INTERVALS: THE NEWSLETTER OF DAVID LIEBMAN-SPRING 2000
HI TO EVERYONE:
Just to mention that if you don’t wish to receive this newsletter that I send four times a year, you can unsubscribe through the web site (if that is how you subscribed) or directly to me if this came as an e-mail. Some people may be on both lists, so if you receive two copies PLEASE go to my web site and unsubscribe since this is the easiest way. I am always adding people whom I think would be interested but that assumption may be erroneous and I apologize if this is the case.
I encourage those of you who are interested to visit my web site which is changed and added to on occasion and offers articles, a list of my available publications, some sound clips, photos of historic interest and more. The web site is: www.davidliebman.com/lieb
FEATURE: TEACHING AN ART FORM-THE IMPLICATIONS
For some of the readers discussing this topic may seem unnecessary, since in reality teaching an art form and jazz in particular is a fact of modern academic life. But I still think that in some people’s minds there is doubt as to how creativity, demonstrated in a viable art form can be taught. When I give clinics, I tell the students that in my day (not that long ago!!), most musicians wouldn’t or couldn’t impart specifics. This is obviously very different from now when almost every major jazz performer does master classes at least some of the time. I remember a few years ago at East Stroudsburg University near my home in Pennsylvania, the great Freddie Hubbard answering questions to a group of non-musicians for a pre-performance lecture. I know that wasn’t something he was used to do doing, but he did it excellently and with complete humility.
So if teaching jazz is a matter of fact now, what do I mean by “implications”? I think that a typical student attending a jazz school or taking private lessons with a master might not be totally cognizant of it, but (s)he may be looking for something that is not there-sort of like the keys to the kingdom. Loving the music, being inspired by it and wanting to play is exciting and the nature of youth is to want to get there fast. Sometimes expectations exceed reality and a feeling of disappointment may result. This is natural and probably unavoidable, but it is up to teachers and institutions to be honest and up front in their stated and intentions. With the amount of teaching materials now available, the exponential growth of the jazz education business as a major industry (witness the increased attendance at the IAJE conventions attended by thousands) and the growing number of musicians who need to teach in order to survive, it’s easy for these subtle matters to become confused.
Is teaching jazz or any art form the same as for math, medicine or business administration? I would like to think that imparting knowledge about a creative field involves some unique differences. Surely we lay out the equivalent of facts and figures to be memorized and regurgitated, but because of the special nature of the artistic process, the material itself is secondary to the process of instigating a student’s creativity. We, the teachers, are actually imparting our experience about the WAY to find oneself, more than the information itself. After all it is the balance between knowing and using technique in conjunction with bringing forth one’s inner voice that results in a creative act of lasting worth. And if an artist has something of value to impart and has spent the very difficult time finding a unique mode of communicating these feelings, this only adds to the depth of the statement. Of course there are great artists who do not fit into this scenario, but then it is as always, a matter of taste.
The French use the word ”enseigner” for teaching. I love the French language for how it alludes to the action taking place. “Ensiegner” suggests that the mission is to “give signs, signals, points of reference-to show and transmit” so that the student understands and assimilates. The proficient teacher is revealing his or her own way of having discovered and developed the art as an example. This method of teaching, accomplished by metaphor, myth telling and allusion should be geared towards conveying “clues” about the process and possibilities. A teacher can help a student avoid too many blind alleys, realizing that some “dead ends” can be the best form of instruction. What I am describing here is essentially the time-tested apprenticeship system, which was how most jazz musicians up to the present era learned the art, as did artists of all persuasions for centuries. The advent of formal institutions along with the pace of modern life doesn’t leave much room for a master-apprentice relationship in our times.
Acknowledging that teaching an art form is primarily about process places a specific type of responsibility on the instructor, quite different than mere recitation of information. It implies a nearly psychological-like awareness of the emotions being engendered in the pupils as well as sensitivity to the everyday realities of a student’s inner life-for example being a certain age in our culture, peer competition, approval, etc. This is the challenge of being a teacher and messenger of a deep tradition. I think that by accomplishing this, a teacher has served more than just the art itself, but humanity as a whole, by bettering the soul of one individual. Most important for the teacher to remember as it is said in the ancient Latin adage: ”Above all, do not harm!”
(Thanks to saxophonist and educator Francois Janneau for input on this topic.)
The Birdland gig with Mike Brecker, Joe Lovano and myself along with the excellent rhythm section of Rufus Reid, Billy Hart and Phil Markowitz was one of the most enjoyable in recent times. We played four standards a set, featuring one of us on a ballad. It was recorded for the internet on gmn.com along with video. To be able to hear these wonderful musicians for three nights was a pleasure and I look forward to doing it again in the future.
Also my band (Juris, Haddad, Marino) played three nights at Birdland in February, recording live for gmn.com on the final night. Although we don’t work together as often as I would like, it is gratifying to have direct and deep communication with musicians, built up over ten years in this case. It means little has to be said, the music is why we are there and there are no games-it’s “worktime” in other words and I like that atmosphere. I used to be amazed at the Coltrane band with Garrison, Tyner and Jones when I saw them so often in New York during the 60s. It seemed they hardly said a word to each other in this everyday world, but in THAT world, forget about it!! I guess that model is still with me. You can access my group on another live recording from Birdland done in1998 on the gmn.com site. This new one as well as a recording of Jobim tunes should be up on the site soon.
A week in Italy during January was exciting and diverse. First, playing some of my older tunes arranged by Marco Visconti with an orchestra-combined big band, then a small group for a few gigs with excellent musicians from all over Italy featuring pianist Antonio Ceccea, followed by a live recording in Rome with Maurizio Giammarco, Furia DiCastra and Daniel Humair. The Italian audiences are so warm and the ambiance so great that everyday is an event there.
I had a wonderful experience at Westchester University with the saxophone ensemble led by my good friend and long-time musical associate, Gunnar Mossblad. He had the entire saxophone class, numbering about twenty, playing a few of my saxophone quartets, while walking around the auditorium for one piece in particular. It was a sight and sound to behold. Also a sax quartet played my newest piece, “In Bach’s Studio” (published by Advance Music). This was the first time I heard it done so well from beginning to end-an exhilarating experience for any composer.
I played a duo concert with pianist Mike Gerber performing music written by composer Rhoda Averbach at the Manhattan School of Music with another performance to come at the New School in the end of March. This music is very specialized and almost chamber like in its tone and feeling. As I have always said, playing duo is very demanding because everything is heard in its pristine state-a challenging situation.
Composer/arranger Bill Warfield and myself collaborated on a project last year called ”Le Jazz Hot” based around celebrating the Parisian scene of the 1920s when the composers of Les Six were active, Picasso and Getrude Stein were around and of course jazz was being heard with Sidney Bechet soon to be its most famous representative when he settled there in the 1930s. With Bill’s regular big band, we performed the suite last year several times and recorded it (although still looking for a label). In February we played it live at the Deerhead Inn in Deleware Water Gap, Pennsylvania, an exciting event for such a small and intimate room. It is very dramatic music with reworkings of Darius Milhaud’s “Creation du Monde”and a piano piece by Poulenc, an extensive arrangement of my composition for Picasso called “Pablo’s Story”(which I have played with every band I have lead) and several arrangements for different instrumentations of Bechet’s “La Petite Fleur”. We will be doing the European premiere of this piece in Paris during the 11th Annual Jazz Meeting of the International Association of Schools of Jazz (more in the next newsletter about this event).
Finally, I had two nights at the Knitting Factory in New York with bassist Matthew Garrison and Billy Hart on drums who was with me in the group QUEST during the 80s and on several of my most recent recordings including “Water-Giver of Life” with Pat Metheny and the live version of Coltrane’s “Meditations”. The chordless trio is one of the formats I have spent a good deal of my playing time with over the years beginning with the Open Sky Trio, the first organized music I played in the early 70s which featured Bob Moses and Frank Tusa. I love the openness of this kind of music and with someone like Matt on electric bass who has such a fine array of colors and chords at his fingertips, it is really exciting. It was taped for broadcast on the jazz cable channel BET as part of a series of performances from the Knitting Factory which is shown regularly on the channel. It should appear in a few weeks.
COMING EVENTS-SAXOPHONE MASTER CLASS
ANY SAXOPHONISTS INTERESTED IN ATTENDING MY 13th SAXOPHONE MASTER CLASS HELD AT EAST STROUDSBURG UNIVERSITY, PA., DURING THE FIRST WEEK OF AUGUST MUST GET A TAPE TO ME BY MAY 1st!! MORE INFORMATION ON MY WEB SITE.
GIGS ( call venues for exact dates):
MARCH: with Pete LaRoca at Birdland, New York; lecture at City College, New York; with saxophonist Nick Bisesi at Cornelia Street Café, New York; American River College Jazz Festival in Sacramento, CA.; Sonoma State College, CA; the Jazz School with Mike Zilber Group, Berkeley, CA; with the CARMA Big Band at Los Medanos College, Pittsburg, CA; with poet Steve Dalchinsky at the Knitting Factory, New York; at the River Café in Scranton, PA with drummer Marko Marcinko, Vic Juris and Tony Marino; with pianist Mike Gerber playing the music of Rhoda Averbach at the New School, New York
APRIL: European tour with the Dave Liebman Group including Terrassa, Spain, Geneva, Nurenberg, Koln, Posnan, Poland, London, Birmingham and more; lecture at East Stroudsburg University, Pennsylvania; performance at Bloomsburg State University, Pennsylvania
MAY: With the Dave Liebman Group at the Lyndon Institute, Vermont; Scullers in Boston, Mass; Chan’s in Providence, Rhode Island; the Radisson Eastland in Portland, Maine, Blues Alley in Washington, DC; Ortlieb’s in Philadelphia, PA; the Deerhead Inn with singer J.D.Walters in Delaware Water Gap, PA; the Natting Jazz Festival in Bergen , Norway with the Pettre Wetter Trio
Hope you have a good few months and enjoy the much needed change of seasons for those of us in the Northern Hemisphere!!