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Jazz Conception by Jim Snidero

Jazz education is a burgeoning field these days, with multiple university jazz programs and a great many method books on the market. In spite of this embarrassment of riches, teaching improvisation is still a hit-or-miss affair. One only has to hear the average high-school or college jazz ensemble to confirm this. Reading the parts is one thing-that can be taught, but good improvising still seems to be largely a matter of innate talent on the part of the best students.

Legendary trumpeter Clark Terry is fond of advising students to "emulate, assimilate, and then innovate." If this approach is effective it means that jazz is close to achieving the status of a classical tradition. To be so, however, requires that it can be transmitted in its entirety from one generation to another. We are still a little ways from achieving that in jazz education, in my opinion.

Jim Snideros Jazz Conception series is a fresh approach to jazz education that helps to bridge this gap. Snidero is an accomplished saxophonist and occasional flutist who has worked with some of the greatest names in jazz from the Mingus Big Band to the Toshiko Akiyoshi/Lew Tabackin Jazz Orchestra and has issued several CDs under his own name. He is also an experienced educator and a Selmer clinician and he has applied all of this experience in developing this series.

Many students cling to notation and are afraid to branch out into spontaneous expression. Transcriptions of solos help to some degreeƻone should be able to learn a lot about bebop by playing Charlie Parker solos just as J.S. Bach learned about Italian music by copying Vivaldi's scores. Many transcriptions are pretty advanced however but Snidero's method provides a bridge to this level of performance. He has written 21 solo ?tudes based on the chord changes to several standards and the blues which are presented in the various keys required for concert Bb and Eb instruments. He has then provided a recording of the ?tudes performed by leading jazz artists. The volume that I examined was for flute and the accompanying CD was by flute veteran Frank Wess with a rhythm section of Mike LeDonne on piano bass and Kenny Washington on drums. The student can play in unison with the flute part to get the phrasing just right then turn off that channel and repeat the ?tudes with just the rhythm section. An easier level volume finds the same rhythm section with Snidero himself providing the flute parts and an intermediate volume will soon be added to the series. Similar volumes are provided for trumpet trombone tenor sax alto/baritone sax clarinet piano guitar and bass not to mention volumes for five-piece sax section piano comping bass lines drum parts and vocals. The study guide breaks down each ?tude to it's essential elements including guide tones blues riffs delayed/anticipated resolutions etc... so that hopefully the student can understand why the phrases work and use these concepts to create their own solos.

These volumes have been prepared with the same meticulous attention to detail that characterize Snidero's own playing and writing. (See my review of his latest recording Close Up.) Copies are available from jazzbooks.com (although it requires some navigation through the site to get to it-a search on "Snidero" got me there.) I continue to enjoy playing the flute ?tudes and I think both students and teachers will find them of great value.

Additional Info

  • Book Title: Jazz Conception
  • Author: Jim Snidero
  • Publisher: Advance Music
  • Year Published: 1996-2005
  • Book Type:: Musical Instruction
  • ISBN: none
  • Rating: Four Stars
  • Number of Pages: 48
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