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Teaching ‘jazz’ this Academic Year

For this academic year my Route 66 is┬áthe M62 and East of Hull and West of Chester will pinpoint the moon and sun. And if there’s no Detour Ahead I’ll rest midway in Leeds. I’m thrilled to be teaching jazz, popular and even some classical voice students, performance, improvisation classes and a choir at the Universities of Chester, Hull and Leeds this year. All that youthful talent and enthusiasm (and travel) is keeping me busy. It sounds such a cliche but it’s true that your students teach you so much. As much as I’m passing on what I know and have learnt from experience, I’m learning lots – especially new repertoire.

Jazz moves on too. ‘Jazz’ – what I call ‘classic’ jazz – is defined as an American music (styles and repertoires) that culminated in Duke Ellington, Charlie Parker, John Coltrane and Ornette Coleman. But ‘jazz’ also embodies an attitude about creative freedom and exploration – keeping improvisation at the centre of music making. While I’m a child of classic jazz and its bebop roots (it’s as much my mother tongue as any American’s) it is the┬ásecond meaning of jazz that guides me as a singer, musician and teacher living in the north of England in the 21st century. This ‘jazz’ is what I’m attempting to pass on to my students this year whatever the style or genre of music.