Sunday, July 14, 2013

straight ahead

I've spent this week at the Jazz Institute of Chicago's Straight Ahead Jazz Camp. A weeklong series of workshops aimed at jazz educators. I also attended Straight Ahead in 2011. The theme for 2013 was The Legacy of Louis Armstrong.
Here's a little of what went on throughout the week:

Ricky Riccardi
Ricky Riccardiauthor of "What A Wonderful World" and chief archivist at Louis Armstrong House, made too Armstrong presentations on Day 1.
In His Own Words - snippets from Armstrong's private recordings (he made over 750 reel to reel tapes). An amazing insight into his private life. Recordings from home and on the road... talking to friends, listening to music, reading the newspaper, reading letters, arguing with his wife!

Cinematic Satch - rare video footage from the archives. A great chance to hear and see things that may never be released.

Dana Hall Modern Pathways: Exploring the multi-dimensional music of Andrew Hill. 
My knowledge of Hill's music is fairly limited (Point of Departure, Time Lines, Black Fire and a few other bits and pieces) and I felt this was a great presentation. Knowledgable, enthusiastic, warm, not too formal or technical but clear with a nice mix of talking, discussion and listening. 

The Collective Improvisation ensemble class was directed by Mwata Bowden.
Mwata brings great energy and passion to the music. He had his work cut out.... 2 flutes, 7 Saxes, 3 Trombones, 1 Tuba, 4 Trumpets, 5 Guitars, 2 Drummers, 6 Pianists, and about 6 vocalists on stage together. It was a fun session running through Fletcher Henderson's "Jangled Nerves" and  Louis Armstrong's "Struttin' With Some BBQ." 
After School Matters Big Band
Back at home I had a listen to the Henderson band of 1936 take on "Jangled Nerves" - features some nice Chu Berry and Roy Eldridge and tight ensembles.

Wednesday we had lunch at Buddy Guy's Legends while listening to the After School Matters Gallery 37 Big Band. Over the summer break the band, made up of high school students, rehearses daily in Millennium Park.

Guitarist Mike Allemana is currently working towards his PhD - Von Freeman being the topic of his study and of his presentation this week. Mike detailed his apprenticeship under Freeman - first at jam sessions, then as a member of the band (for 15 years) and how Freeman mentored younger players. The presentation was a bit dry but full of good info and some sweet stories too. This is interesting and important information and it looks like Mike will be updating his progress on his we site.

Jose Diaz ran a great session for music teachers - full of practical advice. Jose got everyone involved working on rhythm via call and response, improvising with rhythm, layering rhythms, vocalizing rhythms. Later that afternoon he ran a rehearsal with the Jazz Links Youth Ensemble - a big band made up of kids aged about 10-15 or so. Jose had the kids vocalizing the rhythms of the parts. In fairly short time the bands phrasing had made great improvement.
Noteworthy Jazz Ensemble
Finishing off the last day was the Noteworthy Jazz Ensemble - a big band comprised of Chicago public school music teachers (many of whom we attendees at workshops). First up they sight-read through a dozen new-ish released big band charts (mostly levels 1-3 mostly). 

After lunch Noteworthy performed a set of music - Spain, Bernie's Tune, Royal Garden Blues, The Duke, Come Together, Afro Blue. This set was a lot more together than some of the sight reading.

The Rambler
All in all it was an interesting week. I only found one part disappointing - the four sessions involving Wycliffe Gordon. Gordon rambled through each of the hour and a half sessions occasionally touching upon the topic of Louis Armstrong. The last session was particularly brutal - an hour spent talking about what today's youth wear..... I was struggling to see the connection to "Satchmo, A World of Education." I expected a lot more from him. 

One thing I found interesting was the focus on the late(r) period of Armstrong...… in fact the early work (I feel the most important) barely got a mention all week at the classes I went to - Mwata Bowden being the only person I recall who's focus was on the early work.

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