For Past Tunes/Artists and Practise Agenda of the week go to last #
# Learning Tunes
When teaching I have found many people have three ways of learning which are aural, sight, and finger patterns. When learning tunes, the best way to do this for me is to listen to the tune a few times, sing the tune, and then transcribe the tune on paper. I used to remember finger patterns, although on performance situations I would forget patterns easily when I added in my own embellishments. I now use the aural method as my main focus of learning tunes, and then include the other methods after. The finger patterns you naturally learn after transcribing, and I like to look at the score after and visualise chord progressions as I perform without music.
Keeping a diary has been a useful way to track my aims/goals and look at areas I need to work on. When working on an idea, if I find an area that needs work I write this down as the start to my next practise session.
As I work on a lot of projects at once, I find it hard to always keep a diary. For this reason I have set goals/mini missions, and then put this information into a scrapbook that builds up around a theme. So for example, I have been working on Tenor Madness by Sonny Rollins, but with a focus on Dexter Gordon. My scrap book includes things I have found about the tune, solo transcription ideas, other versions of the tune, and information based around this such as piano chords and comping.
# 12 Keys
I have been working on taking ideas through 12 keys, then improvising around the 12 major and minor keys. I then moved onto taking tunes through twelve keys, starting with just a line, then including the whole tune. This is a quick way to find areas that need work on, and make you more comfortable around the instrument.
In my practise sessions I have been working with parameters. My goal maybe to improvise in all twelve major and minor keys. In my session I practise an idea in 12 keys, then perform a tune including this idea in my improvisation. Another idea can be improvising outlining chord tones. The list of ideas is endless, and I have found this an effective way to focus.
A few years ago I transcribed a lot of jazz tunes from Joshua Redman to Stan Getz. I have finally started transcribing again, beginning with Lester Young tunes. I used to think by just getting the notes I was transcribing. I found this was of little benefit, and you really need to work out the notes, rhythm, and listening to what the musician is doing with their sound.
# Eric Alexander
I recently purchased the new PDF from Eric Alexander on the use of Diminished Scales from his website. It is an interesting read, and a good workout. His approach to diminished scale structure by playing the first four notes of a minor scale followed by the first four notes of a minor scale a tritone away, was a great way to visualise the scale.
# Tune Up
Currently learning this tune and applying Eric Alexander's thoughts of diminished scales to it. It is a great tune by Miles Davis, and the ending of the original is interesting with a Latin feel.
# Hal Galper
I have been watching lots of videos of Hal Galper privately teaching, and performing master classes. They are insightful, and his new album Airegin Revisited is worth a listen.
# Lennie Tristano
Been reading sections in Lennie Tristano- His Life in Music. There is a really interesting section on teaching style.
# Gary Burton
Gary Burton has introduced a free jazz course through Coursera. The course is designed for intermediate players, and gives a fresh look into understanding improvisation. Really good if you have a few hours to spare a week.
# Teaching Ideas
Here are some teaching ideas covered in classes:
The Elastic Band Theory- This concept explored taking a chord progression and removing it from its rhythmic pulse. It allows the musician to explore and be creative around each chord, and feel comfortable before moving to the next chord.
Motive Development- With this exercise, you devise a short motif and then place it in all positions of the tonic scale that it derives from.
Motive Development/Through Composition - This is the same exercise as above, although you divide your piece into playing the motive, and then playing through the changes freely.
2 5 1- This progression was explored in the workshop, the sheet below will explain some points to look for.
# Past Tunes/Artists and Practise Agenda of the week
Improvising in twelve keys is my focus for this week. I have been looking at tunes, learning the melody and placing in 12 keys. This exercise really outlines areas you need to work on. Three tunes I have been working on are Bags Groove, Sonnymoon For two, and My Favourite Things.
This week I am focusing on articulation, and the different styles between players. I am working on a different swing articulation using different scale pattern exercises, and then applying to my improvisation on pieces. This includes working on a light articulation like Sonny Stitt and John Coltrane, and a more aggressive and percussive articulation, like Sonny Rollins and Benny Golson. Charlie Parker mixed between the two, so will be focusing on Charlie Parker with Strings as my album of the week.
It is that time of year when I have a week of quietness. In this time I review what my aims and goals are for next year, and look back at things that I have or have not been happy with from practising/performing to business.
I have always found it hard to stick to a practise regime, as I seem to practise for a project, and then the next without a clear focus of self development for myself. My aim for this week is to develop this structure of regime, and to make this more concrete. I will be taking part in a Thelonious Monk workshop with British saxophonist Tony Kofi soon, and for this reason my focus is on Monk tunes. In this my focus is on the blues tunes he will do. I will learn the heads, and any unusual chord changes, and take ideas that Monk uses like whole tone scales in his improvisation. I will then take these out of context, like learn the blues chords in different keys with new changes, transpose and learn the heads in different keys, and take improvisation ideas, practise them out of context and then place it all back together.
I have been focusing my practise this week to a few tunes. I often find that I try to work on so much at once, this also includes different styles. For this reason I have been continuing with the Dexter Gordon theme, working on the harmonies on the Sonny Rollins tune Tenor Madness, and listening to other versions by various artists. I have also been looking at jazz standards that I will be performing with project groups, and looking at various artists, but looking again at versions by Dexter Gordon. I then will take these tunes to the piano, so I can understand chords, hear the progressions, and work on comping patterns.
The week I have continued with the Dexter Gordon theme, and working through material with Jim Snidero. I have been working on listening to as much Dexter as possible, taking ideas I like, and working through these. This has included exploring diminished patterns from the cadenza of A Night in Tunisia, working on the head of Tenor Madness, and then working on articulation and swing. Within this practise I have also be including ideas used by Hal Galper in his book Forward Motion.
After reading the section of Bebop tenor Saxophone players from the book Bebop: The Music and its Players by Thomas Owens, my practise this week has been based around listening to Dexter Gordon. I have always enjoyed playing tunes such as Cheesecake and a tune written by Jimmy Heath's Gingerbread Boy which I heard Dexter play. After reading this book you start to listen more to Dexter style and idiosyncratics, such as the quotations he includes in his playing, or the way he lays behind the beat such as on Willow Weep For Me from the album Our Man in Paris.
The focus this week is on the great alto saxophonist Cannonball Adderley. I am looking into his articulation style, and will be concentrating on four albums, Live at The Lighthouse, Cannonball and Coltrane, Cannonball Takes Charge, and Cannonball's Bossa Nova.
This week I am focusing on two saxophone players, alto saxophonist Jim Snidero, and tenor saxophonist Walt Weiskopf. Both of these musicians are great educators and players. I have been working on their exercises with tone, scales, articulation, and been using the tune Don't Change by Walt Weiskopf to put these skills into context.
This weeks artist of the week is Benny Golson. He is a composer, arranger, and a tenor saxophone player from America. I was recently asked to teach a workshop on compositions three compositions by Benny Golson that included Blues After Dark, Stablemates, and Whisper Not. All three are great tunes, and I enjoy playing the chord changes on Stablemates. I few other artists who have covered this tune really well include saxophonists Eric Alexander and Lin Halliday on the album Stablemates, and British trumpet player Steve Waterman on his album Stablemates.
This week I have been focusing on the tune Rhythm-a-Ning by pianist Thelonious Monk, with Charlie Rouse on Saxophone from the album Criss-Cross. There are lots of other artists who try their own version including E.S.T., Gerry Mulligan, Art Blakey, and Kenny Barron to name a few.
Trumpeter Chet Baker's White Blues has been my tune of the week. It is from the album White Blues, and was first introduced to me by the fabulous clarinettist Richie Howard during a lesson, who at the time asked me to transcribe parts of the solo. This week I have transcribed the original 'head' chords and tune, then added this to my original transcription. This is a great track and solo, where Chet Baker's improvisation is amazing with some clear points to learn from, which are an amazing sense of time and space, great swing feel, and harmonic knowledge. A great tune to learn and perform on concerts.
After being bought Minor Blues by Kenny Barron, and seeing him live, this weeks tune is composed by him. I have chosen the tune Voyage that features on the album What If. The tune is usually up-tempo like on What if and on the album Voyage that includes Stan Getz. A slower version can be found on James Moody's album A4.
I find Joe Henderson to be one of the most creative tenor saxophone players in the past sixty years. I was first introduced to Henderson's music through the piece Inner Urge from the album Inner Urge, which includes Elvin Jones on drums, McCoy Tyner on piano, and Bob Cranshaw on bass. The tune is supposed to be a reflection of his life in New York and the mentality he needed to survive. I found this a great tune to explore Lydian modes, listen to personality within Henderson's style, and work on your own rhythmic playing.