A couple of years ago I started focussing on teaching harmonica players the art of improvisation. Of course, during my studies at the conservatory in the 1990s it became clear that every student has his own very personal way of digesting musical theory and internalizing musical language. With my piano teacher Willem Kuhne I spent countless hours listening to his thoughts about methods to learn to play the piano as well as approaches to learn the art of composing. Later I started playing often with the guitar and jazz history teacher Peter Mingaars. He shared his insights with me about how to effectively teach and especially coach music students. Both teachers already had a 15+ years career as professors at various conservatory in the Netherlands.
I still consider myself more a musicians coach than a music teacher. It’s the delicate balancing act between praise and criticism, between finding your own voice/sound and stylistic playing, between applying a free intuition and being creative within theoretical boundaries. Knowing that in the end the most important role of the musicians coach is to help the student develop his musical capabilities as fast, effective and joyful as possible.
Today I ordered an interesting book about this topic titled “Thinking in Jazz: The Infinite Art of Improvisation”. One of the quotes by a reviewer of this book is as follows:
“One cannot just pick up an instrument and begin improvising–even experienced musicians have difficulties with this”
I’ll keep you informed about the specifics while reading this book. Can’t wait to finish it
A landmark in jazz studies, Thinking in Jazz reveals as never before how musicians, both individually and collectively, learn to improvise. Chronicling leading musicians from their first encounters with jazz to the development of a unique improvisatory voice, Paul Berliner documents the lifetime of preparation that lies behind the skilled improviser’s every idea.
The product of more than fifteen years of immersion in the jazz world, Thinking in Jazz combines participant observation with detailed musicological analysis, the author’s experience as a jazz trumpeter, interpretations of published material by scholars and performers, and, above all, original data from interviews with more than fifty professional musicians: bassists George Duvivier and Rufus Reid; drummers Max Roach, Ronald Shannon Jackson, and Akira Tana; guitarist Emily Remler; pianists Tommy Flanagan and Barry Harris; saxophonists Lou Donaldson, Lee Konitz, and James Moody; trombonist Curtis Fuller; trumpeters Doc Cheatham, Art Farmer, Wynton Marsalis, and Red Rodney; vocalists Carmen Lundy and Vea Williams; and others. Together, the interviews provide insight into the production of jazz by great artists like Betty Carter, Miles Davis, Dizzy Gillespie, Coleman Hawkins, and Charlie Parker.
Thinking in Jazz overflows with musical examples from the 1920s to the present, including original transcriptions (keyed to commercial recordings) of collective improvisations by Miles Davis’s and John Coltrane’s groups. These transcriptions provide additional insight into the structure and creativity of jazz improvisation and represent a remarkable resource for jazz musicians as well as students and educators.
Berliner explores the alternative ways—aural, visual, kinetic, verbal, emotional, theoretical, associative—in which these performers conceptualize their music and describes the delicate interplay of soloist and ensemble in collective improvisation. Berliner’s skillful integration of data concerning musical development, the rigorous practice and thought artists devote to jazz outside of performance, and the complexities of composing in the moment leads to a new understanding of jazz improvisation as a language, an aesthetic, and a tradition. This unprecedented journey to the heart of the jazz tradition will fascinate and enlighten musicians, musicologists, and jazz fans alike.