Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Podcast: A Noise From The Deep

A while back I was searching for interviews with John Zorn and I stumbled across Dave DouglasGreenleaf Music podcast series entitled “A Noise From The Deep.”

There’s plenty of interesting musicians featured and the list is pretty heavy on saxophone players including, Henry Threadgill, Jon Irabagon, JD Allen, John O’Gallagher, Miguel Zenon, Greg Osby, Lenny Pickett [fun website], Ingrid Laubrock and Mark Turner.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Practice Journal: December 8 2014

(forgot to take notes today bit I remember working on the following stuff).
Ear Training - Training The Ear Vol. 1 by Armen Donelian arrived in the mail so I started some work from that. I have never really worked from an ear training book before (not including the Lars Edlund "Modus" books). I was trying to remember our ear training classes at school but only have vague memories (naming intervals, chords and chord progressions) and we had handouts from the tutors rather than a text book.
Modus Vetus - sing and play 1 phrase in all keys (ascending chromatically)
Modus Novas - sing and play 1 phrase in all keys (descending chromatically)

Ear Training
I had limited time today but felt the session was quite focused
Modus Vetus - 1 phrase in all keys using Lacy's "Magic Order."
Started working on the melody of "Beauty Is A Rare Thing"

Ear Training
Rhythm - Ewe bell pattern variations. I worked on these before playing the horn and then in between each of the following parts of the practice session. I didn't focus on one, just played few a half a dozen or so.
Long Tones - E at varying dynamic levels
Modus Vetus - 1 phrase in all keys (Lacy's "Magic Order")
Overtones - Working on a few lines from the Rascher book (page 16).
"Beauty Is A Rare Thing" - played melody solo and along with recording

After only getting 3.5 hours sleep last night things went better than I expected

Ear Training
Rhythm - Ewe bell pattern variations. I worked on these before playing the horn and then in between each of the following parts of the practice session. Focused on one rhythm each time.
Long tones on A - varying dynamics.
Overtones - having trouble with E & G off low C. Still working at it and the overtones off low B and particularly low Bb are getting being.
Modus Novas - sing and play 1 phrase in all keys around cycle of 4ths.
"Beauty Is A Rare Thing" - played melody solo and along with recording.Then started working on the harmony line played on the out head.

Ear Training
Overtones - focus was on tone matching today.
Long tones - Changed things up a bit today. Held out long tone and then started alternating between notes a half step apart.
Rhythm - alternating between Ewe and Bemba Patterns
Modus Novas - sing and play 1 phrase in all keys (Major 3rds)
"Beauty Is A Rare Thing" - melody and harmony line solo and with the recording

Then it was time to tune in to my friend Paul hosting a Jazz-Meets-Christmas show on Coast Access Radio (104.7FM)

Today's session wasn't very productive, I had a hard time with focus.
Modus Vetus - sing and play 1 phrase in all keys (cycle of 4ths)
Revised some Ornette Coleman tunes - "Beauty Is A Rare Thing," "Broadway Blues" and "Feet Music."
Overtones - tone matching. I'm having trouble with some of the higher overtones from the C fundamental but I feel there has been some improvement.
Noodled around for 20 minutes or so. It was an unfocussed session.

I took a break from the horn today but still got some work done.
Rhythm - Playing Bemba rhythm with different pulse beneath (4 and 3). Working on each separately and then alternating between them
Ear Trainning - more singing from the Donelian book

Overtones and Tone Matching
Modus Vetus - sing and play 1 phrase in all keys
Rhythm - worked a little on accenting lines in 3/8. Started by just playing one note and accenting 3/8 then moving to playing repeated triads with the accent. Eventually moved on to improvising (slowly) 8th note lines with the 3/8 accent.
Finished things off playing "Out of Nowhere." This was the first time I had played something from the "Great American Songbook" for quite some time. Things felt quite open which is always nice.

This week I'm without my horn so the practice journal will have to wait until after Christmas.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Warne Marsh: Atlantic Album Review Part 1 - Down Beat

Here is Martin Williams' review of Warne Marsh's self-titled Atlantic album (one of the recording sessions was on this day back in 1957). This review is from the January 8, 1959 issue of Down Beat. Although Williams feels Marsh has a more personal style on the Atlantic album (although sounding less assured), he thinks Marsh is better suited to the setting of the Tristano sides on Capitol Records. His pick from the album was "Excerpt," but I'll give you a taste of "Yardbird Suite" which grabbed my attention when I first heard the album back in '99.

Check back in January as I will post Mimi Clar's thought's on the album that appeared in The Jazz Review.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

A Love Supreme - Down Beat Review 1965

Today is the 50th anniversary of the recording of A Love Supreme so I felt it was appropriate to upload the five-star review by Don DeMicheal in the April 8, 1965 issue of Down Beat. I'll have to give the album a spin later today (its been a while). Enjoy.
Here are links to more vintage magazine articles.

Tuesday, December 09, 2014

Practice Journal: 1 December 2014

Modus Vetus - 1 phrase in all keys using an expanding minor 2nd cycle (C, C#, B, D, Bb etc).
Modus Novus - finished off remaining 6 from yesterday much easier and did the first 6 again.
"Feet Music" - working on the melody solo and with the recordings.
Worked on rhythm in between each of the above. Playing a bell pattern with a shifting pulse beneath and then a bemba rhythm.

Rhythm - playing 6/8 and counting 6, 4 and 3.
Letting It Fall.
Modus Vetus - 1 phrase in all keys using the same pattern from Monday but with 5ths instead of 2nds (G, D, C, A, F etc). I'll probably write something on these cycles in the near future.
Overtones - tone matching into the Rascher book (the last 2 exercises on page 15). I was struggling with this today. After hanging in there for a while I changed my reed and it made all the difference. Even though I'm struggling with E off C (unstable and inconsistent) I'm still going ahead with regular overtone work and I feel they are getting better overall.
My concentration blew out but I managed to salvage things a little running through the melodies of "Broadway Blues" and "Feet Music"
Worked a little on a Bemba rhythm.
Modus Novus - this one was a little tricky about half way through it started coming together. I may return to this later in the week.

Rhythm - playing 6/8 and counting 6, 4 and 3. Bemba Rhythm (I worked in this earlier in the day and while I was in line at the post office)
Modus Vetus - 1 phrase in all keys (Major 3rd Cycle)
Overtones - Letting It Fall, Rascher book - last two on 15 and first 3 on 16.
Modus Novus - this one was a little tricky as well but I hung in there with it. Some days these fall into place and other times they don't!

Rhythm - playing 6/8 and counting 6, 4 and 3. Started looking at some of the other bell rhythms. I spread this throughout the practice session.
Modus Vetus - 1 phrase in all keys (descending chromatically)
Overtones - Letting It Fall, Rascher book - last two on page 15 and about half of page 16. A few mouthpiece scales to round things up.
Modus Novus - the last couple of phrases I've worked on gave me a work out but today things fell into place and it seemed much easier.
Ear training - singing and playing a couple of tracks from Elvo S. D'Amante's Ear Training Series (Vol. 1 and 2). Intervals and scale fragments.
"Feet Music" - playing the melody along with the recordings and solo. Felt like I had a better blend today.
Finished off with about five minutes of improvising.

It was a slow start to the day and I'm surprised how focussed I was when I started playing.
Modus Vetus - 1 phrase in all keys
Overtones, Letting It Fall and Mouthpiece Scales.
Modus Novus - another tricky phrase and I also stopped after 6 keys (just as it was falling into place) but then pressed on and finished it off.
It was a solid 75 mins blowing and then I hit the wall.
Today's practice was bookended by rhythm studies - working through the chart of bell pattern variations in Pure Rhythm.

Kicked things off 3 or 4 minutes of free Improvising to warm up the horn.
Long times with various dynamics before moving into improvising with focus on dynamics (this seemed to have quite an impact on the make-up of the lines I played).
Overtones - having a crack at the higher end of things with mixed success. From low Bb things are going pretty well, less consistent from low B and pretty average from low C.
Joe Viola's Technique of The Saxophone Vol. 2: Chord Studies - slowly played the first 10 or 12 exercises from Section II: Studies on Chord Sequences. I noticed that Eb minor didn't want to slip under the fingers today.
Played the melodies of "Feet Music" and "Broadway Blues." Looping each one separately and then alternating each melody.
A couple of minutes improvising to finish things off.

Sunday, December 07, 2014

Practice Journal: 25 November 2014

It was a late practice session today and the mind and body were quite tired but it turned out to be a good session.
Modus Vetus - 1 phrase in cycle ascending and descending in whole tones from the starting point (E, F#, D, G#, C, A# and Eb, F, Db, G, B, A). It's nice breaking up the order in which you practice things.
Overtones - lots of tone matching and some overtone scales.
Balkan song - just a couple of spots that keep slipping my mind.
Improvising - emphasis on tonal/pitch variation and dynamics. The music itself seemed to move between quite tonal and more abstract.

When I came to type up my notes I discovered I hadn't written any for today. From memory I worked on the following.
Modus Vetus and Modus Novas - 1 phrase in a cycle that follows the same shape as the Monday session (but from a different starting note).
"Broadway Blues" - alone and with the recording.

Modus Vetus - 1 phrase in a cycle that follows the same shape as the Monday session (but from a different starting note).
Balkan Tune - about 2 or 3 minutes into working on this a spring broke (right hand D). In about 20 years of playing sax that's only the second spring to break on me (the other was when I was at music school I think).
Overtones - something you can practice without worrying about springs not working!
Was going to finish up after that but then realised that the rubber band the keeps my reed case shut was staring me in the face. I hooked it up and continued.
Started working on Ornette Coleman's "Feet Music" from both versions on In All Languages (which I picked up at Reckless Records along with New York Is Now!). The album splits his original quartet with Prime Time (playing some of the same tunes).

Even though the spring broke I still felt that the session was pretty good.

Modus Vetus - 1 phrase in all keys this time in an expanding semi-tone cycle (F, F#, E, G, Eb, G#, D, A, Db, A#, C, B)
Overtones - warmed up with Letting It Fall before moving on to the Rascher book (the last line of page 15 and the first two lines of page 16).
Modus Novas - 1 phrase in 6 keys - this one took me a while to get in to so I will finish it off during my next practice.
"Feet Music" - although I hadn't played for a couple of days I did my best to keep the sound of this melody in my mind. It's coming together - I played it solo and along with the recording(s).
Rhythm - I started off the session today working on playing a bell rhythm in my left hand with a shifting pulse beneath (6, 4, 3 and 2). In between each of the above I continued working on it (just for a couple of minutes).

Wednesday, December 03, 2014

Jimmy Giuffre Blindfold Test from August 1960

Here is Leonard Feather's "Blindfold Test" from the August 18, 1960 issue of Down Beat. Feather tests Jimmy Giuffre with recordings by Pete Brown, The Four Brothers, John Coltrane, Al and Zoot and Harry Lookofsky.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Practice Journal: 17 November 2014

Modus Vetus - I'm sticking with working with these books by Lars Edlund. I have found that this one in particular is a nice place to start a session and get the horn warmed up.
Overtones - I don't seem to get tired with working on overtones.
Modus Novas - 1 phrase in all keys.
Started learning Ornette Coleman's "Broadway Blues" - I purchased New York Is Now! last week from Reckless Records and this melody had been in my ear.

Modus Vetus - 1 phrase around the cycle of 4ths.
Overtones - Letting It Fall (descending octaves without the octave key) and then working my way up to play around on the 4/5th overtones. Played a few bugle calls too.
Modus Novas - ascending whole tones
Balkan Tune - been a couple of days and I remembered most of it (still need to work on articulation a bit)
"Broadway Blues" - working on it slow and then playing it with recordings (both takes from the album).

Modus Vetus - 1 phrase in all keys
Playing against a drone (E) - long tones (E and B) Similar to Steve Lacy's "Bugle Boy" exercise but slower.
Overtones - I was struggling with them, a new reed seemed to be the culprit! I returned to them briefly later in the session and things were a little better.
Modus Novas - 1 phrase in all keys (cycle of 4ths).
Balkan Tune.
"Broadway Blues" - working on the melody slowly and then along with the recording.

My mind was quite distracted today and I only had a 30-40 minute window to play during.
I blew a few long tones to get some air into the horn and then decided to do something a bit different - playing through some of Joe Viola's Technique of Saxophone: Vol 1 Scale Studies. I worked through a few of the "Pentads - Polytonal Variations" (see example below). I kept things nice a slow, occasionally raising the tempo a bit.
Felt like a pretty good practice session today. Just the usual stuff...
Modus Vetus
Overtones and tone matching.
"Broadway Blues"
Modus Novas
Balkan Tune - I feel like it is time to move on. I want to find some tunes similar to this one.
Finished things off with a bit of improvising.

Alternated sax and rhythm work today. Playing a bell pattern with various pulses underneath (6,4,3 and 2) from Pure Rhythm.
Modus Vetus - started the next chapter - Root to Minor 3rd.
Overtones - Letting It Fall and Top Tones (parts of page 14). A bit more luck with E off C fundamental. Still a bit unstable but I felt there was progress.
Modus Novas - 1 phrase in all keys around cycle of 4ths. Had a little bit of trouble focusing on this one, once I did it fell into place quite well.
Balkan Tune - there are just a couple of little bits that I forget.
Finished things off playing "Broadway Blues" and some improvising.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Photo by Mark Weber

My friend Mark Weber took this photo at session Carol's during Connie Crother's residency at The Stone during August. L-R: Me, Will, Carol, Eva.
For more of Mark's photography (and poetry and writings) be sure to visit Mark's website, Jazz For Mostly, hosted at Metropolis. The online store has plenty of cool stuff including Mark's poetry/writings and the recordings he produces on Zerx. And then tune in to Mark's jazz radio show on KUNM - Thursdays at 12-1.30pm MT (That's Friday at 8am NZ-time for readers back home).

Friday, November 21, 2014

Practice Journal: 10 November, 2014

I forgot to write down notes from today but it was something along the lines of the following:
Overtones from the second half of page 14 in the Rascher book.
Modus Vetus - sing and play 1 phrase in all keys (in whole steps... I think).
Modus Novas - sing and play 1 phrase (worked my way around the keys I didn't get to before when playing this phrase).
Balkan Song
Rhythm - working on bell rhythms from Pure Rhythm.

Following work, doctors and a run I decided to make today a rest day, although I did get in some rhythm work later in the evening.

Modus Vetus - sing and play 1 phrase in all keys (in major 3rds)
Modus Novas - sing and play 1 phrase in all keys (in whole steps)
Balkan Song - worked on memorisation (I'm getting there slowly).
Finished things of with some improvising. It wasn't my longest practice session of late (about an hour) but I felt like I was focused and when my mind drifted I snapped back into place quickly.

Modus Vetus - sing and play 1 phrase in all keys (in minor 3rds)
Letting It Fall into Overtones and the 2nd half of page 14 and start of page 15 from Top Tones. E3 of C fundamental is giving me some problems. 
Modus Novas - sing and play 1 phrase in all keys (ascending in whole steps). This one was a phrase in 4ths that came together pretty quickly.
Rhythm - tapped out some bell patterns later in the evening.

Balkan Tune - focused on the articulation today which is helping to bring together the rhythmic aspect. Some of the melodic shapes have them fall into place and others are less obvious
Modus Vetus - sing and play 1 phrase in all keys (in minor 2nds)
Letting It Fall into overtones - focus on the 5th and 6th (i.e. D and F from Bb fundamental). From Bb and B it was not too bad but I'm finding it hard to get E and G to speak cleanly from the C fundamental.
Modus Novas - sing and play 1 phrase in all keys (in Major 3rds).

About an hours practice today. My schedule changed at the last minute but I felt that I had quite a focussed session.
Modus Vetus - sing and play 1 phrase in all keys (in minor 2nds)
Overtones - Letting It Fall and start of page 15 from Top Tones. Mixed success up high.
Balkan Tune - memorisation is coming together and the piece is feeling more solid overall.
Improvising - finished things off with some improvising. Again, trying to not overplay and let things go were they want.


I did a few different things for this afternoon's session.
Started things off with some of the Joe Viola scale studies as a warm up.
When I was backing up my computer I came across an untitled folder containing 100 chords and decided to work with it today. Sometimes I would sing a note along with the recording and then try and play it and other times I would just play. I mixed things up - playing just a few notes or more of a line and other times working out parts of the chord. I worked through about 30 of the chords - playing each 2 or 3 times at the most. Here's one of the tracks (my first crack at uploading audio here):

I have no idea where these chord recordings came from. Drop me a line if you know the source.

Worked some more on the bell rhythms in Pure Rhythm. So far it has been a lot of fun working with this. I am a long way from being a percussionist but it is fun playing (or trying to play!) these rhythms on bongos.
Finished things off my some free improvising.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Julia Hulsmann's "Not Fast Enough" at Music Meeting

Back in June I wrote about the captivating set from Julia Hulsmann's "Not Fast Enough" at the Moers Festival. The other night I found this 25 minute clip from the June 2014 Music Meeting in Nijmegen, Holland. It features two songs from the quartet framing a brief interview with Hulsmann and Theo Bleckmann.

Hayden Chisholm Theo Bleckmann

Monday, November 10, 2014

Practice Journal: 3 November 2014

Last week I was sick so I gave playing a rest. The week before I wasn't that diligent with the note taking but now I'm back into it. Although my notes were a bit thin on detail earlier in the week, I tried to make sense of them as I wrote them up.

Terrace Dynamics
Todays lesson - find a better time to practice (not 25 minutes before your wife has a conference call!), the horn was too loud but I could work on rhythm, so I tapped out some patterns in Pure Rhythm.

Spent about 15mins on each of the below.
Letting It Fall and Overtones
Modus Vetus - sing and play 1 phrase in all keys. I noticed that my singing this week was a bit rough. Sstill feeling the effects of last weeks cold, I lost a bit of the higher range. It got better as the week progressed.
Etude - Balkan piece. Not exactly sure of the origin of this tune but it was given to me by Hayden Chisholm in Greece. I hadn't working on this for quite some time but it just popped into my mind so I decided to have a crack at it again.
Improvisation - playing 5 and 7 note phrases

Rascher's Top Tones - playing through page 12.
Modus Vetus - sing and play 1 phrase in each key.
Balkan piece - breaking it down a phrase at a time.

Long tones (F's and C's)
Letting It Fall.
Overtones and Rasher (parts of page 13).
Modus Novas - sing and play - it's been a while and I was rusty.
Modus Vetus - the tonal stuff came together better
Balkan Piece.
Improv - short phrases. To avoid compulsive playing I would put the horn down briefly after blowing a few phrases. I found it a nice way to stay relaxed and to reflect on what I had just played before moving on.

Held some long tones - used a tuner. Not something I do that often (I prefer playing against a note/drone). But I might stick with this a bit to see what happens.
Letting It Fall
Rasher book - about half of page 14.
Modus Vetus - sing and play 1 phrase in all keys (descending chromatically).
Balkan Piece - working through it slowly. Having bit of a hard to memorising it.
Improv - similar to above (shorter phrases, trying to avoid compulsive playing and then let longer phrases and more dense playing develop from there).

Today I worked on rhythm in between each of the below. Working on the the Ewe bell patterns from Pure Rhythm (playing them on bongos). Working on the first rhythm and then the 1st variation in which the quarter note pulse shifts to the middle triplet (trying not to turn the beat over!).
Long Tones with Tuner.
Letting It Fall and tone matching
Rascher book - first half of page 14.
Modus Vetus - sing and play 1 phrase in all keys (descending chromatically).
Modus Novas - sing and play 1 phrase (ascending chromatically). My focus started to drift after working through about 4 keys. So I moved on to something more casual - listening and at times playing along with the Agios Lavrentios Brass Band video from this years Music Village.
Finished things of with some improvising.

I haven't recorded myself practicing for a while so I adding that to the list.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Recent Listening: People Playing Ornette

The passing of Charlie Haden back in July led me to listening to plenty of his work with Ornette Coleman. Starting with some albums I am quite familiar with (The Shape of Jazz To Come, Change of The Century and This Is Our Music and the duo record Soapsuds, Soapsuds) and moving on to one I hadn't heard before (In All Languages). That led me to some albums of Haden playing Ornette Tunes sans Coleman - two volumes of The Montreal Tapes. The first with Paul Bley and Paul Motian and other with Don Cherry and Ed Blackwell, which in turn led me to a few other albums featuring the work of Coleman.

Paul Plimley and Lisle Ellis
Kaleidoscopes (Hat Art)

I was unfamiliar with both Plimley (piano) and Ellis (bass) but my keenness to hear various takes on the music of Ornette Coleman led to grab this album. According to the liner notes, they started working as a duo since 1980. By the time Kaleidoscopes was recorded (1992) the had developed a great rapport. Ellis' tone is rich and woody (the bass sounds unamplified), complementing Plimley's light touch. Both musicians can swiftly fly around their instruments but I never felt it was "chops for chops sake."

I wasn't surprised that seven of the 11 tunes come from the quartet recordings on Atlantic, but I was pleased they included some less common tunes. Yes, "Chronology," "Peace" and "Beauty Is A Rare Thing" are present but so too are "Street Woman," "Long Time No See" and "Moon Inhabitants."

I believe this album is out-of-print (my copy came from Academy Records on 18th St. during a recent trip to NYC), it's been getting a fair fair bit of airplay in the apartment and I encourage fans of Coleman's music to hunt it out.

Paul Bley - Notes On Ornette (Steeplechase) 1997

Paul Bley is one of my favourite pianists and listening to the album above made me give this trio disc (with Jay Anderson (b) Jeff Hirshfield (d)) a spin too. Comparing the two, Bley's is probably more approachable for those coming from a "straight ahead" background - it's more conventional with the rhythm section walking and Bley blowing on top. Okay, so that description sells the album short, but I'm speaking in very general terms - there's a lot more to it that.

Whereas solo works by Bley tend to be somewhat reflective (at least from what I've heard so far), when playing with a rhythm section there's an energy and rhythmic push that Bley puts into his notes that differs from the solo works.

Bley contributes one original (which fits the flow of the album) with the rest of the material coming from Coleman. Five tunes from his albums on Contemporary Records and one ("Crossroads") that was captured live at the Hillcrest Club in 1958 (with Bley on piano) and may have appeared later on Atlantic (I'm writing from memory). It seems to make sense that Bley would choose material from the period in which he was playing with Coleman. As a long standing champion of Coleman's music it is a shame that there are no studio recordings of the two together.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Practice Journal: October 13, 2014

Here's what was up last week. For previous entries see here and here.

And now for something completely ... slightly different..... An hour (or so) of tunes. It was getting late in the evening by the time I had a chance to play and I felt like playing some of my favourite tunes - "My Melancholy Baby," "All The Things You Are," "These foolish Things," "Out of Nowhere," "I'll Remember April" and "What Is This Thing Called Love."
There was straight melody, improvising on the form, free improvising, improvising on the song phrases (length of phrase) One thing I didn't do (but occurred to me as I was drifting off to sleep) was improvising on the melodic rhythm of the tunes. This is something I want to explore further.

Warmed up listening and playing with "Wild is the Wind"from the Connie Crothers/Bob Casanova album Just For The Joy Of It. I'm not sure what made me head to this tune today, it was in my head so I went with it. Today I listened to the tune a couple of times (just the melody chorus) and then played along adding in notes here and there - not really really working it out, just feeling things out.
Modus Vetus - 1 phrase in all keys. Singing and playing.
I followed this up with a bit more of "Wild Is The Wild" - getting bit of a feel for the melody on my horn.
Tried to do some work with Modus Novus but after about 5 mins it just wasn't happening so I scrapped it and so improvised a little before moving onto Bach Invention #2. I was a little tied sounding at first but things picked up as I dug into it.
I finished things of with a little bit of improvising - held tones and economic note usage. And wound up the night with what I could play of "Wild." 

Quiet long tones - various notes held out at lower dynamic ranges.
Modas Novus - 1 phrase interrupted with the arrival of the plumber.
Overtones - page 13 from the Rascher book (not too bad considering I picked up the horn cold).
Bach Invention #2
Pure Rhythm - page 5, variation 4 on the bongos.  Then alternated between playing some rhythm and then playing Bach Invention 2. This was interesting and I think I will do more of this.
I ended with bit of a noodle and came up with an idea to improvise a group of notes (say 5 notes) and repeat it, then change 1 note (and repeat the new configuration), then change another note (and repeat the new configuration) etc etc. Maybe something to delve into later on down the line.

Quiet long tones - a few to ease the reed in and get some air in the horn.
Melodic Rhythm - took the melodic rhythm of "My Melancholy Baby" and improvised the notes. I want to explore this further.
Modas Novus - sing and play 1 phrase in all keys (chromatically). This is the one I could get into the other night but this morning it wasn't too bad.
Overtones - page 14 of the Rascher book. Today I was trying to play them quietly.
Alternating Bach Invention #2 with work from Pure Rhythm (tapping on my legs variation #4 on page 5)

Singing and playing with "Wild Is The Wind." Today I listened and then sang with the melody. Then broke it down into phrases that I would sing with the recording then try and play on my horn, the play on the horn with the recording before moving onto the next phrase. This is how I often go about learning melodies.
Pure Rhythm  variation #4, 5 and 6 on page 5.
Singing with "Wild Is The Wind"
Rhythm - variation #4 alternating counting in 3 and 4. This morning I alternated between whatever I am working on and some rhythm stuff.
Modus Vetus - 1 phrase in all keys around the cycle of 4ths. Currently I'm working from the 3rd to the root.
Rhythm - started on variation #5.
Modus Novus - 1 phrase in all keys descending in Major 2nds.
Sound work - Letting It Fall and page 14 from the Rascher book. I played most of the page today - more than I normally would on it but I was on a roll.
Bach Invention #2. Felt like it was coming together today. Played it at a few different tempos.
"What Is This Thing Called Love" - taking the songs melodic rhythm and improvising the notes. This is a lot of fun and leads to some different places. Sometimes I found myself taking a few too many liberties with the rhythm - it's hard not to get carried away.
To finish things off I played around with the idea I came up with on Wednesday - improvising then altering groups of notes.

Rhythm - alternating counting in 3 and 4 on variation #5 and #6. Usually I find adding the count in throws me off. More to work on!
Sound - Letting It Fall (a great place to start). Page 14 from the Rascher book - today I focussed on just a couple of lines. Playing on only the mouthpiece (chromatic scale, major and harmonic minor scales, some arpeggios).
Modus Vetus - 1 phrase in all keys (sung then played as usual) around a cycle of minor 3rds.
Modus Novas - as above but in Maj 3rd cycles.
"Wild Is The Wind" - alternate singing a chorus of melody and playing a chorus of melody. Sometimes I muddled the lyrics so a sang with the record a couple of times to straighten me out.

Jeremiah Cymerman Podcasts

Clarinetist Jeremiah Cymerman has some great podcasts on his website - 5049 Records. Earlier in the week I had a listen to him chatting with bassist Trevor Dunn.
Among the saxophonists interviewed are Ellery Eskelin, Jon Irabagon, Darius Jones, Ingrid Laubrock, Steve Lehman and Chris Speed. There's plenty of others too - Jim Black, Anthony Coleman, James Falzone, Mary Halvorson,  Joe Morris,  Eivind Opsvik, William Parker and Matthew Shipp among others.

Edit: 26 Jan 2015 - the podcast series wrapped up today with the final instalment featuring the microphone turned on Cymerman himself. I listened to Episode 82 the other day - it was great hearing Andrea Parkins fondly recalling her time studying with Harvey Diamond. It's been a great series and hopefully someone picks up Cymerman left off.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Practice Journal: 6 October 2014

Modus Vetus - 1 phrase in all keys. I'm sticking with this although today I only had time work on the tonal material.
Overtones and Tone Matching - for me, these always work best once I have played for a little while.

For some reason Bach Invention #2 was on my mind so I tried to play what I could remember. It had been about a year since I last played it and was surprised how much I could remember. Perhaps the Inventions will return to my regular practice.

Those of you that have worked with Jerry Coker's books will recognise a familiar lick in the opening phrase.  I was immediately taken back to Improv classes at university with the class playing licks from Coker's Elements of the Jazz Language along with Band-in-the-Box, a play-a-long album or even a rhythm section. The "3-b9 lick" (see left) was one of those licks. It has been quite some time since I have worked on "material" in that manner. I can't really say I miss it.

Modus Vetus and Modus Novus - singing and playing 1 phrase from each (in all keys).

Rhythm - 2 against 3 and 4 against 3. Swapping between hands and swapping between counting 3 and counting 4.

Bach Invention - worked on it slowly. Breaking down into phrases then linking them together.

Singing with Roy

"September" - Still not really feeling the harmony so this was my focus.

Singing with Glenn Gould playing Bach Invention #2

Long tones on low B and then octaves against pedal tone
Letting It Fall

Modus Vetus - 1 phrase all keys (random)
Modus Novus - 1 phrase all keys (random)

Bach Invention #2
Finished off with some free improvising which ended with a chorus of "My Foolish Heart"

Modus Vetus - 1 phrase all keys (minor 3rd apart). I have been playing these in time and, for the most part, quite slowly.

The other day I went to do some work with a tuner but couldn't get it going (and didn't have any spare batteries) so I downloaded this app - Practice + Tuner, Metronome, Recorder and More....

B(s) against pitch generator and tuner (played some other notes against tuner but mostly focussed on B)

Overtones focused on alternating fund a 1st overtone. This is always a bit confusing (fundamental (Bb) 1st (Bb) 2nd (F) or 1st (Bb) 2nd (Bb) 3rd (F) etc. Ive seen it both ways.

Finished off the morning session playing on September (the melody and then a choruses improvising)

Modus Vetus - one phrase in all keys. This time I tried something a bit different - singing and playing the line against a pedal tone (which acted as the root and also doubled as some tuning work).

Overtones - focused on overtones from B fundamental which was went pretty well today. Then played through some lines in Top Tones.

Bach Invention #2 - pretty much have it memorised just need to smooth things out a bit. Tried it at a few different tempos and then had a crack playing along with Glenn Gould.

Rhythm - tapped out and counted 2 over 3 and 3 over 4 alternating hands and counting while I was waiting for to meet my wife downtown. It's feeling pretty good now so time to move on.

Modus Ventus - one phrase in all keys moving by a tritone and minor 2nd (F - B - C - F# - G etc).

Letting It Fall followed by some Overtones and then playing on the mouthpiece.

Modus Novus - one phrase in all keys (moving in the same cycle as above).

Bach Invention #2 - it's feeling better each day I work on it.

"September" - Alternated melody chorus with outlining the harmony. The harmony chorus started off pretty straight (arpeggiating the chords) and then things got a bit more flexible (less set patterns, chromatic passing notes etc).

Rhythm - In between each of the above I worked on a couple of rhythm patterns (see pic). These are from Adam Rudolph's book Pure Rhythm. Earlier in the year I was doing a bit of work with this - day I started getting back into it.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Straight Horning: Steve Lacy - Sands

Steve Lacy Sands (Tzadik)
solo saxophone recordingUnaccompanied recordings (this one is from 1998) are a great way to delve into a players sound. Lacy’s tone is complex, rich and full of overtones shaded with varied articulations, vibrato, a growl or two and subtle dynamic shifts. There is a reedy buzz surrounding the note with the breath becoming prominent at times along with the occasional touch of saliva. Nothing is fixed which, in my opinion, is the mark of a great improviser - repeated notes change in colour with every attack, vibrato ebbs and flows etc. On Sands his low register struck me in particular – “fat” doesn’t do it justice. Detail in his tone exists at all dynamic levels, albeit different details (his pianissimo playing great and an area I wish to explore further in my own playing).

The album has one non-solo track – a duo with vocalist Irene Aebi. The two create a remarkable blend (no doubt helped by decades of playing together).

Friday, October 10, 2014

Practice Journal: 29 Sept 2014

I've kept a practice journal periodically ever since I was at university. They come and go and vary in detail.  Last week I started a new one possibly sparked by the arrival on a new soprano (a Buescher True Tone) a week or so before.

It's been fun getting used to the new horn. Overall the ergonomics are not nearly as bad as some would lead you to believe. The transition between low B & C# is taking a bit of getting used as are the different fingerings up top (not front f key). I haven't really looked into the quarter tone fingerings but I know I will need to make some changes as the mechanism is different. I've found that getting the horn well warmed up helps the intonation tendencies to settle down a bit. Here's a rundown of the week.

Terrace Dynamics (a la Sigurd Rascher's Top Tones for Saxophone) on Low E.
Rascher's "Uniformity of Tone Character" - worked between low A and middle F.
Descending octaves without the octave key (aka Letting It Fall) from Low F-Bb
Overtones. Up to third overtone. Including tone matching the regular fingering with 1st, 2nd and 3rd overtones.

Ear Training:
Modus Vetus - taking a line, singing and playing it in all keys (and registers) (round the cycle of 4ths)
Modus Novus - ditto (in whole tones)
I've had these books a little while now but have only just started working with them. Expanding on the work I have done singing/playing interviews and chords.

"September In The Rain." This tune popped into my mind one day (perhaps it was raining) so I felt it was a good sign to start working on it.
Looped melody, sang melody, played melody in a few keys. F, C#, G.

All of these were played on bongos.
Warmed up on a 6/8 rhythms - counting 4/4 and 3/4 against the 6/8 accent.
Revised 3 over 2 and 3 over 4 (and vice versa).
Bell pattern over 4 pulse.

Letting It Fall
Overtones and tone matching
G with iTablaPro drone. Terraced dynamics, swells. then G and D (all registers) against drone.
Mouthpiece only - chromatic scale up and down. major scale up and down. Range is about a 10th

Sing with Nate King Cole "Star Dust"
Roy Eldridge "Star Dust" - singing with his solo (at half and full speed).

Modus Vetus - sing and play a phrase in all keys. Used iTabla Pro as a metronome.
Modus Novus - sing and play a phrase in all keys.

"September In The Rain."
Sing with Frank Sinatra
Alternate Playing Melody and sing melody.
Started learning harmony.

Rhythm - 6/8 and some 3 over 2.

Dynamics on high G
Tone Uniformity - middle F- high Bb. 
Letting It Fall
Overtones. Lots of tone matching overtone to regular finger (up to 4th overtone)

Modus Vetus 1 phrase round cycle of 4ths
Modus Novus 1 phrase round diminished cycle
September in the Rain melody in keys of E, Eb

Tune - "September In The Rain"
Alternate singing and playing the melody. Root Progression of Harmony. Outlined harmony - no set patterns - some choruses were in time others were rubato. Alternated melody with free improvisation.

Sing - Roy on "Stardust" (1/2 and full speed)

Started today singing with Roy Eldridge on "Stardust."

Letting It Fall. I find this a nice place to start and find myself returning to it during practice sessions when I want to clear my mind or relax my embouchure.
Bending notes - taking a note and lowering it a semi-tone, whole-tone, minor third, as far as I can go with it. Taken from Steve Lacy's book Findings - I forget what he calls the exercise.
Mouthpiece only.

Rhythm - 6/8 counting 4 and 3.

Modus Vetus - 1 phrase in whole tones.
Modus Novus -1 phrase in min 3rds.

"September" - sing/play melody, outline the harmony. Improvise on the tune to finish things off.

Rhythm - alternating hands between 4 pulse and bell pattern. Worked on this throughout the day in short spells (taking a break from school work, practice break etc).

Warmed up with a couple of minutes freely improvising.

Modus Vetus and Modus Novus - one phrase each in all keys around the cycle of 4ths.

"September" - alternating sing one chorus, play one chorus. This always brings back memories of my lessons with Richard Tabnik.

Singing with Roy's solo on "Stardust." My version seems to be a semi-tone-ish high. I found some versions on youtube that seemed to be at the correct pitch. I may switch over to those versions.

Warmed up looping the melody of "September." I then returned to work on tune in various ways (melody/singing/Harmony/Improvising) in between my other work.

One phrase from Modus Vetus in all keys moving up in whole tones.
One phrase from Modus Novus in all keys moving down in whole tones
Overtones - Once I worked with the first 3 over tones of various fundamentals I focused a little on the top end (4th/5th/6th overtones) off Bb fundamental.
Mouthpiece only.
Rhythm - bell pattern , alternating hands, various tempos

Saturday, October 04, 2014

2014 Blackface Ad from D'Addario Woodwinds

D'Addario Woodwinds (Rico Reeds) posted this "Happy October" message to its Facebook page  yesterday, Oct. 2, 2014.

By the time I took the screenshot and began writing a comment about its blatant racism, the post was removed without acknowledgement or apology from the company that supposedly supports an art and jazz community so deeply rooted in the African-American experience.

**** Updated October 11, 2014****
 On October 7, 2014 I received this email from the social media manager at D'Addario:

I wanted to reach out to you further to our post from the D’Addario Woodwinds Facebook page. First let us apologize for the lack of sensitivity regarding that post. We had brought on a new consultant/intern this past month and had just granted them the ability to post without our micro-managing. It would seem we were premature in that judgment.

I was not in the office when this transpired but it was brought to my attention this morning. I had to dig around to find a few peoples comments and of course, stumbled upon your thoughts as well. Our Woodwinds product team saw the post and took it down as soon as it was observed. We have already spoken to the party involved and are determining how we will proceed.

Please accept our apologies and appreciate that you took the time to voice your opinion on your blog. If we can be of further service, please do not hesitate to contact us.

This morning I replied: 

Thank you for your email. It is reassuring to hear that D’Addario does not consider such a depiction appropriate to share, and unfortunate that your consultant did not recognise the image for what it was. On the other hand perhaps it is indicative of a generation unfamiliar with blackface and racism as a whole in the history of jazz - and your intern may have just thought it was a fun picture of a pumpkin playing a saxophone. Some education may be in order.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Ornette Coleman "Blindfold Test" and "Caught In The Act" Five Spot Review

Here are a few pages from the January 7, 1960 issue of Down Beat Magazine. First up, Ornette Coleman is the subject of Leonard Feather's "Blindfold Test." He comments on the likes of George Russell, Charles Mingus, Quincy Jones, Miles Davis and Yusef Lateef. Then his quartet (with Don Cherry, Charlie Haden and Billy Higgins) is "Caught In The Act" at the Five Spot Cafe by George Hoefer. Enjoy.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Kenny Wheeler - Angel Song

It was sad news to hear of Kenny Wheeler's passing yesterday. Around 2000, when I was hunting out everything Lee Konitz, I discovered Wheeler's 1996 album Angel Song (ECM). Man, I listened to that album a lot that year or so (and later played "Onmo" in my final recital). It was the Konitz who initially grabbed my attention but I soon discovered that there was a lot more to this album than just his presence. Wheeler, Konitz, Dave Holland and Bill Frisell - four distinctive sounds combing as one made for compelling listening. Spacious, lyrical, wistful and powerful (in ways you don't normally associate that word being used), it seems odd that this was there only album together. My ear is drawn to a horn players tone first and from the start Wheeler had me - personal and expressive combined with lyrical phrasing. His tunes are a key ingredient to the album's overall feel. Listening to Angel Song yesterday afternoon and this morning has made me want to revisit these melodies. Although it had been a couple of years since I last gave it a spin it felt like returning home to old friends. Find some time to relax with this gem of an album.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Straight Horning: Lucky & Zoot

It’s been fun having a re-listen to a couple of albums from players better known for their tenor playing. If you are into the soprano both of these albums are worth a listen.

Lucky Thompson - Lucky Strikes (Prestige, 1964)

My friend Nick emailed me about this album (he has just discovered it) – I hadn’t listened to it for a couple of years and I’d forgotten how sweet Lucky’s soprano tone can be – focused but without too much brightness and with a lightness/fleetness I find attractive and it has made me want to check out more of his soprano work.

Thompson alternates between tenor and soprano sax (4 tunes on each) and the rhythm cooks throughout - as you would expect from Hank Jones (piano) Richard Davis (bass) and Connie Kay (drums). The soprano tunes are: “In A Sentimental Mood” (great ballad sound) and Thomposon’s “Mid-Nite Oil,” “Mumble Neua” and “Prey-Loot.” The stereo separation is pretty heavy with the sax panned well to the left channel – not necessarily a bad if you want to isolate the sax or rhythm section (another good one for this is the album Motion by Lee Konitz).

Don’t discount his tenor playing either. I feel Lucky is a somewhat overlooked/forgotten player.

Zoot Sims Soprano Sax (Pablo, 1976)

There are a few albums from the 70s where Zoot plays soprano on the occasional track or two. Here he’s on soprano throughout along with Ray Bryant (piano) George Mraz (bass) and Grady Tate (drums) in support.

There is an effortlessness and exuberance to Zoot’s playing that I dig – it sounds like he is having fun. The fuzzy tone transfers from his tenor but takes on a bit more edge on the small horn (which is more pronounced when he pushes the volume). He’s melodic and swinging (as always) playing standards and a couple of blues. This time around the ballads “Moonlight In Vermont” and “Ghost Of A Chance” stood out to me – lovely playing.

The bass is a bit rubber band sounding and for my tastes (more noticeable during the solos) and the bowed solo on "Baubles Bangles & Beads" could have been shelved.

Be sure to check out Zoot on alto – very nice too.