I have a vivid memory of the first time I tried to play in an early jazz group. I was in school and was asked to play the trumpet part in an ensemble that met each week studying the music of Louis Armstrong, Jelly Roll Morton, and other significant early players.
Cool, building my jazz history foundation right? How hard could it be to go back and pick up these styles?
However, once that first rehearsal began I quickly discovered that there was a huge hole in my playing. I could make it through each melody decently, but every time it was my turn to solo I hit a wall. My mind suddenly became blank and I had nothing to play – no melodic ideas, no rhythmic inspiration, and no idea where to even begin crafting a solo.
The music was just not in my mind, plain and simple. The style was unfamiliar, I wasn’t hearing the rhythmic elements of the music, and my sound and articulation weren’t fitting in with the group’s sound.
To be honest, I had never really seriously listened to anything before Bird, Dizzy Gillespie or the big bands of the 1930’s and ’40’s. Up to that point I was used to playing modern jazz standards, ii-V-I’s, and aiming for the upper structures of chords, but none of that worked over this style – in fact it sounded terrible.
Like many other musicians, I’ve encountered this exact feeling in other areas of my playing as well. … Read More