David Hazeltine: Modern Standards
You know, there was nothing like that when I was a kid. If there would've been, maybe I could've been better faster. I don't know. You understand what I'm trying to say? I see advantages but I also see disadvantages. I teach at these Jamie Aebersold summer camps every year and I see a lot of kids with these big attitudes because, "Hey, I go to a jazz studies camp and I know all this stuff, I know this and that," and they can't play at all. In fact I rarely see someone who really has their stuff together involved in some kind of program like that. I meet these people [with their stuff together] here in New York or they'll somehow come into my life and they'll sit down and play, and I'll say, "Wow, you can actually play. What do you do?" And it turns out they do something else, have some other interest. But they do this on the side and they're self-taught. I don't know if I answered your question.
AAJ: Yeah... It's a real interesting subject and it's pretty candid what you're saying, which is good. I've heard a lot of the same sentiment from a lot of people. Whenever I speak with anyone who seems [to me] like they know what's going on, invariably the point gets made that you get out of it what you put into it, you know? A kid, or an adult, can't go to a jazz school and think that someone is going to force-feed them jazz knowledge or something. You have to really want it and you have to put a ton of work into it.
DH: Yeah. And the bottom line is this: When you're talking about jazz music, first of all we're talking about music. We're not talking about something that's written down. And even though people want to keep making it that...even when Mozart was doing it, it was still music, you know? Even classical is still music. It's not really written down. The page doesn't mean shit. It's the way it sounds that means something. It's the sound in your ear. That's the thing about jazz that all these education people get so hung up about and confused about, I think. Because they want to talk about it like it's a science. There's a scientific side to it, and I have a scientific side to my brain that tries to organize it in certain ways and finds motivation in looking at patterns of things and it's very interesting that way.
But ultimately it comes down to sound and I think the education thing pulls people away from that sound thing. You get a bunch of guys knowing a lot of theories and a lot of things, but they're not told to focus on the way they sound. So they might know a lot and have a lot of background to talk about this crap, even write books about it, but they won't sound good when they play because they're not thinking about the sound, you know? It's an amazing thing that you can have people writing book after book on all this crap, all these words about how to play jazz coming from a person who can't play it at all. It's amazing.
AAJ: It's cool that you're in a situation, at least part of the year, teaching, because that's good stuff for people in school to be hearing. So that's good.
DH: Yeah. I try to be as honest as I can, and yet still... I don't want to be preachy against jazz education establishment at all. I think it's great. I just think that people need to go about it in the right way and really know what's involved in making music and that's what I try to tell these people. This two week camp I do for Aebersold in the summer is really great. I enjoy it a lot. I enjoy meeting these people from all over the planet and every kind of vocation; mostly adults. You know, part-time musicians and great and interesting peopledoctors, lawyers, dentists, etc. It's fun to find out about them.
But it's also fun to make them go, "Ahhhhhhhhhhh." It doesn't have to be such a daunting thing to be involved in music. These jazz education people will have you thinking you've got to devote your life to learning exercises that are so difficult and pathetic (Laughs). When in fact all you have to do is listen, have fun, have a focus, and have somebody guide you and turn you on to a few little things. These people get such a kick out of it and that makes me happy.
I always leave these camps getting to know about two or three more people every year in the New York area that come to me for lessons once a month or every other week. And this is not what they do for a living. They just come in to learn a little bit more. It's cool. I enjoy that part of it. I would love to be involved in a university setting with more serious students and have a bigger impact on that educational setting. I'm not really railing against it but I think there are problems in it and I'd like to help fix some of those things.