Category: Charlie Parker (Yardbird

Pres says, “Sing me a song!”

Lester-Young-LIFE-1944

Let’s face it, we all want monster chops.  There are some great books out there to help develop technique.  I work constantly on mastering lix in all 12 keys, but I never play those lix on the gig.  That’s not their purpose.  The reason for practicing lix is to enhance your facility on the horn and expand your musical vocabulary.

But some of those lix get so obscure, I can’t even tell if I’ve made a mistake in transposing the lick to a new key.  That’s when I know the lick is too obscure!

I just got a killer deal on a great classic clarinet mouthpiece.   That inspired me to do some long overdue clarinet shedding.   I was trying to come up with a lick that felt melodic, one that would swing and sound lyrical, as opposed to clinical.

Let me know what you think of this one.

To see the chart for this lick in all 12 keys, press the “Continue Reading” button.

Continue reading “Pres says, “Sing me a song!””

The Chord Committee

Many, many thanks to everyone who volunteered for The Chord Committee.    Numerous excellent solutions have been proposed.  In order to avoid discord, I have combined all of your suggestions into one beautiful, majestic chord.   In hopes you will find the solution acceptable, the chart and recording are presented here for your approval.  (Click on “continue reading” to view the complete chart.)

Continue reading “The Chord Committee”

Mastering Modulation

Have you ever ridden on a roller coaster blindfolded?  That’s how it feels to improvise without understanding internal modulation.  It’s like driving through a thick London fog.  Progress is halting, movements are uncertain and tense.

By contrast, the player who understands how to navigate key changes improvises smoothly and confidently.

This month, we learn to recognize an internal modulation and craft an effective response. Continue reading “Mastering Modulation”

RIPPING RIFFS OR MEMORABLE MELODIES?

sax life logoCraig wrote this article for the February, 2016 issue of Saxophone Life Magazine.  It appears here courtesy of SLM.

It’s definitely impressive to hear jazz musicians improvise at incredibly fast tempos. What is, however, far more inspiring is hearing how the great masters are able to create beautifully crafted, swinging melodic lines, regardless of tempo. Continue reading “RIPPING RIFFS OR MEMORABLE MELODIES?”

Darn That Dexter!

ONE FLIGHT UP LP COVERDexter Gordon is universally revered by saxophonists for his muscular sound.  He is equally effective on ballads, blues, and fast tempos.

His Blue Note LP One Flight Up includes a fine reading of the Jimmy Van Heusen ballad “Darn That Dream” on which he dexterously employs a device favored by Charlie Parker.  This maneuver involves momentarily raising the key a half-step and inferring a ii-V progression in that key.

Here are two instances in which Dexter deftly employs that ploy.  As anyone who has ever tried to transcribe his solos knows, one of the hallmarks of Dexter’s style is his unique approach to rhythm.  While his languid phrasing is pure joy to hear, it’s a nightmare to transcribe.  I have greatly simplified the rhythm in these two examples, focusing instead on the pitches Dexter chose for the brief modulation. Continue reading “Darn That Dexter!”

Jazz Articulation, Accents, and Proper Tonguing

Some saxophone & clarinet students have difficulty with jazz articulation, because they have not learned to tongue properly.  They begin each note with a constriction in the throat, which sounds as if the student were humming into the mouthpiece.  The beginning of the note is fuzzy and indistinct. Continue reading “Jazz Articulation, Accents, and Proper Tonguing”

Why Is This Tune So Hard To Memorize?

Have you ever had difficulty playing a tune, even though it presented no obvious technical hurdles? Perhaps the problem lies in a hidden harmonic riddle, which, when solved, will unlock your understanding of the song and make it easier to play and to remember.

At a recent gig, pianist Mark Schecter called off Dizzy Gillespie’s “Groovin’ High.” Although Storyville used to play the song, it still made me stumble.  However, after deciphering its harmonic implications, playing it became simple.

     Here’s how to solve a riddle like that.

Continue reading “Why Is This Tune So Hard To Memorize?”