When In Rome...
As promised, here it is! My much-anticipated selfie in front of the Coliseum
"When in Rome..."
Spend all day in a windowless basement and LOVE it!
(My Barry Harris Rome workshop experience)
It is interesting to note the appreciation Europeans have for our American art form. The opportunity to learn directly from a living Jazz legend is regarded with deep recognition of just how rare an opportunity it is. Jazz is an improvisational art form passed on by direct experience. To do it right, you have to get it from the source. Barry Harris is one of the last standing, and they know it.
Barry conducts improvisation class attended by Europe's best and brightest
At 84 Barry is the elder statesman of Bebop, the 1940’s archetype for modern Jazz. Barry has recorded with Jazz greats Coleman Hawkins, Sonny Stitt, Yusef Lateef, Cannonball Adderley, and many others. He has developed his unique approach to improvisation theory and has taught and influenced a whole generation of modern Jazz performers, including Joe Henderson, Paul Chambers, and even the great John Coltrane who made the pilgrimage to Barry’s native Detroit for a few lessons. A unique element of his teaching is his sincere personal desire to pass on the knowledge and spiritual message of Jazz – what I call “the truth behind the notes”. His NYC workshop is available to anyone and everyone with a spare $15 and a free Tuesday night. You don’t need to be an advanced player (though it can’t hurt); you just need a love and desire to learn this style of music
A talented 14-year-old pianist hangs on every word
Periodically, Barry takes his workshop around the world, where he conducts an intensive 5-day event, culminating in a concert. I had the privilege to attend his latest event in Rome’s funky San Lorenzo district, think: Rome’s “Greenwich Village”.
San Lorenzo's mix of charm and grit
Despite the fact that I have religiously attended Barry’s NYC workshop for nearly two years, and become somewhat versed in his approach, I was completely floored by the Rome Workshop’s intensity. Experiencing such energy from top talent from all over the world gathered together to celebrate their shared love of Jazz, will change you.
It is remarkable to see a man of Barry’s years absorb all this energy and achieve such a perfect flow state (see our September 18, 2014 post). He was able to teach from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. for five days straight - utterly captivating people ranging from 14 year old conservatory students to accomplished professionals - then give a 3-hour concert with undiminished youthful energy, even closing with “All God’s Children Got Rhythm” at an impossibly fast tempo followed by a sing along to his beautiful composition “Nascimento”. It is a compelling testament to the power of music, which when done right is truly a fountain of youth.
The sense of community and shared experience was palpable
Much more to come in future posts, including more about Barry’s class, his approach, and how it has revolutionized my own practice, performance, and most importantly my teaching; and how I pass that knowledge directly to my students to make their practice more relevant, useful, and engaging.
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