Ellen Rowe 2011
Music, and chair of the Department of Jazz and Contemporary Improvisation, Rowe is a nationally and internationally renowned pedagogue and clinician, and an equally acclaimed pianist, composer, and arranger. Her series, "All About the Trio," begun last September and continuing once a month through June at the Kerrytown Concert House, is a marvelous blend of her talents in all those disciplines, and a compelling mix of teaching and doing. Featuring bassist Paul Keller and drummer Pete Siers--performer-teachers who also handily put the lie to the Shaw quote--her March concert and conversation at KCH offered plenty of pedagogy and much marvelous music making.
After starting with a masterfully played and seasonally timely rendition of Freddie Hubbard's Up Jumped Spring, Rowe demonstrated and discussed the tune's constantly shifting harmonic underpinning, later contrasting it with Hubbard's Little Sunflower, which sits on a D minor chord for much of the tune. Siers added an impromptu tutorial, grabbing his high-hat cymbal stand, moving it center stage, and teaching the audience the heel-toe action used on the pedal when "playing in two [beats]," and showing the less symmetrical technique necessary for playing a jazz waltz. Keller then described the various options available to him on the same tune--insistent walking bass, or sparse "playing in one" that gives Rowe more freedom on her solo. Throughout the evening they, as Keller said, "showed how the rabbit is stuffed into the hat." In other words, they took out some of the mystery without losing any of the mastery--or the magic. And all this with no dry, academic dissections. On the contrary, they offered fluid, engaging conversations, musical and verbal, displaying perhaps the prime requisite for good jazz--and for good conversation: listening.