Thailand International Jazz Camp 2018 with Will Vinson Quintet

This was the second year I attended the Thailand International Jazz Camp. It was a great experience especially with the Will Vinson Quintet sharing their experience playing cutting edge contemporary jazz. Their stories and advice left a great impact to my playing. This post is a collection of my notes from camp that I attended from Jan 22 to 24 2018 at Mahidol University in Salaya, Thailand.
Day 1 Highlights
 
[Workshop 1: Mike Moreno Jazz Guitar Workshop: Beyond Shapes and Myths]
Mike started off the session by asking about what does “Influence” mean to all of us. I started answering the questions and it basically led to Mike explaining that if you say someone is your influence, you should be able to perform at least 30 minutes to an hour of that artist’s music right there and then.
 
Developing your own musical taste is important as this will determine what music you will learn and transcribe. Mike also emphasized the importance of studying music directly from the source, from the great recordings. For him, going to the music store was like going to the library for a writer.
Also, he says you need to learn the songs from the record so that the chord voicings and rhythms you play reflect the vibe of the recording rather than generic barre chord shapes or common guitar chord shapes. He demonstrated this with a solo guitar version of Wayne Shorter’s The Big Push from the album The Soothsayer. He also played Herbie Hancock’s Dolphin Dance as another example of how playing common drop-2 and drop-3 voicings do not do the song justice.

In terms of learning vocabulary, Mike showed how he would practice a line over a turnaround and playing it again and again until it sounded right. Then, he would create variations of it. For him, learning new lines was a daily thing and he would not come back to any previous lines he learned. Instead, learning the lines was just a way to learn how to improvise. He would not memorise any of the lines. The chord progressions that he would study would usually be fragments from songs that he was learning.

Something from the @moremike78 Mike Moreno Workshop today at TIJC 2018. #tijc2018 #mikemoreno #jazzguitar #turnaround #pickupjazz #bebop #jazzimprovisation

A post shared by azsamad (@azsamad) on  

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[Workshop 2: Will Vinson (Sax) Saxophone/Wind Workshop 1: Improvising melodically with good harmony]
 
Will said that learning Donna Lee in 12 keys would be a good thing to do. He emphasized the importance of contrast in soloing. Also, the biggest lesson for me was the idea of space allowing the soloist (and the audience) to hear what just happened. You know the melody is over when you stop.

 
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[Jam Session 1]
I played on All The Things You Are for the first song.
After that, the various bands performed:
It Could Happen To You
Bye Bye Blackbird
Autumn Leaves
The Days of Wine and Roses
(One more song – I’m not sure what it was)
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[Workshop 3: Kevin Hays Piano Workshop 1: Voice Leading]
For this workshop, the main exercise that Kevin demonstrated was to voicelead a Rhythm Changes in C via ascending and descending chromatic notes on the top voice of the chord changes. Kevin regarded the scale as the ground and the chord as a tree growing out of it. He liked using the scale as the source material as it contained all the colours.

 Using voiceleading, Kevin said this would allow your lines to go through the changes rather than over the changes. He paraphrased a quote that said, “don’t let a chord tell you what to play.” For voicings, Kevin also liked to compare it to Sudoku where you would only play one note from the scale each time in the voicing. He felt this was important since a pianist could easily play too many notes and doublings because of the nature of the instrument unlike a guitar that had limitations because of the 6 strings.
Day 2 Highlights
 
[Workshop 4: Band Workshop 1: Listening and performing standard repertoire]
Will Vinson divided standards into:
Standards: songs from the American songbook such as from Jerome Kern, George Gershwin
Jazz Standards: written by jazz musicians such as Herbie Hancock and Wayne Shorter as vehicles to improvise on
 
Somewhere in between were the songs from Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn.
 
To learn songs, they recommended finding a version by a singer such as Ella Fitzgerald or Frank Sinatra because they sing the melodies correctly. It’s important to find a recording you like and learn the song from the version that you like. Drummer Henry Cole noted that it’s important that what we play is easy for everyone – that it supports the band.
 
[Workshop 5: Kevin Hays Piano Workshop 2: Melodic and Inventive Line Playing]
 
Kevin gave a lot of useful exercises in this workshop. Some of the ones that I’m looking forward to work on:
1. Choose a scale, start high and play 8th notes going down with no passing tones (outside of the scale). Do this over a jazz standard or chord progression
2. Pick a phone number, do not repeat any notes, use this a melodic motive for improvisation or composition
3. Rewrite the melody of a song with different notes (same rhythm)
4. Transcribe a singer’s rendition of the melody to understand where to put the notes rhythmically.
 
[Jam Session 2]
 
I didn’t manage to attend this session because I took a lesson with Mike Moreno at this this time.
 
[Workshop 6: Henry Cole On Drums Drum Workshop: The most advanced concept: The Basics]

Henry demonstrated how working on the simplest elements to build your technique, musicality and practice routine will be more useful than simply copying licks and phrases off a YouTube video from your favourite artist. He wanted to show the importance of understanding the basics and using that for developing your practice routine. In the words of Henry, “When you do the homework, you sound like yourself.”
 
Day 3 Highlights
 
[Workshop 7: Rhythm Section (Bass/Drums) Workshop]

 Orlando le Fleming and Henry Cole demonstrated different examples of performing together as a tight and interactive rhythm section. They played a blues together, Thelonious Monk’s Rhythm-a-Ning and a slow seven groove.
 These were some of the main takeaways I got:
1) Create a playlist of song with different swing feels, from Count Basie (swinging 8th notes) to Paul Motion (loose time). This is what Henry Cole did to develop his swing feel.
2) To learn a new style of music, play with musicians that already play that style at a high level. This is one of the great things about being in New York City, having access to those musicians from different cultures and musical traditions. In a situation where you have to play a song in a new style quickly, get a recording of it, learn the tune inside out as best as you can leading to the gig. For Henry, he would memorise the whole tune.
3) Henry viewed music as human relations – it’s about letting go of yourself and adapting to the situation. In whatever situation, you should make the band sound good, even if they’re playing badly relative to your level.
 
[Workshop 8: Band Workshop 2: Original Material]
 
In this workshop, they performed two of Will’s compositions, Thirteen and Willoughby General. You can get a copy of his scores here: https://www.willvinson.com/scores
Main takeaways:
1) Compose for your own playing development. Will Vinson usually finds something that he’s not good at i.e. melody, chords or rhythm. Then, he writes something focusing on that element so that he gets a chance to develop that aspect of his playing.
2) Keep charts to 3 pages maximum and write the roadmap clearly. Always assume that musicians will be sight reading your music when they’re performing. Therefore, a clear chart will make it easier for everyone.
3) Keep band charts updated to the latest version. As you perform with different musicians, the songs may evolve and develop new sections, feels, interludes, hits etc – so make sure to update the chart so that new musicians to the project will be able to play it like your current version as opposed to the old recorded version (if needed).
[Workshop 9: Will Vinson (Sax) Saxophone/Wind Workshop 2: Rhythmic Independence and General Queries (Will Vinson + 1)]
 
Will demonstrated soloing with continuous 8th notes (a bebop type solo) and then showed how he could use space to “frame your ideas”. He emphasized that space allowed you to hear the ideas you just played.
 
For slow tempos, we can feel the tempo by subdividing the time. It’s important to be able to leave space and still know where you are in the form. He played an example of this on the tune “It Could Happen To You”. Another interesting example was him playing a melody and then going into the next phrase too quickly because most people are not confident to leave and respect the space in between the melody phrases.
 
As for exercises, we did variations of singing a melody and clapping on:
1) 2 & 4
2) Just on beat 4
3) Just on beat 2
 
According to Will, time is a very physical thing and therefore we need to be able to get used to clapping on different beats (and not just the standard 2 & 4). This is an example of developing good habits to help make our internal time feel stronger.
 
Here’s a cool round-up video with clips from 2018 jazz camp from the official TIJC Facebook page:

This concludes my take on my experience attending the 3-day Thailand International Jazz Camp 2018. This is my second time attending the camp after attending the conference for the past 3 years. I definitely recommend this as an essential event for jazz students and educators in the region. It’s a great atmosphere with wonderful sessions from world class jazz musicians. Huge congratulations and thanks to the Thailand International Jazz Conference (TIJC) team and to the Will Vinson Quintet for sharing with us their experience and insights. It was epic!

Special thanks to Yin for encouraging me to document this experience via these updates. This is a full version that collects my original FB posts.

Az Samad

Read about:
Thailand International Jazz Camp 2017 with Shai Maestro/Desmond White Group
10 Things I Learned From The Julian Lage TIJC 2017 Workshop
[REVIEW] Thailand International Jazz Conference 2015

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