Friday, October 3, 2014

Coryell, Bailey, White, Colligan: Four NIghts At Jazz Alley

Larry Coryell
One of the downsides of playing a lot of gigs with my students has been, you guessed it, that I'm no longer the youngest person in the band! In all seriousness, I have been very fortunate to be able to learn jazz, mostly on the bandstand,  from older musicians who had way more experience than I. Indeed, my very first steady gig was at a the Hyatt Regency in Baltimore, MD, with saxophonist Phil Burlin and bassist Larry Kindling; it was supposed to be MY gig, but they were the ones showing me what to do, being at least a decade older. This is part of the jazz tradition in terms of jazz being a folk music, the art form being passed down to future generations by master practitioners. It's wonderful to be part of a great music curriculum and have classes and have a college experience. However, when you are on a stage and Gary Bartz starts playing a song you don't know and expects you to figure it out, that is a very different kind of learning process. In the real world of music, there are no letter grades- only "PASS" and "FAIL."
Victor Bailey

So when I get a surprise call to join three elder masters on stage at Jazz Alley for four nights, I get not only the thrill of feeling like the young'un on the bandstand, but I also get the thrill of learning through doing. In some ways, playing jazz has infinite variables. You cannot say, "OK, I have learned 60 tunes from the Real Book and transcribed a lot of solos and learned all of my scales and modes and I practiced with a metronome so I'm ready." Every grouping of musicians is going to present different challenges; every combination of bassist and drummer is a different feel than another. It's almost like saying your metronome is going to be different every day you turn it on.

Lenny White
It's especially challenging walking into a situation where you have three legends who have been playing together for decades, and your presence, even if promising, is possibly superfluous. Nevertheless, my first night with jazz fusion legends Lenny White, Victor Bailey and Larry Coryell was extremely positive.( I think it should count towards a Doctorate of Musical Arts. Can I get college credit for this?) We played a mixture of originals by Bailey, White, and Coryell( I had to sightread a tune call Spaces Revisited, which was fun-good thing I went to Peabody Conservatory!). We ended the set with a great arrangement of Led Zepplin's "Black Dog." Hopefully I can continue to learn and imrpove as the weekend continues.

These men aren't just practitioners of the art- they ARE the art!
We have three more nights: two sets Friday and Saturday and one set Sunday. Come down if you are in or near Seattle.....

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