Charlie Shoemake was my teacher for three years, from age fourteen to seventeen. When I began lessons I could hardly play. Three years later, not only could I play, but I was working professionally with many groups, including Lionel Hampton, Toshiko Akiyoshi, and even Charlie’s own quintet. I owe this mainly to these important lessons (and hard work). Charlie was the ONLY teacher in Los Angeles with a method of teaching jazz improvisation that actually worked. It has been said that it is impossible to teach jazz, but not only did Charlie disprove this theory, but helped hundreds of students of all ages to become better jazz soloists. Later, when Charlie retired from teaching he began a successful concert series in Cambria, California. I have played there many times over the years for this wonderful series. This has become an important venue for some of the greatest musicians all over the world. As performer, teacher and presenter, Charlie Shoemake is one of jazz’s most important assets.
My studies with Charlie Shoemake (over three years) were truly invaluable. My soloing and knowledge of chord changes (jazz harmony) went up a thousand percent because of his teaching. Charlie is one of our country’s leading jazz vibraphone players but unlike many other top jazz players he is able to articulate and communicate his skills to other people. I owe him a lot and so do many other musicians on the west coast.
I studied with Charlie Shoemake for several years in my early twenties. In addition to being a renowned jazz artist, I found him to be a most knowledgeable and inspiring teacher. His understanding of jazz music and education is nothing short of remarkable. I credit much of my success as an artist to my studies with Charlie and feel fortunate to have had him as a teacher and mentor. His collection of transcribed solos of the jazz greats is extensive and impeccably accurate. In contrast to many “jazz theory” texts, Charlie’s explanation of jazz harmony is straightforward and based on the actual performances of the jazz legends. Anyone who is serious about becoming a jazz artist, or just looking to improve their skills, would be very lucky to study with Charlie Shoemake.