Tuesday, July 17, 2012

The Shed Day 1

We have completed our first day of "The Shed" Summer Intensive Jazz Camp here at Portland State University. I am extremely pleased at how things are going. There was a lot that had to be sorted out in order to make this happen, and there are admittedly still a few kinks left to iron out. However, all things considered, we are off to a great start. There were a few very last minute applicants, and a few who canceled at the last minute as well. Some people weren't sure of exactly how it was all going to proceed, and in some ways, I wasn't either. Nevertheless, as the director of the workshop, I had to answer many urgent  questions in a authoritative way. Now, although I am technically the "director" of "The Shed", my colleague Darrell Grant has done a lot of the organizational work; without him, I think I would have had a tough time getting this all to function. Grant has been teaching at Portland State for about 16 years, and he has a good handle on all of the administrative things which need to get done in order to have a successful event such as this. Working together, and with the help of other outstanding faculty, as well as some students who are helping with odds and ends,  Day 1 of "The Shed" has been a wonderful experience.

After we made sure everyone was registered, we had a welcome jam session. The faculty began the proceedings( I played drums, Dan Balmer was on guitar, Darrell Grant played piano, and Tim Gilson played bass) with a spirited version of Sonny Rollins' "Airegin". We then had the students play, in order to hear their level so that we could better organize our small groups. (Since we had almost double the students originally anticipated, we ended up with 6 full groups. So I had to get some extra time out of our faculty at the last minute-as well as find extra rooms!) The level of students is quite varied. We have some advanced and some beginners, and everything in between. Also, there is a pretty wide range of ages. I think it's a great mix of folks and so far there seems to be a good camaraderie.

I gave a masterclass on how to prepare "The Shed" preselected repertoire(which discussed concepts which could be applied to any tune you want to learn.) The first thing I had listed for the clinic  was "1. Listen to the original recording of the tune you want to learn." The tune was Joe Henderson's "Recorda Me", so we put on the track from the original Henderson album, "Page One", featuring Henderson on tenor, Kenny Dorham on trumpet, McCoy Tyner on piano, Butch Warren on bass, and Pete LaRoca on drums. It was cool to be in a room full of jazz students intently listening to a classic recording, trying to draw from it as much as possible. I could feel the vibe.(I think the idea of people getting together socially to listen to music is a lost endeavor; people tend to listen on their ipods, or their phones, while on the bus. Who has the time to go over to somebody's house and listen to music? )

Darrell Grant gave an excellent masterclass on practice techniques and philosophies. (You can actually take a look at some of his notes here.) Then we broke off into small groups and our instructors for the day(Dan Balmer, Charley Grey, David Valdez, Farnell Newton, Darrell Grant, Alan Jones and myself) coached these groups. Finally, after a well-deserved dinner break, we concluded the day with another jam session,  adding David Valdez on alto saxophone and Alan Jones on drums. This time, we mixed the bands up with faculty and students. I think that's a really important part of the learning of jazz; students have to play with older, more experienced players, not just their peers. This is the "mentorship" aspect of the learning process. I'm really enjoying hearing everyone play and also enjoying interacting with old and new students. I'll keep you updated on our next two days as we go. One thing is for sure: now that we know that there is more than decent interest, we will definitely be having "The Shed" next year!


  1. One of my favorite albums and great song choice!

  2. One of my favorite jazz albums and great song choice! #jjawebinar

  3. Hey George, I was particularly pleased to see the part on "being unconcious"
    in Darrell's notes. That's the stuff that doesn't get mentioned all that often, and it's nice to see it in there with the practical stuff. I think about that side of the improvisation equation a lot, and have always bee interested in it, even though when I came up in the early 80's it never seemed to be talked about. I'd be interested to hear your take on it - perhaps you could do a little blog on it sometime.... I also thought the excerpt from "Moonwalking with Einstein" was really interesting. Thanks a lot for posting all this stuff.

  4. Confident it was a great end of the week!, Now i'm content to suit your needs!, your current outfit can be georgeous!


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