All This Jazz

Nothing is Changing: My Big Worry about the Future of Jazz

By ERIC SEGALL | Intern

Throughout my short years on this Earth, I have spent the majority of them playing music. When I was in elementary school, I played classical music on clarinet, and I continued with that method until I reached high school.

There was little outside knowledge I needed to employ, besides the 12 major scales. Everything else was given to me within the music, and as a result, I did not need to practice much. I felt confident because I knew the basics of music theory, which was enough for classical.

Johnny Hodges
Photos courtesy of Wikipedia

I was too confident, and I thought that I had reached a point where I could learn another instrument. I soon took it upon myself to learn the alto saxophone and bridged my way into jazz during the ninth grade.

My false confidence soon dissipated; jazz taught me that I still had much to learn. I had to memorize chord changes, licks and multiple variations on each of the 12 major scales.

It made me lose all my confidence in music, but gain a new appreciation of jazz musicians.

These new heroes from a golden age of jazz included Benny Goodman, Paul Desmond, Dave Brubeck and Johnny Hodges.

More contemporary musicians I like include Kenny Garrett and Chris Potter.

It’s the “10,000 Hour Rule” to success.

They all practiced for hours daily and with other musicians of the same caliber in order to maintain their strength. It takes discipline that forces them to be more involved than any athlete.

I went to learn jazz from my now private instructor David Crozier.

Crozier helped instill discipline and appreciation for the art form within me.

Sometimes we will improvise over a set of chord changes, play a real book tune or perform a duet with accompaniment in the background—every time we do something different to help season my mind.

It takes time to develop this skill, and after four years of practice, I still feel like I have not yet begun to scratch the surface. Performing a solo was a new experience for me, and I developed stage fright. I was scared of what people would think of my music and how they would critique it. Soloing has helped build my confidence in not just jazz, but in the real world.

Dave Brubeck

The quality of music in recent years has been declining. People decide to listen to musicians who decide to dedicate their songs to inappropriate material like drugs or sex. People like this music because it’s catchy, but that does not mean that there is depth inside of which.

However, jazz is not so different. There has been little evolution for jazz in the current day. Most people listen to jazz that has come from the mid-1940s, which is considered antiquated.

At some point people should start to realize that nothing is changing.

And that stasis is causing a creative and commercial stagnation in the already-tiny market where something fresh needs to be introduced.

Jazz has to take a bold new direction in 21st century.


Bill Minderhout: Golden Years Guitar Slinger

By ERIC SEGALL | Intern

Why should jazz, like any other true passion, fade with age?

Longtime Rustic Canyon resident Bill Minderhout is a jazz musician who continues to play wild riffs into his 80s. And, he feels, he is just getting started.

His mother started grooming him to be a performer at the age of 5. He took lessons in singing, dancing and guitar.

Strumming Bill Minderhout
Rich Schmitt/Staff Photographer

His most popular role was starring in the television show “Our Gang.” As time passed on, he started to lose interest in singing and dancing, but continued to learn guitar.

The first album he listened to was by Les Paul, the American jazz guitarist best known for his song “How High the Moon.” Over time he became more adept and started to become more involved in the jazz community.

Minderhout’s most memorable performance was a fundraiser for then-Senator Barbara Boxer.

He played with Freddy Jazz Group in Beverly Hills. There he was accompanied by Mario Gonzalez, and their gift to Boxer was their performance.

At the time Minderhout was astounded because President Clinton was the featured speaker of the fundraiser. It was a high-profile venue with countless police swarming about.

In the world of jazz, being a guitar player is one of the most difficult positions. There needs to be a balance between soloing and maintaining rhythm.

Minderhout prefers to play in combo groups, as opposed to being in a big band.

When one is a part of a combo group, there are usually only three to five members, so it is much easier to listen to others. In addition, it gives the performer a lot more opportunities to solo. Soloing is very difficult on guitar because there are a plethora of chords to remember, and the musician has to listen to the changes being played by the other musicians.

Minderhout said that “soloing is not something that you can learn from a teacher, it comes from within.”

It takes a lot of listening to become confident in your skills, and Minderhout uses licks from one of the greats, Joe Pass, who worked with Oscar Peterson and Ella Fitzgerald.

In recent years Minderhout played at local venues with his friends.

There he can enjoy playing in combo groups, but sometimes he takes trips to go play with a big band. He travels anywhere from Washington to Rhode Island—there are no regional bounds when it comes to music.

Minderhout said he is glad that he never pursued jazz professionally. Being a professional musician is stressful when you have to worry where your next meal is coming from.

He told the Palisadian-Post he is glad that he pursued a non-musical career, so he can live comfortably, as well as play music when he chooses.

His final word of advice: Every new musician should sit at the piano first.

It gives them an understanding of musical concepts without having to worry about technical skills. And from there you can grow and, as Minderhout proves, never stop.