Wednesday, May 16, 2012

From the 'Shed

Because I am currently learning John Coltrane's "26-2", here it is in an inspiring performance by Joe Lovano's band from 1995.  His sidemen are Mulgrew Miller - piano, Tony Reedus - drums and Anthony Cox - double bass.

I have also been listening to Joe play this with a similar roster of musicians on his double album, "Quartets: Live at the Village Vanguard", recorded in 1994.  It makes me wonder, "For how long was this piece in Lovano's regular performance repertoire?"  I've observed that many great jazz musicians play selected pieces at every gig for a fairly extended period of time, in an effort to master them.

Today's practice session went well and I'm feeling good about "being back in the 'shed".  With the exception of playing "Countdown" (I ran out of time), I kept to the plan I made at the end of yesterday's practice session.  I decided to allot specific times to each component.  Here's how it looked:
  • 26-2 melody: 20 minutes
  • Giant Steps Workout page
    • pattern 1: 10 minutes
    • pattern 2: 10 minutes
    • pattern 3: 10 minutes
    • pattern 4: 10 minutes
  • Play 26-2 at a slow tempo, incorporating patterns: 15 minutes
  • Countdown: 15 minutes
I use a digital kitchen timer, setting it before starting each unit.  When the timer beeps, I stop and move on.  It was Fred Hersch who suggested this practice method to me when I took lessons from him about 10 years ago.  I've used it ever since.

There are several benefits to this system, but what appeals to me most is being able to cross something off my checklist and feel a sense of accomplishment when the timer beeps.  Psychologically this is much healthier than walking around for two years with an unfinished goal of mastering Coltrane changes (or whatever grandiose objective one might have).

If you are wondering about the four patterns listed above, here they are:

I plan to practice the same things tomorrow, but in a slightly different sequence.  Practicing the four patterns back-to-back became tiresome --- both physically and mentally.  I had to take breaks in between (using the time to return phone calls and sort through office clutter).  I will try interspersing these patterns throughout my day, and will start the day with a pattern.

I am getting close to having the melody for 26-2 memorized.  I imagine I will have it learned by Monday. 

Soon I won't need to spend as much time on each pattern.  My main obstacle has been memorizing the matrix as presented on the Giant Steps Worksheet (posted in yesterday's blog).  The patterns have been helpful towards accomplishing this end.  By the beginning of next week I anticipate having to revise the routine, but for the next few days, it will be nice to have a solid plan in place.

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