Monday, January 24, 2022

The FORM guys, the Form!

 The year was 1983. I was a (self-appointed) hot shot going to St. FX U in Nova Scotia, and I was attending a summer Jazz camp. Many great guest artists were there to teach, but none more anticipated than Saxophone master David Liebman. Now, to be honest, I didn't know Liebman's music super well at this point, just that he had played with Miles and Elvin and was seen as someone who was on the cutting edge of the music.

He was there for several days, giving a great concert with the faculty which concluded with Naima on solo piano! Heady stuff. He also played for the drummers and sounded like Elvin, but even looser, if such a thing is possible!

Well, it was with all this in my head that I found myself playing "Confirmation" with him at a jam. I'm not sure who else was playing but my very good friend and long time musical collaborator Mike Downes was on bass. I don't think I'm telling stories out of school to name Mike on this, as we have spoken of the experience since and he has helped me recall some of the details. 

So, anyway, we're playing, and for me I'm sure I was worried about being impressive and hip, and probably not listening very well. But even with my "green ears" I noticed that we were playing a lot of A sections in a row for an AABA tune. So, after the tune ended, Liebman looked at us, and in his classic NY style said this…..

And, Mike and I both hung our heads in shame and thought, "The Form".

But a cool thing happened, Mike and I both started take much more responsibility for song form and developed our strength and awareness of it. To this day, Mike's ability to concentrate and navigate song forms is second to none, and I would like to think that i have developed a similar skill set.

So, thanks so much Dave. I have been lucky to have performed with him a handful of times since, and I believe I've been a lot better equipped to contribute to the music. So folks, don't fret if you have a slightly embarrassing situation with a musician with more experience than you. It's the way you'll learn! :) 

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