I'm sure there were a multitude of reasons as to why there weren't any students there (although there was a crowd on the Friday night). However, I started to wonder if jazz students these days see any connection with Brazilian tunes and jazz, or with Brazilian tunes and their own musical development. I always remember bossa nova tunes being part of the Baltimore and Washington D.C. jazz gig repertoire. Tunes like "Corcovado","Chega De Saudade", "Favela", and "Desafinado" were considered the level one Brazilian standards one was supposed to know. I wonder if that's still the case, in D.C. or anywhere for that matter.
|Cedar Walton, composer of|
"Bolivia" and many other
Back to present-day Winnipeg, I believe that I got the call to play with Marco Castillo because I knew at least a few more tunes than the Level One bossa nova repertoire. And yet most of my students are struggling to remember "Body and Soul", let alone "Comecar De Novo" by Ivan Lins. It makes me wonder what I should be emphasizing as a teacher. Should I insist on having my students learn 150 tunes a year?
Again, I don't claim to know every tune ever written. Many of the older cats know way more tunes than I do. They say Harold Mabern knows at least 5000 tunes. David Jernigan seemed un-stumpable when it came to tunes. By all accounts, Russell Malone knows many, many tunes.When I was a guest on the Marian McPartland show, she called a whole mess of tunes that I had never heard of. I think she called a few pre-Civil War tunes!
I get the impression that the modern student is oftentimes perplexed as to how to develop the quantity of their repertoire of tunes. Many of my students come to me and say, "Professor Colligan, I don't know what tunes I'm supposed to be learning, and the ones I learned, I seem to forget them after three months of not playing them!" I find this to be really unfortunate, and I don't have the easiest answers. This is because I learned the tunes I know on the gig (or preparing for a gig).
When I was in Maryland in the early 90's, I played many more gigs than I do now. Sometimes I would have four gigs on a Saturday! And I'd have gigs every night through the week. But students now don't seem to have those opportunities. So how can they get motivated to learn a whole bunch of tunes for gigs that don't exist?
One option is to look at it in terms of "preparation". There is some expression that goes something like,"It's not the opportunity, it's whether or not you are ready for the opportunity." For example, a student of mine was offered a trio gig with some of the top Winnipeg jazz players. I asked him if he had enough tunes for two sets of trio playing. He showed me his list of tunes. It seemed like enough, however, I feel like one should have more than merely enough. This might be referred to as "depth" of knowledge. The standard for me over a decade ago was the Bradley's gig in New York , which was an entire week of three one-hour sets a night. So let's say six tunes a set times twenty one sets equals 126 tunes. (That's assuming you didn't repeat any tunes.)
Unfortunately, Bradley's closed in the late 90's, and I have no idea if that kind of gig exists anywhere nowadays. To further throw a wrench into things, most touring bands play the same repertoire of twenty or so tunes every night. And some really successful jazz musicians have admitted that they only know a handful of standards (although they play the mess out of them.) And so many young jazz musicians are composing their own music, which I whole heartedly support. Many of these youngsters say,"Well, if there are no gigs that require me to learn standards, and I'm just going to get my own gigs where I can play my own tunes or standards that I like, why should I spend hours learning tunes that I may never play?"
It's difficult to answer these questions. Let me just say this: knowing at least some depth of music makes you a deeper musician. But even though I am a jazz educator, I don't want to tell you exactly how to develop this depth. You might know 500 songs, or you might only know 100, but play the heck out of them! Easily, I could give you a list of jazz tunes that I think you should learn. But I believe that part of developing as a mature artist means finding the tunes you like to play and developing those in your repertoire.
Of course, there are going to be tunes that you have to learn, or will be called on a gig and maybe you won't know it. So bring a fakebook! No shame in that. (While some people say you should always learn tunes off the recording, I think using fake books combined with listening to great versions is good. Gary Bartz told me that he would buy the original sheet music for standards, so he could see what the composer originally intended.)
For those of you who are struggling to broaden your repertoire, believe me, I've felt the intimidation. My first tour with Cassandra Wilson was in the fall of 1999. We did 9 weeks straight, 2 in Japan and 7 in Europe. Although we had a set repertoire ever night (which I had learned, of course), I remember getting a wake up call during every single soundcheck: Wilson and bassist Lonnie Plaxico would, just messing around, play different tunes from Motown, R&B, Rock, Folk, Country, Jazz, TV themes, Pop, you name it. I knew very few of them. And I'm talking every night for 9 weeks. That was impressive, to say the least.
I'd love to hear some responses in terms of your personal philosophies. I think the jury is still out on this issue. But if you are trying to learn more tunes, I do believe you've got to learn one at a time!