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The Guelph Jazz Workshop 2012

In the 1950s and 1960s, legendary jazz bassist and composer Charles Mingus ran a group that he called “Jazz Workshop” in New York City. Under Mingus’s direction, some of the best musicians of the day – Pepper Adams, Jaki Byard, Booker Ervin, John Handy, Jimmy Knepper, and many others – came together to form one of the most exciting improvising ensembles in the history of jazz music.

In August 2012, we’ll be bringing the Jazz Workshop model to Guelph. This group will bring together musicians of all ages and levels of experience: local and international professionals will play side by side with high school students, university students, and members of the community. Together, we’ll explore new and innovative approaches to creating jazz music, exploring the inner traditions and the outer limits of the idiom: we’ll compose, we’ll arrange, we’ll, we’ll rehearse, we’ll perform, and we’ll improvise.

We’ll also be asking some big questions about the use and value of improvisation in teaching and learning music. We’ll be contributing to the improvisation and pedagogy section of the Improvisation, Community, and Social Practice research project. In this context, we’ll be examining how improvisation impacts how we listen to and think about music, we’ll talk about how process-oriented improvisation relates to other kinds of music-making at school, at home, and in the community, and we’ll brainstorm ways to more effectively integrate improvisation into general music curricula in high schools and universities.

The Guelph Jazz Workshop will run for two weeks, from August 20 to 31, at the University of Guelph campus. During that time we will have daily sessions dedicated to creating and rehearsing music. Each day of the first week (August 20-24, 1-4pm) will focus on a different framework for music making: “thriving from a riff” (riff-based ensemble improvisation), composition, sound painting, conduction, graphic scores, and free playing. During the second week (August 27-31, 7-9pm), we’ll rehearse the music we developed in the first week. After a final rehearsal at 7-9pm on Friday, September 7, the Workshop will culminate in a performance at the Guelph Jazz Festival on Saturday, September 8 at the main tent.

Directed by Improvisation, Community, and Social Practice Postdoctoral Fellow Mark Laver, the Workshop will feature appearances by some of the leading jazz musicians and improvisers in North America: Scott Thomson (ICASP Improviser-in-Residence), Susanna Hood (ICASP Improviser-in-Residence) Joe Sorbara (director, University of Guelph Contemporary Music Ensemble), Brent Rowan (director, Guelph Youth Jazz Ensemble), Daniel Kruger (ICASP Research Assistant), and some other faculty of the 2012 ICASP Summer Institute.

The fee for Workshop registration is $75. Registration will be open until Friday, August 10, 2012, but space is limited, so get your name in early! For more information or to register, please contact Mark Laver at improv@uoguelph.ca. Click here to download the registration form.

Improvisation is a human right

– Muhal Richard Abrams