The Gestalt of Jazz Practice: the ABABC whole-brain approach

When I started out, information about how to improvise and play jazz was extremely hard to find and teachers even rarer. Jamey Aebersold records were hard to find in the UK and we copied tunes out of The Real Book by hand. Transcription was very awkward unless you possessed a reel-to-reel tape recorder. Nowadays we are awash with information as the age of transmission creates an over-abundance of information. There is even choice-anxiety in practice!

As a result, an integrated approach to practicing improvising is long overdue. So many musicians, and enthusiasts are confused or daunted (consciously/unconsciously) by an excess of inputs and too much information, regardless of their age or stage of development. I spend much of my time unpicking tangled inputs and “apparent imperatives”, attempting to find space for sustainable and interesting learning. Jazz teaching/education needs to realign towards the process of learning, process of improvising, the process of expression. Paradoxically, this means doing less but deeper and in amore measured way.

Following on from the wisdom of Hal Crook and others, practice strategies that blend improvisational product and improvisational processes, that balance knowledge, use and expression are the most likely to result in sustainable learning. While the 4Ps approach addresses balance in practice activities, awareness of how our brains function will further enhance our practice and productivity. A comprehensive explanation of jazz practice and brain function will be posted in due course, but for folk wishing to use the ABABC (whole brain/Gestalt) model, please help yourself to the pdfs below. Start with the ABABC Core Model. You’ll almost certainly get some of the gist by doing some of the exercises.

The Core ABABC Model practice strategy, with explanation.

ABABC Model: Displacement with Bill Evans

ABABC Model: Jazz Vocabulary

ABABC Model: Episode with George Coleman

ABABC Model: Outside Playing

… more “recipes” to follow.

You can contact me directly for assistance/input and support in a class or 1:1 lesson/consultation (click here). If you like, I am happy to design an ABABC model for pretty much any approach to improvising. I am of course open to input, questions, challenge, disagreement etc as I am committed to refining the model.

For more information re music and the brain look here:

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