How did I get into jazz?
In my youth, I listened to pop and rock songs. They were nice and simple, and often didn’t have more than 3-4 chords – that was enough for me then. Then one day, I heard “The girl from Ipanema” as sung by Joao Gilberto, and “On green dolphin street” as sung by Singers Unlimited or “On green dolphin street” with Miles Davis and Bill Evans. I immediately fell in love with it! It made me feel like I was floating through the air, hovering above the ground, drifting in the tonality. I still love this feeling…
The first Big band
Then I start to play in one big band, bass in the beginning and then guitar. That was the real school of jazz for me. That full sound of the whole orchestra – screaming trumpets, snoring trombones, soft saxophones, and tough drive of rhythm section. We mostly played Glenn Miller, Count Basie and Duke Ellington repertoire .I remember “In the mood”, “Moonlight serenade”, “String of pearls”, “American patrol”, “On the sunny side of the street”, “Don’t get around much anymore”, “Hello Dolly”, “Honeysuckle rose”, “Begin the beguine”, “I can’t give you anything but love”, “Jersey bounce”, “Shiny stockings”, “It don’t mean a thing if it’s ain’t got that swing”, “Stompin’ at the savoy”, “Tuxedo junction”, … and many others. I’ll never forget our conductor and trombone player, who often was a little drunk but with perfect pitch and memorizing every note, so nobody can play out of tune! Those were the days of playing,touring and friendship.
And that inevitably led me to Jazz standards & Bossa Nova music and still holds me!
How to learn jazz?
First – listen. Then – try to imitate by ear. Finally, grab a book and learn the jazz standards – the melodies, chords, scales and improvisations, substitutions, upper structures… and everything in between.
You can find all those beautiful songs in Jazz Standards books called “Real / Fake books” (Fake books usually don’t have copyright). Both are written in the lead sheet format, with melody, chords and lyrics.
(The term fake books is used to mean books that are printed with only chords and lyrics of standards songs, to avoid copyright infringement.)
And that inevitably leads me to Jazz standards & Bossa Nova music, which still holds my heart today!