Monday, July 28, 2008
Jazz is not dead
We just went to the student performances for the Stanford Jazz Workshop and it was exciting. They had three different stages with various combos playing at different times. Ages varied from middle school to high school; skill levels varied too. Some kids were good for their age; many were just plain good.
Performances ranged from young'uns getting started playing basic riffs on a blues progression, to older ones delving into tunes with a high level of harmonic and melodic complexity. It's exciting to see the advanced students trying out a broader palette of tone colors, dynamics, phrasing, interaction with their fellow ensemble members, etc.
The rhythm sections were surprisingly strong across the board. I don't know if that was by design or because the slots for those instruments were especially competitive. But it worked out really well, because the rhythm sections served an important function in keeping everything together during those times when individual student soloists weren't totally secure. I saw teen and pre-teen bassists and drummers who were pretty damn solid, and I'd be glad to have them back me up. And some of the pianists...wow.
Some of the workshop faculty are quite inspired and inventive. One of them brought a troop of 15 violinists and a cello onto the stage. I half-expected a group "Twinkle Twinkle" a la Suzuki, but instead, he led them in this jam in which all of the players simultaneously improvised at a level at which they were comfortable, yet the end result sounded fascinating.
The whole event reminded me that I've been doing too much left-brained stuff lately and need to do some more right-brained activities. Perhaps more music listening, exposing myself to genres I don't listen to often, more music playing.