Writing a ‘How To’ book that is both educational and entertaining is a monumental challenge. Most read like an appliance manual and are prescribed for insomnia. It is the genius who makes the complex simple and Chase Sanborn (jazz trumpeter and member of the jazz faculty at the University of Toronto) delivers exactly that, topped with quick-witted humor that makes the journey fun. Both the book and the accompanying DVD are thoughtfully organized and could pass any ‘For Dummies’ editor’s test.
I highlighted most of the first 20-page overview as it eloquently summarizes the characteristics of the mature jazz improviser after the material has been mastered. In agreement with my series on Teaching Jazz as a Language, Chase emphasizes that the experienced improviser values speaking and relating to an audience over an academic technical display that only reaches one’s peers.
Throughout the technical chapters of the book, Chase keeps things light and moving by relating scales and chords to anecdotes and everyday activities /analogies. Examples: ‘Everyone in the Pool’ describing scales as a ‘pool of notes’ to choose from and ‘Cheeseburger’ notes being the 3rd and 7th of a chord. Extensions would naturally be the condiments! Each chapter addresses either a harmonic, rhythmic, or melodic issue but is crafted in a way that does not overwhelm the reader.
After over 25 years of studying jazz— and it never ends—I am convinced this is the most comprehensive yet down-to-earth manual on playing jazz. The DVD alone would enough to set any beginning improviser on the right track as well as fine-tune any professional musician/educator. I will be recommending it to the schools I present my jazz workshops to from this day forward.