rain.
Christ, that my love were in my arms,
And I in my bed again.
I remember hearing this poem for the first time way back in high school and liking it. I still do.
So maybe I’ll keep “Small Rain” as a name. Like Sam Beam and his “Iron and Wine” name.
The open mic thing was interesting. When I got there the woman from Barnes and Noble said they wanted us to set up by the cook books but that the nearest eletrical outlet was in the middle of the store. Sheesh. Eileen and I went home and got a long extension cord.
Open mic nights remind me of prayer meetings. The moderator would ask who wants to go next and the evening was full of awkward pauses.
There was one guy who seemed to understand what poetry was. His poems had interesting images in them and caught my attention. The other poets seemed young to me or naive. You wondered if they had ever read much poetry. One woman used words she seemed unable to pronounce or at least I couldn’t make head nor tails of how she was using words.
Mortifyingly my boss showed up by chance. She is on vacation but she insisted on staying until Jordan decided we should fill an awkward pause with a piece.
Performing is always interesting. Over the evening we performed several pieces. I felt like we started out a bit shakey and did better as the night went on. Stopping and starting breaks my rhythm. Plus our audience was mostly made up of people waiting for us to get done so they could read their poems. Jordan seemed to have brought a group that cheered us on.
I wasn’t totally satisfied with my performance. Jordan and I continue our discussion both musically and verbally about what jazz is now. I love Jazz the way I love Bach. But I’m not sure either speak clearly to the contemporary conversation of art the way living breathing composers and interpreters do.
Jordan’s still figuring out his relationship to this genre. Last night during a Charlie Parker tune after we played the composed melody (the head as jazzers say) Jordan launched into pretty much a note for note rendition of Parker’s own improv. I found this startling and mentioned it to him afterward. I told him that suddenly Parker was in the room.
I still don’t understand the idea of learning and performing the great jazz musicianas note for note. It’s certainly not the way they perform(ed). It seems to me that spontaneity and individual voice are important to me as an improviser and composer.
I am a trained organist and they are the exception to the rule that classical musicians don’t improvise. Unfortunately we (organists) seem to be taught to improvise in a pretty restricted manner. That is that our improvisation (at least initially if not always) must follow the careful voice leading and harmonic progressions of first year harmony.
It is surprising then to hear the great organ living improvisers who seem to be simply composing freely and spontaneously.
Years ago I took the AAGO exam. I got passing scores and would have received my certificate except that I failed one tiny section because the judges didn’t like my improvised interlude. The task was to improvise an interlude that changed keys. It was a simple harmonic task that I like to think I was easily capable of. Instead of course I tried to do something creative. Three of the four judges gave me failing scores. And the rules were (are?) that if you fail even one tiny section you could not receive your certficiate.
I don’t quibble with the rule. Some time after I took this exam, I received a letter urging me to retake it. The AGO had actually made the exams a bit easier and set up some more progressive steps to certification. By that time however my head was in a totally different place and I didn’t feel like doing the prep.
The exam entails a pretty rigorous prep including learning some repertoire, numerous written exams and playing exams. The written exams include not only a general knowledge test, but also dictation, writing a fugal exposition and other stuff. Before I went back to school to get my degrees my plan was to simply take all of these exams and get some creditability that way. Hah. Much easier to get the degrees which I did.
Never did get creditability at least not in the eyes of many of the people I seem to run into here in Holland. Poor me.
I think yesterday wore me out. In a good way. I enjoy playing with young people who are better than me. I asked Jordan some questions about a piece we are messing about with this summer. It’s called “Prelude, Cadence and Finale” written by a person named Desenclos. Written in 1956 it has intrigued me as I have been learning the piano accompaniment.
Well no pics today, dear reader. I’m exhausted and have to get on the treadmill soon.