Zog Blog - Jazz @ The Albert + Workshop and Masterclass at Royal Northern College of Music / by Elaine Crouch

Gig 21

This is an upstairs comedy club taken over by the indefatigable Ian Richard Storror for the Sunday jazz gigs. Ian was very helpful at the soundcheck with a couple of rogue notes on the piano and making sure the small amount of the piano we needed in the PA was just right. We had an appreciative audience of around 50, most of whom bought a cd it seems!

I’ve been trying to vary the sets a bit, and on this occasion we pretty much alternated originals from “Zog” and standards. I didn’t even realise until after we’d done it that way, but it seemed natural enough.

RNCM - Royal Northern College of Music - Manchester

We had a 3-hour slot here, so we divided it in two:

Masterclass:

We presented 3 original tunes before opening the session up for questions. Studio 5 is a beautiful large studio space with high ceilings, controlled generous acoustic, and a lovely Yamaha S6 grand piano. If we could do every gig of the tour in this room with this piano, I’d be in heaven! This would also make a tremendous recording space.

We had probably about 10 students plus Jazz Pathway tutor, Mike Hall, and bass tutor, Steve Berry, in attendance.

We were asked some very intelligent questions regarding how we keep the material fresh on a 34-date tour, comping and soloing. In turn we asked the students what they listened to. Names that cropped up were: Loose Tubes, Marius Neset, Phronesis and Donny McCaslin.

Regarding keeping things fresh, we each had different takes on it from honing our interpretation of the material as perfectly as possible, to deliberately trying different things - in my case starting my improvisations with a different rhythmic motif to anything I can recall trying before, and using that as the thematic material to develop. The general consensus was that the more we play together the greater the trust we develop, and therefore the more comfortable we are to utilise space. That can be by totally dropping out, using rests, long notes, or just avoiding “one” or continuous 8th notes.

Workshop:

After a break, the students set up a quintet with guitar, sax and trumpet. Repertoire - that perennial problem - was discussed and “Cherokee” and “Stella by Starlight” settled on. We addressed some issues on all instruments most frequently relating to swing feel and rhythmic placement of chord tones. Geoff did an interesting exercise with the bass and drums where they deliberately sped up and slowed down together to help find each other's groove. This was a most enjoyable session and the students were very capable and well engaged.