Cellist Okkyung Lee’s Excellent List for Banff

Posted by: Dave Douglas on May 24, 2012 @ 3:24 pm
Filed under: Banff Workshop, Dave Douglas (Artist Thoughts)

Here is a brilliant list created by Okkyung Lee for the Banff Workshop.


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Jazz Workshops in the 21st Century, the New Mentorship Process

Posted by: Dave Douglas on January 17, 2012 @ 6:34 am
Filed under: Banff Workshop, Dave Douglas (Artist Thoughts), Education, Perennials

Every time I see a teaching artist talk about music I learn something new. Every time I look at a contemporary book or blog post explaining creative music work I find something I’ve never seen before. Not that I always agree. Yes, agreement about practicing scales and chords and patterns and rhythms is easy. But it’s in the fundamental conception of the creative process and how to address it that things get interesting. That’s where new jazz workshops around the globe are taking the lead in passing on this tradition in a way that used to be covered by working mentorships and touring.

The conversation in these workshops is often about lineage and tradition, about learning vocabulary and repertoire, how to practice, what to practice. And talk usually returns to the most elusive and perennial theme in jazz and creative music: ‘finding your voice.’ You could say the central question here is: How do I teach you to be you?

Young musicians are coming up better educated and more informed, with more opportunities for exposure to music than ever before. More professional artists are involved in workshopping, and you could say meeting artists in that context is slowly replacing the old mentorship model of touring, recording, and graduating to being a bandleader. Like not or not, the industry no longer provides those kinds of jobs in music. Musicians are learning another way.

I recently ran into Dave Liebman on an airplane and he confirmed this. He’s one of the most engaged artist educators out there. Without hesitation he said that the young musicians he encounters are coming up exposed to all kinds of music and modes of playing. And they have the materials to practice. There are more jazz programs at the high school and university level than there ever were, and the programs I’ve seen have evolved into a cross between a conservatory approach, a creative seminar, and some serious training about getting gigs and doing them well enough to make a career path.

A lot this is provided by independent, non curricular workshops around the globe. I have been fortunate to be involved with the workshop at the Banff Centre for the Arts in Banff, Alberta, Canada for the past 10 years. It’s a three week workshop that takes place in May/June at an arts campus situated in the Canadian Rockies. I stepped into the directorship in the shoes of previous directors Kenny Werner, Hugh Fraser, Steve Coleman, Dave Holland, Oscar Peterson, and Phil Nimmons.

What’s so special about the jazz workshops and why are they so important to musicians in a time of entrenchment in the industry?

First of all, and maybe most important, the thought of getting up every day and looking forward to a full day of music. The idea that you are in an environment where everyone else is doing that, too. The music facilities are waiting for you with minimum preparation or fuss. Food will be prepared and served for you close to the approximate moments you will need it. When the weather cooperates it puts the whole experience over the top.

This describes many of the workshops I have been involved in for the past decade or so. At Banff it’s the snow covered peaks. In Sienna the old part of the town and the Duomo at dusk. In Merano the thermal baths and the river. At Stanford the hills. But it’s most of all the music, and the free time to just be involved in music. All day long: practicing, rehearsing, studying, playing, listening, thinking, not thinking.

It’s a gift. And more and more these days, people and organizations are involved in creating and sustaining these workshops. In some ways, it replaces the old apprentice and mentorship system of jazz in clubs and on the circuit. Where else can musicians share knowledge in such an unfettered atmosphere? Where else can they hang out with practitioners and absorb through osmosis? And where else can audiences be exposed to such fresh interactions and discoveries?

Aside from just guidance, young musicians need to be heard, listened to, and encouraged in their own pursuits. After ten years directing the program at Banff I have started to feel like the best thing I can do is listen and learn from the students, stepping in when my own experience has something of value to add. The level of the students improves every year–they come in better informed all the time, a result of the availability of recordings and teaching methods, more music and jazz in the schools, and the encouragement of interactions with professional musicians.

It feels different than it did even 10 years ago. I think workshopping has a lot to do with that. Localism in music is getting both more focused and more inclusive. That is, musicians bring a part of where they are from and express it proudly. At the same time, the local music they grow up with is more and more exposed to current practice worldwide. The Banff Workshop is particularly international in scope, and one of the wonders is seeing Koreans, Australians, North and South Americans, Europeans, Israelis, and more discovering and learning from each others’ tendencies.

In workshops, there tends to be an urgency. Urgency to play, network, perform, and learn. Maybe it’s because there is limited time and everyone will go their separate ways. Sometimes I wonder if it is because there is no degree coming at the end. It’s like, Man if I don’t work on music here, then what the heck am I doing? And teaching artists in this environment let the younger musicians know that they may never find an environment of inquiry like this again in their professional lives.

Maybe the most profound effect is the exposure to a multiplicity of ideas. Diversity in the creative arts is like a spark in a dry tinder pile. Jazz and creative music workshops I’ve been to tend to welcome different viewpoints and because of this the participants are forced to confront their own feelings about a broad spectrum of music. One of my favorite moments in the workshop last year was when Brandon Ross was describing Henry Threadgill’s compositional system and how it influenced his work. Every single student was rapt, following this fairly radical re-imagining of melody and harmony. Within five minutes everyone was shouting and arguing, personally involved in the meaning of the system and its implications. Bright moments!

Teachers and students have to be partners in the enterprise, something that’s more difficult in a curricular atmosphere. Interestingly, St. John’s College, with two campuses in Annapolis and Santa Fe, uses system that makes teachers teach subjects they have to learn as they go. From The Times:

As much of academia fractures into ever more specific disciplines, this tiny college still expects — in fact, requires — its professors to teach almost every subject, leveraging ignorance as much as expertise… as St. John’s president, Chris Nelson (class of 1970), put it with a smile only slightly sadistic: “Every member of the faculty who comes here gets thrown in the deep end. I think the faculty members, if they were cubbyholed into a specialization, they’d think that they know more than they do. That usually is an impediment to learning. Learning is born of ignorance.”

There are no majors; every student takes the same 16 yearlong courses, which generally feature about 15 students discussing Sophocles or Homer, and the professor acting more as catalyst than connoisseur.

To me that sounds a lot like the workshop approach. Inquisitive, open-minded, participatory.

Teaching, especially in jazz, has to be interactive. The communication only works if the relationship goes both ways. Jazz Workshops I have seen encourage that interaction, where both parties are exploring and learning. In a sense, I feel like that is why workshops have become somewhat of a replication of the mentorship process.

In jazz, you are supposed to be you. How am I going to teach you how to be you if you don’t tell me? And who am I to tell you who you are?

The prevalence of these workshops is a good thing for the music, for the community, and for the long range growth of our increasingly international culture.


Banff Workshop application deadline, January 23rd

Posted by: admin on @ 5:59 am
Filed under: Banff Workshop, Dave Douglas (News), Education

Banff International Workshop
in Jazz and Creative Music
Celebrate a decade of director Dave Douglas

Program dates: May 21, 2012 – June 9, 2012
Application deadline: January 23, 2012

Under the leadership of trumpeter/composer Dave Douglas and his hand-picked group of leading jazz faculty, this unique program leaves the rigid academic environment behind, encouraging creativity and facilitating leaps of artistic innovation. Participants benefit from daily master classes, small ensemble rehearsals, and common sessions with some of the world’s most inspiring jazz musicians.

Club and concert performances, recording sessions, and opportunities to workshop new compositions allow artists to further develop original music in a collaborative and supportive environment.

*Financial assistance is available.

Apply today

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Banff Workshop: Celebrate a decade of director Dave Douglas

Posted by: admin on November 23, 2011 @ 6:13 pm
Filed under: Banff Workshop, Dave Douglas (News), Education

As many around the jazz internet saw yesterday, Vijay Iyer has been announced as the successor to Dave as the director of the Banff International Workshop in Jazz and Creative Music starting in 2013. Details on the Banff Workshop for this, Dave’s last year as director, are below.

Banff International Workshop in Jazz and Creative Music
Celebrate a decade of director Dave Douglas

Program dates: May 21, 2012 – June 9, 2012
Application deadline: January 23, 2012

Under the leadership of trumpeter/composer Dave Douglas and his hand-picked group of leading jazz faculty, this unique program leaves the rigid academic environment behind, encouraging creativity and facilitating leaps of artistic innovation. Participants benefit from daily master classes, small ensemble rehearsals, and common sessions with some of the world’s most inspiring jazz musicians.

Club and concert performances, recording sessions, and opportunities to workshop new compositions allow artists to further develop original music in a collaborative and supportive environment.

Apply today

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Banff Bye Bye

Posted by: Jim Tuerk on June 13, 2011 @ 7:01 am
Filed under: Banff Workshop

Soundcheck for the Final concert of the Banff Workshop in Jazz and Creative Music. Listening to Ben Kreitman.

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Workshop Week The Second.

Posted by: admin on June 6, 2011 @ 7:24 am
Filed under: Banff Workshop, Dave Douglas (Artist Thoughts)

This morning at the Banff Center.

This morning at the Banff Center

Last night’s concert was one of the most diverse we have had: various combinations of Eyvind Kang, viola; Brandon Ross, guitar; Myra Melford, piano; Steve Lehman, saxophone; Anthony Cox, bass; Jerry Granelli, drums; Clarence Penn, drums; myself, trumpet. We were spurred on by the Vancouver Canucks’ victory in game 2 of the Stanley Cup finals, closing with a piece by Don Cherry in their honor.

In the context of the FONT and Vision concerts in New York this week, the sonic explorations felt of a piece with this particularly interesting time to be making music.

Diversity is one of the great strengths of this workshop and the opportunities made available by the Banff Center. Last night’s post-concert jam session was opened by a burning quartet with members from Latvia, Australia, South Korea, and Rochester, New York. The program encompasses a wide swath of communities, instrumentations, lineages, and musical philosophies.

It was a profound week witnessing the visiting artists talk about lineage and practice. Sometimes challenging, even infuriating (Brandon had people shouting in about five minutes), and sometimes confusing, but all ultimately thought-provoking and demanding of concentration, focus and imagination.

Just curious

Brandon Ross talked about the intervallic system of melody and harmony developed by Henry Threadgill, and its impact on his own music. This is not information that is shared widely, and it gave a new insight into how Henry’s music works and what is going on in the performance. Hands-on playing of Brandon’s music shed further light on what can seem a mysterious process.

Brandon Ross' Score for Bullseye

Eyvind Kang gave two classes last week, the first focusing on the basic building blocks of sound, the second an explication of Ornette Coleman’s theory, entitled General Harmolodics. It was the most thorough examination of that concept I’ve ever seen. Really inspiring.

Myra Melford spoke about and demonstrated a number of strategies for large group improvisation pieces, including systems by Butch Morris, Fred Frith, John Zorn and group interactions of her own devising. Myra ended up giving multiple late night sessions with this material, as well as working with pianists and coaching ensembles in her small group work.

Steve Lehman talked about directionality in music from the standpoint of fully developing one’s materials. The talk encompassed his inspiration from Spectralism as well as some specific applications to rhythm in his work. Steve also played some of his pieces, and in the concert last he night played an incredible rhythmic re-arrangement of Benny Golson’s Stablemates in duo with Clarence Penn.

Anthony Cox gave a class on the current career environment, starting from Chris Anderson’s The Long Tail and leading into a free-wheeling discussion of new music strategies. Anthony also coached a remarkable ensemble that, in the course of four rehearsals, created an entire set of original through-composed music from scratch. Lyrics and everything. Their set in the club was one of the week’s highlights for me.

Jerry Granelli and Clarence Penn both worked intensively with drummers and rhythm players. In addition, Jerry gave morning meditation classes, speaking from his 40 year engagement with Buddhism. Mindfulness practice also inhabited his musical coaching in a powerful way. Despite the late hours musicians always seem to keep, Jerry’s early sessions were well-attended daily.

My own involvement, aside from just keeping the whole thing running, was with singing more Bach, playing more Monk, listening to more Ellington, and reading through new charts of the Quartet music I wrote in the 90s for Chris Potter, James Genus, Ben Perowsky and myself. The charts are almost complete, and Greenleaf will be publishing a set of 20 tunes in the coming months. Other ensembles have been playing music from Charms of the Night Sky, Witness, and Soul on Soul, and some of those charts will be ready for publishing later this year.

There are 65 participants here, and they are all helping me (they may not know it, but now it’s on my blog) prepare for the upcoming Clearwater Fest, Solid Sound, Berlin Sounds No Walls, JazzBaltica, and Tea for 3 performances. All of these musicians exhibit such openness and curiosity–it’s infectious. Likewise their ability to push past exhaustion into the next musical adventure is simply inspiring.

TD Fellows with Dave

It’s a gift to be here on this beautiful Sunday, and with one week to go (Kneebody arrives today) we’re enjoying the warm weather and clear skies here in Banff National Park.

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The Skies Open — Banff 2011

Posted by: admin on May 29, 2011 @ 10:46 am
Filed under: Banff Workshop, Dave Douglas (Artist Thoughts)

My God, it’s beautiful up here today.

After a week of rain and snow, the skies opened this morning and the sunshine is dazzling on the snow covered peaks. It’s a good day for a run. A few of us plan to run up Sulfur Mountain (update: in Canada they spell it Sulphur. Go figure.), an elevation change of about 2200 feet (update: it was more like 3000 feet of climb).

Last night’s concert was also a high. The faculty this week, in addition to myself, was Donny McCaslin, Robin Eubanks, Anthony Wilson, Geoff Keezer, Matt Brewer, and Clarence Penn. Everyone brought tunes and the chemistry really clicked. The first half, with two participant groups, was also elevated: from Australia, The Vampires; from South Korea, the Ungwon Han Trio. Both groups played with joy, passion and drive.

Every year the focus of the Banff Jazz and Creative Music program changes, based on the particular interests of the new faculty, but also on subtle changes in way music is played and perceived. These changes develop over time. The curriculum here, if there is one, is to deal with the individual musicians in the moment, and what these young musicians play and how they hear is constantly evolving.

A lot of the learning here goes on in simply playing. New discoveries arise in both students and teachers in the wordless exchange. When Robin Eubanks talked about breaking through one door only to find seven more to be explored, it was a universal reminder that learning never ends. Geoff Keezer talked about looking to the music of the masters in order to find meaning in your own way. Even when you encounter ideas developed by McCoy Tyner, Herbie Hancock, Chick Corea, Keith Jarrett, or Ahmad Jamal, these ideas are new for you. The goal is to take the lessons of that music and apply them to your own circumstances. That goal changes from year to year based on all the new sounds we hear coming out of young musicians around the world.

Anthony Wilson talked about and practiced “accurately transcribing the music inside yourself that is already complete.” The Composers Workshop yielded almost sixty new pieces that we will continue to refine in the coming weeks.

Donny McCaslin spoke on and demonstrated using melodic and rhythmic motives to create your own material, and how to practice it. Matt Brewer examined the idea of using unusual rhythm and finding parallels in traditional music as well as looking for the danceable factor in any rhythms we encounter. Clarence Penn talked about how to apply all of this to the real world of rehearsals, rent, and trains, boats, and planes. We also hosted Steve Bellamy of Humber College, who was here with the Audio department. Steve started with the most basic components of acoustics and sound, and continued into the latest recording technology.

Participants also created four nights of music in the club, as well as constant jam sessions. As instrumentalists, we all agree that the level gets gradually better every year. Maybe it’s the growth of jazz education programs, maybe it’s that they are standing on the shoulders of giants. But they come armed with new inspirations, new desires and whims, new questions about how to make music better and richer.

If I obsess about Thelonious Monk it’s because I feel there is an enduring value in his music that is relevant to musicians today, no matter the shifting tides of technology and fashion. I likewise harp on part writing and voice leading because the power of Bach applies to the nuts and bolts in everyone’s music, now just as in the past.

In any case a new faculty crew arrives today: Eyvind Kang, Steve Lehman, Brandon Ross, Myra Melford, Anthony Cox, Jerry Granelli, and Clarence Penn who stays for another week of percussion intensive. We’ll see where the new trails lead.

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Music in the Rockies

Posted by: admin on May 11, 2011 @ 7:49 am
Filed under: Banff Workshop, Dave Douglas (News), Uncategorized

The annual pilgrimage to Banff begins in a couple weeks. Here is this year’s cast of visiting artists:

Week One:
Donny McCaslin
Robin Eubanks
Geoff Keezer
Anthony Wilson
Matt Brewer
Clarence Penn
Dave Douglas

Week Two:
Steve Lehman
Eyvind Kang
Myra Melford
Brandon Ross
Anthony Cox
Jerry Granelli
Clarence Penn
Dave Douglas

Week Three:
Shane Endsley
Ben Wendl
Adam Benjamin
Kaveh Rastegar
Nate Wood
Dave Douglas

This will likely be my final foray into the elk infested forests of the Bow River Valley. Looking forward!

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two thousand ten.

Posted by: Dave Douglas on December 23, 2010 @ 9:46 am
Filed under: Banff Workshop, Brass Ecstasy, Dave Douglas (Artist Thoughts), Greenleaf Music News, Perennials, Spark Of Being

Two thousand ten.

Charles Wuorinen meets Warren Smith backstage at Abrons Art Center and they realize they had worked together fifty years earlier. Festival of New Trumpet Music presents the double bill of Wuorinen brass music and Ornette Coleman works performed by Wilmer Wise and the Pulse Composers Collective.

Keystone at CCRMA

Took over the Center for Computer Research in Music and Acoustics for a week with Marcus Strickland, Adam Benjamin, DJ Olive, Brad Jones, Gene Lake and Geoff Countryman. Outfitted the room to record Spark of Being. (photo by Jason Chuang)

Residency at Zankel Hall with 11 incredibly talented young musicians who created their own book of music in a week.

Reconnecting with Jim McNeely, who taught me at NYU and is still teaching me today. Stanford Jazz Orchestra played big band works which continue to evolve.

Brass Ecstasy, Portland Jazz Festival

Brass Ecstasy reunites after making Spirit Moves. Portland Jazz Festival in McMenamin’s Crystal Ballroom. Plus a special recording for Basque accordionist Kepa Junkera, the familiar Basque standard Boga Boga. Exquisitely sung by the remarkable vocalist Sunny Kim.

Amsterdam Conservatorio hosts a competition for bands out of the conservatories at London, Trondheim, Paris, Copenhagen and Berlin. Heard some amazing stuff from these folks.

The One Low Point of the Year: Trapped by a Volcano. However, made it back just in time for the Stanford premiere of Spark Of Being.


Banff Workshop. My weakness. I love going there and being at the workshop. Big debts to those who join me. Faculty: Clarence Penn – drums, Matt Brewer – bass, Donny McCaslin – saxophone, Jeff Parker – guitar, Roberto Rodriguez – piano, Myra Melford – piano, Ben Monder – guitar, Darcy James Argue – composer, Michael Bates – bass, Gerald Cleaver – drums, Matana Roberts – saxophone, Ravi Coltrane – saxophone, Drew Gress – bass, David Gilmore – guitar, E.J. Strickland – drums, Mary Halvorson – guitar, Giorgio Magnanensi – composer, Hank Roberts – cello.

Suoni delle Dolomiti. Once again climbed a mountain. Trio Sentiero for trumpet, banjo, and cello with Noam Pikelny and Hank Roberts.

Dave Douglas Sketchl

Spent a few days in Merano, Italy with Franco D’Andrea. Photo by amazing composer trombonist Adrian Mears.

Dave Douglas Big Band, Hollywood Bowl

To share the Hollywood Bowl stage with Dave Holland and Count Basie. Robby Marshall, Jim McNeely and the LA Band. It was a blast.

Dave Douglas, Paolo Fresu, Enrico Rava

Grateful to Paolo Fresu for inviting me to Nuoro and allowing me to arrange music for he and Enrico Rava. Paolo is a superstar. Trying going shopping with him anywhere in Sardinia. We had a lot of coffee and conversation. He is recognized everywhere, and rightfully so !

Another special meeting with quarter tone trumpeter extraordinaire Ibrahim Maalouf. When he invited me to play with him in Paris i had no idea what it was going to be. And afterwards I still have no idea what that was! Amazing set of music and expansive vision. May we meet again.

Keystone, Walker Art Center

Walker Center and MacPhail Workshop / Dakota Ensemble. First of all it was a high to hear Adam Linz’ leadership and Mingus focus come through the young musicians assembled there. Second of all, but no less thrilling, was to play in the new theater at the Walker. And to return to Spark after a few summer performances. Spark twelve times in Europe.

Travis Sullivan invited me to play with the Bjorkestra in which I heard all the great musicians assembled there, plus a welcome return to the Manzoni.

Continued compositions for big band, and getting to hear them played by the Jazz Knights at West Point.
Greenleaf Logo New
Two thousand eleven.

Greenleaf Music will go through a complete overhaul, including a new mobile site, a mobile app, and a new streaming system. Several recordings are underway that will be released in the new regime. Visit again soon for more details.

May you have an enjoyable year end.


Banff: Call for Applications

Posted by: admin on November 18, 2010 @ 8:58 am
Filed under: Banff Workshop, Dave Douglas (News), Education
Banff International Workshop

Banff International Workshop in Jazz and Creative Music
Program dates: May 23, 2011 – June 11, 2011
Application deadline: January 14, 2011

Under the leadership of trumpeter/composer Dave Douglas and his hand-picked group of leading jazz faculty, this unique program leaves the rigid academic environment behind, encouraging creativity and facilitating leaps of artistic innovation. Participants benefit from daily master classes, small ensemble rehearsals, and common sessions with some of the world’s most inspiring jazz musicians. Club and concert performances, recording sessions, and opportunities to workshop new compositions allow artists to further develop original music in a collaborative and supportive environment.

More information ›››

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