Joe launched a big conversation this week that he's been hesitant to touch over the years - improvisation! We had a great group discussion that worked to sort out a working definition:
- off-the-cuff playing that sounds like it fits and need not be originalIn the process we got sidetracked into a lot of ideas about what makes for successful improvisation and what some of the tools might be. It was a great kick-off conversation, anchored by the serious voice of reason, Shoji Naito, who intoned that playing an instrument is about making music! Not showing off, not playing a lot of notes, but making music.
Joe absolutely concurred and also wants to stress the idea that blues improvisation is not about being "original".
It will be an ongoing conversation that will take some refining. In the meantime, here are some quotes and points to get you thinking:
- Embracing improvisation is part of playing blues.
- At its highest level, you know the genre, the language and the dialects such that you are able to play in the moment and don't have to think.
- Ask yourself, "What direction would the pros, the legends, take it?"
- Wondering if your improvisation is working? Listen to the band - are they responding to you?
- Many people tend to play (or say) too much. Shoji sees it in conversation: "When I talk to you, I know how you're going to play."
- Once you develop a certain degree of skill, who you are emotionally is going to come out.
- The audience wants to be entertained: use dynamics and space. If you play busy, be sure you take it somewhere. A show-off is not likely respected by the audience.
The Old Town School is planning a benefit concert for Japan and Shoji brought some Japanese folk melodies in for us to work on. We'll play these as an ensemble for this benefit show. Shoji would like a full stage of harp players, so please come and be a part of the performance, even if you don't have time to learn the pieces well. "Air harp" players are welcome!
Here are the three transcriptions to work on: Japanese Folk Songs
And Shoji has prioritized them in the order listed on the transcriptions so work on Roses In Bloom first, then Sukiyaki and Aka Tombo. Roses In Bloom has a tricky bend section that an ensemble may not hit together, so work on that section on your Eb harp (or your Bb) too.
Here are youtube links so you can hear the melodies:
Roses In Bloom
Saturday, April 16
909 W. Armitage
If you or anyone you know can play chords on guitar and would like to join in during Sukiyaki, practice with this chart and bring your acoustic guitar!
The event starts at 11:00am and runs until midnight, so come check out some of the other wonderful musicians donating their time. Shoji has also put together a blues ensemble that will play a short set starting at 3:50pm, featuring:
Katsu Kosaka harp/vocals
Masa Ichikawa guitar
Kirk Manley vocals, harp, keys
Grant Kessler harp, guitar
Shoji Naito bass
Lenny Marsh drums
Buckeye International Harmonica Festival!!!
Celebrate the 35th anniversary of the Buckeye Harmonica Festival! Coming up April 28-30 in Akron, Ohio. Full details for this great festival of workshops and concerts are here: Buckeye.
- The date is set for our next recital at the Harlem Avenue Lounge. Mark your calendars for Saturday, May 21!