A lot of teaching has been going on this month. My philosophy for teaching has been pretty simple over the last few years, as I’ve become more involved in it. Basically, I teach what I myself am interested in, the same things that I am working on musically for my own artistic development and maintenance of musical skills. Since a continuing commitment to refining and redefining fundamentals is so important to my own growth, I think this works out well for both my students and myself. It keeps me very engaged and committed; the better I teach, the more my own playing and musicianship benefits. It’s no wonder that I’ve become increasingly engaged in this most rewarding activity.
I’ve been working especially hard with my NYU students this month getting ready for our performance at the Blue Note this coming Sunday (both my ensembles are playing a set apiece at the brunch gig). I’m really happy with my groups this year; I think these are the best bands I’ve had overall in the five years I’ve been teaching at NYU. Some of these students have been with me for a long time, and it’s been gratifying to see their development; the hard work they’ve put in is paying off. At the same time, the level of the new students coming in has been going up and up; in particular I’ve got some grad students playing in my groups that are ready to take their place in the jazz world. Not that the undergrads are any slouch, though – I’ve got some great players there ready for prime time, too.
We’ve been working on some interesting music, both mine and from the jazz classic book. My “Tuesday” ensemble has been working on some of the very challenging music from my Chamber Music America/Doris Duke commissioned work “Spheres Of Influence”, and I have to tell you, they’re playing this music as good as anyone has ever played it! I’ve had more rehearsal time with these student groups on this difficult music than I ever had with my own larger group (this is five horn music) and the results show. The Tuesday group is also playing some of the original numbers I recorded with Art Blakey (“Byrdflight”, “Chippin’ In”), other numbers associated with the Messengers (Walter Davis Jr.’s “Uranus”), and music from my upcoming Venus release of jazz standards in the Latin bolero style. My “Thursday” band is also very happening; they have worked hard and really have come together as a group. They’re playing my originals, including my perennial favorite “One For Mogie”, dedicated to Lee Morgan, music from my upcoming “Unsung Heroes” recording, and other jazz classics like Horace Silver’s “Yeah!”. Of course, I’ll be playing with both groups.
I do hope some of you all in the NYC area can drop by the club to hear these bands! As an expression of my own music, it’s every bit as satisfying as hearing my own groups.