What Sally Did On Her Summer Vacation

Every musician, every now and again, needs their butt kicked. Musically. A challenge that leaves you so demoralized you wonder how you could possibly have thought of yourself as a MUSICIAN at all. A situation that so embarrasses you, you slink back to your cave (with a strong cup of coffee and instrument in hand) to practice what you thought you knew and try to make sense of what just happened while you were standing there on the band stand, naked. Or at least that's what it felt like.

Enter Vermont Jazz Center's Summer Workshop. But that hardly seems fair; the setting is idyllic, the people incredibly talented AND convivial, the food is awesome and plentiful... So where's the challenge?

For me it reared its ugly head in the ENSEMBLE CLASS: 90 minutes of relentless scurrying behind changes at breakneck speed (and me too stunned to suggest a ballad), slaughtering jazz standards with my risible attempts at improvisation (Where's the melody? Why didn't I ever learn to play the melody on this tune?) and the ever-present VOICE FROM WITHIN whispering "What made you think you could play JAZZ???"

Luckily, the class was led by a truly amazing horn player with a blessedly blunt sense of humor who knew how to relieve the tension from time to time. I am forever grateful to Scott Mullett (look him up... and listen) for never making fun of the tears I could not keep from welling up after each of my miserable attempts to solo, and for his "thumbs up" -- the only thing that got me out of the cave in the morning and back into battle.

Thanks especially to Eugene Uman (who many of our Colombia readers know from the years he spent playing and as an educator in Medellín and for the tracks he recorded on Xumapaz's 1st CD), who runs the Vermont Jazz Center with help from the amazingly kind and efficient Jane Findlay, and to teachers (there were so many amazing teachers and players that I'd run out of space if I tried to list them here): guitarist Freddie Bryant and Draa Hobbs, bassists Cameron Brown, Marcus McLaurine and Dave Picchi, drummers Claire Arenius and Billy Drummond, trombonist Jeff Galindo and the incredible HAMMERED FOR THE GIG ensemble, who supported this alt-pop misfit throughout.

Strangely enough, I hope to drag myself out of the cave and do it again next year!