Dueling saxophones, vocal wanderings, talking trumpets, drum solos and even turntables — hell, just about any sound may be included in this quarters Jazz Improvisation performance.
On Monday the students of George Lewis’ music 131 class will present a night of improvisation running from swinging versions of traditional standards to loose interpretations of experimental scores. Yet despite the title of the class, this performance will include a lot more than what people typically consider to be “”jazz.””
“”I’m not really interested in jazz,”” Lewis explained. “”Well, I love it … but I have a problem with the word.”” A music isn’t alive to grow if it is too defined. “”I prefer the garage band model; there is no one looking over your shoulder, pointing their finger.””
Many students don’t realize that the UCSD music department is one of the most innovative in the country. Beyond the typical classical repertoire, our music department pays attention to the last century of musical development and expands on the outdated canon of significant composers. The department houses amazing composers and performers who are active today — faculty, graduate and undergraduate. However, improvised music is still gaining respect.
“”There could be a lot more interest in jazz and other types of improvised music,”” Lewis said. “”The department is moving towards giving improvised music more credit.””
Jazz, of course, is one of the most amazing musical forms to have come out of the last century. New ideas of collective jamming, vocal quality, distortions, percussion significance were developed throughout the history of jazz — from the earliest days of Dixieland, swing, Ellington, bebop and free jazz. All of these forms are present in the “”type”” of jazz that’s going around today.
A great example of what is going on today will be heard at Monday’s concert. Some of the best musicians here at UCSD will play time-honored jazz standards, classics from the bebop era, experimental collaborations and compositions of their own.
I’ve seen pieces that involve people running across the stage and pieces that involve the creative scratching of records on two turntables. Lewis is a great facilitator for this class because he knows how to use what’s new while respecting the past; how to keep the art of improvised music alive and kicking.
“”I like an atmosphere where students feel nurtured — I’m tired of directing,”” Lewis said. “”I want the students to direct the music themselves. That’s the danger of the pedagogy — it’s so authoritarian.
“”I have a multigenre background in music; contemporary notated music, computer music, jazz, etc.,”” Lewis added. “”But my students’ backgrounds are different than mine. I don’t want to give them my experience, I want them to use what they have — I’m learning from them.””
Hopefully, Lewis himself will play. He is a well-known trombonist, improviser, composer and multimedia artist and has worked with some of the best in all his areas of interest. He has been directing this class since 1991, touching on all types of techniques, concepts and styles. He has watched the class change over the years, accepting more and more forms of improvisational explorations and student input.
“”You know, I wish for more musicians,”” Lewis said. “”There are 18,000 students on this campus. I don’t want total beginners — but if students know how to play their instruments they can always learn to improvise.””
If you are a big fan of improvisational music you should check out this concert and if you know absolutely nothing about improvisational music you should check out this concert. Hey, if you’re interested in playing music you should consider joining this class.
This is a chance to see great performance that is also cheap and close to home. The concert is in Mandeville Recital Hall, costs $3 for students and starts at 8 p.m. Come hear for yourself what some of your schoolmates study.