Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Turtle Island Quartet with Stefon Harris

Heard a great hit tonight:  The Turtle Island Quartet with Stefon Harris.

I have always liked TIQ because of the sensibility that they approach music with.  They play in the moment, improvise and maintain a jazz aesthetic in everything they play.  From their bio:

"At the time of Haydn's apocryphal creation of the string quartet form, musicians were more akin to today's saxophonists and keyboard masters of the jazz and pop world, i.e., improvisers, composers and arrangers.  Each Turtle Island member is accomplished in these areas..."

I have often wondered exactly how it was that improvisation stopped being a common skill, but that is a topic for another post.  

The centerpieces of tonight's performance were several pieces from Duke's Sacred Concerts arranged and set into a suite by violinist David Balakrishnan.  The suite was composed of:  It's Freedom, Praise God, and Come Sunday.  The setting was transcendent and Stefon's vibe playing was the perfect color to offset the strings.  Other than Stefon's playing, other highlights included 'cellist Mark Summer's channeling of Mahalia on the theme of Come Sunday and Stefon's reading of a portion of the text from a eulogy that Duke gave for Strays over the setting of It's Freedom.  It was no surprise that Duke's Sacred music translated  very well to the string texture, but I was very pleasantly surprised at the concert's closer, an arrangement of Chick Corea's Senor Mouse on which everyone stretched.  Stefon, of course, was bad.  Other great moments were Mark Summer's pizz work and Mads Tolling's solo work.

Here is a portion of the text that Stefon read.  "He demanded freedom of expression and lived in what we consider the most important and moral of freedoms:  freedom from hate, unconditionally; freedom from self-pity; freedom from fear of possibly doing something that might help another more than it might himself; and freedom from the kind of pride that could make a man feel he was better than his brother".

Monday, January 28, 2008

It Is Accomplished

The Woodwind piece is done...

I just finished printing score and parts, it will be delivered tomorrow and the coaching will start in 2-3 weeks.

It settled into a three movement structure:
I Largo
II Fugue
III Improvisation

The largo and improvisation are based on a 12-tone row and the fugue is based on a theme based on an intervalic structure of up a whole step, up a minor third, down a half step and up a major third.

The premiere is in April and sounds will be posted on MySpace as soon as they become available.  Watch this space for some more substantive writing now that the project is done but now...I'm going to have a drink.

This is a happy night!!!

Sunday, January 27, 2008

News from Home

I read a very nice review of the Jazz Institute of Chicago's Jazz Fair over at Howard Mandel's blog, Jazz Beyond Jazz.
As a frequent attendee of the Jazz Fair before I left town (kicking and screaming) I must second everything Howard writes about.  The scene is Chicago is wonderfully open to various flavors of jazz.  At the Green Mill in one week, one could hear the likes of Kurt Elling, Ken Vandermark, Von Freeman, and a performance of Kathy Kelly and the wonderful Chicago Jazz Composer's Collective.  All of which would be enthusiastically received.  
The Chicago Jazz Festival was a staple in my growing up.  I remember sitting transfixed hearing Dexter Gordon and the "Round Midnight Band" on a warm night with the most beautiful skyline in the world behind him.  Yes, I am biased...

Will remove upon request

I heard a "This American Life" episode once that dealt with a Chicago native being show around NYC for the first time and saying something along the lines of "yeah, it's great but it's no Chicago".  I think I will always feel this way about my beloved Chi-town.

The Hawk may be out, but I know the warmth that is always there...

I miss that scene - Jim Gailloreto, Brad Wheeler, Von-skis, Mitch Paliga, Eric Schneider, Ari Brown, Ken Vandermark are just a few of the saxophonists/composers that I include in my pantheon of influences.

Enough sentiment - I have writing to do.  The woodwind piece is due on Tuesday and score and parts must be edited.  I'm still not sure about the fugue either....

Friday, January 25, 2008

Bad News

Found this sitting in my Vienna inbox upon return from the gig tonight.

From Do The Math...

I haven't been able to find any details other than a mention of the benefit on the Small's website.

Sending positive vibes...

Thursday, January 24, 2008

New Tune

I have posted a rough cut of the blues I spoke about the other day.  It's on my MySpace page.  A bit too wet in the 'verb department, but over all not bad...

Wednesday, January 23, 2008


Time, once again, to make the jazz...

January 24th 8:00-10:00pm
The Roy Muth Big Band
4012 Colley Ave. in Norfolk
Reservations are suggested

January 26th 7:00-10:00pm
Dudzienski/Brydge Duo (Gregory Dudzienski - Saxophones & Chris Brydge - Bass)
11820 Merchant's Walk in Newport News

Hope to see you there, we want to play for you...

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

I Got Greedy

I had a few minutes between classes and and hearing chart proposals this afternoon so I sat down at the piano...

A very nice motive appeared, I was able to develop it into a nice blues without really trying - it wrote itself, so to speak.  I called it "Got A Second?" in honor of my students and what is very often their greeting to me (note to any who are reading this: I don't's OK).  The fact that it came so easily caused me to say - "I'm going to do some more tune writing tonight".

SLAM went the door to my muse's house.  I have just emerged from my studio where after 2 hours of rambling on my horn and piano I have exactly ONE 4 bar idea.  The long and short of it is I was trying, and we all know how well that works.  Sometimes I have no idea how I can work on deadline.  

The good news is I have a good blues (you can never have too many of those), the Woodwind piece is all but finished, and I have a 4 bar germ to work with.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

The Big Snow...

Since Friday, the local news has been warning us about the "winter weather" coming this weekend.  Here is the result...

In costal Virginia, we take what we can get...

I do miss snow.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

I'm Very Excited

Living where I do (Southeast Virginia), news sometimes takes awhile to filter down, especially compared to where I come from (in and around Chicago).  But...Ben Allison has a new record coming out in a couple of days!!!!  Ben had a nice feature this evening on NPR and that's how I heard about it.  

I really admire Ben as a musician.  His bass playing is second to none, but I especially respect his compositions and the aesthetic he brings to small group writing.  I first laid my ears on Buzz in 2004 it made a big impact on me.  I an almost embarrassed to say that up until that point, most of my small group listening had fallen into conventional paradigms - horn w/rhythm section.  There were exceptions but not enough to keep me from being very taken with Ben's compositional approach, orchestrational choices, and especially use of texture.  Prepared Piano!!!!

I still remember my first listen to Buzz.  The first track is called Respiration (also on his new record).  The texture of the the Wurlitzer, the counterpoint between the two tenors and bone were all very refreshing, and when "time" finally was NOT what I expected (Buzz, too.). His work with the Jazz Composer's Collective (1992-2005) was inspiring both musically and as an example of "making a scene"as well.

The street date is January 22nd.  

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Back to life...back to....


The woodwind piece is due in a few weeks.  Three movements are done and Monday will be dedicated to the fourth.  The trio that is premiering it leaves on a tour at the end of January. They will work on the piece while they are out (I'm not sure how, but I didn't ask), come back for a few coachings with me and premiere it in early April.  I am really excited about this, it is my first venture into chamber music and I am really enjoying the textures and colors I am discovering.   I have come up with a long list of projects to dive into upon completion of the WW piece, no mind atrophy for me!!!

I also have a trio (sax, bass, drums/perc) hit of original stuff coming up that I need to get things together for.  My trio rep has been about 20% original and 80% other people's writing. I'd like to get that ratio flipped within the next few months.  

I'm not sure if Blogger will allow it, but I am going to try to get audio of the WW piece and some other stuff up here as it becomes available.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Thoughts on "Good Enough"

Darcy wrote a really nice recap of his IAJE experience, you can read the whole thing here, but there is one section that really stood out for me:

"The jazz tradition isn't about elements of style or a particular harmonic or rhythmic vocabulary, and it's not about some bullshit notion of "progress" in music, either, where "progress" = "increasing density" -- it's about having the fortitude to get out there and make a heartfelt personal statement that only you can make.  You want to honor the legacy of Bird or Miles or Trane or Mingus -- honor their searching, individualist spirit.  Study the past but make YOUR OWN music." [emphasis mine]
-Well spoken sir!

For a long time I put off making my own music.  At first, I felt it was more important to study the masters at the expense of all else.  I still feel this is a valid way to STUDY music, but not to be an active participant in the music.  I put off bringing my tunes/charts etc around to gigs and I would never program a whole set, let alone, a concert of my music.  My reasons for this were "it's not good enough".  I think I used to equate (and I still can if I'm not careful) "good enough" with "sounding like X".  I have come to terms with the fact that I will never sound like Trane/Wayne/Newk/Joe/Bergonzi/Lieb etc, but I can, will, and do sound like me.  As DJA says above, only I can do that.  

There was an interesting discussion going on in the comments section of my post "You're Doing it Wrong".  My Sister-in-Law, who is an author and has thoughts about this same type of thing, had a lot to say about the idea of "good enough".  Here is an excerpt:

 "Well I think getting to the point where I can say it is okay to be "good enough" - putting that enough on the end really helps.  But I think what helps me to get to that "good enough" point are two things - reading other writers and how they write - learning that there is no "right way" to do it - and reading many, many books and being able to see that I write as well as or better than a lot of authors who have already been published.  Although being able to see that means ignoring the emotional part of me that says how - horrible, stupid, idiotic, etc... - my writing is and getting to the more objective part that can assess those kinds of things."

What I am coming to realize is that waiting until it is good enough is important, but being objective about that point is MORE important.  It can be a double-edged sword as "good enough" can give one license to move on from or abandon the work before it is ready while "not good enough" can become a cop-out, shield to hide behind, and ultimately the sand that we bury our artistic heads in.

If we as artists put our minds into a quiet objective place, chances are we'll see that much of our work IS "good enough" and deserves to be put out there.  

As one final word about The Madness, I'll say that the most inspiring thing for me was hearing and seeing so many artists that, I'd guess have or continue to struggle with, this putting it out there.  It's time for more of us to do that.      

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Back Home

It is nice to back after four whirlwind days.

Not much to say that hasn't already been said.  I want to mention the post by Carl Wilson (Zoilus).  Carl was on the panel that discussed Blogging.  He shares some good thoughts here.

Also, I just want to send out my respect on the anniversary of Michael Brecker's passing.  Much has been written and I won't add but to share my one Brecker Story:

My wife took me to see the "Directions in Music" tour in 2003 (I think).  We were living in Chicago and the group was at Ravinia.  We were on the lawn which is normally a bit noisy with picnickers etc.  Michael played the solo version of Namia and it went about 10 minutes.  At the end, the whole park was silent, it seemed like the crickets even shut up.  I had never been in an outdoor setting where the audience was SO tuned in to a performance.

Remember him in your own way today...

Day 4

OK, it took me three tries to log in...I must be tired!

Today was mostly about hearing music.  A couple of good sessions; at 9:00am (damn...) there was a research presentation on Blogging and the Jazz Community.  Ken Prouty did some good research, including blogs such as Greenleaf and Be.Jazz.  During the Q&A we had a good discussion about the vibe in academic circles regarding blogs as a valid research source.  Granted, he is one guy and can not speak for the whole of the academic world, but I was encouraged by his thoughts.  He feels that artist blogs are great resources for students.  I worry that some of the more conservatively minded will let the "Peer-Reviewed" thing get in the way, but if a student is researching, say, trends in contemporary classical composition, what better place to start than with something like Eighth Blackbird's blog?

The think I like most about this conference is how much new music I get exposed to.  The SOCAN/IAJE Composer Award performances piled on even more inspiration.  The emerging award went to Andrew Jones and the established award to Fred Stride.  Props to the Paul Read Orchestra on stellar performances.

This evening I caught a set by the DMB Quintet.  3/5ths of this group (Ian Froman, Mike Murley and Jim Vivian) was at The Rex last night with Lieb.  Add to that David Braid on piano and Tara Davidson on Alto/Soprano and you have the group.  With the exception of Froman, these are all cats I was totally unfamiliar with and probably would have remained so.  I am so glad they played here. The compositions were very interesting, utilizing sectional writing, different orchestrations away from the horn(s) with rhythm paradigm, and deep, deep playing.

The closing concert was very forward looking:  
Francois Houle Octet - I once heard Ellery Eskelin speak about the time feel in free music being more related to momentum than pulse and I definitely caught that tonight.

Les Projectionnistes - These guys were great, there was a bit of a Zappa vibe but they really reminded me of some bands I used to listen to in the 90s like Mr. Bungle.  I hate describing someone's music in the context of someone else; these cats were very original - as the bone player said "we don't play jazz, we play music".

Finally, Barry Romberg's Random Access Large Ensemble - I am totally repeating myself, but this killed too.  

All and all - I am exhausted, both physically and mentally.  Overall, I think IAJE did well with presenting creative music.  I really dug getting to know what I am sure is just the smallest bit of the Canadian jazz and creative music scene, I have a lot more music to check out and I look forward to learning more about all of these cats.  Safe travel to anyone going tomorrow...

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Day 3 Addendum -Lieb's hit

Ok, let me get this off my chest first...I will never understand why a group of people would stand in line for 45 minutes, pay $20.00 and TALK through most of the set!!!!!  Sorry, I'm ok.  And to be fair it was just one person...but COME ON!

Rant complete, as you were.

The hit was very powerful.  The quartet of Lieb, Mike Murley, Jim Vivian, and Ian Froman have recorded together (Day and Night  -Live at the Atlantic Jazz Festival) and their empathy was very evident tonight.  Lieb always moves me.  If you know me or have been reading this blog with any consistency, you know that he is a former teacher, huge influence, and guru.  His commitment and courage to follow what he hears is a model for all.  If it's possible, I think his soprano sound is even becoming MORE expressive.  What really knocked me out, though, was the rest of the group.  I gathered that the trio is Mike Murley's working trio but I'm not sure.  Ian Froman was the only name I was familiar with.  This group KILLED!!!  The sensitivity to every musical stimuli was a wonderful model for the many students in attendance and the communication between Froman and Vivian was almost telepathic.  Can I just say, Ian Froman, DAMN!  He and Lieb got into it a couple of times and there were times I had the same reaction that I have at the 4:50 mark on Afro Blue from Trane's Live at Birdland...glorious tension and release.  Great night!

Friday, January 11, 2008

Day 3

The Psychosis is setting in earlier this year...

Another whirlwind day at IAJE.  I hear some great research presentations this morning.  Of particular note were Tyler Kuebler's presentation on Michael Brecker's improvisatory language and Matt Pivec's talk about Trane's motivic development c. 1959-63.  My favorite period of Trane's evolution was 1960- 67 and the elements Matt isolated translate very well into looking at Trane's language from that time.  Matt and I had a really nice talk after and I hope to keep in touch with him.  Tyler's presentation on Brecker was some of the best analysis I have ever seen.  He broke things down into the digital patterns, triads, seventh chords etc and was very organized.  I think I'll have to purchase the IAJE Research Proceedings this year just for these two papers.  On a slightly different note, we still have tomorrow to get through but other than Tyler's paper I have neither seen nor heard any discussion of any kind of remembrance of Mike.  I know that I will forever link his passing with this conference.  One can hope...

The next big thing was the panel discussion on blogging.  The panelists consisted of DJA, Carl Wilson, David Ryshpan, David Adler, and Neil Tesser.  There were good discussions and questions.  The major point I took away from the panel is that what I am doing here is an unqualified good thing.  Despite the, as Brother Carl would say, Billions and Billions of blogs out there, there are an obscenely few about jazz.  "From each according to his abilities..." I throw my hat into the ring.  I also met bassist, blogger, fellow traveler and all around nice guy Matthew Wengerd.  Check out his blog, 104 Weeks, here.  As for his very complementary comments about my content so far...wait until I get tired!  LOL cats will invade...

At 5:00 there was a very good arranging session on writing intros, shout choruses and endings. Mike Tomaro and John Wilson gave a nice advance look at their upcoming book.  It looks like a must get.  I know my students always have the hardest time with these elements because they require the most creativity.  Mike and John show some effective processes to get good material with a minimum of angst.

I'm currently back in my room; resting my ears and clearing my head.  I am sneaking away from the conference tonight to hear Lieb.  He is at The Rex @ 9:30.  If you are here, COME!!!  If you know Lieb's playing, the fact he is doing a gig should be all the persuading you need.  If David Liebman is a new name for you, you must hear this cat and his best work is always live.

Watch this space for a post-hang update on Lieb's hit... 

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Day 2

Excellent day all around. 
IAJE has been referred to as "The Madness" by several in the blogosphere with good reason.  I have been to several and I am never fully prepared for the sensory overload.  Here are some of the highlights of day one:

Steve Duke's presentation on "Reducing Unnecessary Tension in Performance"
If you read my "favorite CD 2007" list, you know I am not above a little nepotism.  Steve was my Saxophone professor when I was in college, and remains a big influence.  The topic for his clinic today was a big part of my education back then (1990-1994).  The Feldenkrais Method is a wonderful way to learn about how the body organizes itself and by extension where tension "hides".  I have always found it very helpful and I still use it.  In speaking to Steve, I found out that it has been embraced by the saxophone studio.  This makes me happy, when I was there it had a bit of a polarizing effect.

The IAJE/ASCAP & Gil Evans Commissions
These pieces were absolutely astounding.  Ayn Inserto's piece with George Garzone, Tim Hagans' piece and Wil Swindler's piece were all amazing and all very different.  It is so inspiring to hear these compositions and explore the ideas and inspiration they provide me.  I just wish more of the membership would have stayed for Wil's piece.  Their loss...

Bill Dobbins' analysis of Brookmeyer's Willow Weep For Me
Dobbins demonstrated what most reading this already know -  both he and Brookmeyer are geniuses.  An informative and VERY detailed deconstruction of Brookmeyer's arrangement.  I hope that he someday publishes what he presented today. 

Exhibit Opening
This essentially functions as a big meet and greet.  Some photos below.

yours truly with Bob Cranshaw:  

yours truly with one of my gurus, David Liebman:

The HIGHLIGHT of the day so far has been Darcy James Argue's Secret Society.  I forget how I happened upon Darcy's wonderful blog, but I have been a religious reader for several months and it, in no small way was part of the inspiration for this blog.  One of the highlights is that he posts all of his concerts to listen to.  I dug his writing very quickly, it has an intensity and honesty that is almost, no it IS visceral.  Tonight was the first time I have had the pleasure of hearing his music live (and from the third row!!!) and I am BLOWN AWAY.  I actually had to leave the conference and go to my room to absorb and process everything.  The one word I have to describe everything is courage.
Musical courage, personal courage, moral courage.  Everything.  Darcy, if you read this...keep going!!!  You are inspiring.

IAJE Day 1

After a VERY bumpy landing in Toronto, I am here and settled at the IAJE conference.  Over the next few days I'll be posting about the sensory overload that is IAJE.  I'll also be posting photos; as a test, here is the view out my hotel window:

The CN tower puts on quite a light show at night, but that is not why we are here.  Onward to:

The Opening Concerts:
The evening started with my skin turning a lovely shade of green upon hearing the Clifford Brown/Stan Getz All Stars.  This is an all-star HIGH SCHOOL combo and they were KILLIN'!!!  Clearly there is growth will occur, but when you start from where these kids are, it is scary to imagine where the growth will take them.  Really a treat to hear these young people.

After that it was time for food/coffee (there is a really good coffee/sandwich/doughnut shop right outside the hotel, of course I can't remember the name of it now.  It's a chain, but it is good.

The Highlight was Nordic Connect with Ingrid Jensen, Christine Jensen, Maggi Olin, Jon Wikan, Mattias Welin, and special guest Emma Love.  RUN, do not walk, stroll, saunter or otherwise delay to Ingrid's website and purchase the CD Flurry.  This group was an absolute joy to listen to.  Ingrid's playing was a beautiful as ever and in addition to the great trumpet and harmonic playing, her very tasteful use of pedals/electronics brings a wonderful textural element as well.  A friend of mine that I'm traveling with said something along the lines of "her playing transcends the trumpet".  It's a good description and what we all aspire to.  The highlight of the set was a tune called At Sea where the group was joined by Emma Love on vocals.  I have been hooked on the textural use of voice since Kenny Wheeler's Music for Large and Small Ensembles and it is great to hear it in a smaller orchestration (Tpt/Flugel, Soprano, Vox)

A great beginning.  More to come...

Monday, January 7, 2008

Hexatonics? Is that an absinthe drink?

Things will be quiet here for a day or so as I prepare for my pilgrimage to Toronto, but watch this space as I will be blogging as coherently as two to three hours of sleep will allow from the IAJE International Conference beginning Wednesday.

Tonight though, I am already typing so...  The woodwind piece is beginning to take shape.  One movement is pretty much done and I have serious sketches for a second.  Elliot Carter's writing continues to influence the writing, but I have also been experimenting with some hexatonic structures.  Jerry Bergonzi's book Hexatonics is providing some great compositional raw material and I'm really curious about how it will translate to the "modern classical" vernacular.  I can honestly say that I don't know where this piece will end up but I'm really excited about it!  Of course, the piece will go into a holding pattern while I venture into the world of sleep deprivation.  Anyone have coffee recommendations in Toronto?  Please...

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Interesting Interview

I came across this today.  A very well done interview with Jerry Bergonzi that covers many topics including transcription and study of the tradition.  Bergonzi explains the idea of following your passion in a way that makes a lot of sense.


J.I.:  That brings me to my next question. You are mentioning the linkage to the jazz 

tradition and when I interviewed Branford Marsalis he made a very strong point about the 

fact that jazz education in the universities generally neglects the necessary attention due 

to the jazz tradition before Charlie Parker and players such as Lester Young, Ben 

Webster, for instance, are not taken in consideration by the young generations. What is 

your opinion on this common approach to jazz education? Where should we start? 


J.B.:  That’s a great question. When I started listening to Sonny Rollins and John 

Coltrane, that was my passion. Joe Henderson, Wayne Shorter, Dexter and Hank Mobley, 

Stanley Turrentine.... That was my passion, which eventually led me to listen to the older 

guys like Charlie Parker, Coleman Hawkins, Lester Young. Then I realized the lineage. 

So I always tell young players to follow their passion and if they are really passionate 

about it, they will realize the lineage all the way back, and all the way forward.  So if you 

love Joe Lovano, for example, you’ll realize that Joe Lovano loves John Coltrane, John 

Henderson and Lester Young and you’ll see his lineage all the way back. So I think that if 

you follow your passion you’ll get all of the information. I think that this is better than 

say: “Don’t listen to who your passion is, don’t listen to ‘so and so’, go back and listen to 

Lester Young”. But maybe he is not ready to listen to Lester Young. Lester Young is 

deep, you know; maybe they are not ready for that. 


J.I.: That’s interesting. So you don’t think that the students need to be required to listen to 

the tradition but allowed to discover the lineage by themselves.... 


J.B.: They will discover it. A great musician is going to discover it, there is no way that 

he can’t, it’s not possible. 

I think his comments about allowing a student to follow his passion are important.  I was trying to decide if what I wrote yesterday conflicts with this, and I don't think it does.  It is great to start with who you love. No one ever had to convince me to listen to Trane for instance.  I have always had a passion for his playing, he was one of the first tenor players I ever heard (through my dad's record collection).  Bird, on the other hand, took some prodding.  I tried to get into him early, mainly because everyone said he was important, but his playing just wouldn't grab me the way others would.  I'd come back to him every so often with the same results.  It wasn't until I was into Dexter Gordon's playing (gotten to through Trane) that Bird's playing clicked for me.    

Reading Bergonzi's interview made me think of that and reminded me that evolution is not always a straight line and is not always forward.  I like Bergonzi's approach because the student gets the information when he or she is ready for it.  I couldn't "hear" Bird's music until I was ready for it.  Once I was, I heard it and it grabbed my passion.  If I would have forced the issue, I probably would have a very unhealthy relationship with Bird's music.

As a as a teacher it is important to remember that a student is going to get more out of studying a player that he or she is passionate about while guiding him to check out the lineage that informs that player's vocabulary.

As a student, it's important to remember that it is ok to like who you like.  The artistic road is long and in a creative life one will trace connections forward and backward forever.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Primary Sources

I mentioned in a previous post that I am currently transcribing some Hank Mobely.

I was organizing some of my recent transcriptions (read: avoiding work on my woodwind piece) and as I was looking at my work here is what I saw:
 - Sonny Rollins
 - Stan Getz
 - Hank Mobley
 - John Coltrane
 - Wes Montgomery

A respectable list, of course, but also they are all 50s-60s era solos.   That time period is still considered to be the gilded age for the codification of the modern jazz lexicon, but when I compare what I have been listening to to who I am transcribing, a bit of a dichotomy appears, at least at first glance.

I am a big believer in studying Primary Sources.  While I love David Liebman's playing, for instance, I have not yet transcribed one of his solos.  It was ingrained in me pretty early in my development that "if you want to sound like "X", don't study "X" but study who "X" studied". This has served me very well in my development and, while I acknowledge that there are many schools of thought on this, this remains my modus operandi as well as the basis of my pedagogy.  

This works for me because this is where my passion is.  It took me a bit to get there.  When I really began to get serious about this music, my sun rose and set on Branford Marsalis.  I had all of his records, I begged my dad to take me to hear him whenever he came to Chicago, and I think I still have an old VHS tape of him on "Night Music" with Jools Holland and David Sanborn.  As I followed his work I began to learn of his influences.  I was already pretty familiar with Trane, Newk and Wayne.  But through Branford, I got to Joe Henderson, Lester Young, Ornette Coleman, Lucky Thompson, Chu Berry and many more.  I actually got to hang with him for a couple of hours once in Chicago, it's a funny story.  I may share it sometime.  Suffice it to say he was a very patient and generous cat to a very naive 15 year old.  But what I took away from the experience was something along the lines of, "I play the way I do because I studied X, Y and Z."  

This was deeply reinforced several years later at David Liebman's Saxophone Masterclass
Lieb is big on transcription and he devotes a substantial amount to time during the week to it.

This way of learning is very time tested.  I have heard accounts of authors copying out entire sections of Hemingway or Steinbeck. At the Picasso Museum in Paris, I saw some early sketchbooks in which he was clearly copying another's work.  I have also seen it first hand.  When I lived in the Chicago area, a favorite way to spend an afternoon was at The Art Institute of Chicago.  A wonderful collection, and Chagall's America Windows ranks around #3 on my reasons to stay alive list.  But as I would walk through the museum I would see student after student sitting before the masterworks copying...all disciplines transcribe! 

The way I see it is that the Primary Sources are the tea leaves and the current scene is the hot water.  You need both to make tea.  I'm going to have some now...


Some Brookmeyer for a Friday Evening...

This has been up a YouTube for a month or two.  Make Me Smile always has...

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Original Jazz Classics

One of my many gift card purchases arrived today.  The OJC 2003 remaster of Tom Harrell's Sail Away.  

Sail Away and Form were two of my favorite LPs when I was In college.  Great compositions, burning soloists (On Sail Away: Harrell of course, but also Lovano, Liebman, Abercrombie et al.) very nice small ensemble playing (use of backgrounds, sectional writing etc..).  The drag was that they belonged to one of my housemates and when we all went our separate ways, his records went with him.

Listening to this again was a great treat, especially now that I now own it.  Next I need to get Form...

Yesterday's post has sparked some great conversation.  I will have more thoughts along those lines soon...right now it's back to Tom...

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

You're Doing It Wrong...

I am something of a process nut.

I love reading about process, talking about process, hearing about process and applying processes to problems.  So much, that I think it may be a problem sometimes.  I was reading the first couple of chapters of Twyla Tharp's book "The Creative Habit" (I just started, I'll report more as I finish...) and she writes about some of the fears that can potentially shut down the creative act before it begins.  I began thinking, a big one for me is "I may not do it right".  This is subtly different than "I don't know how to do it".  "Do it" implies ignorance while "do it right" implies fear.  

I can take the idea of "doing it right" to the nth degree sometimes.  There was a time when I would spend hours trying to design a practice routine and never practice because I was concerned that my routine was not "right".  I am happy to say that I have gotten past a lot of this (knock Mac...) with regards to practicing and playing the saxophone, but I still run up against it in composing.  When I start a new piece (or tune) my mind will always begin putting up parameters:  Modal thing, Rhythm Changes thing, ECM thing, Tune on a standard's changes etc.  Now, very often this is a wonderful tool and I get good results from using it but what I dislike about it is that it puts my mind into a judgmental place:  "that line doesn't fit", "it's not hip enough".  Very often, it doesn't and it's not but a teacher of mine told me that we should write the music that catches our interest (or words to that effect).  The short of it is I let myself get caught up in the world of "should" instead of the world of what is.  If I hear and like something that is of a major tonality - I should write a major tonality, not try to force the idea into a preconceived idea of what the tune "should" be.   

I will always use processes and rituals (more on that later) but I have to be careful not to force or bully the music in the guise of "following the process".

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Happy New Year

Happy New Year to all.  

I am starting the year off by being as non-productive as possible.  That way there is only one way to go...
In that spirit here are some things that have been occupying my browser today:

I heard a great interview on On Point this morning, Junot Diaz was speaking with Tom Ashbrook about his book "The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao".  I have not read this but I intend to shortly...

Jason Crain's Website has some great interviews, links, etc...I'm listening to his interview with Joel Frahm (I love this guy's playing!!!) via his Podcast  as I write this.

Maybe I'll get inspired and do some work later....