Embracing young jazz musicians
Why don’t we have a pool of young high school and college students at the monthly Jazz Jams?
Reasons: Too busy? Can’t drive? Didn’t know about it? Location? Didn’t get a warm welcome feeling from other musicians? Crushed by a bad vibe?
Bad vibe: When a young player – feeling uncomfortable sitting in with veteran, experienced musicians – tries his or her hand at a solo and can feel the drummer rolling his or her eyes, notices the guitarist isn’t talking to the vocalist sitting in and the pianist stops comping or starts playing the melody over the solo, and the bassist and drummer start a conversation during the solo.
I’ve seen it, and I’ve been guilty! Let’s fix it!
I remember a young drummer who thought he had “it” at the ripe age of 19 attend a jam session. The bandleader asked him, “What would you like to play, young man?”
Of course, the young drummer said, “Anything. I don’t care.”
The bandleader called “Cherokee,” at a blinding speed! The young drummer struggled as everybody played what seemed to be 100 choruses.
When all was said and done, the dejected young drummer collected his sticks and put his tail between his legs to leave. The bandleader then turned to him and said, “Young man, when you get up on a bandstand, know what song you would like to play!”
With a kind smile on his face, the bandleader said, “Now, let’s do another tune so you can walk away feeling better about yourself.”
He could have said, “OK, who’s next?” But he didn’t. It turned into a good “vibe.”
We should embrace our young students of jazz, help them along the way, guide them, and make suggestions of what they can listen to. I am guilty of thinking: “I never had YouTube to watch to see how a drummer played a tune, so there is no excuse!”
Instead, remember the kind sax player who gave a second chance at a tune so that the young drummer could walk away feeling better.