Jim Hall with Bill Evans
Jim Hall with Bill Evans

“Don’t just play something, sit there”… Jim Hall’s Jazz Koan.

Following on from Lennie’s advice re hipness and non-action, thank you to my friend (guitarist) Jason Broadbent for Jim Hall’s counsel “Don’t just play something, sit there”! On further research those close to Jim Hall suggest he actually said “don’t just do something, sit there” but the point is the same.

The more I practice, the more I teach and the older I get, the more I am struck by the parallels implicit in improvisation, expressive and functional use of language and the various approaches to mindfulness (across the traditions, secular or Buddhist mindfulness, Yoga, Martial Arts, Contemplative spiritual practice and so on). How often do improvisors chase and crave a successful outcome, attach to detail or over-identify with musical energy or self-expression? Our projection and desire are so far away from the flow-state that we claim to seek, confusing it for fantasy of technical or musical perfection. Jazz improvisors are so well resourced with the concrete resources of repertoire, musical materials, transcriptions and recordings as well as hundreds of educational courses, but the need now is surely for deeper understanding of the process of improvising and less a fixation on acquisition.

I recall my first day teaching at the Guildhall School of Music & Drama over thirty years ago, hearing a BBC Radio 4 documentary about creativity and the importance of “entertaining opposites”. At that time I was reading “Zen and the Art of Archery” where non-effort is central to presence and practice, attention more valuable that effort. There is much to be considered in this domain and more to follow. In the meantime, “don’t just play something, sit there!” Thank you Jim…

Check out some Jim Hall here:
With Bill Evans… www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rp721ibSHqA
With Joe Lovano… www.youtube.com/watch?v=_ToFwkEBXKU

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Last night of “Not the Olympics” at Oliver’s featuring Geoff Simkins

Geoff Simkins

Don’t let appearances deceive you. This one time drummer may have made early appearances with Harry Strutters Hot Rhythm Orchestra and the Temperance Seven and his principal stylistic influences have been the American alto player Lee Konitz and tenor player Warne Marsh. However, according to the great British free improvisor Alex Maguire, Geoff Simkins is the “most free improvisor” that he has heard (and Alex played with Tony Oxley!).

Geoff has played in all parts of the UK, in Europe and beyond, often with American musicians such as  Art FarmerBobby Shew, Al Cohn, Tal FarlowSlide Hampton, Warren Vache, Al GreyKenny Davern, Bill Berry, Al CaseyHoward AldenRuby Braff, Bill Coleman and Conte Candoli. He has recorded with UK tenor player Danny Moss and with US trumpeters Billy Butterfield and Yank Lawson. Since the 1980s he has worked regularly with UK guitarist Dave Cliff and his current quartet features Nikki Iles, Martin France and Simon Wolf.

Geoff is also a highly respected teacher at various conservatoires and summer schools but apart from the delight of hearing his insights into all forms of improvisation, it is his attention to the in the moment narrative of line that make musicians of all genres pay attention. Having played with and listened to Geoff for nearly 30 years I can say that his apporach transcends genre and challenges all co-improviors to raise their game and critically, their aesthetic.

I think that Geoff’s understated but powerful wit would have it that in fact he would prefer that appearances might indeed deceive and for once the integrity of the improvising be the principal point of connection for artist and listener. So no glitter or latex tonight, instead, regardless of genre and the the listeners’ projections, tonight’s music will be very much improvised!

There might also be a special guest appearance by Dave Cliff!

Oliver’s is here… click here for directions

Enjoy.

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Finally a big thank you to all who have braved public transport and public shame by bucking the trend and electing to opt for jazz in place of medals during the Olymics. Well done!

Tonight’s featured artist is Joe Townsend.

My very good friend and and colleague at Trinity-Laban, Joe Townsend is probably the most versatile musician I know. A jazz violinist, composer, collaborator and “world Musician” in the proper sense (i.e. a genuine expert as opposed to the dabbler), Joe in at as home in Bluegrass as Bebop,  Hot Club or Balkan. Tonight’s ensemble will be typically collaborative and features the revered percussionist Dawson Miller. Not to be missed.

Tomorrow night : The Music of Lennie Tristano – Pete Hurt, Martin Speake, Callum Gourlay and Jon Scott

For full listing of the entire season, click here…

As requested after summer schools…
Many folk approach me about practicing and I seem to spend most of my time at college assisting students in establishing a regime that is both consistent and adaptable to their individual needs. Please see the Practice Pages.