Improvisation Workshop: Killer Joe with Michael Smolens

Sunday, October 8, 1 - 4 pm

Improvisation Workshop: Killer Joe with Michael Smolens
Age Adult
Event Type Workshop
Department Theory and Improvisation
Day Sun
Instructor Michael Smolens
Status online event

Of the 300 songs Benny Golson penned, his classic 1959 “Killer Joe” is one of his most well-known. Beneath its immediate appeal lies a tune rich in melodic contrast and harmonic novelty. While it’s an ideal tune to study for beginning and intermediate players & vocalists, more advanced students will be inspired by soloing on the more chromatic B section.

Though the concepts will be applicable for all instruments, special attention will be given to the challenges and opportunities that pianists face: voicing the melody and comping in different ways depending on the context you’re playing in, maintaining the quintessential opening vamp while soloing, exploring soloing approaches, and more.
Participants will receive detailed handouts and a bass & drums MP3 play-along recording. The workshop will feature a clear view of the instructor demonstrating different approaches, Q & A time, and a chance to work on an appropriate part of the piece for people to hear and support you.

About Michael Smolens

Michael Smolens has taught jazz piano privately and in universities for five decades and has been coaching teachers since 2000. In addition to his two music degrees from UC Santa Cruz, he has studied with such innovative teachers as Art Lande, Kenny Werner, Allaudin Mathieu, Terry Riley, and Dorthy Taubman. His teaching is informed by physical re-training principles, linguistic-conceptual models, time management techniques, and Buddhism. Michael’s primary instruments are piano & voice but also include alto flute, dumbek, and West-African balafon & djun-djuns. His book on the art of practicing will be coming out in the Spring of next year.

As a composer & bandleader, Michael has created and performed with a myriad of ensembles, from duos to 18-person groups covering jazz, world musics, and chamber. He has recorded and/or performed with jazz icons Stefon Harris (vibraphone), Paul McCandless (reeds), Paul Hanson (electric bassoon), David Balakrishnan & Evan Price (jazz violin & viola) and Zakir Hussain (tablas), along with Bobby McFerrin collaborators David Worm & Rhiannon, and folk/jazz legend Claudia Schmidt.

Testimonials from Michael’s other workshops:

Play The Piano Like A Drummer

“Michael’s system for breaking down vamps and starting to improvise on them is ingenious. It also applies to other areas of jazz with repeated patterns, such as Brazilian music. His helpful observations about each student’s set-up and posture already helped ease pressure on my ankle when peddling. Michael very generously offered a free coaching lesson between classes to help solidify the concepts. This class should be offered regularly by CJC!”
— Mike T. (Jazzschool pianist)

Creating Compelling Intros

“I found Michael’s workshop to be filled with incredible amounts of knowledge that greatly expanded my own musical understanding. He clearly came well-prepared with an audio engineer, quality sound and multiple video POVs, written sheet music to follow along, and over 40 different examples of introductions by well-known artists and his own intros that he played…”
— Niko E. (pianist/composer)

“Thanks so much, Michael. Great class! I learned so much.”
— Socorro D.C. (pro arranger/composer)

The Art of Practicing

“Yesterday, my piano trio class finished with our end of quarter performance. And I noticed a big difference in how I approached my performance this time around, thanks to the practice tips I learned from your class. I focused more on the ‘weak welds’ in both my melodies and solos, and was able to use limited practice time more efficiently and produce more satisfying results. By making some mindset shifts, like practicing with mindfulness and self-compassion, I was able to relax, lean into the music, and enjoy it more. Thank YOU so much for teaching this workshop!”
— Marge A. (Jazzschool pianist)

Creating Your Own Solo

“I want to thank you for working with all of us in this workshop. Your insight and method for developing a meaningful solo have inspired me to dig more into this subject…”
— Jeff B. (Jazzschool saxophonist)

Holiday Arranging

“His workshop on Holiday arranging was incredibly useful and he helped jump start my first large scale arrangement of a spiritual. Michael’s comments were very detailed and he spent extra time helping me between the two workshop meetings. Above and beyond! Thank you!”
— Frances F. (Jazzschool recorder player)