|Prior to the recent tribute to Louis Armstrong at the Kennedy Center, three talented musicians from the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra gave instruction to some of DC's leading student musicians. The Howard University Jazz Ensemble, under the direction of Professor Fred Irby III, took part in a one on one Masters Session with tuba/trombonist Wycliffe "Pinecone" Gordon, drummer Herlin Riley and saxophonist Victor Goines.|
Approximately 40 students, mostly freshmen, performed a number of works that showed off their individual talents, as well as their ability to compliment one another playing different instruments. Then they waited as Gordon, Riley and Goines critiqued their routines.
"I always love to work with younger musicians. Offering instruction can be both easy and difficult because much of jazz is improvisation which allows self-expression and is somewhat easy, but we also have to instill the whole lineage of what they are learning as art form, which is difficult. It is up to us as seasoned musicians to teach others that jazz is not just philosophical; you have to perform," said Goines.
"I was so excited to learn that these guys were coming over to offer their input to the Ensemble. This is crucial to great musicians," said Irby. "Whether they play as soloists or in a group, the instruction they get from established performers cannot be underestimated."
As the expert musicians looked on -- sometimes closing their eyes to feel the music -- and listened in, they were able to impart wisdom and mentorship. For Gordon, a Howard U. alumnus and former member of the Jazz Ensemble, taking part in this Masters Session was of special importance.
"These are some extraordinary musicians already. The trick is to get them to learn how to play well against each other because jazz is about evening out and not playing too hard or too softly over or under another musician. They have to be responsible for hitting their marks, but also for listening to the other musicians to make sure that as they improvise, their marks still work and then adapting their sound if need be. That's something I didn't have years ago when I started." said Gordon.
Musicians weren't the only folks on hand for the session. A few would-be musicians and fans alike took time from their classes to sit in.
"I'm not playing this year with the Ensemble. Actually I am working on changing my major over to music, but I came today to listen to these jazz legends give instruction. The fact that they would take time out to do this shows the difference between jazz and any other kind of music in the world. These guys want you to know jazz from the inside out so that in 20 years' time, we are the legendary performers," said Daphne Adler-Sweeney.
So what was the overall analysis of the student performers?
"These are the greats of tomorrow. The young lady on drums was particularly good. I look forward to seeing these guys out there making music and successfully making a way for themselves in the near future," said Riley.
"I have a responsibility to share the information. We all as musicians have a responsibility to share the wealth of our knowledge because you can't take it with you to the grave. That is our good fortune - to be able to pass it on," said Goines.
Later that night, Gordon, Riley and Goines joined the other members of the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra at the Kennedy Center as they performed "100 Years of Armstrong" with Wynton Marsalis, part of a yearlong tribute to Louis Armstrong. Jazz at Lincoln Center is the world's largest not-for-profit arts organization committed to promoting the appreciation and understanding of jazz through performance, education and preservation.