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Legendary bassist Chuck Israels visiting the jazz department

Sibelius Academy jazz department has a wonderful concept of bringing renowned masters of jazz music to Helsinki for a short one week long teaching residency that includes masterclasses and open ensemble rehearsals. In the spring 2022 the visiting master was an actual legend of jazz, bassist Chuck Israels.

Mr. Israels had prepared program of arrangements for two student ensembles that were about to perform the program in Koko Jazz Club in Helsinki at the end of the week. The ensembles were a nonet and the other a sextet with mr. Israels on bass himself. There would be a three-hour long rehearsal with each ensemble each day. The students who were not playing in the ensembles were free to observe the rehearsals. It was fascinating to witness how the material would develop through the week and how the music would be worked out and refined in the visioned hands of the leader. The students were at times clearly out of their comfort zone trying to better themselves according to Mr. Israels’ authentic, honest and direct requests. As outcome everyone made clear progress during the week.

In addition to working with the ensembles Mr. Israels gave open masterclasses that turned out to be lectures on jazz history. The fact that the lecturer was in the front line creating jazz history excited students to ask, in this unique and rare situation, various questions such as ”what was is like to play with John Coltrane, Bud Powell, Coleman Hawkins and Bill Evans?” with whom he most notably worked with through the years 1962-1966. Mr. Israels also gave us insight into his philosophies in musical aesthetics that were welcomingly challenging the beliefs amongst the students. It was a humbling experience to interact with such a name that we all knew from so many legendary records.

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Things that are happening at the Department of Jazz at the Sibelius Academy.

“Jazz is not a what, it is a how. If it were a what, it would be static, never growing. The how is that the music comes from the moment, it is spontaneous, it exists at the time it is created. And anyone who makes music according to this method conveys to me an element that makes his music jazz.” -Bill Evans

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