Wow. I mean, wow. I was blessed to hang out with Kenny Werner for over an hour today. First of all, I have to echo the sentiment of the woman behind the desk at Yoshi's, in San Francisco, where we had our lesson. She told me what a sweet man Kenny is, and that a very few of Yoshi's artists ever take the time to give lessons. As I said, I must echo that sentiment. Kenny's willingness and enthusiasm to share what he's learned shone through for the entire hour plus.
First we played together on "In Your Own Sweet Way". That alone made the trip worth making, for me.
I told him that I'd been using his "Effortless Mastery" stuff (steps 1 - 4) for a few years, and although I've been inconsistent, the methods have never failed to change my playing positively. He suggested that I treat practice like brushing my teeth. I don't brush my teeth thinking "I'm going to have the best tooth brushing ever," each time. I just regularly do it. Even if I have a relatively spectacular tooth brushing in the morning, I still brush in the evening. I don't think, "OK, if I brush my teeth for six more months, I'll never have to brush again."
I asked him for a tune composing process. He shared a cool method.
- Pick four notes (at random).
- Randomly assign a chord flavor to each note (he's somewhat partial to aeolian, and maj7th#5 types of flavors).
- Using good voice leading principals, work through the progression.
- Let the good voice leading suggest melodies, and practice the progression.
- Throughout these steps, edit, edit, edit!
We chose the notes first (taking turns). We chose B,A,Eb, and Bb. Then, we did the same for chord qualities, and chose 7+9, Maj7+5, aeolian, sus7. So, we had: B7+9, AMaj7+5, Eb-(aeolian), Bbsus7. He demonstrated some beautiful voicings and voice leadings (have to listen to the audio). Then, to extend it some, we listed the notes again, and gave them different chords.
B-(dorian), A7+11, Ebsus7, Bb-6 (later edited to BbMaj7#5)
Played each chord for 4 mm and we had a 32 bar tune. Then he changed it some more, playing the first 4 chords for 4mm, and the second 4 chords twice 2mm each, transposing the B-(dorian) down a minor third, and the Ebsus7 down to Dsus7 on the second time.
Kenny shared that "Time Remembered" by Bill Evans was a seminal tune that crossed the modal stuff (late 50s... exemplified my Miles Davis' "So What"), to the more free/unpredictable harmonic movement (60s, exemplified by Bill Evans' "Very Early"). It moves largely in the cycle of fourths, but uses chord qualities other that dominant (lots of minors), which really changes the flavor! I want to study that tune some more.
I asked Kenny how he remembers those tunes that don't move in predictable ways and patterns. He pointed to "Step 4" in his process. Learn to mastery (using his techniques of finding that focused relaxed space) small manageable chunks of tunes, until the entire tune just "plays itself", without any concerted effort from the musician.
I knew that. ;-)
He related daily practice, in the above stated manner, to brushing one's teeth. It doesn't really matter if, this morning, I have the very best brushing session that I've ever had... tonight I will brush again. In addition, my muscles pretty much know what to do while I'm brushing my teeth. I don't really need to think too much. It's close to effortless. Now, my goal is to be able to play "Time Remembered", and "Very Early", and "Giant Steps" with the same effortlessness.
Anyway, there's much more, and hopefully I'll write more, but I'm going to publish this now.