On Wednesday, February 13, 2013, Vincent Herring conducted a master class with the Hartt jazz studies students. Several faculty members and Dean Flagg attended the master class along with several dozen students. Mr. Herring is an internationally renowned saxophonist and has, for several decades, performed along side of legendary masters, including Nat Adderly, Freddie Hubbard, Dizzy Gillespie, Art Taylor, and many others. He has taken bands to Japan and Europe and has performed at almost all major jazz festivals around the globe. Having a guest of Mr. Herring’s reputation, experience and musicianship was great opportunity for Hartt.
The students were fortunate to play for Mr. Herring and received feedback. Moreover, they benefited from him as he demonstrated concrete ways they might consider expanding their own music vocabulary. In addition, Mr. Herring provided real world advice on what is demanded of musicians who expect to have a career in today’s world. He was honest, straight-forward, blunt, sincere and helpful in his critiques of the students and freely shared his wisdom. Among the observations he shared with the students was how a thorough mastery of knowing standards (in every key!) and the rudiments of the jazz idiom, even things as basic as knowing your bebop scales (which he felt today’s students sometimes skip over in their haste to get to more cutting edge styles), continue to be the foundation on which the students must base their development. Among the other points stressed were: focus on being the best musician you can without getting too caught up on what brand and model instrument you play or other gear you use; listen to everything possible, including those musicians and styles that other tell you are no good; and don’t box yourself into one style, but instead learn many different style of jazz so that you can easily play with and compliment a variety of musicians. He made special note of one reason Prof. Nat Reeves’ is a bassist in such demand – his ability to play with so many different musicians in a variety of styles and with a mastery of repertoire that is unsurpassed.
Professor Abraham Burton was among those attending. He provided a memorable story at the point of the master class when Mr. Herring was discussing developing your own sound. Prof. Burton recalled when he was growing up in NYC, he could tell from blocks away that the saxophonist he was hearing was Mr. Herring because of his distinct sound. (Mr. Herring added that he used to play and practice outdoors in those days because he had such a small apartment in NYC that he needed more room to practice than he had in the “modest” studio apartment.)
It was clear from the care Mr. Herring expressed when working with the students that he is not only a tremendous musician, but is committed to jazz education.
Mr. Herring has a website, which is www.vincentherring.com Hartt was fortunate that he spent some time with us.
Posted by Michael Menapace (’93)