‘Til You’ve Known the Meaning of the Blues

Bass Like a Boss , Jazz , Music

‘Til You’ve Known the Meaning of the Blues

Ramon Alexander’s Big Five and Sima Mashazi at Kaleidoscope Cafe

As with almost everything in life, learning to play jazz properly is a process. This process takes time and is often so elusive that it becomes increasingly frustrating, especially when the sound you hear in your mind is not the sound that is coming out of the instrument.

There is a quote that says, if you can’t hear it – you can’t play it. I think it was coined by Chic Corea if I’m not mistaken. I think this is quite true. Jazz is the type of thing that requires constant immersion in order to develop an ear for what it’s supposed to sound like. This means listening and playing along to the ‘standards’ is the most important thing. Mainly because this idiom is a language much like any other form of conscious communication. Learning the vocabulary of jazz is just as important as speaking it – the greater the vocabulary, the more rich and textural the outcome. The greater the vocabulary, the easier it is to communicate with other musicians.

This year I focused on my sense of groove both as a bassist laying the foundation of the musical structure and as a soloist keeping the groove going when it was my turn to shine. I’m happy that the results of my focus on these weaker areas of my game are becoming more and more apparent and that hard work really pays off. I’m more conscious of groove in everything I play and I’m becoming more artistic with constructing solos. There is an art in musical storytelling and that art in jazz, is the solo – the improvised part of the music that really characterizes every musician’s unique voice.

These next two videos are from Ramon Alexander & the Big Five‘s last gig at Kaleidoscope Cafe where I got to do some decent solos – decent enough to get positive feedback from my peers.

The first one, You Don’t Know What Love Is was sung by Lou-Anne Stone and features great guitar playing by Clinton Stevens (of the popular band N2) – it also features some interesting changes in groove in the different solo sections. It kind of moves between swing in the beginning to latin in Lou-Anne’s solo, to funk in Clinton’s solo. I wasn’t feeling too good on the night of this recording but I remember feeling really stoked while this song was transforming so dynamically right before my eyes.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ogEF4Mfn8-k]

The second video features Sima Mashazi singing a South African jazz standard called Ntyilo Ntyilo and I think this performance by Sima was magical. She really has a way of mesmerising the viewer.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hN2WZ42kmkY]

I also played a private birthday party this weekend, and myself and Annemie got to play with well known Afrikaans songwriter/composer Laurinda Hofmeyr whose album Reis Na Die Suide I bought on the off-chance one time while shopping for music. She was joined by Afrikaans folk artist Riku Latti – whose music videos used to play on TV when I was in high school. It was pretty cool playing with them.

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  • I got my degree in classical flute performance, but I go to probably the best school for jazz in the US. I always thought it was strange how segregated the two were -administratively, the school kind of makes it difficult to go between the two. Hence it definitely feels like a foreign language right now. Jazz is something I definitely want to get my feet wet in, though!

    1. It’s funny you should say that, because at the conservatory where I studied – jazz was/is looked down about by the classical administration. I could probably fill this blog with loads of the shady details but I suppose that’s not the point anyway. I also know of other universities where there is such a stark line between the two disciplines. I think it has to do with how teachers educate their students – I found that when I studied classical piano, my teacher would always diss jazz – then when I started playing jazz, I found that there wasn’t such a big difference between the two – except when it came to people’s attitudes about the genre difference and all the connotations that go with it. Thanks for the visit 🙂

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