Tag: Jazz

Dig Jimmy Heath!

heath-frontJimmy Heath is another master with whom I hope to become more familiar.

Driving into a glorious autumn dawn on the way to church Sunday, I was listening to “Picture of Heath” and was particularly struck by the third chorus of Jimmy’s soprano solo on “All Members.”

I don’t usually go to the trouble of formally transcribing solos, since there are so many fine transcriptions available on-line.  But Jimmy’s third chorus really knocked me out, and i felt compelled to examine the strategy, structure, and logic of this amazing 12-bar chorus.  Continue reading “Dig Jimmy Heath!”

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?”

“Remember” Hank Mobley’s “Soul Station”?

HANK MOBLEY SOUL STATIONThe road to dynamic, expressive improvisation is paved with practice and listening.  Hank Mobley’s near perfect solo on Irving Berlin’s “Remember” from his classic LP “Soul Station” is filled with profound lessons on phrasing, rhythm, tone, melody, pacing, and development.  Here is just one of the great ideas you will encounter when studying this wonderful recording.

HANK MOBLEY REMEMBER BARS 15 AND 16As always, we recommend learning the phrase in all 12 keys.  Practice with the audio file found below. Continue reading ““Remember” Hank Mobley’s “Soul Station”?”

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?”

Thematic Development Galvanizes Your Solos

STORYTELLERDo your solos brim with vitality, gliding across a colorful landscape, as you explore ever deeper into the ocean of sound?  Or do you flounder among waves of notes, swimming through a maze of chord changes?

STORYTELLER 3Thematic development will transform your playing, as you weave your exciting, personal story.

The following clips illustrate three powerful tools to stimulate your creative potential and enthuse your audience.

1.  RHYTHMIC SHIFT – Example 1 presents a 7-beat phrase that starts on the “and” of beat 3.  The phrase is then repeated, but this time, it begins on the “and” of beat 2.  Repeating the phrase gives your thought unity, while the rhythmic offset offers variety and surprise.  Try playing along with this recording in all 12 keys.

MIXOLYDIAN LICK 1

2.  DIMINUTION – In example 2, the 7-beat phrase is the same, but a triplet compresses the second statement of the theme.  Your motif is still easily recognized, but you have added variety.

MIXOLYDIAN LICK 2

3.  TONAL SHIFT – In Example 3, the second statement of the theme modulates up a minor third.  Tonal shift was a favorite device of John Coltrane.  The listener still recognizes your theme, but her ear delights in this fresh new element you have added to the mix.

MIXOLYDIAN LICK 3

As you become more comfortable with creating and developing thematic material, your unique personality defines your individual style.  You improvise dynamically and coherently.

STORYTELLER 2

To master these 3 techniques, play along with the 3 audio files offered here.  Contact me, if you need a chart.  Or, if you want to learn to play by ear in all 12 keys (as I did while recording these clips), download “New Ears Resolution” and liberate your musical imagination!

Do You Enjoy Practicing Scales?

How often do we teachers hear students complain about having to practice long tones and scales?  Every teacher knows that long tones greatly enhance tonal quality and intonation and that scales are the raw material from which improvised solos are crafted.  The problem is that any musician who practices being bored will bore the audience.  What you practice is what you perform.  Practice joy, imagination, and  freshness, and your show will be fresh.  Practice dry technique, and your gig will be a desert.

Below is a 4-bar phrase containing a descending major scale (Ionian mode) and an ascending Mixolydian mode.  I worked on this exercise until the rhythm and note sequence started to feel interesting to me.

Try playing along with the background track provided below and see if this approach adds a bit of zest to your practice time.  Develop your own variations on this idea.  Email me for a FREE copy of this exercise in all 12 keys, if you have trouble figuring it out.  Better yet, download “New Ears Resolution” and learn how to play any melody in any key by ear.

1 1 15 scale lick

Happy New Year, Sonny Rollins!

ROLLINS

What a great way to ring in 2015!  We watched “Labor Day” on Netflix, and then I revisited Sonny Rollins’ 1998 CD “Global Warming.”  Sonny has a wonderful ability to compose simple melodies that swing.  And, of course, the unique way he develops motivic material during his solos is legendary.   Solos brimming over with life and joy.  I just had to pick up my horn and play along.  Here is the lick that emerged, Adolph Sax’s new year’s gift.

NEW YEARS EVE LICK 2014 2015Try playing along with this melodic minor phrase in all 12 keys using this background track.  If you have trouble transposing it, email me for a free chart.  Or download “New Ears Resolution” and learn how to play any melody in any key by ear.

Noted Guitarist Praises “New Ears Resolution”

This review of the Second Edition of “New Ears Resolution” was posted by the wonderful guitarist, singer, and educator Trevor Hanson http://trevorhanson.com/trevor/ .  Trevor is highly respected for his work in both the jazz and classical fields and has a large following in Western Washington State.

  1. Basic concept: great.  The basic concepts and the way you have organized their presentation are very useful.  You have many good insights and analogies to help get students on board, even if they have had little formal training.  There’s no question that moveable-do solfege is a tremendous learning aid, and you’ve done a good job at making it accessible and understandable.  The early parts of your presentation assume that the reader has little or no background in music theory.
  2. Combining essential skills in small lessons.  By combining ear training, scale/harmony theory, and repetition and presenting the material in small, easily manageable chunks, you’ve provided an excellent framework for learning that doesn’t overwhelm the student.  Many theory books cover this material in just a few pages – making it difficult for students to achieve a working knowledge of (and quick memory for) these essential elements.
  3. Familiar tunes as examples. Linking little phrases to familiar tunes is very helpful.  This is how most of us recognize intervals, patterns, and progressions.  By providing examples, you save students time, since recognizing a short quote is often difficult.
  4. Audio files.  Listening to and playing along with the audio files is a huge advantage.
  5. Scale/chord material.  Your presentation of the scale modes is very good.  I really like the clear examples showing how each mode can be derived from the Ionian, the examples showing how each modal color can be used, and the charts/audio exercises that contrast these elements.  I found your discussion of Locrian m7(b5) and Phrigian sus(b9) even more useful.  I ran out of time before getting a chance to look at Bill Green’s approach to the blues scale and V7#9#5 chord, and am looking forward to examining this section.  These are all really important topics that most musicians just have to figure out by experimentation.  You have provided a logical starting point for studying these elements.

Sincerely,
Trevor Hanson
www.TrevorHanson.com

Combining the Blues Scale With the Minor Scales

There is a lot of talk in improvisation texts about the three minor scales (which start on LA), the Dorian mode (which starts on RE), and the blues scale (which can begin on either one).   However, the reality is that master jazz improvisers glide freely between all five scales with additional nuances interspersed.  Below is a lick to illustrate this principle.  Listen to the mp3 recording while looking at the chart.  Try practicing this lick in all 12 keys.  If you have difficulty, try slowing it down or looping the hard section with the FREE DOWNLOAD  Best Practice.   Or contact me for a FREE chart of the lick in 12 keys by filling in your email below.  Your address will NOT be used for any other purpose, and it will NOT be saved.   Better yet, if you want to learn to play jazz by ear, download New Ears Resolution.

10-14-13 LICK