I had an interview with Ron, the coach of the jazz combo after the band rehearsal. The interview happened just a week after Their last performance on March 15th.
Since the combo is much smaller than big band, do you take a different approach in training? What are the most important music qualities you look for in your band?
I do take a different approach. A lot of the students who used to get in play a lot in high school, mostly in big bands. But in small group, it's different mode of playing, especially in rhythm section, guitar, piano, bass and drum, their function is a lot different, it's doing more than just setting up for the horn section. There are a lot more interactions amongst all the players. A lot more interaction than big band.
What are the most important music qualities you look for in your band?
I don't get to choose. In other words, I get the students that are assigned at the open time. So there's not much I can do about that.
I try to educate some of them in the best way I can. A lot of the students play it for fun, not music students. So I'm not really expecting them to go home and practice the scales of this song, or that song. I don't expect that but I do encourage that. These groups rely a lot on improvisation. So every one can play the melody but how well you improvise on it depends a lot on their study. Knowing the harmony is really intricate, and getting the right sound across when others are improvising demonstrate a certain skill. Trying to educate them on stuff like that, but really I don't expect them too much. They do pretty good. Other than that, just a lot of listening. Especially the rhythm section. 99percent of the time.
From your past experiences, do you think the personal relationships between band members affect performance? Do they work/perform better together if they are already friends? Do they become closer through playing together for a year?
I think sometime it certainly helps to put people at ease,maybe so they are less nervous about the music sounding bad because they dont previously know the music. They maybe play looser. If someone in the band donT know others that well, they might feel inhibited to really express themselves. A lot of the students play by ear but they generally have a good sense. There are a lot of hit and miss. Not a lot of educated guesses. It's uneducated. If they were friendly enough maybe they won't be afraid of making mistakes that much it will be cool. If they don't know the people it might be a little ore difficult for them to grow as fast. But though playing together, they often get closer. They do pretty good.
Has being an accomplished jazz piano player affected the way you direct the band?
Without doubt, by being a jazz pianist, I am in the rhythm section and my role is to keep the band on improvisation mostly. Having that band sound good and interaction of the players. Because of that..yeah and and not just piano. Ay instrument if you are good at it, it is gonna influence the way you teach the entire class. It influences me how I teach everybody. It's all music and if you know the harmony and theory behind it, that s what you are trying to express to the people.
How do you take approach in directing members whose instruments are not your expertise?
If its not a musical problem, in other words, if it's not a note that they are playing wrong, maybe they are getting a good sound in the right register, um the fingering on certain parts. If its something I can not guide them with, I ll let them know that what I think the problem, and they can research on their own or get help from their teachers. Maybe the way I describe the problem, they will just know how to adjust and fix the problem just by the way I describe it.
In the last performance, Amos, the singer performed a Chinese Jazz adaption of a Chinese pop song. What do you think of this kind of adaption? Do you think Jazz songs in foreign languages will appeal to American audiences? Do you think it matters that Amos sings with a foreign accent?
When people are singing in English , obviously its easy to listen to and identify with. When people are not, I listen to the voice as an instrument. So even with lyrics, its the melody or the tune that capture the ear. It's the words that capture the imagination. It's descriptive. But music isn't descriptive. It's aural interpretation. We hear it aurally. So if I don't understand the lyrics,I ll listen to the music instrumentally as a vocal instrument. Do I think it make a difference or how people react to it? I really don't know. I think it's hard because when he sings in English, the annunciation is definitely different, his accent. Does it affect the listener? I don't know. Does it affect me? I think sometimes in a way, but in a way that is very understanding. If I had to speak Chinese, I d have an incredibly hard time and I m sure that if I try to sing in Chinese, that it wouldn't be respectful how people listen to me. I think he's great. He sings good. The Chinese tune I liked! I think it came out good.