Stephen’s Jazz Pages

With Nick Gill’s Oxford Classic Jazz at the Prince of Wales, Iffley, 21 February 2016
(piano Nick Gill; vocals Holly Taylor; guitar Jake Gill; bass Ian Joachim; alto sax Stephen Ashworth)

I play most weeks at jam sessions in Oxford pubs. We play well-known mid-20th-century jazz standards by people like Carmichael, Ellington, Gershwin, Jobim, Kern and Porter, and occasionally less well-known ones. The mood is constantly changing as we vary swing numbers with blues, trad jazz, ballads, bossa novas and bebop.

The atmosphere is relaxed and friendly, and for anyone who’s a newcomer to jazz or to live performance the jam session is a marvellous place to learn.

My sax heroes are Bobby Militello, who plays (mainly alto) on the later Dave Brubeck recordings, Paul Desmond (alto) and Stan Getz (tenor). More recently I’ve discovered Scott Robinson, who is one of the few people to have recorded a CD on the old C-melody sax. There are several interesting Japanese players, including altoist Sadao Watanabe.

For me, these players represent an ideal of fluency and melodic invention that I could hardly gain with a lifetime’s practice. But my solos attract appreciative comment from time to time – surprisingly, not always from people who are completely tone-deaf – so I keep working at those scales and chord sequences.

Check out the pages below for more detail about how I got into jazz and learnt to improvise – or come along to a jam (check with me for exact dates).

SA with Clevelandia