Jazz and the Sounds of Nature

by Dr. Robert Berdan
August 13, 2016

Jazz Bandmates by Robert Berdan ©

Download Large Image for Print (click on the red links below the pictures to get a 9 x 6 inch x 300 dpi image then right click on the picture and save them to your desktop)

What does nature photography and Jazz have in common? They both have rhythm, complexity and they are both fun to participate in and they both make me feel good. I just finished a jazz camp at Mount Royal University and on Thursday I brought my camera to capture some of the action. I wasn't able to photograph everyone and in retrospect I should have taken a group shot on the last day, but the truth is I was a bit nervous and wanted to focus on playing the music. I started playing Tenor sax about a year and half ago and have been practicing 3 hours a day since then. I have read it takes about 10,000 hours to become really good and that means I am looking at a decade before that will happen. I get weekly lessons with Saxophonist Gareth Bane, a professional musician living in Calgary and I am really enjoying it. I am not giving up nature photography - rather photography is my profession, playing sax is my hobby, but I do love to photograph people having fun - also see my lifestyle photography article.

Instructors - Al Muirhead (trumpet), Carsten Rubeling (Trombone) and Jim Brenan (Tenor Saxophone) by Robert Berdan ©

Instructors - Al Muirhead (trumpet), Carsten Rubeling (Trombone) and Jim Brenan (Tenor Saxophone) - large image

Instructor - Chris Andrew on Piano by Robert Berdan ©

Instructor - Chris Andrew on Piano - large image

Instructor - Jon May on Drums  by Robert Berdan ©

Instructor - Jon May on Drums - large image

Instructors - Chris Andrew (piano), Al Muirhead (trumpet), Carsten Rubeling (Trombone), Jim Brenan (Tenor sax), Jon May (drums), Neil McVey (guitar) - hiding in the back is Rubim de Toledo (Bass) by Robert Berdan ©

Instructors - Chris Andrew (piano), Al Muirhead (trumpet), Carsten Rubeling (Trombone), Jim Brenan (Tenor sax), Jon May (drums), Neil McVey (guitar) - hiding in the back is Rubim de Toledo (Bass) - Large image

Left: Rubim de Toledo (Bass)  and right Carsten Rubeling (Trombone) by Robert Berdan

Left: Rubim de Toledo (Bass) -large picture and Right: Carsten Rubeling (Trombone) - large picture.

Between August 8-12, 2016 I attended a jazz camp at Mount Royal University in Calgary. I wasn't sure what to expect and wondered if I was going to be the old guy in the group. I was one of the older guys, but it was a pleasant surprise to see that there was a wide range of people of all ages taking this course including some semi-pros and even some music teachers (e.g. Doug Zacharias and Chinley Hinacay). I found that many of the younger students were already accomplished musicians and I really appreciated their help - thanks guys (especially Chinley and Ethan).

The instructors at the camp included: Jon May (drums), Jim Brenan (Sax), Rubim de Toledo (bass), Chris Andrew (piano), Neil McVey (Guitar), Carsten Rubeling (trombone) and Al Muirhead (Trumpet). Al Muirhead told me he was 81 and he is still going strong and he is an inspiration to us younger players. All the faculty were friendly and encouraging. I had heard some of them play before in various clubs in Calgary. I had never heard Jim Brenan on sax before (sorry Jim), but he was impressive and it was a privilege to learn from such a master.

Students at the Jazz workshop by Robert Berdan ©

Students at the workshop - large image

Students at the workshop  by Robert Berdan ©

Jazz students - large picture

Jazz students Mount Royal University by Robert Berdan ©

Lesson on chord progressions by Rubim on the right - large image

We had a master class on our instrument every day, then we broke up into groups and each group had to learn two songs and be prepared to improvise. Improvise means to make the music up as you play- and this is one of my long term goals. I was nervous - but I read in the book the "Inner Game of music by Barry Green" to accept the fact that I was going to make mistakes and that was part of the learning process. Once you accept this fact it's easier to be more relaxed. So I figured if I was going to screw up I would do it playing with authority.

Jazz bass players and guitar player by Robert Berdan ©

Band mates - Left: stereo bass players Ron and John- large image and Right our guitar player Colin - large image

Jazz students by Robert Berdan

Jazz students - large image

Trio of bass players by Robert Berdan ©

Trio of Bass players - large image

Student bass player and guitar player in background - large image

Piano and alto sax player at Mount Royal University by Robert Berdan ©

Piano player and alto sax player - large image

Jazz guitar player by Robert Berdan ©

Jazz guitar player - large image

Crazy jazz bandmates by Robert Berdan

Some crazy fun band mates - large image

Chinley Hinacay Calgary Alto saxophonist by Robert Berdan

Chinley Hinacay - Calgary alto saxophonist - large image

Bass players by Robert Berdan ©

Bass Players - large image

Every night after the class I would practice another three hours. At times I was out of my comfort zone - the music was challenging but also fun. I learned a lot and will try to apply as much as I can in the future. The bottom line is I survived and was impressed with the instructors at Mount Royal University - you can hear some of them playing below in the YouTube video.

Mount Royal University Faculty playing Body and Soul - YouTube Video

Important:The images in this article are free and for personal use I do not have have written releases for any of the photos. Anyone who does not want their picture posted here should let me know and I will take it down. All Jazz participants are free to download high resolution pictures 9 x 6 inches x 300 dpi by clicking on the link below the picture for personal use. If you want a bigger picture please contact me by email rberdan@scienceandart.org. Thanks to the instructors and the students who made this workshop so much fun.

Links and References
Summer Jazz Camp at Mount Royal University
Al Muirhead - Calgary Trumpet player and instructor
Doug Zacharias - The Blue Imperials
Jazz and the Sounds of Nature by Yusef Lateef 1957 - Wikipedia
Ambrose University Jazz Camp in Calgary


Authors Biography & Contact Information

Robert Berdan and a couple of wolves Robert Berdan is a professional nature photographer living in Calgary, AB specializing in nature, wildlife and science photography. Robert offers photo guiding and private instruction in all aspects of nature photography and Photoshop training.

Email at: rberdan@scienceandart.org
Web site: www.canadiannaturephotographer.com
Phone: MST 9am -7 pm (403) 247-2457.

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