[Dixielandjazz] Can Jazz Be Learned ?- Was Jazz is Alive & Well

Russ Guarino russg at redshift.com
Mon Jan 8 14:54:34 PST 2007

Learned or instinct? I don't know the answer, but I can relate my experience.

I always wanted to improv in the trad style, but was a classical "reading"
clarinetist for 95% of my years.  I never could figure out how to get into Jazz..

Then the local JC offered a class in jazz on Friday afternoons, and I signed up.
About seven years ago.  I attended class for about four years and got it going.
The teacher would have us read a lead sheet and then try improvising.  I actually
started getting into it pretty quickly.  I could "hear" what I wanted to do and
after a while it started to come.

I relate scales and chords to the music I hear in my head.  In other words, I
don't try to use a Bb scale for tune in G.

So it is a combination of theory and instinct for the way I do it.  I don't know
if  I "learned" to do this or it came by instinct.  I think both played a factor.

Now, when I met local musicians I am treated with respect for my skills.  It is a
nice thing.

Final story.

I attended a service for a relative that passed on.  The husband of the deceased
hired a Hawaiian singing quartet to provide  music for the reception following the
church service. They used tradition Hawaiian stringed instruments to accompany the
singing, and it sounded really great.

I couldn't help myself.  I got out my clarinet and asked if I could join them in a
song.  They reluctantly said OK.  I asked what key they were going to use for the
next song.  They said "F",  I did not know the the song, but listened through the
first chorus.  Then they looked at me.  I played a simple counterpoint in G.
Well, you know the result.  I blew them away.  Even my brother, who is a better
musician than me, came over and told me what a great job I did.   Very satisfying,

Russ Guarino

Steve Barbone wrote:

> I guess there are varying degrees of opinion on whether or not jazz can be
> learned. Perhaps the opposite extremes of the opinions are:
> Stan Kenton's View: (Jazz can be learned)
> He believed that jazz could be learned. And while alive, he held a lot of
> clinics all over the country. Today there are numerous high school and
> college bands playing Kenton Charts which speaks to the impact he had on the
> jazz scene. (He left all of his charts to North Texas State University) Now,
> not many folks buy/hear his records but they are still influenced by
> musicians he influenced when they played in his band. Maynard, Art Pepper,
> Anita O'Day, June Christy, Kai Winding, Shorty Rogers, Lee Konitz, Frank
> Rossolino, Bud Shank, Stan Getz, Zoot Sims and many more who were 1st rate
> jazz musicians.
> And his arrangers . . . among them Bill Holman, Gerry Mulligan, Bill Russo,
> Pete Rugolo and more.
> Keith Jarrett's View: (Jazz is intuitive)
> A famous Jarrett quote is; "Jazz is one of the least learnable art forms."
> Jarrett believes that jazz is mostly intuitive.
> Both of them have huge recorded legacies out there. Some may say that they
> are/were not jazz players, but that is besides the point.
> Is there a "correct" view out there? Maybe, but I sure as hell don't know
> what it is. What I do know is that there are dedicated teachers of jazz out
> there who are bringing some jazz players along. A lot more now, than there
> were when I was a kid. However, the bottom line is that it is up to the
> wannabe student to become all that he can be in jazz. Isn't that true of
> everything in life?
> Now if we could only get some Jazz Marketing courses into the curriculum.
> Cheers,
> Steve Barbone
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