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Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Watch, Listen and Learn

Despite all of the challenges facing us politically and economically, we are living in a fine time to enjoy expressing ourselves as jazz musicians. There's a wealth of great new music being created at this very moment and, because of contemporary technology, we have almost instant access to it. We can listen across a broad spectrum of genres and styles as I pointed out in my post about Pandora.

We are also fortunate in that we have easy access to the great tradition of jazz history. Jazz enthusiasts used to have to haunt record shops and spend a fortune collecting LPs of favorite artists. Now I can go to iTunes and purchase 70 minutes of great music for under $10 without putting on my shoes. We could certainly have a heated discussion about many aspects of the current paradigm, but there's no ignoring the fact that, as students of jazz, we have it much easier than did previous generations of players.

Along with easy access to audio, there is also a rich assortment of historic video footage available online. It is very enlightening to see the masters performing, not to mention a huge kick. There is a great benefit in actually seeing your favorite players doing what they do. Listening and transcribing is essential, of course, but the visual component can add a whole new dimension to your understanding of a musician's technique.

Musician and educator Brad Sharp has spent some time scooping up links to jazz videos at YouTube. His Jazz Video Search page has a ton of links, organized by instrument and then by musician. He's got the musicians listed chronologically by date of birth, a very interesting way to view the history of jazz. I don't remember ever seeing a list that includes both Buddy Bolden and Chris Potter. If you're in the mood to do some research on your instrument, Brad's links are really helpful. You'll probably see some names you don't recognize, so it's a great way to expand your knowledge of styles, techniques and different ways of approaching improvising.

Warning: Only go there if you have some time to burn, because there are many hundreds of jazz videos represented on that page. And you WILL get mesmerized, I guarantee.

Here's some rare footage of Charles Mingus' Quartet I found via Brad's list. The band is Clifford Jordan-tenor, Jaki Byard-piano, Mingus-bass and Danny Richmond-drums.