Jazz Smugglers Master Workshop

Jazz Smugglers Master Workshop
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Wednesday, 6 August 2014


If you want to earn some money playing jazz then pay serious attention to this piece. There are vital general marketing lessons to be learned.


If you busk for fun, then you are into Home Truths. The lessons are learned fast, instantly. With an odd few exceptions people are walking by and only hang around a busker for a few minutes. In that time, if they like what you are playing then they give you money. If they don't think much of it they'll move on. You know within minutes if you've got 'em.

What you get paid depends upon the tunes you play and how you play them. Here is how not to draw a crowd and how to get zero money. Just play long jazz solos. Zilch return.

(My hypothesis is that you may get a donation from the odd person in the 7% of people whose ears are attuned enough to appreciate jazz because they've followed the music from their youth. These will be a few older people, not kids. More on this in a later blog piece)

You'll earn some money if you play standards, stick fairly closely to the tune and make them short. Embellishment is fine, acceptable to people, even liked, but people want to hear the tunes. If you have a singer with you then you'll do well with this. They like vocalists. But he/she will be the main centre of attention.

You'll earn most money if you play popular songs. You may get bored silly doing this, but life was ever thus for the musician. He/she has to play boring stuff to make a living. You'll do well if you can interact with the audience a bit, talk to them, show them you are human. Thank them for the money. Look as if you are enjoying it. Sell CDs obviously. Have business cards available. You'll pick up a wedding or two.

Where to choose your spot. The actual spot does not matter too much so long as many people are passing on foot slowly. You want to avoid other buskers as far as possible, but be within the "busking area" where playing is expected.

If you play in a rich neighbourhood, then you will get fewer people making donations, but each donation will be higher. If you play in a downmarket area you will get many more donations but they'll be small. I suspect this reflects society at large. In downmarket areas, people are used to giving support to others.

If you look as if you need the money badly people will tend to avoid you. Dress up a bit, make a simple show of it and you'll do well. Leave the Mercedes parked somewhere else.


If your audience is the general public, not jazz followers, then the right song list is critical. Yes, you can mix it up a bit with a few songs and styles which are out of the mainstream. People want to hear the songs they know.

If you are playing in a jazz club to an audience of jazz followers then play the jazz standards, for the most part but mix it up a bit. It doesn't differ from the advice about playing to attract the geneal public. It is just the song list which changes. If you make the song list all your own virgin compositions they'll get irritated however much they follow jazz.

This is not the complete story. Playing something different which looks appealing but they don't know much about it can work, too. The two most successful concerts out of ten in the recent Jazz month in Chichester, were the Gypsy jazz pair from Normandy, who played quite a few standards in a French kind of way and Terry Seabrook's Quinto who also included some Latin standards in his programme.


The Jazz Smugglers bands in Sussex
The Jazz Smugglers Masters workshop, Bosham, Sussex
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In this blog We will produce tips for jazz piano, and jazz guitar together with jazz saxophone. We will cover jazz chords, jazz guitar chords, and we will deal with jazz scales. We will cover jazz songs. This site is all about jazz improvisation. you can sign up directly to this blog site as a FOLLOWER, bottom rh side panel, you'll get all the posts.

Friday, 1 August 2014


Conte Candoli (trumpet) Richie Kamuca (tenor sax) Russ Freeman (piano), Monte Budwig (bass), and the brilliant Shelly Manne(drums)

I watch and listen closely to jazz drummers.

Some of them are great, interesting, involved with the music, relating to what the others are doing, and then there are the others. Of the local drummers I place Dave Trigwell and Alex Eberhardt amongst the best. Some of the others are famous, regarded as geniuses for their cleverness. But not by me.

Lets make the assumption that the perfect drummer is brilliant, clever, involved and very very fast with perfect and consistent timing. The triplets are lovely, the accents on the 2's and 4's separate them from the rock drummer thugs. I nearly threw a shoe at one of these drummers in a top jazz trio the other night. 

Here is where they go wrong in my inexpert view. 1) They play in a trio as if they are Ronnie Verrell driving the Ted Heath band. Loud, and unrelenting. Its a little trio lads, for Heaven's sake, give 'em a break. One really good drummer, always a delight with his solos, with a renowned name in Latin Jazz is guilty of this when he plays in a trio. 

2) They are too fussy and too intrusive, they get in the way of the music. Yes I want to hear interesting and varied lines,but they need to supplement the music, they are not the music itself. Another very famous local drummer does this all the time. He takes over the direction of the music. I know I must be wrong in this assessment because he is well respected by local musicians. Less is more, boys.

3) The guy I could have throttled the other night had neither of these problems. He was good, tight, and interesting. But he paid no attention to the other musicians and what they were doing. He missed half a dozen drum break chances which the pianist got but he didn't bother so the effect was lost. He played at full volume, and fussily over some lovely solos by the double bass. That is a crime because the bass solos were good, very good. I blame the other two for not telling him. Charlie Mingus would have speared him in the groin with the enpin. 

I'm getting grumpy in my old age.