Saturday, May 19, 2007

Marvin Stamm

Great musicianship works anywhere, in the recording studio, in the orchestra, in jazz settings, chamber music, wherever. Any seasoned mature talent is obvious, refreshing, and knows no boundaries. It comes from within and manifests itself no matter what the venue. Marvin Stamm visited CCM this weekend, generously sharing the depth of his experience, teaching, and playing wonderfully as he has done for so many years. It was our treat and privilege.

I am always amazed at the language of jazz, the never-the-same spontaneity of it, and the specialized instincts required for this level of music-making. I feel like I am listening to another language, one which I love to hear, but cannot speak. Yet I can understand it when it is done well, and Marvin is a master of fluency and eloquence.

He is classically trained, well experienced, knowledgeable, and a deep source of information. Young players he said should absorb from the experience of older players. Learning only from peers has limitations. He spoke with reverence and respect about the great players who had influenced him from all styles of music. So much he learned from hanging with the older greats in their day. We do well to select our company wisely.

I loved hearing him hear. Several students played for him, and played well. He responded to each one directly, respectfully, and told them exactly the areas of need. Expression rules over perfection, was a standout theme to me. More important than every jot and tittle is the beauty of the phrase. Detail is trumped by musicianship. Yet the details were scrutinized so that their overall effect would enhance the music.

Referring to the splendid playing of Phil Smith, he noted that he is never cautious. Take the chance, go for the impact, jump in, and never play tentatively. Belt it out, play a real forte, he said at one point.

In the all too brief session I attended, I went away impressed by the depth of a great musician. Just to sit and listen to him talk of his music world was heaven. He loves it. It shows. The man is the music.