So I've reached the end of my first looong day teaching here at the Banff Centre for the Arts -- and I've got to be up bright again tomorrow to coach the 8 AM (!) composers' workshop session. But it is pure pleasure to be back in Banff. I was last here as a participant in the Jazz Workshop, way back in 1999 -- the Centre and the Workshop have both changed a lot since then, with more change on the way (new facilities currently under construction). It is especially great to be part of this week's faculty, which includes Myra Melford, Ben Monder, Gerald Cleaver, Michael Bates, and Matana Roberts -- plus of course head honcho Dave Douglas.
They are keeping me pretty busy here and I doubt I will be able to blog much this week ("yeah, yeah, how is that different from any other week?" you ask, and rightly so) but I thought I'd post some brief notes from my first day, at least:
We started off with a group performance of Steve Reich's "Clapping Music," which Gerald Cleaver was kind enough to co-lead with me. Gerald is, of course, a true rhythmic master -- I wish I could get together with him on this piece every day for the next 20 years!
We started off doing it in the standard 6/4, then tried also feeling it subdivided in 12/8, which creates an entirely different rhythmic feeling -- and poses an entirely different set of rhythmic challenges.
I thought I was pretty clever when I first realized you could switch things up by playing "Clapping Music" in 12/8 -- then I poked around YouTube and saw this:
After "Clapping Music," Dave give a killing workshop with some of the participants, trying to nudge them towards playing with greater rhythmic clarity -- both at the beginning of each note and (this is crucial) at the end of each note. Cutoffs aren't something that get talked about much outside of large ensemble playing (I am fairly sure Dave is the first I have heard to ever bring it up in the context of small group improvisation) but they are obviously so important to creating a compelling sense of groove.
In the afternoon, Ben Monder demonstrated some of the techniques he uses to transform standard tunes -- reharmonization is just the beginning! I unfortunately could not catch all of it, but what I saw gave me plenty of fresh ideas to ponder.
The late afternoon was my first rehearsal with the bigband, which I ended up devoting to "Transit" and "Drift." I was torn between trying to get through a lot of different music vs. trying to impart some important core principles and get everyone into the right mindset for the remainder of the week. I opted for the latter. We'll have to pick up the pace in the days to come but hopefully we have laid the groundwork for that to happen.
After dinner, I hosted a listening session where we listened to some recent large music, scores in hand (or, given that turnout was much higher than anticipated, imperfectly projected on-screen). The tune selections (all composed in the past 10 years) shouldn't come as much of a surprise to regular readers of this blog:
MARIA SCHNEIDER — BULERÍA, SOLEÁ Y RUMBA from CONCERT IN THE GARDEN
JIM McNEELY — THE LIFE OF RILEY from THE VANGUARD JAZZ ORCHESTRA’S UP FROM THE SKIES
PEDRO GIRAUDO — PUNTO DE PARTIDA from EL VIAJE
JOSEPH C. PHILLIPS JR. — INTO ALL THE VALLEYS EVENING JOURNEYS from VIPASSANA
JOHN HOLLENBECK — GUARANA from ETERNAL INTERLUDE
GUILLERMO KLEIN — MIULA from LOS GUACHOS' FILTROS
DJANGO BATES — SOMETHING LESS SOOTHING from SPRING IS HERE (SHALL WE DANCE?)
Looking forward to more activity and inspiration in the days to come...