Ok my petals,

Term has begun, we’ve spent a week or two playing your new favourites, warming up again, starting the new year with a smile, remembering the scales you learnt last year, dusting off the agility exercises you learnt over the course of 2011.

So, I think, by week 3, Term 1, 2012, now, it’s time to start digging in, and opening your heart to a good challenge. Easy is for the weekends, easy is for winter, when you want to rug up with a tea and be warm. But this sweet summer humidity offered up to the east coast of Australia, occasionally split by the downpour from menacing clouds, offers perfect growing weather for brain cells and eggplants, frangipani’s and achieving goals.

Prepare for some Jazz.

Taking the basics of music theory that you have learnt – about the Major scale, the Minor Pentatonic, intervals, chords and vocal exercises and picking up a good faithful, clearly charted Jazz Book. (At the moment my favourite jazz book is ‘The Hal Leonard Real Jazz Standards Fake Book. “C’ Edition, 2nd edition”. Some of the keys are a little outrageous for my female alto range voice – but there’s a way around everything, and it’s a crap load of songs, so you’re sure to find some you feel comfortable with).

Open the book and find a song you know.

Now, the ideas of where to go from here are endless.

But maybe, start with youtubing the hell out of the song. Listen and love as many completely different versions as you can of the song, so that the version in your head either isn’t  a dusty ,difficult and treacherous minefield of angular intervals, more so you have a database of delightful memory recalls; how Etta sings that first note, how Ella moans that second A section, how Louie or Ray or Buble perfectly bumble through the B, how Frank serenades, how Nina exudes, how Diana cruises, or how your local songstress, who none of the rest of us know, brought you to tears that day with the local jazz band at the local market, with all the local puppy’s just sitting around as if magic wasn’t purely whisping it’s way through the street.

Then turn to an instrument and try to find your way through playing the bass notes of the chords written. Find your way through playing the chords as simply as you can, all in root position. Then maybe have a go playing the chords using inversions.  Keep it simple. Smile every now and then. Try to make it have a groove, have something in it that MAKES you tap your feet.

Try playing the melody on the instrument. Be it piano or guitar, or flute or whatever. As painstaking or as easy as it is for you. Now start to combine, here and there, bass notes, chords, inversions, melody, start adding your voice. Finding a comfortable part of your range, letting your tapping foot lead you through.

It’s a challenge, and you may wish to have lessons or youtube study whatever bit is most challenging, there are people who are delighted to help you through. Find someone that smiles. Is patient. And smiles.

Jazz doesn’t have to be a scary, unattainable world. I had a singing teacher once who told me I’d never be good enough to sing jazz. And as young and in awe of her as I was, I actually believed her. Ten years later, still healing my little sweet wounds, I have realised: she didn’t know what jazz was.

Don’t let any fear of learning something new in music scare you away from it.

Be the smiling person at the party of jazz, full of questions and raw enthusiasm. You’ll scare the hell out of bitter peers and probably evoke a smile in the ones who know exactly what it is you’re after.

i know jazz is a lot of different things to me.
jazz is the wedding songs my nanna used to sing in 1946,
jazz is a New Orleans dirge,
jazz is those songs that f****d me up in uni when they handed me a microphone after three singing workshops and told me to solo over the tritone substitutions,
jazz is james taylor singing ‘my romance’ like a folk singer.
jazz is those contemporary, effortless ballads that dont have choruses, like songs by melody gardot, madeline peyroux and norah jones,
jazz is blues,
jazz is funk,
jazz is a solo saxophone in a subway,
jazz is fast and intense,
jazz should always be danced to, somehow.
jazz is from musicals with ladies in pretty dresses,
jazz is jack kerouac, spouting his words over piano finger clicks,
jazz is as much played in a perfectly created acoustic space as it is played in my house.
jazz is an endless relationship
that no one should tell you is out of reach.
i pity the fool.
whats your jazz?
lets take it apart and put it back together so it’s your friend.
we can all do with new friends.