MATT MCCARRIN COMPREHENSIBLE JAZZ MASTER CLASSES – ON AHMAD JAMAL HARMONY

INTERVIEWER:

WHY HAVE YOU CHOSEN TO TEACH ABOUT AHMAD JAMAL'S JAZZ PIANO APPROACH?

MCCARRIN:

THE RECORD AHMAD JAMAL "CRYSTAL" WAS ONE OF MY FIRST INFLUENCES IN JAZZ MUSIC.  FROM THE FIRST TIME I HEARD THE RECORD I WAS INSPIRED BY THE PHRASING, SOPHISTICATED TOUCH, AND DYNAMIC ARRANGEMENTS ON THE RECORD.  I FIRST WAS GIVEN THIS RECORD FROM A BANDMATE'S FATHER WHEN I WAS JUST A CHILD.  HONESTLY, IT IS THE RECORD THAT INSPIRED ME TO FOLLOW A CAREER PRACTICE IN JAZZ STUDIES.

INTERVIEWER:

WHY DID YOU DECIDE TO ATTACK THE RECORD RECENTLY FOR A MASTER CLASS IN JAZZ HARMONY?

MCCARRIN:

I FEEL LIKE AHMAD JAMAL IS A SOMEWHAT UNDERRATED ARTIST IN TERMS OF FAMOUS JAZZ PIANISTS.  MOST JAZZ MUSICIANS WHEN YOU ASK THEM ABOUT AHMAD JAMAL THEY SAY HIS MAIN CONTRIBUTION WAS POINCIANA BUT I HAVEN'T HEARD AS MANY FOLLOW UP THAT THEY HAVE HEARD HIS STYLE OF PLAYING ON "CRYSTAL."  SO A LOT OF TIMES WHEN I'M RECORDING OR DOING LIVE TRIO SHOWS I'LL SEND A COPY OF THIS RECORD TO THE TRIO AHEAD OF TIME AND ASK THEM TO OBSERVE THE DYNAMICS BETWEEN THE TRIO.  AS OF LATELY I HAVE BEEN WORKING ON A WIDE VARIETY OF PROJECTS IN DIFFERENT GENRES MANY WORK FOR HIRE, AND I HAVEN'T HAD AS MUCH TIME TO CREATE JAZZ IN THOSE OPPORTUNITIES.  BUT ONE DAY I DECIDED I REALLY WANT TO MAKE TIME TO TACKLE THE VOICINGS THAT AHMAD JAMAL ACTUALLY WAS USING AND ANALYZE HIS HARMONIC APPROACH.  AND SO I DID.

INTERVIEWER:

WHAT SONG BY AHMAD JAMAL DID YOU CHOOSE TO ANALYZE?

MCCARRIN:

CRYSTAL

INTERVIEWER:

HOW LONG DID IT TAKE YOU?

MCCARRIN:

I TOOK THE APPROACH OF USING JUST MY EARS TO ANALYZE IT.  FIRST I LISTENED TO IT OVER AND OVER BECAUSE I WANTED TO KNOW WHAT I REALLY KNEW NOT WHAT I THOUGHT I KNEW. I LISTENED TO IT AND I WANTED TO KNOW IF I COULD HEAR THE CHORD VOICINGS JUST BY LISTENING TO IT. NEEDLESS TO SAY THAT WAS A CHALLENGE AND REQUIRED REPEATED LISTENS. AT THIS POINT IN THE INTERVIEW, I WOULD LIKE LISTENERS TO LISTEN TO THE RECORD THEMSELVES BY EAR AND SEE IF EVEN ADVANCED JAZZ PIANISTS ARE ABLE TO IMMEDIATELY GRASP THE HARMONIC STRUCTURE.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jKzUtABK4ng IF YOU CAN, GOD BLESS, IT TOOK ABOUT 3 WEEKS OF HARD WORK FOR MY MIND TO FULLY UNDERSTAND THE PROGRESSIONS AND BE ABLE TO USE THEM IN DIFFERENT SCENARIOS IN MY OWN PLAYING WITHOUT COMPROMISING THE EXACT PHRASING.

INTERVIEWER:

WHAT WAS YOUR PROCESS OF ANALYZING.

MCCARRIN:

TO REITERATE, I LISTENED TO THE RECORD OVER AND OVER AGAIN.  PLEASE TRY TO DO IT YOURSELF BEFORE YOU GET TO THE DEMONSTRATION, SO YOU CAN APPRECIATE THE PROCESS THAT TOOK PLACE AND THE PASSION AND LOVE FOR THIS RECORD AND STYLE OF TRIO PLAYING.

INTERVIEWER:

WHAT DID YOU DISCOVER IN ANALYSIS OF THE RECORD?

MCCARRIN:

THE FIRST THING I DISCOVERED IS THAT AS OF NOW THERE IS NOT ENOUGH USEFUL ANALYSIS OF AHMAD JAMAL'S APPROACH ON THE INTERNET.  THAT'S WHY I CHOSE TO ANALYZE THIS RECORD IN MY MASTER HARMONY CLASS.  BECAUSE ITS SOMETHING I WANTED TO KNOW ABOUT SO MUCH MYSELF AND IMPLEMENT INTO MY OWN PLAYING.

THE SECOND THING I DISCOVERED WAS VERY INTERESTING.  I LOOKED UP AHMAD JAMAL'S TUTORIALS.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YWTYtUH3tV0 VERY TASTEFUL.  AND I LEARNED FROM WATCHING THIS VIDEO A FEW THINGS.  NUMBER ONE AHMAD JAMAL FOUND IT ESSENTIAL TO BE IN CONTROL OF HIS SOUND, HE ALSO ALWAYS PERFORMS ON A STEINWAY PIANO, SO THE SOUND OF THE PIANO ITSELF IS VERY LUSH.  ANOTHER THING I FOUND INTERESTING WAS HIS MENTION OF HIS STYLE HAVING SHOULD BEEN REFERRED TO AS 20TH CENTURY CLASSICAL MUSIC BECAUSE OF THE MANDATORY CLASSICAL STUDY OF A TIMELINE THAT WOULD LEAD UP TO THESE HARMONIC DEVICES THAT SEEMED TO BE OVERLOOKED BY REFERRING TO THE MUSIC AS JAZZ, THAT'S MY INTERPRETATION OF WHAT HE SAID BUT WATCH THE VIDEO YOURSELF.

THE THIRD THING I LEARNED WAS THERE IS A REALLY AWESOME HARMONIC DEVICE IN THIS SONG, AND ITS VERY SPECIFIC AND I WAS IN FACT ABLE TO IMPLEMENT IT INTO MY OWN PLAYING.  SO I WILL SHARE AN EXAMPLE OF IT OF MY OUTLINED PERFORMANCE OF WHAT WAS BEING PLAYED, WHICH OF COURSE ISN'T EXACT FOR REASONS LIKE I AM ONLY ONE MAN SHOWING THREE DIFFERENT PARTS DRUMS, BASS AND PIANO ON A DIGITAL KEYBOARD, NOT A STEINWAY, AND THE RECORDING IS WITH MY IPHONE.  SO I APOLOGIZE FOR THAT BUT IT IS STILL ENOUGH TO DEMONSTRATE WHAT A BREAK DOWN ANALYSIS OF THE SONG SOUNDS LIKE. 
INTERVIEWER:

SO WHAT IS THE HARMONIC CONCEPT THAT YOU DISCOVERED IS CREATING THIS LUSH PROGRESSION?

MCCARRIN:

OKAY, SO THE SECRET ONE MAJOR SECRET THAT I FOUND IN THIS RECORD, I WILL GIVE YOU A HINT:  THERE ARE A FEW THINGS BUT ONE OF THE MAIN TRANSFERABLE CONCEPTS IS THE USE OF AN AUGMENTED CHORD BUILT ON WHOLE TONES USED AS A PASSING CHORD.  THE BASIC AUGMENTED CHORD IS PLAYED IN THE LEFT HAND AND THE SECOND AUGMENTED CHORD IS PLAYED IN THE RIGHT HAND.  THE SECOND AUGMENTED CHORD STARTS ONE OCTAVE AND ONE FULL STEP ABOVE THE AUGMENTED CHORD IN THE LEFT HAND.  AND THIS IS A VERY UNIQUE TAKE ON A TRITONE SUB.  JAMAL'S PERSPECTIVE ON HARMONY IS THEREFORE HIGHLY ADVANCED WHICH MAKES FOR A NOTABLE OBSERVATION IN MASTER CLASS JAZZ HARMONY ANALYSIS.

INTERVIEWER:

DID YOU WRITE OUT YOUR TRANSCRIPTION?

MCCARRIN:

YES, I WROTE IT OUT AND SEVERAL EXERCISES FOR THE STUDENT TO GET THE UNDERSTANDING OF IT QUICKER THAN TAKING ON THE FULL SONG ALL AT ONCE.  ITS BEEN HELPFUL TO ME I LOVE USING THIS TECHNIQUE WHEN I AM PLAYING NOW AND I THINK IT WILL BE HELPFUL TO STUDENTS THAT ARE REALLY PASSIONATE ABOUT THE COLOR IN JAZZ HARMONY.  

INTERVIEWER:

HOW DO I GET A COPY OF THE LESSON?

MCCARRIN:

FOR NOW I AM KEEPING THE LESSON AND APPROACH EXCLUSIVE UNTIL I CAN APPROPRIATELY COMPILE THEM INTO A BOOK OF LESSONS AND MASTERCLASSES FOR JAZZ PIANO.  BUT IF YOU FILL OUT A FORM ON MY WEBSITE FOR SKYPE OR FACETIME LESSONS ON MY SERVICES TAB ABOVE, I WILL TEACH THE TECHNIQUE AND OTHERS VIA FACETIME OR SKYPE TO ENQUIRING STUDENTS.