Of all the problems plaguing aspiring improvisers, the topic I hear most about is (some version of) “I don’t know how to come up with fresh ideas when I’m improvising.” But when I dig deeper, 99% of the folks complaining about this have poor listening habits.
Listening, or rather active listening will solve nearly all your problems. But that’s not what people want to hear. They want a magic bullet. They want a fix that works now. A book with that elusive “lick” to learn in 12 keys that will instantly convert them to a badass.
That’s why videos like this, from jazz pianist Aaron Goldberg, are so nice to come across. In this short video, Aaron discusses his early jazz education and shares some personal examples of how listening led the way to improvising.
If you’re not familiar with Aaron, well, you better ask somebody! 😉
Ok, but seriously, Aaron’s one of the baddest piano players working in jazz today. He’s released 5 critically acclaimed albums as a bandleader and is a frequent collaborator with Joshua Redman, Wynton Marsalis, Kurt Rosenwinkel, Guillermo Klein and many more. (He’s on Redman’s albums Beyond and Passage of Time, and is touring with him this summer.)
It’s cool to hear his journey from discovering jazz in high school through how he developed in college (he went to Harvard, not music school) and the series of events in New York that led to his working in Joshua Redman’s band. (Pay close attention to what he says @ 2:15, 3:48, and 5:18.)
Read Aaron’s full bio here.
PS, Aaron was one of my first mentors when I moved to New York City. I attended jam sessions at his Brooklyn home and he introduced me to great players, invited me to sit in on his gigs, and supported my writing and playing. He played piano on my first album, Can’t Wait for Perfect, and another album not yet released.
He’s a monster of a player—and a SUPER nice guy. He swings like nobody else and has a tremendous narrative sense to his improvising.
He’s also going to be a guest instructor at this year’s Inside:Outside Retreat for Saxophonists.