My name is Jamie and I live in the often very soggy (but very picturesque) Scottish Borders in the UK - just down the road from Edinburgh and the Lothians, which is where I was born and brought up. I guess my route into being interested in learning jazz is a slightly convoluted one, but I’m really enjoying the learning and skills I’ve been picking up since joining PianoGroove.
I was a kid in the late 70s/early 80s when the landscape of popular music seemed really rich and diverse - I count ,myself lucky to have been young enough at that time to be receptive to the undercurrents and influences of jazz, soul and blues in the music that was in the public ears at the time, especially with jazz-funk like the Crusaders, Spyro Gyra and George Benson, and blues-soaked rock like Steely Dan, not to mention more complex disco/soul from the likes of Chic and Earth, Wind & Fire. I had thus started a very prolific record-buying career before I was in double figures! By the time I was in my 20s, many of these influences had started to resurface in the guise of Acid Jazz and, as the 2000s rolled around, to broken beat and electronica (with a big resurgence of disco within house music, and jazz within ‘deep house’). Around this time I was living and working in London for a few years and started DJ’ing in bars, mainly causally and through friends - but of jazz/funk, soul and so-called ‘rare groove’. The cultural melting pot there was a great context for my developing musical interests at the time.
Life otherwise got in the way after this and it was about 3yrs ago I rediscovered my DJ’ing side through the many opportunities offered online! I tried my hand at creating re-edits of favourite songs but with copyright issues it quickly became obviously difficult to do much with this - so I ended up trying my hand at making my own music. Despite being a keen listener from a young age, I hadn’t learned to play an instrument or learn music (other than learning the guitar in my 20s), so I used to draw in notes and chords in my music software (Ableton Live) without being able to actually play. One main thing to learn at this time? There is a whole lot of very bad advice for producer/musicians out there! Thankfully, I learned through listening to bad advice and making mistakes. I ended up making two albums within a year and releasing them via Bandcamp - but they weren’t very good, completely bombed and to be honest I worked myself very hard and very unhealthily into a not very good place. After this, I had decided to try learning to read music and to actually play my MIDI keyboard! I had a fair grasp already of extended harmony and what I was trying to do but since joining PianoGroove I feel I’ve learned so much. To now be at the point where I’m picking up techniques and instinctively playing some improv is something I’m incredibly grateful to PianoGroove for. Another big part of the last year or so for me has been ear training - I would absolutely recommend doing this to anyone. Even now I try to do some form of ear training daily. So for now I’m working my way through the elements here that I feel are going to help me musically and connect me more and more to the elements I want to recreate when I get to the point where I’m ready to try making my own material again. I firmly believe that the aspects of music that resonate with you do this for a reason - and to be able to enjoy and explore the diversity of this is one of life’s biggest gifts. I do hope to get to the point where I can complete more of my own material: I also had vocal coaching and was focusing on lyric writing last year, but a period of ill-health intervened and to be honest, I really felt I’d lost my mojo and felt disheartened after this, so I’m travelling the more leisurely and scenic (not to mention realistic and pragmatic!) route now. But to be able to have learned jazz forms and even approaches like rootless voicings and voice leading really have opened up my understanding about how some things work musically the way they do. So again I’m very grateful for what I’ve been learning on here.
I work full-time and am also a nurse practitioner (hello Lori!) in Edinburgh, working with a small GP practice which has a distinctly older clientele, so while my focus in on independent management of long-term conditions (mainly heart disease, diabetes and their various related sub-conditions) I’m really enjoying the learning of how to look after these things and the implications of health and ill-health in an ‘ageing’ context - and how decisions are made within this. I’m also leading a piece of work involving optimising the physical health of older drug users in Edinburgh - I’d worked for 5yrs in a service that provided healthcare for those in homelessness, which taught me so much about empathy and compassion as well as dysfunction and trauma - but it also taught me much about myself and my limitations and values - cliched, but it was life-changing stuff in a sense. So that is obviously great preparation for this piece of work. In the odd few minutes of spare time there I’m often to be found trying to work out pieces of music by ear!
So - I’m keeping going with what I’m learning on here. While it’s good to have an overall aim musically, I firmly believe in the value of keeping flexible and open to the need to either intensify your specific focus but also to change it completely if needs be.
Thanks for having me here!