Monday, December 31, 2007

My Favorites

Not really a "Top-Ten" or "Best-Of" list; these are some of my favorite music purchases from 2007.  Some newly-released, some not.  This is what I have been digging in absolutely no particular order:

Maria Schneider - Sky Blue.  Everything is superlative.

Chris Potter 10 - Song for Anyone.  I love the writing, the orchestration is brilliant, and Chris' playing always moves me.

Donny McCaslin - Soar.  Not a new release, but I just picked it up this past year.  Great textures - his use of the voice in his arrangements especially.

Jim Gailloreto - Jazz String Quintet.  Again, not a new release but a wonderful project by a great saxophone player (and good friend...hey Jim, how's Smoke Daddy's?).

James Falzone - The Sign and the Thing Signified.  Nepotism again, James is a dear old friend.  Incredible Clarinet playing and composition.

Joe Lovano - Streams of Expression.  One word - Aulochrome!!  (Also, Kids, w/Hank Jones is killer too...)

John Hollenbeck - Joys and Desires.  I got my first big exposure to Hollenbeck last year at IAJE.  KILLIN'!!

Michael Brecker - Pilgrimage.  I'll always feel a tinge of sadness whenever I'm at IAJE from now on...

Not a definitive list, but these are some of the ones that stand out for me.  Happy New Year to all.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Lee Konitz

Heard about this today thanks to Intervals, David Liebman's newsletter.

Andy Hamilton's new book on Lee Konitz looks like a must read.  Here is another sax player that I have always been aware of, his recording Motion continues to be in rotation at my house, but I have never checked him out in a really deep way.  Reading Lieb's review of the book sparked my interest a bit and I came across this.  I have heard discussion of  "The Ten Steps" but I have never seen it shown so clearly.  I like this approach because:

 - It is a very organic way to learn/develop a tune
 - It keeps the improviser's mind on the idea melody and melodic embellishment

In my own playing I have noticed a tendency to jump into the harmony and almost disregard the melody.   Writing has been a good antidote to this - I am focusing on constructing melodies rather than harmony for harmony's sake.  

This is something I love about music.  There is always a new inspiration.  I'll be looking to check out some more Lee...

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Another Project, Another Deadline

Today, I started sketching for my next writing project. This, in addition to Hank should keep me busy enough for the next couple of months to avoid constant blogging/blog reading.  There should be a disclaimer for newbies:  WARNING, this activity will most likely consume all of your free time.

The project is a commission (can you call it a commission if a friend hired you for it?) for a mixed woodwind piece.  The working title is Constants and Variables.  One compositional element (rhythm, pitches, pitch order, etc...) will remain constant throughout each movement.  It will also contain some improvisational elements.  As ear food, I have been checking out Elliot Carter's Eight Etudes and a Fantasy.  I am criminally ignorant of Carter's work but, based of the first few listenings of Fantasy, that will change immediately. 

Spent some more quality time with Hank this morning.  I could get used to this vacation stuff, but alas only a week left.

Friday, December 28, 2007

The Year of Hank?

I have been transcribing today.  

I have wanted to add the tune "Remember" to my rep for sometime so I dug out Hank Mobley's record Soul Station as a reference.  I last transcribed some Hank several years ago and I still go back to those solos to mine material, but I haven't really been doing any deep listening to Hank in a while.  I forgot how BAD this cat was!!!  Crystal clear harmonic language, great sound and incredible time feel.  What started as just a reference for a tune I was learning has turned into a big transcription project.  I may just go down the track list on Soul Station - it's such an incredible record.  I try not to question these types of reactions - if Hank's playing is speaking to me so much right now, I need to mine that regardless of what I had planned for transcription/practice projects.  I have found that if I follow my passion it is easier to see a big project through.  Like Branford Marsalis said, "The Music tells you..."

Now I may have to buy this...

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Post-Holiday Boredom?

Feeling stir-crazy?  Had enough turkey leftovers?  If you're in the Hampton Roads region of Virginia, come out and hear some live jazz...

Thursday December 27th 8:00-10:00pm
The Roy Muth Big Band
4012 Colley Ave. in Norfolk
Reservations are suggested

Saturday December 29th 7:00-10:00pm
Dudzienski/Hines Duo 
Gregory Dudzienski - Saxophones
Pamela Hines - Piano
11820 Merchant's Walk
City Center in Newport News.

If you're not in the region...find some live local music to support.  We want to play for you!!

Wednesday, December 26, 2007


One of the gifts I received from my In-Laws is Steve Martin's biography Born Standing Up.  It is a great read, very entertaining and it offers some great insight to his creative process.  As I was reading it I found myself drawing many parallels between his reflections on doing stand-up and what we do as musicians.

In one chapter he discusses the confidence and edge that is developed by night after night of performing on the road and the difference between a great night and a good night.  This was the most interesting, and most relevant part for me.  He says basically that "It's easy to be great". The nights where everything clicks do come along and can be counted on to some degree.  The real challenge is being consistently good.  

I have read other accounts of this same thought; Lieb speaks about it in Self Portrait of a Jazz Artist and many other heros have voiced similar thoughts.  I find it encouraging to see that very successful creative people sometimes struggle with the same things that we do.

The idea of "just doing it" everyday and developing a long view of your work is difficult to develop but I think it is very healthy.  I do post-mortems of my most recent performance or arrangement and for a time, that glimpse would color my mood (both creative and otherwise) for several days/weeks.  To look at that work in the perspective of the "long view", I feel, gives me a perspective that is much more accurate.  The real challenge in trying to develop is to be objectively critical and I think it is much easier to do that when you are working consistently without the "striving" for a great night. 

Monday, December 24, 2007

Sad News

Piano guru Oscar Peterson has left town.  

Two of my favorite recordings have always been "Oscar Peterson Trio + One with Clark Terry" and "Stan Getz and the Oscar Peterson Trio".  His playing was always the epitome of taste and swing.

He will be missed.

A Hearty Breakfast

Better than Starbucks?


Like most who write and arrange as part of their creative life, deadlines are a fact of life for me.  I have just finished my last project of the year (ahead, but not by much, of the deadline).  An old teacher of mine told me once...I think he was quoting another writer but I don't remember, "The brain knows exactly how long any given task will take and it will not engage until the last possible moment."

My own experiences have held this to be a true axiom.  How do the enlightened ones do it? Does Mintzer struggle with this?  I have read a bit about Maria and it seems that she deals with this also.  Do we ever outgrow it?  Is it something that we need to outgrow?  I have heard of many of the heros speaking of their greatest work being written under the gun of a deadline.  
Deadlines or not, it feels good to finish the project...

On a different note, blogging is a new thing for me.  I have been reading blogs seriously for only a few months.  It seems like a wonderful way to share ideas and I'm looking forward  to that.  Please be patient with me as I "learn the ropes".

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Talk about a NEW GUY!!!!

Just what the web needs...another blog.  I'm Greg; a saxophonist, composer and arranger and I'll be sharing various and sundry observations about music and life.  

I just came in from a run, it is miserable-warm outside (I'm from the midwest...bring the snow!) I am training for a 1/2 marathon in a few months.  I like the half because it doesn't take over your life like a full marathon can.  Here is a link to an interesting entry about runner musicians from a great blog Bottomless Cup.