Jazz Artist Bobby Militello Visits Jamestown For Seminar And Workshop

Renowned jazz musician Bobby Militello spent Tuesday in Jamestown imparting his wisdom upon area youth and adults.

During his stay in Jamestown, Militello participated in a Continuing Legal Education seminar at the Robert H. Jackson Center, followed by an Infinity Visual and Performing Arts workshop that provided area residents with an intimate look at jazz through the eyes of a legend.

Militello’s day began by participating on a panel with Dennis Drew, founding member of 10,000 Maniacs, for the seminar “Scales of Justice” at the Jackson Center. A focus of the seminar was copyright, which the moderator, Theresa E. Quinn, an associate with Magavern Magavern Grimm LLP of Buffalo, held experience in litigating.

“It was basically about copyright law and how it pertains to the Internet and freedom of usage – what you have the right to do and what don’t you have the right to do,” Militello said. “It was interesting because the moderator and I had two opposing views. She was saying the law as it’s stated and exists, then I would say that’s all well and good but in the real world this is what happens and this how it doesn’t work.

“My stance is that we’re in a constantly transitioning period of time because of the Internet,” Militello continued. “Right now we’re analyzing what’s happening at this moment, and trying to fix the problems. But, in two years, those problems will be completely different. The problem isn’t in the system as it stands now, it’s in understanding the system and deciding how to use the system to adapt it to what we need to do.”

Following the seminar, Militello headed to Infinity for a workshop sponsored by the Chautauqua Region Community Foundation. The event was free for Infinity’s students, but was also open to the public. The audience included a mix of Infinity instructors, students and area residents interested in jazz or the opportunity to ask Militello questions.

“For those that are aspiring players, the perspective that you give them is different than what they are used to – it either opens the door, or closes the door,” Militello said. “Knowing how hard it is to do what we do, as well as the relationship between your emotion, ability and money; when you put it all together you get a picture of what it’s like. … If you want to be a great jazz player, you should study classical. You’ll get all of the things out of the way with your instrument by playing things are ridiculously hard. The better you get at classical, the more initiative you’re going to have to go ahead and not worry about the physical prowess of something, but more the thought creates the action.”

For use in the workshop, Militello brought with him one of his prized saxophones that he said had only been worked on once before. He began with a few words of introduction, followed by blowing some tunes on the horn to sonically set a mood and get the audience ready to talk about creativity.

“If it’s for children, I focus more on what it’s like to play jazz,” Militello continued. “You don’t teach jazz, you teach the concept of how to play it. I’m a firm believer in that. … Schools, they give you tools, and tools are nothing more than machine parts. You have to put together into an assumption, which comes from another place – it doesn’t come from the analytical side of things. That assumption is where I come from and that’s what I try to get across – the grasp of melody, understanding the depth of what you’re trying to achieve and trying to build a solo not because you want to get over with the audience, but because you found a space in time that all of a sudden occurs to you feels valid.”

Militello’s workshop engaged the audience with a combination of conversation and music. He discussed topics ranging from longtones, the diaphragm and deep breaths, to math, hearing without seeing and the quest for perfection by fighting to abandon licks in search for new ones. Yet, the workshop always came back to one important subject, that jazz may be a different process for every musician, but it should be fun for everyone because “boredom in jazz is sudden death,” he said.

“Relative pitch makes jazz music fun,” Militello said. “It’s a conversation – it’s not just about the soloist. A solo is a thought while within the space of the circle of conversation, and it should be prolific enough for the audience to react.”

One of Militello’s favorite aspects of workshops, especially those with children, is seeing the reactions of those who are excited about what they hear. But, the real fun is what happens later, when he gets approached by someone who says they did what he said to – and that it worked, Militello said.

Militello, who has traveled to and lived in many places, calls Buffalo home.

“I feel like me here,” Militello said. “A lot of people know who I am, but it’s no big deal – that’s what I like.”

Militello is also no stranger to Jamestown, and recalls performing in the area often with players such as Pat Flaherty and Craig Kastelnik.

“Jamestown’s always been a hot place for music,” Militello said. “There was always action down here.”

But, before Tuesday, Militello had never had the opportunity to check out Infinity, which he said reminded him of programs he had encountered while visiting Europe. As a result, he hopes to schedule a performance in the Infinity Arts Cafe in the near future, he said.

For more information, visit bobbymilitello.com.