Improvisation - Virtual Clinic with University of Nebraska Jazz (2/3)

Updated: Apr 29

Yowza! "Call and response" in tempo over Zoom? How's that gonna work exactly... Well, it's a good thing I'm used to improvising. 😳 I'm sure we'll figure out how to make it work in a meaningful way with the young lions of UNO's Jazz Combo program.


Improvisation: building a solo through theme and variation

with University of Nebraska, Omaha, jazz combo class


Same jazz students, different jazz channel

In a repeat performance, so to speak, I've been invited by UNO's Coordinator of Jazz Studies, Pete Madsen, to do a Virtual Clinic with his Jazz Combo class — largely thanks to the generous support of the Nebraska Arts Council, not to mention a good word from my old mentor Antonio J. Garciá.


Many of these students are also members of the Jazz 1 Big Band with whom I met last week, so we'll try our best to build upon that experience and avoid redundancy.

University of Nebraska, Omaha's Jazz 1 streams live on Nov 12th 2020


A solo undertaking

I got to hear a number of these fine musicians do some soloing at their concert which was streamed on YouTube a couple of weeks ago. Though they clearly had digested a number of fundamentals relating to spontaneous composition aka improvisation... I felt some guidance was in order on remaining mindful of the overarching "storyline" of a given solo.


Asynchronous Call & Response

And this is where it gets "interesting" in the virtual world. 😳 Normally I would start off a clinic like this with a literal physical circle to allow for players to practice call & response and theme & variation in turns around the room. Not happening, obviously. So, Pete Madsen and I came up with a hybrid method to get individual to actively practice their listening, copying and transforming ideas to develop a "conversational" approach to constructing their lines.


Have you listened to yourself lately?!

After interacting with each other in these "improvisation conversations" — by the end of the hour, the next challenge was for individuals to attempt a "conversation with themselves" — employing the same tactics to build a more coherent self-referent solo that brings the listener along on a journey with them and their musical ideas. A few brave souls stepped up to the plate, and everyone agreed they did a great job in developing a compelling contour to their quick-n-dirty solos.

" When in doubt? Repeat!! "

Today's participants from UNO's Jazz Combo program
"Great job! I think that worked out very well. Nice job adjusting to the zoom scenario! Great topic for the students and excellent work keeping everyone involved!" - Pete Madsen, Coordinator of Jazz Studies, University of Nebraska, Omaha