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Last week I was very fortunate to be able to do the workshop at Jazz Port Townsend. It really exposed some of my weaknesses but also happily also gave me a clearer picture of what I like about my playing as well. I thought I'd put down some of the things I learned.

1) I am not as comfortable as I want to be playing with other people - playing mostly on my own hasn't given me some of the skills I need to play with people, like feeling out head arrangements, but more than anything I find it stressful and it makes me get tense. I need to go to some jam session or something weekly and fix this.

2) I can learn songs faster than I usually do, but I still have trouble improvising on new songs, particularly if they have unusual chords or 2 chord vamps (which seem like they should be easy). We played Night in Tunisia and El Gaucho, both have Latin style two chord vamp sections and I just didn't know how to interpret them. Another song had a section of augmented chords. I need to get more comfortable playing over whatever comes up, and just learn more songs.

3) I need to be better at sight transposing from concert... self explanatory but we had C sheet music and I can do it but it's not as natural as I'd like.

4) Tone and sound wise, I need to work on my intonation which tends sharp and work on a more stable tone. On the other hand, I feel much more like alto is my "voice", I like my setup more, and I like having a bright edge to my tone. In trying to blend I threw on a different, darker reed, which did help in the blending part but didn't really get the sound I like. Alto, especially if you're brighter, can absolutely cover people playing darker, lower pitched instruments, especially if they aren't pushing the sound. I heard a LOT more dark setups and players - maybe one or two bright setups. I think a bright sound is not in style today but, well, too bad.

5) It doesn't have to be jazz, or doesn't have to be standards, or whatever. I was very glad to be able to hear top pros give concerts for us, but after a week I was slightly tired of the repertoire (luckily some of them played originals and otherwise broke out of the mold a bit). I like hearing and playing jazz but it's not all I like. I also would like to play and hear something funky and danceable and modern. I need to work on composing what I want to hear.
 

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Great post,

Stress is a big factor. I have not been playing with others for ages. When I last did, about a year back, it took me a few sessions to feel relaxed with them. Then the sound started to come. What I noticed there was that some weeks I was really happy with my playing, really alert to what was going on, then other weeks a bit stiff and less responsive. I recall that also evens out when you are playing with others a lot more as I have done in the past.

After a few weeks a keyboard player joined us. He could play well, but it was so clear he was not used to playing with other people. He was not really listening to us. On the other hand the drummer played with lots of bands regular and just rolled with anything.

I think I would find the same issue with a camp like this. Playing from C would be a really challenge to me, especially if there were a lot of notes. I could not do it, though I can run through most Eb sheets easily.

I have been playing on an online web community, run by Jeff Antoniuk, called Jazzwire, populated by more middle aged+ players. It has several groups from lower intermediate to semi-pro/pro. There are some very good players on there. I am the more advanced group, about semi-pro level/or good amateur. We do a new song every three weeks and it takes me to week three to feel reasonably happy with what I am playing and comfortable with the tune. So to sit at a band camp and have to simply play over a tune with some meaning would be tough. And there are usually parts of every tune that have some kind of challenge. What is good about the community is that you can post yourself playing as often as you want to get feedback. Its a good way to become less self conscious of your own playing. I often want to spend more weeks on a tune. But doing the new tune, and often ones I would not normally do, forces me to encounter more different kinds of chord sequences and rhythms.

You should have a look at the community. It is subscription, but you can use it free for a month.
 

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I was up there too. 4th year for me. It's so very well run by Greg Miller and John Clayton. Numbers were down a little this year - to be expected in the first year back after a 2 year COVID absence. The weather was idyllic - blue skies and 76 degrees the entire week. Great performances by the faculty and combo performances by the participants. A great opportunity to assess the current state of my musicianship in an encouraging and supportive environment. I will almost certainly be back next year.
 
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