26 February 2020

On Monday afternoon, several of our jazz ensembles were able to benefit from teaching from a top-class team of jazz musicians who were about to play an evening gig at the school as part of their UK tour.

From the UK we had Martin Speake (sax), whose connection with the school is as teacher at the Royal Academy of Music of Tom Richards OA, and Callum Gourlay, a Scottish bass player. From New York, USA we had Ethan Iveson (piano) and Jef Williams (drums).

Our two smaller ensembles, intermediate and senior were playing first and received some great advice about the oral tradition of jazz and the need to listen to other versions, now so much easier thanks to the ease of access to online recordings (so no excuse not to have listened), together with thinking about drum patterns (eg clapping a bossa nova), understanding by singing through the roots of the chord changes, thinking about structure and chord voicings – and much else.

The second session was with the School’s Big Band. Though very different a tradition to the smaller ensemble, akin to the difference between the intimacy of a string quartet, compared to the grandeur and discipline of a symphony orchestra, they, too, had much to learn. Even before we have heard the gig, the visit of these top musicians has been an inspiration for our young musicians!

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