Monday, September 11, 2006

All That Jazz

So I've never been in a jazz band before. I've been in marching bands, wind ensembles, chamber groups, and played solo, but I've never been in a jazz band. Now after ten full years of sitting in the audience, I've joined the crew. Tonight I had my first rehearsal with the Rice Jazz Ensemble. Wow.

If I don't grow musically through this experience, then my musical pituitary needs to be checked. If I don't grow as a person through learning to feel this kind of music, then I may as well hang it up. Not that I've never felt a physical pull at my gut listening to the blues. Not that I've never wanted to become a musical note my self and slide into the swing of a fast shuffle. But I'm not sure I've ever given myself over to that. Some part of me is held back. And I don't know why that is.

First, improvisation scares me. Like, not nerves or stage fright. Something deep in my soul pulls back into a shell and slams it shut at the idea. It's probably mostly a confidence issue. The structure of music is something I feel I only barely understand. I've gotten to where I can make up my own harmonies in choir by finding the notes I hear that aren't voiced. It's a start. But these chord structures... They aren't your grandmother's chord structures! I was having a helluva time just finding the pitch the music told me to hit sometimes. (Concert F# was being particularly bothersome.)

Maybe part of it is an inner rebellion against being pushed towards it so much by a friend I had a while back. Encouraging a shy person is a delicate business. Supportive is okay. But I remember not wanting to read *books* my Godmother kept saying were so good, just because she kept encouraging me to read them. So if that fine line gets crossed, I tend to flip from shy to stubborn. I still haven't read those books.

There are a lot of things that I don't hold back, but the ones that I do are tied so tightly to something inside me, and on such a short chain, that there must be something more than just my usual shyness going on. I wish I knew what it was. Maybe that's something jazz band can help me learn and understand. Even if I can't conquer the fear, I'd rather understand it than be puzzled and therefore even more shy and insecure every time it comes up. I still don't think I'll take any non-written solos. :-P But in just learning to feel the music more, to let it wind more intimately into my mind and soul, until I flow with it, and understand the tongues it speaks in... That's challenge and reward enough.

Back to something more concrete. Jazz band has already taught me that my reading sucks. Oh. Wait. I knew that. But it's taught me how bad it really is. I fully intend to nullify this with diligent practice. I just have no idea when I'll find the time. I've never been in so many musical groups before. I do, however, have my strengths! Yay! All three of us trumpet players there showed some particular ability that deserved a nod. Erik played really high really well, and expressed the style of each chart with confidence. Even Larry was impressed at how solid he was on lead so much of the time. He's been working on it a lot. :-) I think Zev read a lot of the running eighth notes a lot more accurately than either Erik or myself, and did some fun solo stuff, which both Erik and I were honest about *not* wanting to do.

As for me, at the very beginning of rehearsal, during tuning, Larry commented on my stance and horn angle. I try to stay straight and open and keep my bell up, and he likes it. I was on third part, which, when I wasn't completely unable to find the notes, gave me a chance to really anchor some of the chords, and stretch my ear for chords I'm not familiar with. But the thing I'm personally most proud of? The last piece had one of those trick rhythms that lulls you into complacency, then surprises you into an inadvertant solo. Is it on the upbeat of 4 like the previous one? NO! Hah! It's on the and of 1 this time! Gotcha! Only *I* wasn't fooled one single time. :-D

Now if I could only find that darn elusive concert F#....

1 comment:

Stefi said...

I don't know a single person who doesn't have trouble with the key of F#, hon. As far as improv goes, I'm the same way(the few times there's ever been an occassion for it). Just relax and feel the music, and you'll have a blast!