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COURSE CORRECTION 



This week, Sassy and I have enjoyed the hospitality of some friends who've generously provided lodging for us in their home while I play a few gigs in the area. 

 

Their son (let's call him Freddie) is a very talented young aspiring jazz trumpeter. 

 

Although I regularly give master classes on the road, and have done my share of classroom teaching, spending time with Freddie and his family over the past week has been a powerful reminder to me of what it means to be a serious musician and what an industry jazz education has become.

 

At the age of 16, Freddie has already taken advantage of more specialized training and travel opportunities than I had in my college years, and he's already twice the player I was in high school. 

 

Freddie's days are so full that I'm actually hesitant to call him an "aspiring" musician. Not yet a high school senior, he's already playing professional gigs, studying advanced concepts and techniques, taking and teaching private lessons, listening broadly and living a decidedly music-centered life.

 

Freddie studies privately with two teachers: one for trumpet, another for jazz.

He's a veteran of jazz camp, Jazzschool, the Grammy band, SFJAZZ All-Stars, J@LC Essentially Ellington and Monterey NextGen. 

 

He participates in a summer music mentoring program and leads sectional brass rehearsals for his school jazz ensemble. He's won awards in all the regional and national honors programs you've heard of and several that you haven't. And he's already performed on the most prestigious jazz stages worldwide: New York, Monterey, Montreux, North Sea, Umbria. 

 

I never practiced like this kid, not even at Interlochen. He hits it hard for hours every day. Each morning I awaken to the sound of Freddie's horn, methodically working its way through James Stamp warm-ups, Clarke etudes, Clifford Brown turnarounds, articulation and lip flexibility exercises and chord scale after chord scale. Every afternoon he has a rehearsal or two with this or that band. Every evening he practices again. 

 

When I was Freddie's age, my bedroom was a shrine to Lindsay Wagner and Spencer's Gifts. I had only just begun to take private lessons and didn't take them very seriously. I loved to play but hated to practice.

 

Freddie's room is a hardcore crucible of brass: his chair, music stand and horn are at the center, surrounded by stacks of lead sheets and method books. His walls are festooned with festival posters and images of great jazzmen. On his desk a laptop computer is open to an overstuffed iTunes library. Two speakers face the practice chair.

 

I spent a couple of hours trading riffs with Freddie, and am astonished by his proficiency on the horn and his familiarity with the nuances of the jazz language. He's already familiar with every classic recording I mention, and he seems to own nearly all the available Aebersold and music-minus-one collections of standards. He has a remarkably sophisticated ear for modern harmony and can toss off bebop clichés over complex changes at bright tempos. He listens to all the same jazz heroes I do, plus the latest recordings by Alex Sipiagin, Ambrose Akinmusire and Billy Buss. He already knows the tunes, licks and lore that I learned in my five years at Berklee.

 

The other night I invited Freddie to sit-in with me and the band on "Invitation." The audience was knocked out. He played a mature solo, including some very creative motivic development. After the set, Freddie was appropriately gracious and grateful, pausing to individually thank each member of the rhythm section. He even possesses enough charm to balance all that swagger.

 

After 30 years in music, I'm now at an age when I think it's important to pay it forward. It's been my belief that I have a responsibility to share what I've learned over the course of my life and career, and to mentor and encourage the next generation of musicians.

 

But if they're at all like Freddie, I don't have the time. 

 

I need to practice. 

— D.M.

AT HOME IN BAR OR BALLROOM 


100 Years Ago This Week 

 

San Francisco Bulletin

What's Not In The News

By Ernest J Hopkins

 

April 5, 1913 — In Praise of “Jazz,” a Futurist Word Which Has Just Joined the Language.

 

This column is entitled “What’s not in the news,” but occasionally a few things that are in the news leak in. We have been trying for some time to keep one of these things out, but hereby acknowledge ourselves powerless and surrender.

 

This thing is a word. It has recently become current in the Bulletin office, through some means which we cannot discover but would stop up if we could. There should be every precaution taken to avoid the possibility of any more such words leaking in to disturb our vocabularies.

 

This word is “Jaz.” It is also spelt “Jazz,” and as they both sound the same and mean the same, there seems to be no way of settling the controversy. 

 

The office staff is divided into two sharp factions, one of which upholds the single z and the other the double z. To keep them from coming to blows, much Christianity is required.

 

“Jazz” (we change the spelling each time so as not to offend either faction) can be defined, but it cannot be synonymized. If there were another word that exactly expressed the meaning of “jaz,” “jazz” would never have been born. A new word, like a new muscle, only comes into being when it has long been needed.

 

This remarkable and satisfactory-sounding word, however, means something like life, vigor, energy, effervescence of spirit, joy, pep, magnetism, verve, virility, ebulliency, courage, happiness—oh, what’s the use?—JAZZ.

 

Nothing else can express it.

 

When you smile at the office-boy (time: 7:30 a.m.) as though you thought him nice, that is “jaz.” When you hit the waiter for serving you cold waffles, that is “jaz.” When you work until midnight, then get up and work until midnight again without cursing your boss, that is “jaz.” When you look upon a girl and she loves you, that is “jazz.”

 

Some of the utter usefulness and power of this wonderful word now begins to appear.

 

You can go on flinging the new word all over the world, like a boy with a new jack-knife. It is “jazz” when you run for your train; “jazz” when you sock the umpire; “jazz” when you demand a raise; “jaz” when you hike thirty-five miles of a Sunday; “jazz” when you simply sit around and beam so that all who look beam on you. Anything that takes manliness or effort or energy or activity or strength of soul is “jaz.”

 

We would not have you apprehend that this new word is slang. It is merely futurist language, which as everybody knows is more than mere cartooning.

 

“Jazz” is a nice word, a classic word, easy on the tongue and pleasant to the ears, profoundly expressive of the idea it conveys—as when you say a home-run hitter is “full of the old jaz.” (Credit Scoop [Gleeson].) There is, and always has been, an art of genial strength; to this art we now victoriously give the splendid title of “jazz.”

 

The sheer musical quality of the word, that delightful sound like the crackling of a brisk electric spark, commends it. It belongs to the class of onomatopoeia. It was important that this vacancy in our language should have been filled with a word of proper sound, because “jaz” is a quality often celebrated in epic poetry, in prize-fight stories, in the tale of action of the meditative sonnet; it is a universal word, and must appear well to all society.

 

That is why “pep,” which tried to mean the same but never could, failed; it was roughneck from the first, and could not wear evening clothes. “Jazz” is at home in bar or ballroom; it is a true American.

 

To conclude, just a few examples of its use.

 

“Miss Eugenia Jefferson-Lord, was clad in a pink pongee creation suitable for a rainy day, and of great jaz.” (Society Notes.)

 

“Our Harry, sighting true for once, swung the willow against the pill with all his jazz.” (Baseball account.)

 

“Though fatally shot, the unfortunate captain still had sufficient jaz to murmur ‘He done it’ in the ears of the police.” (Murder story.)

 

“All the worl’ am done gone crazy.
Yassah, sure it has;
How mah brain am reeling dazy,
Sighin’ for the ol’, ol’ jazz!” (Plantation melody.)

“And Saturn strode athwart the cedarn grove,
Filled with the jaz that makes Creation move!” (Paradise Lost.)

FROM THE ARCHIVES 

On This Day

 

March 13, 1997

Dmitri Matheny Group

Voices & Images of California Art Launch

San Francisco Museum of Modern Art

San Francisco, California


Design by Brad Rickman

 

March 13, 1999

Dmitri Matheny Group

In-Store Appearance

Borders Books & Music

Emeryville, California

 

March 13, 2008

Interview with Melanie Berzon

KCSM Jazz 91.1 FM

San Mateo, California

 
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