As Christmas festivities gradually turn the academic battle in favour of the hardworking student, last week jazz musicians and enthusiasts alike welcomed reinforcement in the form of a delightful master class given by the college’s visiting musician, Tim Garland.
Audience and performers gathered in anticipation of an evening of musical instruction and production that offered something to everyone present whatever level of understanding they might have. In 2 hours, Tim, a world-renowned bass saxophonist, offered insights into the performance and appreciation of jazz music, offered through a copia of perceptive comments and enlightening demonstrations. Those students brave enough to volunteer themselves up to play in front of such a respected musician truly received what few can. Whether it was a jazz quartet, saxophone, flute or clarinet, Tim demonstrated his abilities not just as a performer, but as a teacher.
But to people like myself, meekly, if not reverently, sitting in the audience, this master class offered something altogether particular. Whether conveyed by Tim’s virtuosity, by his earthiness, or by the relaxed sense of a mutual exploration between audience and expert, the master class, often an affair distantly regarded by a small crowd, was quite undoubtedly captivating and thrilling. To his temporary ‘pupils’, Tim exemplified his chilled out character when suggesting “I’ll play a couple of choruses and try and get to know you guys betters”. To the listening audience, Tim magically drew on a wealth of images and similes that enabled everyone present to engage with the sometimes harmonic, rhythmic and melodic intricacies of jazz. With Charlie Parker, we are encouraged to imagine ‘pitch hang[ing] on the rhythm’; on the art of improvising, he envisages the skilled surfer catching the wave and riding it inwards at the perfect moment; but most importantly, to those of us (dare I say it, like myself) who sat in awe of Tim, he instilled an enthusiasm and passion to go and try it out ourselves, to pick up that chord sheet, put away the notated, and play out those 3rds and 7ths.
And so, as Michaelmas draws to a close, armed with Tim’s tripartite process of ‘imitation, assimilation and innovation’, I know what I’ll be spending my Christmas vacation doing.