Musicians – the best music teachers

There´s something very special about learning directly from musicians.  Saturday´s workshop in Meidinerz, jazz and modern music school in Gijón, Asturias, led by Andreas Polyzogopoulos (trumpet), with Vasilis Stefanopoulos (bass),  Alex Drakos Ktistakis (drums) and Cesar Latorre (piano), was a wonderful example.  In three short hours, there were specific tips for trumpet players, how to interact within a rhythm section, how to practise rhythm and accuracy, and scales,(for any instrument).  Also, the difference between the “swing” way of playing quavers (eighth notes) and the New Orleans way, harmonically playing more tightly, according to the exigencies of the more intricate structures of bebop harmonies, or more loosely in modal forms.  The importance of composing.

All this was shared from a knowledge of the history of jazz so profound tht it felt like a transmission from the source – as if Basie and other greats were in the room.
I nearly didn´t go, because I knew I wasn´t in form to play the little that I can. All I can say is – don´t miss the next opportunity of this kind.  Learning from musicians is the best: and despite an exhausting schedule, they gave total commitment to sharing their experience and encouraging us.  Since a friend from my book club complimented Andreas as “the poet of the trumpet” – it´s apt to quote from C P Cavafy, because I felt that this was their attitude.
The First Step
The young poet Evmenis
complained one day to Theocritos:
“I´ve been writing for two years now
and I´ve composed only one idyll.
It´s my single completed work.
I see, sadly, that the ladder
of Poetry is tall, extremely tall;
and from this first step I´m standing on now
I´ll never climb any higher.”
Theocritus retorted: “Words like that
are improper, blasphemous.
Just to be on the first step
should make you happy and proud.
To have reached this point is no small achievement:
what you´ve done already is a wonderful thing.
Even this first step
is a long way above the ordinary world.
To stand on this step
you must be in your own right
a member of the city of ideas.
And it´s a hard, unusual thing
to be enrolled as a citizen of that city.
Its councils are full of Legislators
no charlatan can fool.
To have reached this point is no small achievement:
What you´ve done already is a wonderful thing.”

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Coming up for air – thank you for the music

I´ve been tussling with technology, and so before I put out the first chapter of “Play It by Ear” I want to thank some of the people who´ve helped me so much.  I´ve been lucky enough to have had some remarkable teachers: Harrison Birtwistle taking junior orchestra at my school, Frances Bradley teaching me the french horn, Colin Morgan the trumpet, and to have been able to attend jazz workshops and summer schools led by Ian Carr and Nucleus, Loose Tubes, Larry Willis.

I fell in love with the music of Miles Davis and John Coltrane, via l.p.s, as a teenager, and grew up when the Beatles exploded in the world of popular music, when soul music swept through England, when South African musicians arrived in London and blew us away, when Herbie Hancock and Chick Corea and Weather Report made their first appearances on this side of the Atlantic. I´ve had the chance to listen to many wonderful musicians play live. Above all, I feel an overwhelming gratitude to the musicians whose music, and whose generous attitude towards sharing the how, as well as the what, makes the world a livable place.