Dr Landman studied jazz all his life and while a student at the University of Pennsylvania took a course on the history of jazz. The course took him from the origins of jazz up to the bebop era. He was intrigued with the combination of Western diatonic scales and songs sung by slaves in the Deep South. The famous ‘blue’ note is that note in blues and jazz that is supposed to sound wrong (it is a flat fifth in a major scale), but it embodies the soulful and mournful sentiments of countless people caught in an unjust system of servitude.
The evolution of jazz since its genesis in New Orleans has truly been remarkable. Dr Landman is himself a trombone player and has studied jazz theory, improvisation, modal substitutions, and other fine points of the genre. He had the distinct pleasure of meeting J.J. Johnson and saw him play in Philadelphia in the late 1980s after he returned from a career of writing music for film and television in Los Angeles.
The trombone is like a violin or fretless bass, where the pitches are achieved through an intuitive sense of position; the combination of extending the slide and adjusting the embouchure. This intuition makes the instrument very challenging to learn, but incredibly flexible once it has been mastered. It is technically never out of tune, since the musician can carefully adjust the slide or embouchure to stay in tune with other musicians.
In his study of the trombone and the history of jazz, Dr Landman learned of a rumour, or perhaps urban myth, that New Orleans was not only the birthplace of jazz but also home to a cohort of special musicians that had perfected a secret technique of what has become known as ‘psychic perfect pitch’ or the ability for musicians to play pitches that other people were merely thinking of! If true, this would be quite an amazing feat. The tale suggests that the ability could be learned and that it traveled north from New Orleans to Pennsylvania and further afield.
The details are sketchy, but Dr Landman has discovered a way to replicate this feat and does so on his trombone. He has performed this on numerous occasions to the delight of his audiences. A participant chooses a song and Dr Landman plays it on his trombone. To see this and many other inexplicable feats, contact Dr Landman, the Academic Magician.