Jazz Education

Favorite Jazz Performers and Educators

Dave Peck Dave Peck is a professional piano player who plays solo and trio both live and in the studio in Seattle. His lyrical style coupled with a rich harmonic ear won him the Earshot Jazz Hall of Fame Award in 2013.
Randy Halberstadt Randy Halberstadt is a professional first-call piano player in Seattle. Randy teaches at Cornish School of the Arts in Seattle and frequently teaches theory at Centrum jazz camp. His theory classes are really inspiring.
George Cables George Cables is a grammy-award winning jazz pianist living in New York city. George has an amazingly rich approach to tunes and reharmonization. His time is impeccable; so much so he says he never practices with a metronome. He’s frequently an educator at Centrum jazz camp.

Jazz Camps

John Clayton Centrum Jazz Workshop is a week-long jazz camp held at the end of July in Port Townsend, Washington, located on an old military fort grounds. Directed by John Clayton, this is a week chock full of experience including a daily master class, two combo rehearsals, theory classes, faculty performances, and jazz in the clubs at night. Live on or off campus.

If you audit, you’re not assigned a combo and won’t perform at the end of the week; most people join the combos which are faculty-arranged. Each combo has a faculty coach for the week. Expect mostly to play lots of different blues heads throughout the week instead of woodshedding a particular set for the concert. The performance is not really the main goal. You’ll need to submit an audition tape with scales and samples of you playing one of several tune choices provided by Centrum. Players with like abilities are grouped together for combos.

Master classes are amazing. Faculty are monster professionals first, educators second (my own thoughts, not theirs.) Pianists, expect to work with powerhouses like George Cables, Benny Green, Eric Verlinde, and many others. Attendees are approximately 60% young adults, 40% grownups.

Aebersold Jazz Camp Jamey Aebersold’s Summer Jazz Workshop is a week-long jazz camp held in the summer in Louisville, Kentucky, on their university campus. This is a really practical camp that has an action-packed day including master class, two combo practices, theory, faculty concert, and other special classes (these are gems, far more targeted than the master classes– examples are “the playing of Bill Evans by Bill’s own student Andy Laverne.)

Everyone normally plays with a combo throughout the week, and there is a performance at the end of the week for each combo. A few folks did not get assigned a combo the year I was there– they ended up playing with Jamey’s play-along CDs, which was probably not what they anticipated. Faculty are for the most part monster educators, and secondly, pro musicians (again, my own impression.) The focus of these workshops tends to be more theoretical, based on scales as outlined in Jamey’s materials, rather than the soul of the music. Nevertheless, the camp makes these scales and modes come alive and there is a lot to learn!

Good news too; auditions are live, generally with a single faculty member who plays your instrument. It’s very informal; they ask you what you like to listen to, what you like to play, what tunes you know well; select one, and they’ll ask you to play it, perhaps adding a bass line for you to play with– no fancy tape preparation necessary. Speed of scales totally unimportant. There is a theory quiz everyone takes– this is to assign you into the right theory class. Don’t sweat this– you can sit in either or neither class at your option. Attendees are approximately 40% young adults, 60% grownups.

Jazz Master classes on YouTube

  • Improv Class – Gary Burton teaches a master class at Loyola University in New Orleans on March 9, 2010. This class is two hours long. In the first hour, Gary (monster vibraphone player) teaches a master class about soloing. This lecture is both broad and deep; Gary shares his own theoretical models about how music is put together by the jazz musician and how it is perceived by the audience. In the second hour, student bands play and Gary critiques them, putting all the theory into practice. A must watch!

Steve’s Favorite Piano Lessons on YouTube

  • 15 Stylistic Elements – New York piano pro Dave Frank teaches an excellent lesson about how to stylize your own playing. If you’re interested in ways to comp your own soloing, this video is for you, entitled 15 Stylistic Elements for the Advanced Jazz Pianist. Visit his website at www.davefrankjazz.com to get the well-organized notes and find other interesting classes he’s put together. Bonus: You get to hear There Will Never Be Another You played umpteen different ways.
  • Playing Outside – Another fine lesson from Dave Frank about how to play outside the changes. These techniques are very accessible and structured. Includes using cycled patterns and modal assignments. Time well spent listening.
  • Getting Tone and Evenness in Lines – This video (entitled Minimizing Emotion) of Hal Galper working with a student addresses achieving evenness of eighth note lines through not swinging the notes, but feeling the pulse of the music going half as fast; effectively turning even bebop tunes into a ballad (ed. note: also giving the improviser a chance to relax and think of the melody more slowly). In the second half of the lesson, attention turns to achieving good tone on the piano, through an understanding of what part of the note is important; namely the release of notes, not the attack. They also spend time really listening to the sonic elements of the note and uncover how the piano has its own built-in metronome, a note shape, that once really heard, can be used to produce even and fuller-sounding lines.