Jazz artists love improvisation | News

OTTUMWA – Bob Washut looks for a sense of the whole – of people who play together – when judging jazz bands. He seeks an understanding of rhythmic styles.

He also wants to see the things that set jazz apart – the personality of a performance and the much needed improvised solos. “I would say that’s one of the qualities I’m looking for – projecting personality,” Washut said. Jazz isn’t what you play, it’s how you play it.

Washut, a music professor at the University of Northern Iowa where he was director of jazz studies from 1980 to 2002, was one of many guest performers and contest judges at the Indian Hills JazzFest this weekend. end.

An accomplished jazz composer and arranger with 11 CDs and numerous accolades to his name, Washut has been to JazzFest four or five times, he said during a jury break on Saturday.

Improvisation solos are a big part of jazz, said judge and guest artist David Kobberdahl. “I think it’s kind of a foundation. For me, this is the funniest part.

Kobberdahl judged high school jazz bands for IHCC for the first time this year, “and I love it,” he said.

Big bands are more built around the ensemble, Kobberdahl said, but jazz is distinguished from other styles of music primarily by its star soloists in each piece and the fact that the soloists improvise. There is always a certain structure, Kobberdahl said, but the soloists don’t have a musical score to follow.

Kobberdahl received his Bachelor of Music from Truman State University in Kirksville, Missouri, in 1988, and his Masters from Vandercook College of Music in Chicago. He currently works as a Jazz Ensemble Director and Instrumental Music Instructor for the West Des Moines Community School District and plays the trumpet professionally for several groups including the Des Moines Big Band, Latin Jazz Band Ashanti and the Band Gruve dance.

Second-year double bassist David Altemeier loves the rhythm of jazz music and the fact that even bass can be featured as a soloist in this genre. “Obviously most of the time we’re playing the backing role,” he said, but sometimes the bass has the melody or an improvised solo, “so that’s kind of fun. “

Altemeier played stand-up and electric bass during Friday night’s JazzFest opening concert. The swing style and a walking bassline are traditionally played on a standing bass, Altemeir said. In songs with a rock or Latin touch, the electric is commonly used.

Altemeier holds a Bachelor of Arts in Music with a major in Bass and a Minor in Jazz Studies from the University of Northern Iowa where he was with Jazz Band I for four years and was Principal Double Bass. of the Northern Iowa Symphony Orchestra. He lives in Des Moines and teaches privately in central Iowa, is an assistant professor of jazz bass at Drake University, and performs regularly with a variety of jazz and R&B groups in Iowa and the Midwest.

Oskaloosa High School’s two jazz groups braved the freezing rain to participate in JazzFest on Saturday. The Oskaloosa Jazz Lab consists of any student who wishes to play with the group, called the second group. The Oskaloosa Jazz Ensemble is made up of students selected by audition.

Richard Waddington, groups director, said the school had competed in Indian Hills since before he took the reins six years ago.

Unlike the concert orchestra, the jazz group “is a smaller group and our focus is on sealing the sound,” Waddington said. Students also learn to improvise solos. If building self-confidence is a necessity in learning to improvise, “it comes down to the basics”. Once students have mastered the basics, they find improvising fairly easy, Waddington said.

Saturday was the Oskaloosa jazz band’s third competition this year, Waddington said, and he will have one more next week. The IHCC competition “is a good tune-up before our districts next weekend”.

While jazz isn’t the most popular music in the country, “I think it’s one of America’s most valuable art forms,” Washut said.

It’s called American classical music, Altemeier said.

Journalist Winona Whitaker can be reached at wwhitaker@ottumwacourier.com and followed on Twitter @courierwinona.

Ada J. Kenney