Tuesday, April 25, 2006

just another brick in the wall

Armen Nalbandian responds to the Charlie Parker/Jazz education debate and gives some personal background that illuminates his point of view:

"When I was in high school and the beginnings of my college career, as I sought out to learn Jazz directly from the masters like Horace Silver, many things that I encountered that now seem horribly bizarre to me now, I’m sure is consistent to the norm in Jazz “education” circles now. In my time, never did any big band I played in play a composition by a black musician. NEVER! Never did any of my band directors suggest listening to jazz recordings as a way to learn jazz. Never did any of my Jazz instructors encourage me to seek out live performances. Never were any of the following names even mentioned in any Jazz class I attended, “Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, Bud Powell, Thelonious Monk, Ornette Coleman.” I am not kidding. Almost every song played by all of the big bands I was in was written by Jazz educators, the exception were written by Pat Metheny."

Ouch. Goes against everything I've ever heard or read about learning about jazz (as a musician or listener) and, not to mention, common sense. I've only attended low-level, neighbourhood music schools and piano teachers, but I assumed the total disconnect between what's taught there and the "real music world" isn't as strong at higher levels.

Stanley Crouch's Jackie Mclean obituary contains some Mclean quotes that relate to this issue. They can be related to Belinda Reynolds's discussion of the difference between training and teaching:

"From these definitions, "training" seems to be an action directed towards having a student master a certain action. Whereas "teaching" is creating an environment that enables a student to not only learn certain skills but which also allows a student to learn how to actively explore and master ideas and skills on his or her own."

Charlie Parker didn't train McLean in anything, but certainly taught him a lot.