Inside a jazz workshop: Week 7

I arrived this week feeling all at once slightly smug and very very nervous. On the one hand I had done the listening not only to the week's track, 'In a Sentimental Mood' but also to the whole Ballads album by John Coltrane tick for me BUT on the other hand it has dawned on me that... deep breath... I'm really not that into John Coltrane! Yes I know... he's a genius and brilliant and probably ground breaking and some other excellent enthusiastic stuff but, it's just not for me and it's a brave and nervous girl that admits that at a jazz workshop. I'm even listening again as I type in the hope I'll have a Damascene moment and be able return to polite jazz society with my head held high, I'll keep you posted...

And so to the class. Duncan was leading the session and began with a beautiful rendition of 'In a Sentimental Mood' that even elicited a ripple of applause for those of us gathered for the workshop. He spoke about the differences in playing a ballad (this week's focus) rather than blues or up tempo or swing number going on to demonstrate how to play with the timing, repeat sections of the tune and add ornaments to bring variety and interest to a long, slow, simple tune. The 'guitar guy' whose name I'd promised myself I'd remember, doh, talked about comping under the tune and drummer Eric highlighted the useful shift from swung quavers to straight in this style.

Sectional followed with the horns, plus sole but lovely violinist working with Duncan. Even with a slightly larger group we all got to have a go at using vibrato and moving the tempo around before racing on to the improvising. Much more complicated chord changes this week with glancing reference to guide tones and key centres. For a relative improv beginner it was all too fast for me to keep up with entirely so it was good to hear from Duncan that the next series of workshops will take a slower approach giving us more time to actually work on and understand these building blocks to improvisation.

When we all came together to play it seemed that everyone had got a handle on the basic treatment of the tune, even if the solos did in some cases meander to the degree I wasn't sure any of us were certain quite where we were! A quick round up from 'guitar guy' on some neat practice techniques to get us hotter on our scales and still sounding groovy rounded up the class.

The jam session followed and here I should report fully on the exciting and diverse musical fusion offered by the attendees... Except I got slightly distracted by gossiping with a chum and sneaking my head round the door of the new renovations going on in the back room (which look very promising by the way, who'd have thought Streatham would be about to have it's own two venue club, the only cultural thing I've ever done previously in Streatham was hear my mum sing in a choir at St Leonards, and that was 20 years ago!). But from what I could see and did hear it was the usual mix of the band and visitors working on numbers largely proposed by the jammers. Nice to see a new singer and guitarist joining the familiar faces on the stage confirming what a welcoming set up it is.

Next up 'There is no greater Love' by Isham Jones and no, sorry John I'm just not feeling it, maybe next week?