Welcome @KenB - and thanks for sharing all of this. I’m originally from North Manchester so just a short drive up to Leeds.
I’m familiar with the Leeds International Piano Competition but have not yet managed to attend. What an exciting project to be part of!
Anyhow onto jazz music:
As @scott1 mentioned, listening is a very important aspect of our development as jazz musicians. Every spare minute you have in the day, try to get into the habit of listening.
Similarly, I fell down the trap of not listening to enough jazz (both live and recorded) in the early days of my jazz education. I can say with absolute certainly that regular listening and transcription is a vital component to accelerate our understanding and comprehension of what makes jazz music what it is.
Check out these 2 videos where we discuss the importance of listening and transcription:
Sources of recordings:
@TactfulCactus created 2 wonderful Spotify playlists, you can see them in this thread below.
I see you are a Spotify user and so I’d recommend downloading these playlists into your Spotify account.
Perhaps start with the “Ted Gioia’s Jazz Standard Playlist” which contains many of the most common and popular tunes in the jazz standard repertoire.
Christian (@TactfulCactus) has kindly and carefully compiled the playlist containing the exact versions referenced in Ted Gioia’s book. There is a really nice selection of recordings from many differently players and instruments.
My recommendation would be to browse through the entire playlist - also utilising time when you are driving or cooking to casually listen in the background - and make note of the songs you like, and also the players that you like the sound of.
We also have a lot of recordings in our “What Are You Listening To Today” thread which contains submissions from our students and teachers:
Take a browse through and you are sure to find some recordings and artists that you like.
Transcription & Ear Training
After watching the 2 videos referenced above you will have heard the emphasis on listening and transcription.
@Tuomo has created a selection of ear training exercises and transcription studies in this area of the forum:
Whilst it’s important to learn the theory behind chords, voicings, and progressions etc… , it’s also important to be consistently working on our listening skills by working out melodies and chords using just our ears.
I’d recommend that you start with the beginner and intermeidiate ear training exercises, and this will equip you with the skill you need to start learning directly from your favourite recordings.
Every time that you sit down at the piano, spend a little time on one of these exercises. The answers can be downloaded in PDF format but try to refrain from checking until you have really given the exercise a good attempt.
When we have developed our ears to a point that we can pick up licks, lines, vocings, and fills, directly from our favourite recordings, it is a very liberating a rewarding place to be. So spend some time on those exercises!!
Aspirations to play in a jazz band:
This is a very realistic goal Ken, but I would say it is a short to medium term goal just to give you an idea of timescales.
The most important step would be to watch a LOT of live jazz, here’s a link containing many of the jazz spots in Leeds where you can find jazz jams and other events:
As well as listening to the music, make note of the common tunes that are played and learn these as a priority.
Most importantly, analyse the stage etiquette and how the musicians are interacting with each other during performance. Often this is just very subtle visual cues to pass solos around the room, or to indicate when to finish the tune, but it is very important to understand these cues as a performer - particularly if you want to play at a jam session where you will be playing with people that likely you have never performed with before.
Finally, guidance on our courses and syllabuses:
If there are any topics you are particularly interested in, let me know and I will point you towards certain areas of the lesson library.
I’d recommend to peruse our syllabus pages and look over the “Learning Path” sections which give a nice ‘birds-eye-view’ on the progression through the topics. Here’s our syllabus index:
We also have practice planners on our first 4 jazz courses. These courses contain a sizeable chunk of beginner/intermediate jazz theory and once you have completed these courses, and the jazz standard studies within them, you will be feeling much more confident with jazz harmony and reading and interpreting lead sheets.
Here’s the section of the forum which contains the PDF planners and also discussion threads with additional info and guidance from myself and our other students:
I hope all this helps to give you some initial direction Ken and here to help should you have any questions with the materials.