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  • Writer's picturekevin romain


It's summer. Vancouver jazz festival is just around the corner. Looking forward to playing with my quintet Enemy Pigeon at the fest (June 23, 3pm, Art Galley on the Robson side), as well as with Only A Visitor (June 30, noon at David Lam Park).

I just got back from a nice trip to NYC. Was lucky to catch many of my favourite drummers including Marcus Gilmore, Tyshawn Sorey, Ari Hoenig, Mark Guiliana, Nasheet Waits, Tomas Fujiwara and Dave King. I can't overstate the importance for musicians of all levels of seeing the masters up close. We're lucky to have a wealth of video to draw upon from concerts (even shaky cellphone "footage" can be a valuable learning resource - I'll post my current favourite example below). Those of us living outside of large American cities might get an opportunity to see some touring greats from New York or Chicago (etc) from time to time in a large theatre, with everything pumping through a PA system and the drums sounding completely out of balance (huge kick drum sound, minimal wash or low frequencies from the cymbals). There's seriously nothing like sitting next to a master musician for a set or two and checking out what they're doing up close. Like this:

It's great to take lessons, transcribe, watch instructional videos etc, but you can also just use your eyes and ears and figure out what your favourite players are doing if you're able to get within eye-and-earshot of them. Before a thousand technique DVDs and infinite variations on Stick Control and Ted Reed came along, that how people used to do it. Worked okay for them. With our wealth of modern options, we could probably learn to play jazz just by watching a ton of youtubes and picking up a book or two at Guitar Centre, but I don't recommend skipping the physical link to the living masters who are working in clubs regularly.

This goes for your colleagues too - Go see your buds play. Figure out what you like in their playing and what you want to avoid in your own playing. Get a drink and chat with the other people there. Thank the staff at the club for having live music: They'd probably be making more money if they cleared out the band and put in a few more tables.

See youse at a gig sometime. <3

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