BlueJam runs a range of workshops, recording, composing and performance opportunities within its jazz and improvisation programme.
Each session starts with an exercise, looking at a scale, chord sequence, rhythm pattern or song structure.
We work on a couple of tunes – from the swing, latin or fusion repertoire. As we don’t know who will come, we work in a way that encourages players to know what they are doing, and be able to contribute in different ways, rather than just reading from a big band chart.
Basic reading skills are useful, but we work a lot by ear as well so you can develop them as you progress.
Any instrumentalist or singer – we try to get a good mix to create a coherent band, but we are also skilled at making instant arrangements to cope with any combination of players.
You need basic music skills, reading and playing by ear – the rest we all learn together on the job.
Expect playing through tunes, over changes and soloing over the form – plus an explanation of what this means!
Every Thursday 7-9pm during term time at BlueJam Space, Mostyn Hall, Friargate, Penrith CA11 7XR
£7.50 per session payable on the night.
Young adults £4
Get in touch for more details.
Jilly Jarman and Geoff Bartholomew
Geoff is a professional trumpet player and composer.
Jilly is a composer, pianist and vocalist.
…& (eg. “one and”, or “the and of two” etc.) – way of articulating off-beat quavers (when counting in a straight 8’s tune this is a really effective way of emphasising the feel)
AABA – popular song form, often 32 bars. Insert ABBA joke here. See Rhythm changes
Backings – often repetitive figures played behind a soloist, either improvised or composed; in medium to up tempos these should add a sense of urgency, excitement or similar. In ballads these will often be very simple long notes based on chord tones
Band leader – the one doing the shouting
Blues – in jazz, a standard form often 12 bars and moving from chord I to IV in bar 5. The haiku of jazz
Chord tones – the notes of a chord. Often when practising you would limit yourself to simple 7th (I-III-V-VII) chords
Bridge – the B section of the tune
Clang – (univ./conserv.) to name drop (“I hit up Ronnies last night and Wynton called me over to sit in”, “clang”)
Feel – ie. swung or straight, triplets, often also indicating tempo. Might also refer to a particular musician (“it’s an Ornette type fast blues”), band (“kind of an E.S.T. ballad) or any other crypti-cism your band leader might throw out there
Form* – the structure of the tune. Often divided into lettered sections (ie. AABA). Otherwise, a blues. Usually the form refers to the chorus. May be used with regard to verse-chorus structure. Does not usually refer to the macro-organisation of a tune in a performance situation
Free – improvisation with little or no regard to pre-conceived structures (“squeaky gate music”)
Gig – a job (sometimes musical)
Head – the tune! Often signalled by pointing or otherwise gesturing to your own. Can also refer to an alternative melody written over the chord changes of an existing standard (officially – but never colloquially – a “contrafact”)
Head-solos-head – tried and tested (if boring) way of organising a tune for performance.
Jazz musician – someone who drives to the gig to play a £5000 instrument in a £500 car for £50 to 5 people and can only count in base 5 and who has sold 5 assorted fingers and toes to medical science to buy 5 pizzas for 5 children to last them 5 years. But CANNOT play the bridge to Take 5.
Lead sheet – a notated version of a tune with melody, chords and lyrics (if applicable). Often found in real books, often containing mistakes
Medium up – moderately fast (see up)
Metronome – drummer (joke: don’t rely on the drummer for time or money)
Mistakes – unexpectedly fruity notes, spluttering phrases, cracked ceilings – all acceptable and even encouraged in the pursuit of jazz. Poorly transcribed or copied lead sheets, wrongly transposed horn charts – irredeemably bad form
Modal – style of jazz thinking more linearly (scales) than chordally. (ie. So What, Flamenco Sketches, Maiden Voyage)
Real book – a collection of semi-useful (depending on mistakes) lead sheets. There is history around the original Real Book, which no 21st C. jazz musician has time for. Most real books are now brought to the gig on an iPad. Professional musicians will also have an iPad music stand
Standard – a song or tune that has entered the annals of jazz through popularisation. Will have a memorable melody, strong harmonic structure and be a good vehicle for improvisation. Most often refers to compositions from the Great American Songbook but has come to include jazz originals (Dolphin Dance, Song For My Father) as well as contemporary pop and rock tunes (Human Nature, Blackbird)
Straight/straight 8’s – not swung (quavers) ie. Latin, Rock, Fusion etc.
Swing – you can’t describe it accurately but you get as standard it with Basie, Ellington, Waller, Ella et al. American jazz musicians have been known to be scathing about Brits’ ability not to.
Time – pulse (“you got good time”); also when you got to get to the gig
Trad – old (but not good *gasp*) jazz. Particularly with regard to the “revivals” of New Orleans and Dixieland esp. in Britain in 50-60’s and 80’s
Triplets – 3 over 2.
Up – fast (see also medium up) ie. be-bop! (Cherokee, Donna-Lee etc.)
*Examples of forms:
Two types of form are singled out as being at the heart of jazz.
Rhythm changes (AABA, 32 bars) – tunes composed on the harmonic structure of I Got Rhythm (although often omitting the original’s additional 2 bar tag on the last A section – original is 34 bars)
Blues (A, 12 bars) – a jazzy take on the idiom, often includes more chords than the actual ‘Blues’ and more often instrumental rather than vocal
Both of these forms have been endlessly adapted and shaped to musician’s own ends.
Check out these different Rhythms changes tunes: Anthropology, Cottontail, Flinstones, Rhythm-a-ning, Oleo, Lester Leaps In
Blues tunes: Billie’s bounce, Now’s the time, Tenor Madness, Sonnymoon for two, Blues Connotation
We start with a game or warm-up relating to the music we will be looking at.
We sing jazz songs, trade improvised vocal riffs, explore different approaches, take the songs apart and put them back together (sort of) again.
We turn the lights off and improvise freely.
We use movement, percussion, different music systems to understand what we are doing and give us more choices.
We rely on our imaginations and give our vocal skills time to catch up.
The Penrith & Brampton groups meet regularly and have developed a strong connection and heady mix of fun, fear and catharsis. However – we really welcome new people and the energy and new ideas they bring to the group.
Feel free to come and try it out – some people hate it, others get hooked. You don’t have to have a good voice, just a desire to explore what it can do.
A group in Eskdalemuir meets monthly and one in Howick, Northumberland every 6 weeks. More groups planned for Cockermouth and Kendal.
Jilly Jarman is a composer and improvisor.
She works with choirs of all hues around the country using improvisation and jazz as tools for confidence in self-expression and group awareness.
The schools are open to anyone 11-19 who would like to find out about jazz and explore it as a genre or mix elements of it into their own music. Girls and boys equally welcome as singers or instrumentalists.
No experience necessary.
The workshops mix full band sessions where everyone works on an arrangement of a jazz or fusion standard, according to their ability.
Then we split into groups to look at different elements of jazz playing in a group.
There is always time for people to go off in groups and follow their own directions – these are often the best bits!
We have musicians with bands who can play for swing and lindy dance events.
We can also provide dance bands for weddings and events