Hoxton, London: birthplace of the Kray twins; hipster central; and the home of Jazz Rehearsals.
For over two years, musicians (including me) have been travelling to The Premises rehearsal studios – where the likes of Lana Del Rey, Nile Rogers and Ed Sheeran have rehearsed or recorded – to take part in monthly jazz workshops run by London’s top jazz musicians. Jazz Rehearsals is the brainchild of Geert Schouten. Schouten, a pianist, wanted to create a relaxed space in which burgeoning jazz musicians can meet, learn and play. The recipe’s proved a success with more workshops being run to meet the increasing demand.
So what happens at a workshop? Each workshop is around three hours long (which includes a break). For the first 90 minutes you’ll work through one tune, typically a ‘jazz standard’. This involves, under expert tutelage, breaking the tune down into easily digestible chunks, demystifying the ‘lead sheet’ and developing approaches to improvising over the tune. This is jazz after all! After a break, the remaining hour or so will be spent jamming over two other tunes and revisiting the original tune – invariably sounding better than when you first walked through the door!
The focus is on playing together as a band, listening to one another, and creating something new. Typically, each workshop will be attended by a drummer, bass players, guitarists, pianists and horn players. Many of the regulars, myself included, get together outside of these workshops and have started bands: a testament to the success of Jazz Rehearsals. The sessions are open to everyone, on a first-come-first-served basis, and there’s always a range of workshops on offer, both in terms of difficulty and in style. They’re not free, however, but you don’t have to part with a lot of your hard-earnt cash; the sessions are great value for money. So if you want to get into jazz, and don’t know what to do, it really couldn’t be easier: check out Jazz Rehearsals.