Thelonious Monk on How to Play Jazz

Everybody has their opinion about how to play the music. Monk was a one-off, a totally individual and realised artist, but he thought about it, in his own way too. This manuscript is freely available on the web (I found it at Sean Driscoll’s excellent blog - check it out). Makes a change from chords and scales…

  • Just because you’re not a drummer, doesn’t mean you don’t have to keep time.
  • Pat your foot and sing the melody in your head, when you play.
  • Stop playing all those weird notes (that bullshit), play the melody!
  • Make the drummer sound good.
  • Discrimination is important.
  • You’ve got to dig it to dig it, you dig?
  • ALL REET!
  • Always know….(MONK)
  • It must be always night, otherwise they wouldn’t need the lights.
  • Let’s lift the band stand!!
  • I want to avoid the hecklers.
  • Don’t play the piano part, I’m playing that. Don’t listen to me. I’m supposed to be accompanying you!
  • The inside of the tune (the bridge) is the part that makes the outside sound good.
  • Don’t play everything (or every time); let some things go by. Some music just imagined. What you don’t play can be more important that what you do.
  •  A note can be small as a pin or as big as the world, it depends on your imagination.
  • Stay in shape! Sometimes a musician waits for a gig, and when it comes, he’s out of shape and can’t make it.
  • When you’re swinging, swing some more.
  • (What should we wear tonight? Sharp as possible!)
  • Always leave them wanting more.
  • Don’t sound anybody for a gig, just be on the scene. These pieces were written so as to have something to play and get cats interested enough to come to rehearsal.
  • You’ve got it! If you don’t want to play, tell a joke or dance, but in any case, you got it! (To a drummer who didn’t want to solo)
  • Whatever you think can’t be done, somebody will come along and do it. A genius is the one most like himself.
  • They tried to get me to hate white people, but someone would always come along and spoil it.

Sonny Rollins’ letter to Coleman Hawkins

Do read this, a touching letter from Sonny Rollins to Coleman Hawkins in 1962 (from the website www.jazzclef.com). The greatest players possess not only self-discipline and powers of concentration, but generally, great humility.

Paul Desmond, a master mind and wit: some thoughts for a New Year

A poet of the music, Paul Desmond was both self-deprecating and deeply insightful. This medley of quotes might tickle and provoke us…
“I tried practicing for a few weeks and ended up playing too fast… I have won several prizes as the world’s slowest alto player, as well as a special award in 1961 for quietness”.
Regarding his tone:“I honestly don’t know! It has something to do with the fact that I play illegally.”
On why he changed his name: “Breitenfeld sounded too Irish.”

More seriously, Paul Desmond challenges students and teachers of the music: “Complexity can be a trap. You can have a ball developing a phrase, inverting it, playing it in different keys and times and all. But it’s really more introspective than communicative. Like a crossword puzzle compared to a poem.”
And most telling… “Writing is like jazz. It can be learned, but it can’t be taught.”
Sadly his perception about the jazz audience appears to remain pretty much spot on…”Our basic audience begins with creaking elderly types of twenty-three and above.”

For more Paul Desmond, click here:
www.jazzquotations.com/2010/05/paul-desmond-quotes_24.html
thinkexist.com/quotes/paul_desmond/
www.gandalfe.net/paul_desmond.htm

For a transcription of Paul Desmond’s solo on “Samba with some Bar-B-Q” click here

Robert Duke – Why students don’t learn what we think we teach

I was fortunate enough to find this marvellous video at howtopractice.com (great resource) today. Robert Duke is Professor in Music and Human Learning at the University of Texas. This video/lecture could not be more important to all educators and all learners – click here if the video is not visible (and thank you to Cornell University for distributing their resources so freely).

Serious about practice? Do we really want to improve?

It seems that my work is mainly about helping students practice effectively. There’s not much to say except that if we are really serious, why not find out more about it!

Check out these indispensible web links for effective practice.
1) intentionalpractice.wordpress.com: Jonathan Harnum is a practicing musician (30+ years on trumpet, and others), and has published 3 previous music-related books. This site shares research from his current Ph.D research into practice.
2) www.howtopractice.com – website related to the above.
3) www.musiciansway.com/practice.shtml – excellent site about practice, related to the recent publication “The Musician’s Way”. See also this article about memorisation. musiciansway.com/blog/?p=2138

Take the lid off jazz education

Take the lid of jazz education and what do you find? Thought provoking thoughts from Branford Marsalis….

Now there’s a debate brewing on Ronan Guilfoyle’s site. All jazz students and teachers should read this! Click here for Ronan, and here (for Branford’s original YouTube interview that sparked all of this).

What’s your view?