The Jazz.com Blog
September 08, 2008 · 0 comments
In the old days, a musician’s practice room was like Vegas . . . what happened there, stayed there. Fans were meant to hear the finished performance, and not see all the hard work that went into preparing for it.
Of course, a bit of the practice room regimen might show up in public from time to time. People who saw John Coltrane at a nightclub could sometimes hear him practicing between sets. Practice tapes by Bill Evans, Clifford Brown and others have made their way to the public. But these were exceptions to a general rule that maintained a strict wall between private practice and public performance.
Today the internet has changed all that. YouTube features numerous videos of musicians working behind the scenes, honing their craft. Yet instead of keeping their practice sessions to themselves, they share them with the world on video. Some of these are quite fascinating to watch. Here are a few of my favorites.
My only exposure to Chris Jordan is this impressive YouTube video, which shows him in a practice room playing a note-for-note recreation of Art Tatum’s “Humoresque.” He plays this challenging arrangement with great vigor and accuracy—this pianist is really too good to keep hidden in the practice room. Somebody please let him out!
I don’t even known the full name of the next pianist. Gerry from Canada is learning Chick Corea’s “Matrix,” and is playing along with the CD. All you see on this video are his hands and some of the handwritten transcription spread out in front of him, but he does an uncanny job of matching the original note-for-note. This is one of Corea’s most interesting solos, and learning it in this fashion would be worth more than a few college credits in my imaginary university of jazz.
These play-along videos are pervasive on YouTube, and seem to be accepted among the younger generation of musicians as a way of chronicling their progress. If you want, you can watch someone match a Coltrane solo note-for-note on the bass guitar, or mimic a famous Wes Montgomery solo . Wes seems especially popular with the practice room crowd – and what better role model for a young guitar soloist? This guitarist looks so young that I doubt he even has a driver’s license yet, but he knows enough to play along with Wes.
"Hey, junior, what's goin' on in that room?" "It's alright, Ma, I'm just jammin' with Bags and Wes."
Not all of these practice room videos will find a ready fan base. How big can the audience be for a solo tuba version of “Night and Day”? But the shades look cool, and at last count this video had around 6,000 people who had watched it. That’s a bigger audience than many jazz festival events draw.
But not all of the behind-the-scenes work involves people. Even machines need to woodshed these days. And what could be more impressive than a robot that has learned to play Coltrane’s solo on “Giant Steps.” I thought only factory workers had their jobs replaced by automation. But apparently even jazz players need to watch out nowadays.
The bottom line: the practice room is no longer a hidden refuge. Even the woodshed, these days, comes equipped with audio and video equipment, and the scales you practice this morning could be all over the web before dinnertime tonight. The mystique of the practice room will never be recaptured, but for aspiring jazz players, this ability to take a peek into what the horn player down the street (or across the ocean) is doing, may turn out to be a blessing. Why bother with music lessons when all you really need is YouTube?
This blog entry posted by Ted Gioia.