Reading an article written by Joe Lovano, I came across this:
“Sonny Stitt heard me play once when he came to Cleveland. I was about eighteen or nineteen and I played in a group opposite him at a club called the Smiling Dog Saloon. We played about four or five nights opposite him, and on the third night Sonny came up to talk to me. He was a great teacher and he would always ask you questions. He asked me how many holes were on my horn, not how many keys, but how many holes! I didn’t know, but you can bet I went home and counted them! There are twenty-six holes on my horn counting the bell and neck. I don’t have a high F# key. Right away I’m thinking, why do I need to know that, who cares? What Sonny was doing was stressing the importance of knowing your horn. He also asked me how many C’s I could hit. At the time I could only hit three. I couldn’t hit that altissimo C. He picked up his horn and nailed an altissimo C, then looked me right in the face and put his horn down!” – Lovano
I studied with Vincent Herring from 2010-2012 and one day I asked him about playing the blues. I wanted to discuss different blues forms, harmony and substitutions etc. When I put the question forward, he didn't say anything. He picked up his horn and started playing. After a few minutes he put his horn down, looked at me and said, "Yeh, it's like that." That was it. I was a little disappointed when I left, but in hindsight I got a lot out of that demonstration. Apart from the fact I transcribed what he had played and learned some great blues language, I also learned that perhaps you can't always express these sort of things in words and chords and substitutions. Blues is a feeling, an experience, an expression of ones self. You follow your ear, and it if sounds and feels right, then it is.
Sometimes its better to figure some things out for yourself. We learn deeper that way. Lovano would have been left confused after that experience, however it would have lead him to much exploration and discovery. I bet he went home and became slightly obsessed with knowing the horn and practicing altissimo, meaning he was suddenly looking at the horn in a new way and spending hours on overtones, intonation and throat position. Need I say more.
I know I got a lot out of just reading about it. Thank you Sonny.
I'm busy working on my blog posts. Watch this space!