“Demystifying Jazz Improvisation” is an in-depth look at learning and improvising on a tune from the ground up. I created this course in hopes of breaking down the process of jazz improvisation for those who want to learn to improvise or dig deeper, but feel overwhelmed or don’t know where to start. This course would also suit someone who is curious about other approaches to jazz improvisation, or is looking for a concrete step-by-step process that they can implement into their own practice.
The main theme of this course is embellishment. First the student learns the melody, and then learns skills to embellish it to make it their own. As we continue learning the bass line, chords, and arpeggios, you’ll find that this is always the process: playing unornamented followed by ornamented or embellished. This gets us comfortable with departing from what we see on the page or are most familiar with. Through each exercise, we move steps closer to creating our own solos, which are essentially embellishments on the melody that we are playing. This process can be used on any tune, and I hope that you will transfer it over to the next song that you learn. And the next, and the next, and the next….
Alexa Tarantino is an award-winning, vibrant, young jazz saxophonist, woodwind doubler, composer, and educator. She is passionate about developing and expressing her voice as an improviser, and inspiring others to do the same through jazz education.
Tarantino’s performance highlights include prestigious venues such as the Umbria Jazz Festival (with Ryan Truesdell’s Gil Evans Project), the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC, the Hollywood Bowl (with Sherrie Maricle & the DIVA Jazz Orchestra), the Rockport Jazz Festival (Alexa Tarantino Quintet), Rose Theater at Jazz at Lincoln Center (with Wynton Marsalis and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra), and the Xerox Rochester International Jazz Festival (with Earth, Wind & Fire and others). She performs regularly as a leader and sideman in a wide variety of ensembles and genres including Sherrie Maricle & the DIVA Jazz Orchestra, LSAT, and the Alexa Tarantino Quartet/Quintet.
Tarantino’s recent projects include her new quintet that she co-leads with baritone saxophonist Lauren Sevian called “LSAT”. The two award-winning saxophonists have fused with a dynamic rhythm section that propels their music to new heights. LSAT presents original compositions highlighting the unique combination of baritone and alto saxophone, as well as their own interpretations of favorites from the jazz repertoire.
Tarantino is currently on faculty for Jazz at Lincoln Center's Youth Programs and is the Woodwind Instructor at the LREI Schools in New York City. She is also a Teaching Artist with the Institute for Creative Music in Rochester, New York. Previously, she served as Jazz Saxophone Instructor at Hobart and William Smith Colleges. Tarantino continues to visit several colleges, high schools, and summer jazz programs across the globe as a guest clinician, including the Rockport Jazz Camp (MA), of which she is Founder and Director. She holds degrees from the Eastman School of Music. Tarantino is a graduate of Hall High School’s award-winning music program in West Hartford, Connecticut and currently resides in New York City.