Here is a great interview of the tenor sax player and teacher George Garzone by Jay Metcalf of BetterSax that I just stumbled upon on Youtube today. I studied with George Garzone for a short time at Berklee College of Music in the late 80’s (I wish I could have studied more with him but I left Berklee soon after that).
The things I remember most about my sax lessons with George Garzone during that time is that he seemed intent on two things.
- To get me to tongue less (or even not at all)
- To get me to stop playing licks.
In the very first lesson, George asked me to play for him. I played a couple of choruses of some standard, and afterwards, I remember George saying (in a very laid back and hip way) that I was tonguing way too much and that we had to work on not playing “licks”.
I have to admit that my weekly lesson with Mr. Garzone was very frustrating for me because I had spent close to ten years learning how to improvise in jazz by learning every “lick” I possibly could and now George Garzone was basically trying to teach me to “Stop playing those licks!”.
Although it was infuriatingly difficult to not play licks and tongue less, Mr. Garzone really opened a door for me mentally that I believe has had a huge impact on my playing and teaching over the years. I still play my share of licks and patterns but every time I improvise I can hear that “Garzone” voice in my head telling me to “Stop doing that!” “Change things up!” “Play something new, unexpected and unique!” “Stop being so predictable…..”
All that being said, I have to say that the highlight of those lessons with George Garzone is that once in a great while when he would stop and say “Now that’s what I’m talking about!” in regard to something that I just played. I would be ecstatic but could I repeat what I just played? No way! I had no idea what I just played. I guess that was whole point that Mr. Garzone was trying to teach me back then. When you spontaneously improvise, it should be hard to repeat!
Thanks to George Garzone for all those lessons, all the Fringe gigs at the Willow in Somerville and all the standards he played at Copley Place. I learned so much from all of them!
Check out this great interview and be sure to check out some of George Garzone’s recordings! He’s the man!