Wednesday March 04, 2015
Joe Lovano at Humber College: Brass is now in session
By: Peter Goddard
Jazz always went to school before it went out to play.
Miles Davis studied in 1944 at the elite Juilliard School in New York. Others before him — back to clarinetist Barney Bigard in the 1920s — played by some sort of school rules.
Sure, this goes against the notion we have of the suffering, isolated jazz genius with years on the road, which makes for better books and movies. Think of Jamie Foxx’s portrayal of Ray Charles in Ray. But think also of Whiplash, the exhilarating film that won J.K. Simmons an Oscar last month for his fiery portrayal of a jazz instructor.
Jazz school is still cool, as Toronto’s Humber College demonstrates. Having Joe Lovano, the legendary American jazz saxophonist, as the college’s artist-in-residence this week allows Humber’s multi-tasking jazz program to connect with the music’s emotive past. Lovano’s cavernous, soulful sax sound comes straight from ’40s bebop.
“It’s like hearing the history of the horn when he plays,” says Andrew Scott, acting director of Humber’s jazz program, whose courses include the business and marketing of music, as well as its history.
Lovano, who teaches at Berklee College of Music in Boston, sees little difference in being schooled in jazz school, rather than in clubs.
“As a musician you have to deal with your instrument and for generations there have been different ways of going to school to do it,” he says on the phone from his home near West Point, N.Y. “It’s still all about hand-me-down traditions,” which exist “when you are going to a school with people who have handed down the art form.”
At Humber that includes a good number of its 100 full- and part-time staff, who double as working musicians for the 350-odd music students.
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