26 August 2019
Berklee comes to town
Sheryl Bailey, NYC guitarist and professor at Berklee College in Boston, came to Canberra. She was playing with some Australian mates, Andrew Dickeson and Ashley Turner. It was a stunner of a concert, but not just that: there was a workshop, too. All open to the public and free. First up, the workshop. We had two student groups up to play a few tunes and get comments from all three performers. I certainly got lots from this session. Communication and dynamics; comping and listening; some generous commentary on drum matters, eg, on the swing inherent in traditional versus matched grip; two-feels and four; knowing the language / familiarity with the genre, playing along to recordings and learning how key players have dealt with tunes and grooves and chords; comping for guitar; groove as key ("no-one ever lost a gig from grooving too hard"); the importance of 3rds and 7ths while bass provides the root ("if you don't know the 3rds and 7ths you don't know the song". Sheryl displayed this brilliantly with a melody of phrasings leading to 3rds and 7ths); laying out, even sometimes on drums and, alternatively, keeping energy when playing quietly; transcribing rhythms, even if not voicings ("be provocative rhythmically"); 8th notes and the power of accents and learning by singing; a suggestion to get the Omnibook (referring to Charlie Parker) and learn Monk and Wayne Shorter; learn tunes; solos as melodies on harmonic form, not just chords and arpeggios. Also some stories: Jimmy Cobb said "we didn't care" about his trio playing behind Miles or others, implying the strength of the groove was what mattered; jazz is "not guitarist's music, it's horn players' music" so think fingerings, etc; practising by long application, eg, playing one tempo 1 hour pd for a week; record yourself; "isolate things you suck at and practice them" then integrate.
Then the concert. Nine tunes over 90 minutes, all standards, three by Monk (both Sheryl and Andrew had entered the Thelonious Monk competition). Wayne Kelly sat in for a blues towards the end. Some slower tunes, Lover man in 3/4, Isfahan, Panonica; two more Monks, Eronel, Epistrophy. Jobim How insensitive (I didn't know it was from a Chopin theme) and Invitation and You stepped out of a dream. Nothing too unusual or particularly out although there were dissonant harmonic colours at times, all stunningly sharp and interesting and skilled and fabulously expressed. That's what practice does, as it should. An eye-opener.
Sheryl Bailey (guitar) led a trio with Ashley Turner (bass) and Andrew Dickeson (drums) for a concert and workshop at the ANU School of Music Band Room.