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Some thoughts about teaching jazz

Jazz is created out of what the Jazz musician hears in his musical
mind and is able to successfully articulate on his instrument, the
aesthetic authenticity of which is based on his familiarity with the
idiom and its relevant history, and his ability to synthesize that
knowledge with his own creative impulses.

The constant evolution and expansion of the language of Jazz is the result of
many great musical minds becoming experts in history first, and
then finding their own voice and their own particular way of restating
history. Art Tatum was an expert in the music of Fats
; without Coleman Hawkins and Lester Young, there may
never have been a Charlie Parker; without Bud Powell, perhaps
no McCoy Tyner or Herbie Hancock.

In recent years, the idea of “familiarity with the idiom” has been
the focus of institutionalized Jazz education, and in trying to unify
and consolidate what is musically most important, we’ve lost sight
of how Jazz has been learned traditionally. The teacher (which many
decades ago was the recording) plays, and the student copies. The
theoretical reasons - as to why what was played works - is only
discussed in retrospect. This is the same format on which most successful foreign language learning programs are based.

This course on re-harmonization I designed specifically to teach
pianists how to sound great playing five standards, using the
“copy/memorize first, understand later” method. You will be
given a completely written out score of what I’m playing (as well
as the “fake book” version for comparison), along with a video of
me playing it in a normal ballad tempo, and then a video of me
playing it very slowly. Then in subsequent lessons, I discuss the
details of why I did what I did, and share harmonic exercises that
will help you to create your own re-harmonizations.

David Hazeltine



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