4/24/14

The Scale Omnibus- free download

Francesco Balena, of www.saxopedia.com, has put together a fantastic book called The Scale Omnibus and is offering it as a free download. This is basically a compendium of 392 distinct scales in all keys, very useful indeed. Download it this very minute!

The Scale Omnibus

4/11/14

10mFan Mouthpieces


The new 10mFan tenor mouthpieces have caused quite a stir in the saxophone community. The SOTW thread started when the mouthpieces were launched is the longest running threads in SOTW history with over 1,600 comments and a quarter million views! The pieces were designed by Mark Sepinuck, who many know by his 10mFan eBay user name. Mark is one of the world's most prolific dealers of vintage horns and mouthpieces and has probably played more vintage pieces than anyone else on planet earth, so he has a unique perspective on what makes a mouthpiece play great. After selling vintage pieces for thirty years he wanted to create a modern piece that outplayed the vintage pieces that are able to get a vintage or modern sound depending on how you play it. He worked for a year and a half with Eric Falcon getting every aspect of the designs just right. Mark uses the very best German bar stock hard rubber, which is really the only way to go. I'm just never satisfied with pieces made with injection molded resin compound. The finish work on these pieces is excellent and the consistency is great. You don't need to try four or five in order to find the one that plays. Mark believes that his pieces will take people away from the vintage pieces that they have playing for years. The 10mFan pieces are prices quite well compared to the few mouthpiece makers who are using hard rubber bar stock.

 One thing is certain about Mark's pieces, they have great response and they take the air like crazy. To me these qualities are not simply a matter of personal taste, either the piece feels great or it doesn't. I think that not every single player might not like the sound of 10mFan pieces enough to switch, but every player will appreciate how they feel and respond. These are NOT copies of vintage pieces, they are engineered from the ground up, unlike many modern pieces that are merely CNC'd from scanned specs of old Links.

The Merlot
 I tried all three pieces. The Boss, the brightest piece of the three, had a bit too much baffle for me. This piece is for someone who want a bright, punchy sound that can peel paint, perfect for R&B, Rock and Funk players. The middle piece is the Robusto, which has a medium baffle and can easily do everything from Rock to Classic Bebop, kind of a Hard-Bop vibe. All three pieces have medium large chambers and can take a lot of air. The Robusto reminded me of an Early Babbitt, still a Classic sound but you could drive it and get more edge and fatness if you wanted. The warmest piece is the Merlot. The Merlot could be compare to a Slant Link, though it doesn't really have the same woody sound as a Slant. I would have to describe the Merlot as a distinctly modern sounding warmer piece. The Merlot has more of a shaded warm sound compared to the Robusto, but it is really pointless to try to describe the qualities of these pieces in anything other than general terms because they just aren't exactly like anything else on the market.

 One thing that is quite interesting about these pieces is the fact that it's possible to get a really wide range of tone qualities from them, depending on how you put air through them, and on what brand and strength reed you use. Just listen to the sound clip on the 10mFan audio clips page of Jeff Rupert playing the Merlot and you'll hear a fluffy, dark Getzian sound and Ian Tordella playing the same piece sounds like Mobley. Then listen to Joel Frahm playing Inner Urge the same piece and you'll hear something entirely different, his sound has much more edge and clarity with a strident quality. When trying the 10mFan pieces you should prepare yourself with at least four or five brands of different reeds, and in a range of strengths. This is actually a good approach when trying any new piece. Make sure you have brands with different types of cuts, like thicker Francios' or Blue box Vandoren, medium cuts like Roberto's, and cuts with less heart like Jazz Selects of Riggottis. The same brand of reeds will play totally differently from mouthpiece to mouthpiece and you might miss the fact that you found the perfect piece simply because you didn't try the right reed on it. Mark stressed the fact that you can color the tone with different brands of reeds rather than running to a re-facer.

 I applaud Mark for creating a groundbreaking new mouthpiece. He had a unique vision and he carried it out, resulting in a totally new approach to mouthpiece design. Mark has created a piece that is good enough to make a lot of picky and stubborn saxophonists give up the pieces that they have played for (in some cases) decades. These mouthpieces have definitely upped the ante in the custom mouthpiece world. I'm  happy that I have something to recommend to my tenor students that doesn't cost and arm and a leg and has consistent workmanship.

I look forward to checking out the upcoming metal tenor pieces, hopefully the alto pieces will not be far behind.
"I've been playing the Robusto, and I feel right at home on it. Mark claims that one doesn't have to search for the ultimate hard rubber vintage piece any longer, because his pieces have it covered, and the way I see it, he can't be altogether faulted for that claim. You'd have to look far and wide to find a vintage piece that matches his Robusto and
Merlot (The Boss, the third model in the series I haven't tried). The vintage feel is certainly there. A new contender on the scene, definitely worth trying. Well done!"
- Jan Garbarek

10mFan web site
Link to page of audio recordings

3/19/14

Jazz Conversations- a new site by saxophonist Jayn Pettingill

 Jayn Pettingill, who is an old friend of mine and also a talented altoist, has started writing a very interesting web site called Jazz Conversations.

About Jazz Conversations:
Jazz, in the last 150 years, has grown into quite a large word, encompassing many genres and subgenres than ever before. It can mean many things to many people: My "Jazz" may not be your Jazz, but there are always points of intersection that mingle, or combust, creating vivid conversation. With many ways to listen to and to play this music, Jazz Conversations seeks to capture some of the music's magic through writing and audio profiles of the people who play it, their stories, their recordings or anything in between and beyond.
Jayn Pettingill
About your Host:
Jayn Pettingill is a San Francisco native who has been playing saxophone professionally for 30 years. Her early studies with Frank Morgan, Victor Morosco and Anthony Braxton have influenced her music deeply. As a freelance musician she collaborates with a variety of musicians and bands. Her own projects include "Verb," a quartet of alto sax, trombone, bass and drums, and Kaijuscope, a twelve piece ensemble which reimagines the music of Akira Ifukube, through Jayn's compositions and arrangements, in collaboration with visual artist Michele Graffieti.

Jazz Conversations site

Half-Speed Jazz Blog

Jacob Zimmerman
"Half Speed Jazz" is a collection of classic jazz solos played back at half speed curated by saxophonist Jacob Zimmerman and trumpeter Theo Padouvas. The inspiration for this project came from the teaching practices of legendary jazz pianist Lennie Tristano. His method for learning solos involved singing along with the recordings played back at half speed. The authors of this blog believe that listening to a great solo at half speed can illuminate the enduring quality and substance of an improvised performance.

New solos are posted every Monday. If you have a great solo you think should be included please contact: jacob@jacobrexzimmerman.com

Half-Speed Jazz blog link

Diminished ii-V7 substitutions

Here is a sheet of diminished substitutions put together by Mario Sandoval, one of my PSU private students, that illustrates different diminished substitutions over a ii-V7 I in the key of of C.

4 Tonic System

Click the above graphics for larges versions

2/18/14

When Frustration Levels Are High- by Marty Sacks

When Frustration Levels Are High

  My saxophone playing involves a lot of shoulder shrugging. I’ve surpassed my 10,000 hours of practice that Gladwell argues can lead to expertise.  I’ve studied with great teachers (Mr. Valdez included) and tried to incorporate their instruction. But the fact remains that I’m just not that good at playing the sax. It pains me a bit to write such things, but the evidence is there. How do you make peace with the fact that your playing remains stuck at the same level? I’ve spoken with other musicians about this concept and I’ve received thoughtful advice preaching patience, but the great mind game is in actually believing the message. Telling yourself you’re okay doesn’t make you feel okay. I read Kenny Werner’s Effortless Mastery, and I was impressed by his recommendation to think “Every note I play is the most beautiful sound I've ever heard.” I appreciate that approach, and understand its intention, but the method is a struggle to adopt. I can’t tune out the voice saying, “If that is the most beautiful sound ever, then this world is a cold, dark place.”

  I’m writing a blog post because I found one solution to the problem. It’s not a great remedy, but I found it fairly effective.  The key, in a perverse manner, was graduate school. I moved from Portland to Boston and stopped playing – for 18 months. As in 18 months. That’s an absurdly long period of time for a musician to forgo his favorite pursuit, but I was overwhelmed with other matters, including the relentless pursuit of future employment. More importantly, I ceased playing until the foreboding feeling I experienced when looking at my saxophone dissipated and transformed into a sense of longing. It wasn’t until then that I could genuinely say to myself “I don’t care if I sound like I’m 10 years old.” And the best part has been that I feel 10 years old when I play, filled with the excitement that comes from making noise and… well… honking.

  I wouldn’t necessarily recommend my method of rekindling joy in playing music (given the length of time), but I hope that others who also are prone to self-deprecating thoughts can find a way to move past the frustration of not sounding a certain way. One useful piece of advice I received pertained to the constant comparison to others’ playing ability (or as it’s more commonly known, the “oh shit, that guy’s so much better, I need to go practice”). David Castiglione, who taught a jazz improvisation course at Vassar College, told me to think that of everyone as being on a wheel. You are further along on the wheel than some people who are older than you -- and a great distance behind some people who are younger. You are not a “superior person” to those who don’t play as well, just as those whose playing is more advanced than yours are not better people. Taking a holistic view (i.e., looking at the entire person) helps me recognize that there are other things that matter more than the ability to integrate the right substitutions over the dominant 7 chord.

 For those who are able to, as Bird said, “…forget all that shit and just play,” I commend you. For the rest of us, I encourage you to be kind to yourself and find a teacher who won’t chew you out when you struggle.

-------------------------------
Marty Sacks is a 2014 MBA candidate at Boston College. When not playing music or studying, you’ll find him at Argopoint, a legal consulting firm in Boston.

1/30/14

Jazz Heaven Instructional DVDs

 It is now possible to learn from the masters without attending high priced conservatories or moving to NYC. When I was younger there were really only a handful of good instructional Jazz videos, and even books for that matter. Each year brings a multitude of new high tech interactive instructional products (some of which I have reviewed on this blog) and the quality seems to get better every year.

Falk Willis
 Jazz Heaven is based in Brooklyn and founded by a Jazz drummer named Falk Willis. The DVDs are well produced and feature some of the great Jazz musicians of our times. Falk sent me the newest Jerry Bergonzi series of DVDs called Creating a Jazz Vocabulary (vol.I-III), as well as also a Bergonzi sax specific DVD. PDF supplements are included with each DVD. There is a ton of great information here and it really feels like you're taking a private lesson with Jerry. Each DVD has two hours of lessons, plus play-alongs and PDFs.
 
 Jazz Heaven has a bunch of other Jazz luminaries on their roster, including Kenny Werner, Vincent Herring, Lee Konitz, Ari Honig, Walt Weiskopf, Joel Frahm, Ingred Jensen, Jean-Michel Pilc, Enrico Pieranunzi, Geoffrey Keezer, David Kikoski, Lincoln Goines, Paul Jackson, Sergio Brandao, Lage Lund, Gilad Hekselman, Oz Noy, Eric Harland, Ralph Peterson, Portinho, Mike Clark, Jamey Haddad. Not all of the DVDs are completed yet, but the thirteen products that are available now are all really good.

 If you can't manage a move to New York City or didn't get accepted to one of the East Coast's top Jazz conservatories then Jazz Heaven's DVDs could be a viable way to learn from one of the greats. You can get online access for 24 hours for each DVD for $19.95, 90 day access for $29.95 and a physical DVD for $39.95. The prices are really quite reasonable considering how much great material you get.


Jazz Heaven site

1/11/14

X-Centric Gonz Pentatonic b6 ii-V7 application

Here’s a downloadable exercise (including a bass clef version), by saxophonist Bobby Stern, on one of the many possible uses of  the Pentatonic b6 over a minor ii-V7-i, which he posted recently on his blog.

Bobby has, to date, authored three books: “The Melodic Minor Handbook: A Jazz Player’s Perspective” (Jamey Aebersold Books), as well as “Slick Licks That Stick!” Vols. 1 & 2, available separately or together as PDF books from his website.

Bobby has lots of great educational material on his blog.
(click pic above for larger version)

12/10/13

Public Domain Jazz X-mas Fake Book

Stephen Cox has put together a nice fakebook of public domain X-mas tunes. He has included 23 holiday standards with charts in concert, Bb, Eb and bass clef. Just in time for your holiday gigs. This is a free download.

Thanks Stephen!

Public Domain Christmas Jazz Fake Book

11/7/13

Doug Webb's ii-7 V7 subs

Here is a page of saxophonist Doug Webb's ii-7 V7 substitutions from a clinic he did at Casa Valdez last year. Audio of Doug playing through all of these to follow soon. These are pure gold!

click aboove for a larger version

10/29/13

Scales of Slash Chords


  1. C/C = C Major Scale or C Lydian Scale
  2. Db/C = C Phrygian Scale or C Locrian Scale
  3. D/C = C Lydian Scale
  4. Eb/C = C Dorian Scale
  5. E/C = C Lydian Augmented Scale
  6. F/C = F major Scale
  7. Gb/C = C (Half-step/Whole step) Diminished Scale
  8. G/C = C Major Scale
  9. Ab/C = Ab Major Scale
  10. A/C = C (Half-step/Whole step) Diminished Scale
  11. Bb/C = C Mixolydian
  12. B/C = C (Whole step/Half-step) Diminished Scale

9/15/13

Joe Viola Plays Manny Albam- Jazz in the Classroom, Vol.III..INCREDIBLE!!!!

 Joe Viola changed my life. My entire concept of saxophone sound, technique and teaching was a result of my studies with him. I owe so much to him and think about him almost every time I play or teach. His words of wisdom echo in my skull, but more than that...his saxophone sound rings in my head as something like my Platonic ideal of what a saxophone should sound like. Joe V had the intonation of an angel and his tone was pure, clear and just plain lovely. He would always say that whether you are playing Classical or Jazz, a good saxophone sound was a good saxophone sound. Some might argue this point, but when you heard him play it was quite clear that this statement was true.

 A saxophonist buddy of mine who went to the same high school as I did and then also studied with Joe at Berklee after I did just sent me a recording that I have been dying to hear for many, many years. It is Joe Viola's 'Jazz in the Classroom' album that was put out by Berklee in 1959. The album was done in the Berklee studios on two track reel to reel. Viola overdubbed all of the woodwind parts, playing all of the saxophones, flute, oboe, English horn, clarinet, and bass clarinet. The first side is in a Classical style and the second side is sax quartet with an added rhythm section of Ray Santisi, Gene Cherico and Alan Dawson. Manny Albam was a rising star as a composer and arranger and he composed everything on the album. The entire recording is truly mind blowing. The sax quartet tracks just sound impossibly good, because no section sounds that in tune, tight or phrases together so well. The great thing about this recording is that you can play along with it because all of the Jazz in the Classroom scores are in the online Berklee archives. I have included links to each score with each MP3 track. Playing along with Joe makes me feel like I am back in his studio with him again. Hearing this was incredibly inspiring, but it also made a mere mortal like myself feel like a lazy slug.


Joe Viola Plays Manny Albam: Berklee's Jazz in the Classroom series, Vol.III

Hal Crook play-alongs- Berklee archives

Hal Crook is one of the most gifted professors at Berklee College of Music. I played in his big band when I was at school there and his big band compositions are about that best that I have ever encountered. He is an incredible trombonist and a demanding educator and I still use his books with my private students. I just ran across an entire stash of his educational play-alongs while I was looking through the Berklee online archives today.

 There are 45 different play-along tracks with parts in concert, Eb, Bb and bass clef. He also includes a guide tone line for each composition, each tune being a contra fact of a Jazz standard. The guide tone lines notes are marked in red on the melody parts so you can see how the melody was created from the guide tone lines.You can tell that he wrote the tunes specifically for educational purposes, but they are all still very hip. There are nicely recorded audio play-along tracks for each tune at reasonable tempos. What a great find!


Hal Crook's Berklee Play-Alongs

8/30/13

PDX Jazz @ The Mission Theater To Open Fall Season with David Valdez & The Latin Side of Cannonball Adderley




The David Valdez Latin Jazz Ensemble kicks off the PDX Jazz @ The Mission Theater Fall season on Thursday, September 19 at 7:00PM in a program dedicated to the "Latin Side of Cannonball Adderley." This special one-time performance will feature trumpeter Tom Barber, bassist Dave Captein, drummer Todd Strait, percussionist Mario Sandoval, and out front on alto sax, David Valdez.

"Julian 'Cannonball' Adderley was one of the most important alto saxophonists in jazz, and a musician who had a profound impact on my musical concept," states Valdez. "When I was younger, Cannonball was a more obvious influence in my sound, and later on his influence remained as an energetic approach to the instrument. From my perspective, he was one of the only altoists who approached Bird's level of technical mastery and fluidity. Cannonball had total mastery of his instrument, but his playing was also full of raw emotion - a rare combination. There is a distinctly freewheeling and boisterous quality to his music, but he could also change gears and sound highly refined and romantic."

"Throughout his career," Valdez continues, "Adderley seemed to always understand how to connect with audiences, this was due in part to his deep grounding in the blues. He brought an earthy bluesy approach to everything he played, which was a perfect balance to Coltrane's rarified improvisations with the Miles Davis Quintet of the late fifties. 1962 was a busy year for Adderley; he released four albums for Riverside Records, including Cannonball's Bossa Nova, which featured an established group of L.A. based Brazilian studio musicians, among them pianist, Sergio Mendes. This was at the height of the Bossa Nova craze, and quite possibly Riverside was instrumental in encouraging Adderley to follow in the footsteps of Stan Getz. Whatever the motivations for this new musical direction were, Ball's approach mixed elegance and a fiery energy that many similar recordings of this era lacked."


 Valdez has selected a vast body of Adderley's works including: "Stars Fell on Alabama," "Joyce's Samba," "Lolita," "Heads Up! Feet Down!," "Goodbye," "Minha Suadade," "Clouds," "Lisa," and "I Concentrate On You," among others.

David Valdez & The Latin Side of Cannonball Adderley
Thursday, September 19 @ 7:00PM

 
David Valdez - alto saxophone
Tom Barber - trumpet
George Colligan-piano
Dave Captein - bass
Mario Sandoval - percussion
Todd Strait - drums
 
Tickets $15 in advance and at the door.
Please note new starting time of 7:00PM