Whatever style of saxophone playing you’re into, understanding how jazz works will help you to become a better saxophone player.
And that’s because the basic mechanics of how jazz works, – like melody, harmony, and improvising – can be applied to every other style of playing that you could imagine. From pop, to blues, to ska, to gospel, to any sort of commercial style of music you play on saxophone, understanding how jazz works will help you.
And that’s the reason why inside Sax School, over the past few months, we’ve been doing a very exciting series of masterclasses called “How Jazz Works”. And today, I want to give you a quick peek behind the curtain at the latest instalment in this amazing series of masterclasses with the help of one of my tutors, Joel Purnell.
Introducing Joel Purnell
Joel is an amazing jazz educator and he has been presenting this series of masterclasses to our members. Joel recently joined our Accelerator Tutor Team in Sax School.
Now, Joel looks like an unassuming kind of guy. But he’s a blistering player. He has been teaching jazz at the prestigious Leeds Conservatorium of Music here in the UK for like the last 20 years. And he knows a thing or two about jazz!
Joel has broken down these really important concepts into really simple, easy-to-digest steps for all of our members. So we’ve been digging in and learning loads about how jazz works.
We’ve made this whole series of masterclasses for our members. You’ll also be able to explore our whole library of over a thousand other saxophone lessons and courses too.
About the How Jazz Works Masterclass Series
Joel: This is the third in a series of masterclasses on how jazz works. So far we’ve looked at how rhythm works in jazz. We’ve also looked at how to build strong melodies. And we’ve compared different types of music and the commonalities between them – and how it all works as the name suggests!
So you can see there is absolutely tons packed into this masterclass series. Even the rest of the tutor team was blown away by how much was packed in – . and we were learning stuff too! Here’s a little snippet from the latest masterclass.
A Masterclass Snippet
Joel: In this masterclass, we’re going to look at some secrets of the Bop players. By analysing some things that they said in various interviews, putting it all together, and coming up with a method that meant they played melodically, but simply over standard changes.
So what was Stan Getz talking about? So if we look at the chords of ‘Days of Wine & Roses’, we can identify these keynotes which are throughout the piece. It tells us a lot about exactly what sounds we need to focus on while improvising over these chords.
Learning from Classic Players
That was a cool part in this master class where Joel was talking about a lot of the classic players that we listen to and love and have learned from on their recordings. Players like Stan Getz, or even going back earlier than that like Coleman Hawkins, Ben Webster, or Charlie Parker.
He was talking about the way that these players they approached improvising, and how it’s quite different to the way we teach jazz in institutions, such as the Conservatorium here in Leeds where Joel teaches, in the UK. And so Joel was breaking down how these older guys looked at improvising, because there’s a really cool secret in there that you can use for making a shortcut to improvising in your own playing.
So that’s kind of what Joel talks about, and he goes into loads of depth in the actual masterclass. But this is just a little snippet.
I’ll stop interrupting. Let’s get back to it.
Joel: Remember, backing tracks are a relatively new thing. And the great masters of jazz probably did a lot of practice without backing tracks because they didn’t have them. So it’s a great thing for us to practice too. We can play some chord tones to establish the sound in our head, and then just maybe explore the sound before moving to the next set of chord tones. It’s a great exercise and it takes away the pressure that the tempo gives you.
Watch as Joel demonstrates this exercise (5:40)
So that’s just a quick little teaser from part three in this series on how jazz works. In that particular session, Joel explores that secret system that he talked about. I loved it because it was so simple. And for a lot of our members who are just starting with improvising, it was something that they could apply to their improvising to quickly get some results. It also it also helps them to understand harmony better, which I think is one of the things that we all struggle with.
Because once we understand the harmony, it then helps us to be able to move in time with a backing track, to keep everything together. It helps us to create melodies that work and that we’re proud of, because we make sensible choices with our melody lines. That’s really what this session is all about. And at the end of that process, you get to do something a bit like what Joel was playing.
How Jazz Works – Putting it All Together
Now, this is part 3 in the series. We’ve got part 4 coming up soon. In parts 1 and 2, Joel was digging into really basic concepts about melody and rhythm. And I think when you join 1 and 2, and then this third session together, you start to get a strong understanding of the basic mechanics of how jazz works. And that’s what I was talking about right back at the start.
Now we’ve got part 4 coming soon and part 5 as well, when we’re really digging into some more advanced concepts. And in the fifth session, we’re pulling everything together to give you some really useful tactical things to help with your improvising.
So I hope you enjoyed this little peek behind the scenes at this series from Joel. This is just one of the series. We’ve got loads of stuff like this going on in the Sax School. If you’d like to check it out and see if it’s for you, then Start today with Sax School!