Oliver Nelson was once asked what someone could do to become a good player.   He replied: "Learn your scales".   I was told about this 35 years ago and it's stuck with me.   So, this section is devoted to other tips that top players would be willing to pass on to others.

Maria Schneider   Mike and Kate Westbrook    Tim Richards     David Liebman   
Mark Nightingale     Szakcsi Lakatos Béla    Iain Ballamy

MARIA SCHNEIDER   is to my mind the foremost jazz arranger around today. I wrote to her after her highly-acclaimed Sky Blue CD was released, asking how the band coped with the difficult passages. This is what she replied:

once everyone knows their place and vibe... once they can hear the totality, and then listen and contribute... then the magic happens. It's the same with the more regular sections of the music too, but the difference between the two extremes is less obvious... but the magic is always dependent on people hearing the music... knowing it well enough that they're listening, and then adding themselves. Everyone has to reach that point with the music for that to happen. That's where the goosebumps are. It's a journey... every time.

You can order her CD's at her website

MIKE and KATE WESTBROOK  have supplied this quote for their recent album ART WOLF:

Art Wolf names the twin demons Hope and Stubbornness. The twin demons play and create.

The latest in a series of collaborations between composer Mike Westbrook and librettist Kate Westbrook, ART WOLF is inspired by the life and work of the Swiss Alpine painter Caspar Wolf (1735-1783) whose very signature was the image of the wolf. Through improvisation, text and formal composition, this powerful new work revolves around the role of the Artist, the "Art Wolf", and the nature of creativity.

TIM RICHARDS   offers this advice:

Be true to yourself!  The music colleges are full of up and coming jazz musicians playing in the currently fashionable style.  Remember that playing music should be about communicating a feeling to your audience - it is not necessarily about playing a lot of notes!   I often find jazz musicians too eager to show off their technique or play intellectual games, like inserting a chord substitution in every bar, or superimposing obscure rhythmic patterns over the groove that only other jazz musicians can follow.

Try to develop a more personal style by selecting your influences according to your own taste, rather than playing what you've been told.  Transcribe solos as often as you can and listen to as wide a range of music as possible, remaining open to other styles and periods.  Avoid the contemptuous attitude unfortunately adopted by many jazz musicians towards simpler or non-jazz music.   Every type of music has good and bad elements - just because it's jazz doesn't make it good!

Tim Richards has been at the forefront of British jazz since the late 1970's with his trio, his acclaimed quartet, Spirit Level, and his current 9-piece band, Great Spirit.  Great Spirit's second CD - EPISTROPHY - was released recently.   He is also involved with jazz education and has written IMPROVISING BLUES PIANO and EXPLORING JAZZ PIANO.  Further details on his website which you can reach here.

DAVID LIEBMAN  has kindly sent this contribution:

As a performer always try to put yourself in the audience (that is as a serious listener of course since there's not much we can do with a person who is listening to be "entertained").

What the listener hears is sound and expression followed by rhythm and form.   So one should have an expressive and personal, hopefully identifiable tone along with a wide variety of nuances on their instrument (technical matters), a time feel appropriate for the idiom (in jazz, swinging eighth notes), and a good beginning and ending to the story line of the improvisation or piece.   Don't forget the story!!

David Liebman played with Miles Davis from 1973-74, and has also played with Elvin Jones, Chick Corea, John McLaughlin and many other top names.    He has been featured on nearly 300 recordings, including nearly 100 as leader or co-leader.    Well over 200 of his compositions have been recorded.    He is the Artistic Director of the IASJ (International Association of Schools of Jazz) and taught at universities and jazz clinics throughout the world.    Click here to go to his website.

MARK NIGHTINGALE   gives this very worthwhile analogy:

I was once told that to become a really good trombonist you need to keep all facets of your playing up to scratch.    Think of it as equating to a circus plate-spinning act, where each plate is an aspect of your playing.     First you get a few plates spinning on their sticks (such as sound, production, lip-flexibility, scales), but then as you add more plates (tonguing, legato-playing, range or whatever) you will need to keep going back to touch-up the plates you already have spinning.    Eventually you will have a multitude of plates that all need a little attention now and then.    If, however, you neglect an area of your playing for too long the plate will fall off!

Mark Nightingage was lead trombone player with the National Youth Jazz Orchestra (NYJO) before forming his 5-trombone group, Bone Structure.   He has appeared at many jazz festivals with people such as Carl Fontana, Urbie Green and Slide Hampton and played with Kenny Wheeler, Frank Sinatra, Cleo Lane, the Royal Philharmonic orchestra, Sting, and many others.    He is regarded as "one of the finest trombonists in Europe".    He has also written many originals and big band arrangements, and several books on trombone studies.    To hear some terrific samples of his playing, click here.

SZAKCSI LAKATOS BÉLA - The Society of Hungarian Jazz Artists has sent this information about this outstanding pianist and composer, who is highly-rated by Chick Corea.

I deal with all kinds of music - that is why I think of myself as a musician of the 21st century.
The Szakcsi Lakatos Trio    (The link to the CD Na Daro seems to have disappeared, so here is another recording of his.) He continues: This is a milestone in my career because I have found my own voice now.

Regarding my approach, I have managed to move away from American jazz and view it from a distance. Anyway, in this album I had the intention of combining the above-mentioned musical genres and to create something new at the same time.

Sadly he died in 2022

Szakcsi Lakatos Béla has played with Art Farmer, Dave Weckl, Jack Dejohnette, John Patitucci, Jay Leonhart, Frank Zappa, Teri Lyne Carrington and many others.   

IAIN BALLAMY  has provided this very useful comment

Until you start to write your own material you will never truly feel you have beheld your own voice and place in music.

Music can be an ever-expanding marvel with the right attitude but we are dependent on the support and understanding of our fellow humans, regardless of whether they consider themselves "musicians" or not!

Iain Ballamy has played alongside such people as Hermeto Pascoal, Gil Evans, George Coleman, Dewey Redman, Mike Gibbs and the New York Composers Orchestra.    He has also had a long collaboration with Django Bates and Bill Bruford and has forged strong working relationships with renowned musicians from Hungary, Norway, Spain, Sudan, Brazil and beyond. To order his latest CD's click here .

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