Listening and actually hearing

A bit over forty years ago my Army band barracks roommate began taking me to jam sessions in Munich, Germany on weekends as a way of helping me gain experience playing jazz.

Marcus Hampton (1941-2021) was a great jazz improviser, music arranger, and also a nephew of the great Locksley Hampton (Slide Hampton). The Hamptons are another royal family in the music from Indianapolis.

Learn more about their history here:

Hamp’ knew both of us in 1977 as military musicians before we were married. And he remained among our closest family friends over the decades spanning into our current life as musicians here in KC.

During that period I was listening and transcribing lots of jazz music. I hadn’t a clue how to functionally apply my knowledge of harmony in a jazz improvisational context though. I relied heavily upon my ear. And I was still not very experienced in actually playing the music in typical small combo situations.

As was the case with Hamp’ and me, many mentors often don’t realize the value, significance, and importance of their role until much later. Taking advantage of that opportunity and participating in those jam sessions helped my jazz playing tremendously. I eventually became competent enough to teach others.

This album is an original from our vinyl collection. And when Terri Anderson Burnett and I became a family, we catalogued all of our music. This album is number 002 and remains a favorite.

Anyway, I was once listening to this same album when I roomed with Hamp’ and just marveled over Cannonball’s soloing throughout.

Hamp’ stated the common phrase of inquiry to me that I had already heard other older experienced musicians often ask younger inexperienced jazz improvisers like I was back then, “You can’t hear that, man?”

I said “no, I don’t know what I am listening for in order to understand what I am hearing.”

That reply was the key to the process and beginnings of my being able to truly learn music at a deeper level beyond playing written notated parts.

Hamp’ sat down at the keyboard in our barracks room and played (1) sub dominant, (2) dominant, and (3) tonic function sounds as chords in the harmonic progression context of various common modern jazz song forms.

He then further explained how they related to the scales that I already knew. Mind blown.

I have never looked at or heard any type of music the same since. Our great friend, Marcus A. Hampton, Jr. passed away in 2021 but his impact lives on through us as his friends and my jazz students who never met him.

Yes, I can hear that now, man. Thanks 🎵

Musings In Cb: “Listening and actually hearing”

PHOTO by Corinna Gray Photography (2023)

Christopher and Terri (Anderson) Burnett established their branch of The Burnett Family in March of 1979 in Copenhagen, Denmark. They are professional musicians, educators, and entrepreneurs based in the Kansas City Metropolitan Area.