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  1. #361

    Thought of the week: Extracting the essence

    I recently attended a master class with bassist Dave Holland. There was a very well played high level performance by an ensemble; something to be be proud of on any level. After all the praises for a job well done, "good" solos, Dave isolated the duo of the guitar and the horn player. He asked them to play the (very complex bebop type) head and play that. He stopped them 3 bars in, asked them to play it again, stopped them again and they waited for his commentary. After a long thoughtful pause, he pointed out something he heard: The notes were there but there was no contour to the phrasing, the difficulty and athleticism of the line was masterfully highlighted but the feeling of natural ease or meaning was somehow elusive.
    Then he sang the line, had them sing the line, and he did something brilliant. He broke the line down to quarter notes, then down to essential notes even longer. He had them play those notes and made sure they felt the weight of those notes from and through all the other embellishing notes... then he had them play it again. World of difference!
    We often learn a piece for its notes, and not its essence. We can learn to transcribe difficult notes so we can play them from memory, yet the process of "What did the soloist consider essential?" "What were they working with and working towards?" can remain completely off the radar.
    So my thought of the week an especially in learning and soloing on Bud Powell, what are the essential notes in this tune? Rhythmically, harmonically, melodically... how much can you reduce this piece and still have it be this piece. Then re-build your solo, the head, the way you hear this tune (and any other tune) from this lowest common denominator.
    It could give you a strong reason and guide system for making really memorable solos.

    Have fun!

  2. #362

    Commit to a song a week. What could a serious student hope to learn?

    David, I’m wondering if you would humor a request to post the names of all 52 songs. If I could create a massive playlist with all the tunes well ahead of time I think it would help me because I am not familiar with many of the tunes. Just a thought—cheers and thanks for all your work!

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