Promoting your gigs

To be a working Jazz musician requires one to constantly be booking and promoting gigs. It's getting less and less common to have steady gigs anymore. The player is usually responsible for doing much of the promotion that the club owner used to do. The club may have an ad in a weekly paper or a listing in the entertainment section, but many times this isn't enough to
ensure a decent crowd. When I was younger I didn't take promoting my gigs very seriously. I just cared about making the music good and pinning down the next gig. If you don't draw many listeners to your gig it doesn't really matter how good you play. You probably won't get many more gigs there in the future. Besides, how much fun is it to play to an empty house?

I've found that posters are not always the best way to advertise your gigs. Postering is expensive and time consuming. If it's a big show that needs promotion, consider having a professional postering company put up 100 or 150 posters. These companies usually charge around 50-60 cents per poster. They have well established routes and know where all the high traffic spots are. They blanket the city in a way that is impossible for an individual to do. If you are going to take the trouble to do this, make sure you have a great eye-catching poster. You should be able to find an inexpensive struggling professional graphic artist at a reasonable price (try Craig's list) if you aren't artistically inclined.

Mass media is the musician's best friend. Make sure you send out your press releases for your gigs about two weeks before they happen. Don't send out promo for a few days before your gig and expect to get media coverage. Make an effort to put together email AND fax lists for every paper and radio station in town. Get promo material to all of them. Make sure your press releases are interesting and short enough so they can be printed or read without needing any editing. Take the time and read some good press releases to learn how to write a good one.

Writing music press releases article

  • Make sure you send a note to the music calendar editors. These are usually different folks than the journalists.
  • You should try to develop personal relationships with the writers and DJs that cover Jazz. Call the papers or radio stations and find out who they are and get their contact information if you can. Don't just send them CDs and promo material randomly. Call them when they're working or write them and let them know that you'll be sending them something. Always follow up after sending promo material. Say that you're calling just to see if they received your package/CD/press release. Make friends with these people, they are invaluable! Send them free tickets to your shows, flowers, chocolate. Try inviting them to recording sessions or rehearsals.
  • Try to get on the radio as a guest before your gig. People's memories are short so do this right before your gig. Many radio stations have web sites and live music listings. If there is a Jazz society in your town, they usually have some kind of newsletter or calendar you can submit to. Craig's List is also free and has high traffic.
  • Get your demo CDs to the DJs to play on their shows. Again, follow up. CDs are expensive.
  • Find out when the outdoor fairs and festivals happen and start working on them six months before they happen. Many times these will be booked by a professional booking agency.
  • Contact every booking agency, caterer, and party planner in the phone book. These are the real money gigs.
  • Work on an email list. Bring a notebook to every gig and make sure to ask the audience to put their email info in it. Trade email lists with other similar bands to expand your contacts. Remember to always put your addresses in the Bcc: section when you do your mailings. This way other people can't get your addresses without your permission. In the past, bands sent out postcards to fans about their upcoming gigs, emails are FREE. Take advantage of this techonology. You also may want to upload your high quality music mp3s to a free streaming server like Music for Dozens.com. Then put a link to the site in your e-mail gig announcements.
  • Get on the phone and personally invite people to your gig. This is much more effective than any other promotion method. People will respond to a call much more to a call than an email.
  • Talk the club owner into offering some kind of food or drink special just for your gig. Use this as a draw in your promo materials.
  • Save every review, blurb and ad about your band for your promo package. If no one is writing about you, ask some established musicians to write a few sentences about your music.
  • People are always more interested in musicians and bands from out of town. Bring in a player from out of town for a few gigs to generate more buzz. You'll be more likely to get more media coverage this way. Set up some private students or a master class to make it worthwhile for them to travel to your town. Many great players are looking to get out of the big cities and have their expenses covered.

If you become a good promoter you can make decent money playing even door gigs. Always give yourself plenty of time to promote gigs. No musician can afford to ignore this important element of the music business. As you start putting some effort into promotion it will get easier. Your mailing list will grow, your relationships with the media will develop and you will begin to draw the types of crowds to your gigs that want to hear what YOU are going to play.


Innovation or Emulation?

I've been slacking off on my Blog for the past week. My arms and hands were starting to bother me from Blogging too much. I've also been formulating a new trajectory for this blog. It is easier to write about the more concrete components of music than the abstract elements. People tend to write more about the 'rules' of theory than about breaking out of the box. I'm going to focus more on the intangible elements of playing jazz.

If you learn all the 'rules' and study what you're told to study, you will end up sounding like someone else. The thing to do is start developing a personal way of playing from the start. This is true innovation. You don't need to develop a new system of reharmonizing two-fives or break out free of time signatures to be an innovator.

When I was young, my drean was to become the next major innovator. I wanted my contributions to reorganize the world of Jazz. My name would be spoken along with Bird, Trane, and Ornette. I wanted to be recognized by musicians hundreds of years from now as a pivotal figure. It's amusing for me to look back on that young aspiring Jazz musician. I still do want to innovate, but that has a different meaning to me now.

Innovation is playing music in a unique way. It's having your own individual voice. You can incorporate elements from other musicians and still be innovative. I think you're an innovator when listeners can tell it's you after hearing just a few notes.

There are many young players today coming out of music institutions with high levels of musicianship and technique. They rarely come out as unique stylists. They usually sound like several of the Jazz greats. Their influences can even be counted on one hand. Sometimes a style can even be traced to a single record by a favorite musician (I heard a tenor player once who had based his entire style on Brecker's 'Cityscapes' album). One of the reasons this happens is that students are encouraged to transcribe and learn licks. This is positively reinforced when they are praised for sounding like Trane, Benson, or Brecker. Audiences usually respond well to this type of playing because it's already familiar to them. Some people say that lick playing is just crowd pleasing and some think that it's respecting our rich Jazz heritage.

American audiences, in general, are focused on the final result rather than the creative process. To me, the creative process is much more important. I would rather listen to sloppy exploration that contains a few gems than to a clean, but derivative, performance. I can accept a fair amount scuffling and kacking if I think the player is trying to go somewhere new. Unfortunately the masses aren't really conditioned to accept this type of musician.

The new crop of younger Jazz players are clean to a fault. They don't usually push for the impossible and they remain content with the possible.

When I was younger I often played out of Joe Pass's Guitar Styles book. Joe's lines were woven through the changes like a fine oriental silk rug. This book got me thinking about longer lines, but I didn't want to play the exact same lines as Joe. My solution was to take a pencil and write crazy alterations right in the book. The original lines were straight-ahead vanilla bop lines. By the time I was done with them no one would ever suspect they came from Joe Pass.

Don't be afraid to learn from musicians who play different instruments than you. This will broaden your style and your sources will be harder to trace. Keep your influences broad. Don't focus too much on any one player.

One of the topics I have written about in this blog is chord/scale theory. This is about finding the correct scale to fit any given chord. If you take this theory as fact you will find yourself limited to a linear and 'un-chunky' way of playing. You will end up sounding clean, but not very personal. One of the 'theories' that we accept in school is that scales can all be defined in one octave and that every octave is the same as every other octave. Music theory is taught this way because it's convenient and simple. In actuality, scales don't have to be limited to one octave at all. They may have a range of five octaves or just a tritone. A flat nine sounds very different when played in another octave and an A=440 is not really an A=880 at all. It's just the note that sounds the most similar out of all the other notes. It has a completely different personality and resonant quality.

Jazz improvisation theory needs to be adjusted for the range of the individual instruments. A baritone saxophone playing upper extensions over chord changes will be dealing with a totally different harmonic environment than a piccolo. Consider the fact that an altered dominant scale may be played differently in different octaves. You might want to try using a Lydian dominant scale in a lower octave and a altered dominant in a higher octave. It also depends on the range of the comping instrument.

Slonimky's book deals with symmetrical scales. The first of these is a tri-tone scale (C-F#-C2-F#2-ect). Eventually he gets into symmetrical scales that span several octaves. The symmetrical scale of 2:3 is a two octave scale that is divided equally into three parts, by minor sixths (C-Ab-E-C2). This is related to the 1:3 scale (c-E-Ab-C2) but it is also very different. Try writing some of your own scales that are not limited to just one octave. Try composing some of your own licks. Playing your own licks is always better than playing someone else's.

The chord/scale approach has a tendency to lock you into playing only the scale notes over a chord. The scale should only be thought of as consonant notes. All twelve notes should be available to you over any given chord. The non-scale notes each have their own 'tonal-gravity'.
They only sound wrong if you don't know where they want to resolve to and you don't deal with them correctly. It's a good exercise to sit down at a piano and play chords while experimenting with every note over each chord. Listen to where each 'avoid' note wants to resolve. Try things like a major third over a minor seventh, a natural 11th over an altered dominant chord, a natural fifth over a half-diminished chord. Be thorough about this process and take notes as you go. Once you realize that you can play anything over anything you will be able to relax a little. You won't be so worried about playing wrong notes because you will have the skills to adapt to any possibility.

Remember that you make the decision to innovate or emulate every single time you sit down to practice.


Jof Lee's Polychord overview

(click on the above graphic to enlarge)

Jof Lee, one of Portland's top pianists, sent me this overview of polychords. I was never sure of how to find scales for polychords. This overview is highly illuminating. Thanks Jof!

Just to clarify exactly which modes of Melodic and Harmonic minor:

~For a polychord with the upper chord a minor second below the lower triad:
F# triad over G triad
*you would play a melodic minor from the third of the bottom triad (B melodic minor)

~If the upper triad is a minor second above the lower triad:
Ab triad over G triad
*play a harmonic minor from the 3rd of the upper triad (C harmonic minor)

~If the upper triad is a Major 2nd above the lower triad:
triad over D triad
*Play a Harmonic Minor scale from the fifth of the lower-triad (A Harmonic Minor)


Communicating with the audience

I wrote about master drummer and composer Lawrence Williams in my July 12th post.
This video was shot a few years ago while he was living in Portland. In this clip Lawrence talks about how a musician should relate to the audience, whether in a club, concert hall or studio. He also talks about his experiences working with Marcus Belgrave and Nancy King.

(click the 256Kb MPEG4 link on the left under Download. Try updating to the latest verion of Quick Time if you have problems watching the video)


Writing sets- the bigger picture

Tim Price just sent me a link to a good article he wrote on his Blog about writing sets. As a bandleader this is very important. Players usually don't learn to do this well until they have had many years of experience. A well thought out set can really engage an audience and a poorly planned set can turn an entire room cold as ice. As Tim says- PRACTICE WRITING SETS. There are some guidelines for set writing that are good to be aware of.
  • Vary the styles and tempos of the tunes- Mix it up! There are times when it is nice to do a set of different styles of Latin tunes, then a swing set, then Blues and groove set (for when the crowd is drunk). This is the format of most club date or wedding bands.
  • Don't play tunes in the same key back to back. This is sometimes cool if the styles or tempos are different enough. Of course Blues or Rock bands do not follow this guideline. I sometimes play with a Blues singer who does EVERY tune in F. If possible have each key move down in fifths or stepwise (this is perceived by the audience at almost a subconscious level).
  • Start out the set with something that is comfortable for the musicians, so things lock in. Save your really hard material for when the band is warmed up.
  • Sometimes it's alright to start or end the set with a ballad. You might end the set with a Ballad if the second to last tune was a scorcher and you want to cool the audience down.
  • Be ready to change up your set on the fly depending how the crowd reacts. You may need to wake them up if they're getting too chatty.
  • If you're playing a gig for wealthy older caucasions, play every tune at 160bpm (businessman's bounce tempo) and segue between every tune with a 3-6-2-5 vamp into the next key. Just kidding. This is exactly what many NYC high society bands do.
  • Write sets that feature different instruments in the band and vary the solo order. Start with a bass solo or a bass melody once in a while.
  • Take the time to work on your set lists before you get to the gig and try to think them through in your head. Try to think about how you will feel after each tune. Keep old set lists that worked well for future reference.
  • Ask your players if they have any tunes they want to play before the gig so you can work them into the set seamlessly. Otherwise you'll have a harder time working them in on the fly.
  • Pick a few alternate tunes before hand.
  • Pick tunes that you sound good playing on. This seems obvious, but I often make the mistake of putting hard tunes that I don't know as well as I should in the set for the sake of novelty. I often overlook tunes that I know very well and sound good playing on for these newer, harder tunes. Don't overlook great tunes just because everyone else plays them.
  • Consider changing the style or meter of an overplayed standard. You might try something like playing 'All the Things' as a waltz or the 'Nearness of You' as a double-time feel Samba.


John Stowell- the Ultimate Road Warrior

John Stowell is one of the last true stylists. No one else on the planet sounds like he does. He is also a modern traveling minstrel. Over several of decades he has developed a network of clubs, coffeehouses, and colleges extending over most of the continental United States. He is no stranger to Canada and Europe either. John books everything himself and he travels alone in his little Toyota. He is on the road more than half the year.

Stowell likes playing music as much as anyone I've ever met. He is always up for playing, always. If he's in town and he's not working, he'll play. He was one of the first musicians that I hooked up with when I moved to Portland. We played many gigs and sessions together. He often calls me to come sit in when he has one of his in town gigs. I love playing with John because his ears are huge and his sound is so beautiful.

He hears everything you play and reacts to it. His melodic and harmonic concept is so heavy and he adapts to any situation perfectly . It's hard to describe John's playing because it is so unique that there's just no one to compare him to. He even holds his guitar differently than most guitar players.

Like his playing, his personality is also highly refined. I've never heard him say a bad thing about anyone. He is a strict vegan and he never drinks or smokes. You really couldn't be more of a gentleman than John is.

I figured that this post was in order because of the comments by one of his students about Stowell's harmonic approach. His concept is so advanced and I've always wondered how he thought about harmony. All of his lines sound so rarified, and etherial. They swoop gracefully from the top of his axe to the bottom. His time seems to float like a hummingbird.

Once we were playing a duo gig at a supper club and I started complaining about the meager pay. He said to me,"Well, we're not in this for the money are we?"
This comment perfectly describes Stowell's attitude about music.

"In the age of mediocrity and clones, John Stowell's uniqueness and originality is a breath of fresh air. I love playing with him."- Paul Horn

"John Stowell plays jazz, but the doesn't use any of the cliches; he has an incredible originality. John is a master creator" - Larry Coryell

"...can make an electric guitar sound like a singing voice." - Nat Hentoff

"More guitarists would play like John Stowell if they knew how" - Herb Ellis

"He plays his amplified guitar as if he were surrounded by fine crystal...the type of slow burning, sustained energy that you hear in players that practice all the time." - Down Beat

"Stowell played beautifully, combining his trademark creamy chord voicings with long, sinewy phrases." - Seattle Times

"...darkly singing understatements..." - Down Beat (record review)

"Stowell made his electric guitar sing beautifully, displaying all the virtosity that has brought him to the jazz world's attention in recent years." - Coda Magazine, Toronto

John's homepage
Doolin Guitars
Origin records
Stowell's instructional videos
MP3 interview
PDF transcription of Stowell's solo on 'Prelude to a Kiss'
CD baby MP3s of Stowell and Chris Woitach's Live CD
CD Baby MP3s of his 3 guitars live at the Jazz Bakery CD
CD Baby MP3s of Cheryl Fischer w/Stowell

Harmonic Theory and Just intonation

Here are a few more esoteric music theory links.

This stuff is dense, but give it a chance. It will open up your entire musical perspective. Musicians used to be taught the philosophic and mathematical foundations of music as part of their education. Music wasn't always just for cocktail enhancement and booty stimulation.

Harmonic Theory and Just intonation
Syndex:A synergetic perspective on number dynamics -written by my close friend Iona Miller
Ancient concepts of number
Islamic musical theory
The Just Intonation network
Just Intonation Explained

Rudresh Mahanthappa- Hindustani Jazz

I met Rudy in NYC and played a few times with him. I had never heard anyone quite like him. His sound was reminiscent of an India Nagaswaram (the double reed oboe like instrument). He is influenced by Grossman and Steve Coleman. Add to that mix a Hindustani flavor, mixed meters and blistering tempos and you have a different sound. His playing is interesting and fiery. I don't think I would ever go in that direction but you can't deny that Rudy is burning.

Here's his bio from his web site-

Named a Rising Star of the alto saxophone by the 2003 and 2004 Downbeat International Critics Poll, Rudresh Mahanthappa is one of the most innovative young musicians in jazz today. By incorporating the culture of his Indian ancestry, Rudresh has fused myriad influences to create a truly groundbreaking artistic vision. As a performer, he leads/co-leads five groups to critical acclaim. His most recent quartet recording Mother Tongue on Pi Recordings has been named one of Top Ten Jazz CDs of 2004 by the Chicago Tribune, All About Jazz, and Jazzmatazz to name a few and also received 4 stars in DOWNBEAT. This CD reached #8 on US jazz radio charts and reached #1 on Canadian jazz radio charts. As a performer, Mahanthappa has achieved international recognition performing regularly at jazz festivals and clubs worldwide. He has also worked as a sideman with such jazz luminaries as David Murray, Steve Coleman, Jack DeJohnette, Samir Chatterjee, Von Freeman, Tim Hagans, Fareed Haque, Vijay Iyer, Howard Levy, David Liebman, Greg Osby, and Dr. Lonnie Smith. As a composer, Rudresh has received commission grants from the Rockefeller Foundation MAP Fund, American Composers Forum, and the New York State Council on the Arts to develop new work. Mahanthappa has his Bachelors of Music Degree in jazz performance from Berklee College of Music and his Masters of Music degree in jazz composition from Chicago's DePaul University. He now teaches at The New School University. Rudresh Mahanthappa currently lives in New York where he is clearly regarded as an important and influential voice in the jazz world."

Reviews and MP3s
Jazz Times article


Reed Adjusdment Chart- Sax lessons.com

Reeds have the power of life or death over me. They determine whether I will be joyous or desperate. In short, they control my life. If I added up all the money that I have wasted on bad reeds, it would probably be enough to buy a medium sized yacht. Many times I have written reed companies after a particularly bad period of reeds. They always act surprised, like they don't know that their quality control sucks and that all their reeds are so green that they would grow leaves again if you left them in water too long. Die Vandoren!!!! I haven't found any other reeds that work for me other than Vandoren Java 3 1/2s. I just ordered some different reeds today from Woodwind and Brasswind because I have spent sixty dollars since I last found a good reed.
It's time to break down and get out the ol' reed knife, reed rush and sandpaper again.

Here is a good reed adjustment chart. I think it's from Larry Teal's book.

Tim Price on the LCCOTO

Tim Price has been a Blogster lately. Here is what he had to say on his Blog about the Lydian Chromatic concept and slash chords (great stuff Tim!):

Speaking of George, here's some food for thought.In George Russell's "Lydian Chromatic" you get this same scale sound by playing the "Lydian Augmented" scale built on the THIRD of the
dominant 7th chord (in other words, play an E Lydian Augmented on your C7). It gives you the same pitches as the "Altered Scale" described above.The thinking is a bit more focused with the Russell- via modern stuff. I feel. BTW, I find the Lydian Chromatic way of looking at things extremely useful, particularly when looking at chord voicings. Most extended chords can be
boiled down to some kind of Ma7 chord over a bass note. Sometimes the chord is a Ma7b5, sometimes a Ma7#5, sometimes a oMa7, but it can almost always be seen as some kind of Ma7. Once you figure out what chord you're really dealing with, the Lydian Chromatic thing becomes really easy. It also gives you a way to pivot into a whole bunch of nice substitutions.

Without referencing the LCC it's a very good idea to look at the ways that the various chord types can be voiced as one of the maj7 family of chords.
1 3 5 7
1 b3 5 7
1 3 b5 7
1 3 #5 7
1 b3 b5 7
1 b3 #5 7
1 4 5 7
All of these intervallic structures share the characteristic of the maj 7th interval which becomes a min 2nd interval. Players like Bill Evans and writers like Oliver Nelson and Gil Evans owe their style in no small way to voicings that lots of tension in them often achieved by selecting chords that have min 2nds on the inside voices and or maj7 intervals
somewhere in the chord. Just imagine how any one of those maj7-type chords would function with a different note in the bass.

Cmaj7/Db: sort of Dbdim-ish but not a commonly used sound
Cmaj7/D: D13sus4
Cmaj7/Eb: sort of Eb7#5(b9,13)-ish
Cmaj7/E: just an inversion of Cmaj7
Cmaj7/F: Fmaj7(9,#11)(no3rd)
Cmaj7/F#: D7(11,13)
Cmaj7/G: just an inversion of Cmaj7
Cmaj7/Ab: Abmaj7#5#9
Cmaj7/A: Am9
Cmaj7/Bb: Bb9(b9,13)-ish
Cmaj7/B: just an inversion of Cmaj7 or B7sus4(b9,b13)
Cm(maj7)/D: D13sus4b9
Cm(maj7)/E: Cmaj7#9/E

Donny McCaslin- a very big shadow

The entire time I was in school studying music I was always in the shadow of Donny McCaslin, from seventh grade until my junior year at Berklee. Sometimes it was a little hard on the ol' ego, but mostly it was inspiring and motivating. If I would have gone to almost any other school in the country I would have had a bit more glory. Donny kept me humble and always pushed me to be a better musician. He is still one of the most humble and down to earth musicians that you could ever meet.

Every time our high school band would go to a Jazz festival competition our last tune would be Cottontail, an up-tempo Ellington rhythm changes. Donny would rip up about twenty choruses at 320 bpm and the entire house would go nuts. I mean they would jump to their feet, start screaming at the top of their lungs and wouldn't stop for about ten minutes.

No one had ever heard a high-school kid who sounded like Donny. He blew away most professionals by the time he was about seventeen years old.

How did he do this?!
Was he born ripping Trane lines at 350bpm?
Were his ears and reflexes just superior to the average human being's?

NO, he just practiced like a madman. For many years he put in as many hours a day in the woodshed as was humanly possible, and he still does to this day!

Donny's been paying his dues in NYC since about 1989 or 1990. His first gig out of college was Gary Burton's band, then he took Brecker's place when he left Steps Ahead (this was Donny's dream band). He is now one of the top call sidemen in New York and has recorded several CDs as a leader as well.

He's worked with Flora Purim and Airto Moreira, Monday Michuru, George Schuller's "Circle Wide" with Ingrid Jensen, Pat Metheny, Dave Douglas, Brian Blade, Tom Harrell, John Pattitucci, Billy Hart, Bebel Gilberto, Eddie Gomez, Alexander Sipiagin, William Cepeda and Afrorican Jazz, Santi Debriano's Circle Chant, George Gruntz, Luis Bonilla, Hector Martignon, Willie Colon, Roberta Pickett, Eric Mingus, Jason Linder Big Band, New York Voices, Gil Evans Orchestra, Mingus Big Band, the Vanguard Jazz Orchestra, Ben Monder, Adam Rogers, Antonio Sanchez, Gene Jackson, Clarence Penn, Dan Weiss, Eric Mcpherson, Ben Street, Hans Glawisnig and James Genus, Jon Cowherd, and George Colligan.

Donny has some of the most amazing technique that you will ever hear on the saxophone. He also puts a lot of time into figuring out new ways to play over changes. He draws from contemporary saxophone etudes, figuring out how to apply them to Jazz improvisation. You can tell that he's trying that he's trying to develop his own original style. He has a very distinctive sound and approach to improvising.

I was lucky to have Donny play with my Latin-Jazz quintet when I was in New York. I miss hearing the latest things he's working on. He always has some wild ideas that he's developing.

His lastest release as a leader is really great. It has many different styles of music. He wrote some very interesting material for it.

Here is a transcription of Donny's solo on 'Along Came Betty'
Page 2 of 'Along Came Betty (this was transcribed by Kenny Brooks)
All ABout Jazz Article
Vermont Review interview

Free music software- Shareware Music Machine

A great web site for free music software is:

Shareware Music Machine site

Music tuition
Ear training
Music Calculators

F-R-E-E is for me!


Yogic breathing for musicians

Playing a wind instrument requires serious breath control. Anything you can do to help you develop this control is worth investigating.
While living in Santa Cruz I spent some time studying Yoga and Vedanta with master Yogi Baba Hari Dass. Hari Dass has been practicing Yoga since he was eight years old and he hasn't spoken a word for fifty-three years. Yoga isn't for everyone, but there are some simple breathing exercises that anyone can benefit from. If you happen to play a wind instrument they can be of immense value. These breathing exercises (or Pranayama) can help increase both control and capacity. They also calm the mind and balance the bodily functions. If you try these four exercises you will immediately notice some positive results. A calm mind is highly desireable for all musicians. So even if you don't play a wind instrument these Pranayam are worth checking out. They are entirely safe.

The Four Purifications
These can be found in Baba Hari Dass' book the Ashtanga Yoga Primer

1. Nadishodhana (alternate nostril breathing) - Gently exhale all air. Close the nostril with the thumb of the right hand, and inhale slowly and deeply through the left nostril. Close the left nostril with the ring finger, releasing the thumb, and exhale through the right. Inhale through the right, then close it with the thumb and exhale through the left. This makes one round. Begin with ten rounds and gradually increase to forty.

2. Kapala Bhati (skull shining) - Exhale and inhale quickly and lightly through both nostrils. Emphasize the exhale, letting the inhalation come as a natural reflex. After one series of exhalations, which should last no longer than one minute, rest and breathe naturally. Then repeat. Begin with three rounds of thirty exhalations each and gradually increase to ten rounds of sixty exhalations.

3. Agnisara Dhauti (fire wash) -Inhale, then exhale all air. While holding the breath out, pull the diaphragm up and toward the backbone; release it suddenly. Repeat this in-and-out movement rapidly as long as the breath can be held out without strain. Then inhale gently. Start with three rounds and increase gradually to ten, begining with thirty pulls and increasing to sixty in each breath retention.

4. Ashvini Mudra (horse mudra) - Inhale completely and hold the breath. Contract and release the anal sphincter rapidly and repeatedly. Hold the breath only so long as the following exhalation can be slow and controlled. Begin with three rounds of thirty pulls each, and increase to ten rounds of sixty each. (note: I call this the 'loaf pinch' mudra. It sounds freaky, but it is very powerful)

More about Pranayama
About Ashtanga (8 limbed) Yoga
Talks with Hari Dass (blackboard conversations really)
19 Rules for Self-development


Bob Reynolds-From Smooth Jazz to the Fringe

I must admit that for me Smooth-Jazz is right below Country&Western if I had to rate my favorite types of music. I usually call it 'Weiner-Jazz' of 'Fuzak'. It always seems like the players think that the closer to Kenny G they sound, the more money they'll make. It just doesn't usually seem authentic to me, like the musicians are 'dumbing down' their playing to sell records. I obviously have a very strong prejudice against this style of music. Then Bob Reynolds read my post about NYC Jazz musicians to say that it was spot on. Bob is a young saxophonist carving his mark in the Big Apple. He sent me a link to his web site where I listened to his MP3s. There were a few Jazzy tunes on there but most were 'Smooth Jazz', or to be more respectful 'Jazz Funk'. Bob sounded great. Big fat sound, great technique, perfect intonation, and great time. As I was listening to one of the tracks Bob broke into some double-time lines. He sounded like Garzone playing Smooth-Jazz!!!! Crazy. Even when Bob is blowing over typical Smooth-Jazz grooves he's always creative and fresh. He doesn't ever stoop to playing stock R&B saxophone licks. He sounds like he is really hearing whatever he plays. He just put up some new MP3s on his site yesterday and one of those was a live trio recording of him playing Trane's 26-2. It was SLAMMING!

Bob sounds a lot like Chris Potter and George Garzone. He also reminded me of John Ellis and Kenny Brooks (probably because of the Garzone connection). I could tell immediately that Bob had studied with George. Bob told me that he took lessons from him for four years at Berklee.

Here's what Bob wrote me about his studies with Garzone:

"So, Garzone....by the time I got to him, I was a strong player highly influenced by Potter — and Lovano was creeping in, but George blew away all my preconceptions. I was never a ‘lick’ and ‘pattern’ player, but I was always looking for the perfect stuff to play over changes, and Garzone starts coming at me with all this “You can play major triads connected by steps over anything...” stuff, and I’m like, “No. You can’t do that!” But I stuck with him for four years and forgot how to articulate and play swung eighth notes (instead playing them straight but behind the beat). Then there was Hal Crook who introduced me to the world of thematic/rhythmic development and stretching the time.. So by senior year I’m wide open as a player (sort of) and playing all the “baddest” shit ...but I’m also in the inaugural edition of Walter Beasley’s “Smooth Jazz Ensemble” !!! What a ride, man. But that’s me. Much as I enjoyed various “smooth” artists early on, I now find 99% revolting (got a soft spot for some Kirk records) and never actually listen to any of them. But, there is an element of r&b/funk that’s deeply ingrained in my musical sensibility

So, now, after 5 years of marinating in NYC, it’s all just turned into different parts of me. I could never really imagine cutting one part out forever. I enjoy trying to bring a bit of each to any musical setting I’m in. Garzone gave my mind the freedom to let go, but the foundation came from all the other guys."

I just might start checking out that adult-contempory station again...........


The amazing Pere Soto!

I ran first into Pere Soto at a jam session at Clyde's Prime Rib here in Portland. He was in town for a few weeks before going back home to Barcelona. He blew me away. Besides having massive chops he was astoundingly creative. Pere would sound bluesy one second then boppish, then he would sound like he was playing contemporary classical. His Brazilian playing was even happening! The were no boundaries for Pere Soto, it was all improvisation. When I browsed his web site I found that he does a Django project in Europe called Django's Castle. He has some interesting digital art on his site too. I sometimes feel trapped out on the west coast. It seems like all anyone wants to play is very inside traditional Bop. Then there is the other extreme here with the totally free players. I like both, but miss the more modern eclectic approach of the East Coast and Europe. Pere is back in town for a little while and is a refreshing addition to the PDX Jazz scene. Let's hope he decides to stay. His site has some great videos that will blow the minds of Django fans. He even does the two finger Django thing on a few of the videos.

Pere Soto, Dan Schulte and I will be playing a trio gig Thursday, September 1st at the Red and Black Cafe (2138 SE Division St., 231-3899), from 8-10pm.

Pere will be teaching a master class :
The Seven Secrets of Jazz Improvisation
Saturday, August 27th at Day Music Company
Recital at 12:30 (Recital only - $5)

Humdrum, daylight things most musicians think when they play

My buddy Robert Moore was going through boxes while unpacking and he came across this clipping from the New Yorker somewhere around 1980 - one of their "Profile" series, but unfortunately he didn't have the info to ID who is speaking, exact date, etc. Nonetheless, here's an interesting tidbit.

"Last evening wasn't bad at all," he said as he worked on his hands. "I played well, and somewhere around eight a whole bunch of jazz fans came in, so I played for them until after nine. The only trouble was that the hammer of the G above middle C broke, but I doubt whether anybody noticed. Once, the English pianist Harold Bauer gave a concert in San Francisco, and an F-sharp got stuck just after he'd begun his last piece. He struggled with the note, trying to disguise that from the audience, trying to keep it from ruining the piece, trying to get through. When he came offstage, his manager said to him, 'Harold, I've listened to you up and down the world for twenty years, and that last piece was the most moving performance I have ever heard.' Which means that audiences are rarely on the same wavelength as performers. In fact, two very different things are going on at once. The musician is wondering how to get from the second eight bars into the bridge, and the audience is in pursuit of emotional energy. The musician is struggling, and the audience is making up dreamlike opinions about the music that may have nothing at all to do with what the musician is thinking or doing musically. If audiences knew what humdrum, daylight things most musicians think when they play, they'd probably never come."


Al Lowe's 'How Jazz Works'- a classic piece of Jazz humor

How Jazz Works

Cast of Characters


Saxophonists think they are the most important players on stage.
Consequently, they are temperamental and territorial. They know all the
Coltrane and Bird licks but have their own sound, a mixture of Coltrane and Bird. They take exceptionally long solos, which reach a peak halfway through and then just don't stop. They practice quietly but audibly while other people are trying to play. They are obsessed. Saxophonists sleep with their instruments, forget to shower, and are mangy. If you talk to a saxophonist during a break, you will hear a lot of excuses about his reeds.


Trumpet players are image-conscious and walk with a swagger. They are often former college linebackers. Trumpet players are very attractive to women, despite the strange indentation on their lips. Many of them sing; misguided critics then compare them to either Louis Armstrong or Chet Baker depending whether they're black or white. Arrive at the session early and you may get to witness the special trumpet game. The rules are: play as loud and as high as often as possible. The winner is he who plays the loudest and highest. If you talk to a trumpet player during a break, he might confess that his favorite player is Maynard Ferguson, the merciless God of loud/high trumpeting.


The trombone is known for its pleading, voice-like quality. "Listen," it seems to say in the male tenor range, "Why won't anybody hire me for a gig?" Trombonists like to play fast, because their notes then become indistinguishable and thus immune to criticism. Most trombonists played trumpet in their early years, then decided they didn't want to walk around with a strange indentation on their lips. Now they hate trumpet players, who somehow get all the women despite their disfigurement. Trombonists are usually tall and lean, with forlorn faces. They don't eat much. They have to be very friendly, because nobody really needs a trombonist. Talk to a trombonist during a break and he'll ask you for a gig, try to sell you insurance, or offer to mow your lawn.


Pianists are intellectuals and know-it-alls. They studied theory, harmony and composition in college. Most are riddled with self-doubt. They are usually bald. They should have big hands, but often don't. As adolescents, they were social rejects. They go home after the gig and play with toy soldiers. Pianists have a special love-hate relationship with singers. If you talk to the piano player during a break, he will condescend.


Bassists are not terribly smart. The best bassists come to terms with their limitations by playing simple lines and rarely soloing. During the better musical moments, a bassist will pull his strings hard and grunt like an animal. Bass players are built big, with paws for hands, and they are always bent over awkwardly. If you talk to the bassist during a break, you will not
be able to tell whether or not he's listening.


Drummers are radical. Specific personalities vary, but are always extreme. A drummer might be the funniest person in the world, or the most psychotic, or the smelliest. Drummers are uneasy because of the many jokes about them, most of which stem from the fact that they aren't really musicians. Pianists are particularly successful at making drummers feel bad. Most drummers are highly excitable; when excited, they play louder. If you decide to talk to the drummer during a break, always be careful not to sneak up on him.


Jazz guitarists are never happy. Once they wanted to be rock stars, but now they're old and overweight. In protest, they wear their hair long, prowl for groupies, drink a lot, and play too loud. Guitarists hate piano players because they can hit ten notes at once, but guitarists make up for it by playing as fast as they can. The more a guitarist drinks, the higher he turns his amp. Then the drummer starts to play harder, and the trumpeter dips into his loud/high arsenal. Suddenly, the saxophonist's universe crumbles, because he is no longer the most important player on stage. He packs up his horn, nicks his best reed in haste, and storms out of the room.
The pianist struggles to suppress a laugh. If you talk to a guitarist during the break he'll ask intimate questions about your 14-year-old sister.


Vocalists are whimsical creations of the all-powerful jazz gods. They are placed in sessions to test musicians' capacity for suffering. They are not of the jazz world, but enter it surreptitiously. Example: A young woman is playing minor roles in college musical theater. One day, a misguided campus newspaper critic describes her singing as "...jazzy." Voila! A star is born! Quickly she learns "My Funny Valentine," "Summertime," and "Route 66." Her training complete, she embarks on a campaign of musical terrorism. Musicians flee from the bandstand as she approaches. Those who must remain feel the full fury of the jazz universe. The vocalist will try to seduce you-and the rest of the audience-by making eye contact, acknowledging your presence, even talking to you between tunes. Do not fall into this trap! Look away; make your distaste obvious. Otherwise the musicians will avoid you during their breaks. Incidentally, if you talk to a vocalist during a break, she will introduce you to her "manager."

Picking the Tune

Every time a tune ends, someone has to pick the next one. It's a fundamental concept that unfortunately runs at odds with jazz group processes. Tune selection makes a huge difference to the musicians. They love to show off on tunes that they know and tremble at the threat of tunes unknown. But to pick a tune is to invite close scrutiny: "So this is how you sound at your best? Hmm." It's a complex issue with unpredictable outcomes. Sometimes no one wants to pick a tune; sometimes everyone wants to pick a tune. The resulting disagreements lead to faction-building and, under extreme conditions, even impromptu elections. The politics of tune selection makes for great entertainment.

Example 1: No one wants to pick a tune

(Previous tune ends.)

Trumpet player: "What the f#@k? Is someone gonna to pick a tune?"

Trumpet player: "This s%!* is lame. I'm outta here." (Storms out of room, forgetting to pay tab.)

Rest of band (in unison): "Yea!!"
(Band takes extended break, puts drinks on trumpet player's tab).

Example 2: Everyone wants to pick a tune

(Previous tune ends.)
(Pianist and guitarist simultaneously): "Beautiful Love!" "Donna Lee!"

Guitarist to pianist: "You just want to play your fat, stupid, ten-note chords!"

Pianist to guitarist: "You just want to play a lot of notes really fast!"

Saxophonist: "'Giant Steps!'" (a treacherous Coltrane tune practiced obsessively by saxophonists)

Guitarist and pianist (together): "Go ahead, asshole."

Trumpet player: "This shit is lame. 'Night in Tunisia'." (a Dizzy tune offering bounteous opportunities for loud, high playing.)

Saxophonist: "Sorry, forgot my earplugs, Maynard."
(Long, awkward silence.)

Pianist, guitarist, saxophonist, trumpet player all turn to drummer: "Your
turn, Skinhead."
(Drummer pauses to think of hardest tune possible, a time-tested drummer
ploy to punish real musicians who play actual notes.)

Drummer: "Stablemates."

Trumpet player: "F#@k this! I'm outta here." (Storms out of room. Bartender
chases after him.)

Trombonist: "Did someone forget to turn off the CD player?"

Not only are these disagreements fun to watch; they create tensions that will last all through the night.

As an educated audience member, you might want to keep a flow chart diagramming the shifting alliances. You can also keep statistics on individual tune-calling. Under no circumstances, though, should you take sides or yell out song titles. Things are complicated enough already.


Jazz Podcasting & Blogging- the new frontier

Here is About Jazz's Jazz Blog directory

Podcasting is taking off like a herd of turtles. It is a great way to get your music heard around the world. Now that Apple has incorporated Podcasts into iTunes all you need to do is register your podcast with Apple and overnight your link will show up on millions of computers running iTunes. I will be adding more to this list in the future so keep checking back.

Red Jazz Podcasting, internet and conventional radio

I'm going to be producing some Jazz master classes with Darren Littlejohn of Portland Jazz Jams. He has a nice site with Jazz articles and some very interesting podcast interviews.
PJJ site

I also have a bio page on his site. Darren is solely responsible for talking me into starting a Blog.


Gary Bartz-Twenty-first century Bop

It's sad how the mainstream Jazz press seems to overlook many older Jazz master musicians in favor of the newest immature young lion. Gary Bartz is one of those masters. I'd rather listen to him than almost any hot younger saxophonist on the scene. He's grounded in Bird but he's not stuck there. You can hear late Trane clearly in his playing, something that I always love to hear in an alto player.

I first became a Bartz fan after hearing an album he did with Jackie McLean in the 70s called 'Ode to Super'. It was a huge influence on my playing. Bartz has a way of playing straight forward Bebop lines then twisting them until you don't know which way is up. To me listening to that record was the first time I had a clear idea of the direction that I wanted to head.

Gary's sound cuts like Jackie but with better intonation. His time feel is so swinging and solid even when he takes things into outer space. Bartz has worked with many Jazz masters including Miles Davis, McCoy Tyner, Art Blakey, Woody Shaw, Charles Mingus, Kenny Barron and Buster Williams. I wish young players today would take the time to check out the living masters instead of always being so fascinated with new crop of younger players.

If you want to hear what Bop sounds like in the twenty-first century, check out Gary Bartz.

Bartz' Sound clips

Bert Wilson- Wheels of Fire

Bert Wilson is an amazing and truly unique saxophonist who has spent most of adult life in a wheelchair, hence his nickname 'Wheels'. I don't think I've ever met anyone as devoted to Jazz as Bert. He lives to play and plays to live, literally. Bert needs to play his horns so that his breathing remains strong, due to his life threatening spinal condition. Bert is a Free-bopper, if you can even categorize his unique style. He is a devoted worshipper of Bird, Trane, and Dolphy. He has an amazing knowledge of the history of Jazz and a record collection to match. He plays the entire history of Jazz.

I had the pleasure of playing with Wheels a few years ago when James Zitro, a drummer I used to play with, came up from California to record with Bert. They did a record for the ESP lable in the 60s that's recently been re-released on the Fantasy label. Playing with Bert made me reconsider my own playing. He made me feel like an old white caucasion. :-) I felt so square and inside compared to his free-wheeling (excuse the pun) style.

Wheels sounds like his horn is about to explode every time he plays. He is always on fire. He doesn't get out much so all the players come to him. His pad is a Jazz oasis in the North West. He's always up for playing, listening or just talking about music and players are dropping by all day long to hang.

I filmed a master class that he taught and am planning to post some clips of it soon. Bert is the king of extended technique. He has mastered the altissimo stratosphere and knows just about every multi-phonic on the saxophone that is possible. He's not shy about using them either. I love the way he mixes straight-ahead Bebop with freaky Avant-Garde. Burn it up Bert!

The Bert Wilson story

Tenor madness- the inspired music of Bert Wilson

Hal Stein- Bull Moose

I first heard Hal Stein on Phil Woods' 'Birds of a Feather' album. I also had a few friends in the Bay Area who studied with him. He is a true old-school Be-Bopper, one of the last of his generation. He still sounds great and is very active on the Bay Area scene. Check out his MP3 clip 'the Sarong is New' on his Listen page

Hal's bio from his website:

"Hal Stein was born in Weehawken , New Jersey, on September 5, 1928. Since he was eleven, the veteran saxophonist has lived and breathed music. At fifteen, Hal performed on tenor saxophone with Don Byas at New York's town Hall. The list of musicians and bands he has played with since the 1940's is truly phenomenal, and we are blessed to have such an accomplished, creative, and encyclopedic musician in our midst.

A brief listing of who he has performed with over the years will present an idea of the breadth of Hal's experience as a living musician:

Big Bands: Gene Krupa, Buddy Morrow, Joe Henderson Artie Shaw, Charlie Spivak, Benny Carter,Les and Larry Elgart, Vaughn Monroe, Claude Thornhill, Georgie Auld, Toshiko Akioshi, and Hampton Hawes.

Small Bands: Charlie Mingus, Gerry Mulligan, Tony Scott,Teddy Charles, Roy Haynes ,Teddy Wilson, Toshiko Akiyoshi, Kenny Dorham, Phil Woods, Elvin Jones , Kenny Drew, J.C. Heard, Joe Farrel, Trummy Young , Lenny McBrown Bill Evans, Henry Red Allen, Pete Brown,Chick Corea , Plank 'n' Stein, Graham Connah, Lavay Smith and the Red hot Skillet Lickers.

Stein also recorded with many of these groups, most notably "Four Altos" ( Gene Quill, Phil Woods, Sahib Shihab, and Stein: on Prestige), "word From Bird" ( The Teddy Charles Quintet, on Atlantic), and "Broadway "54" ( Al Cohn, on Prestige).

Hal Moved to the San Francisco Bay Area in 1971 and connected with the jazz scene here through performing and teaching. In the early 1970's, Stein was one of the first musicians presented by Loft Jazz, the precursor of Jazz In Flight. He also convinced Yoshi of Yoshi's Nitespot to give him a gig at the famous Japanese restaurant, thus beginning Yoshi's tenure as the premier East Bay jazz club.

Stein has taught at many colleges and universities in the area, and joined the music faculties at Mills College in 1978 and Stanford in 1985. He has toured Europe several times, most recently in 1991, and continues to play regularly in the Bay Area.

Affectionately called " Bull Moose" Stein by his friends, Hal is a warm, personable musician with a wealth of knowledge about and experience in America's classical music(i.e. "Jazz")."

Innerviews- Music without borders

This site has some nice interviews with musicians of many different genres including: Stanley Clarke, Jeff Berlin, Kai Eckhardt, Dave Holland, Zakir Hussain, Scott Henderson, John McLaughlin, McCoy Tyner, Ralph Towner, Miroslav Vitous, Joe Zawinul, and Victor Wooten.

Innerviews site

Saxquest- Holy grail of sax dealers

Last year I finally decided to change my 70's Mark VI for a 60's Mark VI. I was hesitant to do this because I had never tried a Selmer that was better than mine. It just wasn't doing what I wanted it to do. It was a little weak in the high and low register and I couldn't blow as much air through it as I wanted to. Ebay was much too scary for me and I had tried all the horns in the Northwest that I could lay my hands on. I even drove from Florida to LA on a sax quest with no luck at all. Finally I called Mark at Saxquest in St.Louis, Mo. He played a few over the phone for me and then sent me a 1955 Mark VI in almost perfect condition. The horn looked incredible but played way out of tune. I decided to try once more (each try costs about 100 dollars for shipping and insurance). The next horn that he sent was the horn of my dreams. It had a huge rich, smokey, clear, dark sound and it played in tune. Mark changed my life in a big way. He's trustworthy and easy to deal with. He also traded a few old Kings for a great Mark VI for a student of mine. I would recommend Saxquest to anyone who is in the market for a vintage horn. They also have about the best prices on reeds you can find on the web. Here is their links page with plenty of good sax related web page links.

Some other reputable sax dealers with good inventory are:

Tenor Madness - Randy is a master repairman and you'll get a horn that has a great set-up.
It's always hard to even tell if you like a horn if it isn't set up well. He has some great Otto Links that have been refaced to play like old slant signatures for $200.

Junk Dude- lot's of great vintage horns at reasonable prices.

Cyber Sax

World Wide Sax

The life of a NYC Jazz musician

Andreas Steffen from Germany asked me to write about what the life of a New York Jazz musician was like. Most people have some glorified idea of what the NYC musician does to make a living. Adreas' idea went like this: sleep until noon, practice, studio job, gig, jam session, repeat from start. That's pretty much what I expected when I got there with five hundred dollars in my pocket. The economic realities of living in NYC have changed drastically in the last thirty years. Long time resident musicians have told me that back in the 70s you could pay your rent by working one or two gigs a month. Many musicians had large lofts where they jammed till the wee hours of the morning. New York is one of the most expensive cities in the world and gigs still pay roughly what they did in the 70s. There are still tons of fifty-dollar gigs all over town. Of course now you could be playing fifty-dollar gigs every night of the week and still be starving. A one bedroom apartment is now $1400 and up in Manhattan.

There were many different ways that Jazz musicians scraped by in NYC. Here are some of the ways that I saw when I was living there.

  • The Trust-fund baby- How do all those Avant-Garde downtown hipsters make ends meet by playing at the Knitting Factory? You'd be surprised how many have trust funds.
  • The Club Date Band Whore- Club dates are gigs that pay $150-300 where you have to play every shitty popular song from almost eight decades of pop music. Better learn Chatanooga-choo-choo and the horn backgrounds to Boogie-oogie-oogie.
  • The Weed dealer- The prices are high in NYC and so are the musicians!
  • The Boston commuter- No kidding, cats commute all the way to Beantown just to teach at a rat infested music school.
  • The Atlantic City suspender & straw hat wearer- Atlantic City is an abomination and so are the gigs there.
  • The Black-tie Cater Waiter- Most of the actors and actresses in town work for caterers but quite a few musicians do too. This is actually how I made ends meet. The advantages to this type of job are of course the gourmet food and the fact that you can pick your own hours each week.
  • The Successful Jazz musician- These are the guys who have record deals and are actually making their money playing Jazz. What folks don't realize is that they are hardly ever in New York at all. They must do road gigs most of the year to meet their NYC expenses.
  • Husband of a doctor/stock broker/lawyer etc.- This category is probably no surprise to anyone.
  • Catskills Cats- These guys are gone for months at a time playing Jewish resorts in the Catskills. These gigs are a cross between a Bar Mitzvah and a 40's dance band.
  • The Broadway show musician- Can you play every woodwind ever invented? I didn't think so.

I never met any musicians that made their living doing studio work. The truth is there isn't a ton of studio work anymore and the work there is has been locked up by a few cats. I would suggest that anyone moving to NYC to play music save at least ten thousand dollars before moving. Also consider living in Jersey City, it's closer and cheaper than many parts of Brooklyn
or Queens. I do miss living in the Jazz capital of the world at times, but I just remind myself what the weather and the general quality of life is like there. I usually get over it pretty fast.

Concerning sessions in NYC-
There are many jam sessions at clubs in NYC. When I first got there I attended many of these. I played sessions at clubs like Blue Note, Birdland, Cleopatra's Needle, Smalls, and St.Nick's pub. Some of these sessions were fun, most were a waste of time and money. You can meet some great players there if you're lucky. At worst, you can end up waiting for hours to play two tunes with a random, and often bad, rhythm section. Usually you're not even warmed up. These two tunes can cost you upwards of thirty dollars after you pay for transportation and buy your (two drink minimum) five dollar beers. If you don't know many already established players you may not have any other choices to get on the scene. I found out, after many five dollars beers, that it is much better to go to a few sessions and find a few players you like and set up sessions at people's houses. You end up getting to play more than two or three tunes and making a better impression because you're playing with a good rhythm section.

Let me add a few positive thoughts about living in NYC-
I think every Jazz player should have the experience of living in New York. It definitely changes the way you think about music. So many players get to the city thinking they're going to take over. As soon as they're there for a few weeks they usually want to 're-evaluate their sound' or just change some things about their playing. There is so much great music there every night of the week. NYC has basically drained all the brightest Jazz talent from the rest of the entire world. The city itself can be overwhelming but it can also feel like a small town. I found the people there, musicians included, to be some of the most open and friendliest
of anywhere I've ever been. This is the exact opposite of the stereotypical NYC resident. They will definitely let you know when they're not happy with you, but they are also extremely helpful. There is work there and you can make a living if you're willing to work hard at it. Don't wait until you feel that you're burning enough to move there. If you want to get better fast it's the best place you can be. Your concept will come together so much faster by being there.
It's not the dangerous and scary city that it once was either. I walked all over Manhattan at every hour of the day and night and never once had any problems there. I think it's because the thugs can't afford to live there any more! The music industry doesn't take musicians very seriously if they don't live in New York City. If all the New York musicians just went home to where they came from there would be tons of great players in just about every city again.


The Art of Improvisation by Bob Taylor

Bob Taylor has taught Jazz Studies at California State University, Los Angeles, Pasadena City College, and Brigham Young University. He is the author of "The Art of Improvisation," "Sightreading Jazz," and "Sightreading Chord Progressions." His books on Jazz are some of the best that I've ever seen.

He has made them all available for download FREE OF CHARGE!!!!
Here they are.

Here's what he has to say about group interaction

Interaction Ideas

One of the most enjoyable challenges for the soloist is learning to interact musically with the members of the group. Good interaction can take a solo beyond its borders, making it an exciting group experience.

Communicating in Solos
Contrary to what some players think, the soloist is not the only one who is playing important ideas. The other members can greatly inspire the soloist, or in some cases can even join in as multiple soloists.

A successful solo is like a conversation among the group members. The soloist leads the discussion, and the group members are like the supporting actors who feed the leader ideas. When members of the group hear interesting ideas from the soloist (or from the other members), they can react in any of these ways:
  • Let the idea go by. This by helps the idea stand out, but does not necessarily build communication. Even when you let it go by, someone else may be communicating with it, so you’ll get your turn soon. Remember: the soloist may be in the middle of his or her own development and may play something even more interesting in a few seconds.
  • Play against the idea. For example, if the idea uses offbeats, play against it with downbeats, or vice versa; if the idea is ascending, play descending, etc.
  • Copy the idea (explained below). 5) Alter or develop the idea (explained below). Important: The group can use any or all of the above methods at the same time. It’s not necessary for all members to copy or play against at the same time; variety makes an effective engine behind the soloist.

When and How to Copy
Whether and how to copy a soloist’s idea are ongoing decisions made with split-second timing. Here are the basic choices for imitation:

  • Copy the whole idea. This works best with shorter ideas. But don’t overdo it; conversing with a soloist is not an imitating contest, it’s communication.
  • Copy part of the idea (the most intriguing part, or the part you can manage to hear and play accurately). Remember: you can copy one or more pitches, but don’t forget about copying part of the rhythm (such as a triplet group or offbeat).
  • Alter or develop the idea. This is the most subtle way to communicate - you take a few notes of the idea, alter them and play them back. This leaves the door open for more twists and turns and tends to pull the audience into the conversation. You can play a sequence or semi-sequence on the original idea, or augment the rhythm.

The more the soloist and group members respond, the farther the communication goes. This can be exciting when it occurs naturally and isn’t forced. But too many groups get in the habit of conversing too long on a single idea (like talking too long on a limited subject). Unless the idea is developing well, it’s usually better to create a short (or very short) conversation and be ready to develop the next exciting idea. Remember: the next idea could be something the group just played; the soloist isn’t always the originator.

Style and Rhythmic Transitions
One of the most exciting events in a tune is when the entire rhythmic style changes unexpectedly for one or more bars. For example the feel could change from bossa to samba, from ballad to double-time swing, from swing to funk, etc. You can trigger this with a rhythmic idea, or someone else can trigger it. However, too often the style shifts feel forced, predictable, or unsteady. Here are two common misconceptions about style shifts: Misconception #1: The whole group needs to shift styles.

Fact: It’s OK to have one or more players not join in the shift sometimes (unless the shift is a radical one). For example, half the group could shift to double-time while the other half stays is single-time.

Bob has an interactive CD ROM that goes along with his book. What a guy!

Slonimsky gems

Listen to Slonimsky's Palindromic
Canon in 8 parts.

Here is a very cool eight note synthetic scale from Slonimsky's book. It is the first four notes of a Major scale and then the first four notes of a Major scale a tritone away.

It looks like this in the key of C:
You could play it over a Cmaj7 (#5) or a C7 (b13).

It has a lot of forward motion when played in it's ascending form, so it would work over a straight Cmaj7.

Here is a cool site on Slonimsky with audio and video clips.

Secrets of Transcribing- Transcribe!

Here is an article on transcribing. I got it from a friend in digital form and have no idea who the author is. If anyone knows who wrote it please let me know.

I would add that a great tool for transcribing is the computer program Transcribe!. It allows you to slow down the tune without lowering the pitches. It also allows you to highlight parts of the waveform and it tells you what pitches are in the selection. The demo version will work on the first two tracks. If you are too cheap to buy it just reburn the tracks you want to transcribe to the first or second track of a new CD.

~The "Key" That Unlocks the First Door
Regardless of the nature of your selected project (i.e. solo, chord progression, bass line, melody, horn or string parts, etc..), your highest initial priority must be to determine the "key" of the composition. Discovering the key (G, Bb, Am, etc..) truly unlocks the main door to all probabilities, allowing your ear and mind to work collectively towards your goal.

I hope you like sports, especially "fishing", because that's exactly what you're trying to do in finding the key. More than ninety percent of tunes have a key-oriented nature about them, meaning that there will be one dominating tone for you to discover. The process? Well, it comes easier to some than for others, so don't get frustrated. Be patient. Try to softly hum the note that sounds the most powerful to you, then match it on your instrument. In time you'll get so good at this that it will happen almost immediately, but like anything else in music it takes practice to develop proficiency. One tip: often the "fifth" of a key (G in the key of C) will appear to be the key. If you double-check your suspicion by tracing backwards to one (C), you can verify if, indeed, you've found the most powerful tone or not. And remember that, if you think you might be wrong, you probably are! Stay tuned. Much more to come...

During the first part of this edition of "Coach's Corner" I shared with you my own experiences that eventually led me to begin transcribing music on a day-to-day basis. I also briefly defined what transcription is, and offered some basic guidelines to help you in choosing a potential project to tackle. And lastly, as you recall, we discussed the critical issue of determining exactly what "key" the song or solo might be in. In this chapter we'll move ahead and start covering the entire process in a methodical, step-by-step manner. Ready?

Made A Decision Yet?
Now, the obvious assumption is that you've already decided on a project by this time, and possibly also figured out the key as well. But before we move on, I want to offer some advice regarding the decision itself.

I often remind my students that "success lies in the effort", even though there's often a lot of pain and frustration involved. I'm not about to lie to you. There's inherently a pretty high frustration factor involved with transcription, sometimes to the degree where it keeps a player away from doing it at all (which is a big mistake!). Accept the reality of the situation, and be willing to take whatever you can get. Believe me, what you'll get will be priceless in the long run. To make transcription life a little more bearable, feel free to select more than one project. Remember that this is all a "means to an end", so there's nothing wrong with having a second or third project waiting in the wings when you inevitably run into a "brick wall" with the primary target.

"Highlights" Or The Whole Enchilada?
Take the time, before officially getting "in the trenches", to decide whether you wish to transcribe a project in its entirety, note-for-note, or just in what I like to call "highlight" fashion. This is where, as the name implies, you go shopping for just those "special" moments that stand out for you. I often do this if I'm transcribing riffs from a given artist, especially if they're the type of riffs that can be played in many situations, and not just within the parameters of that particular song. If, however, I'm tackling a melody, chord progression, bass line, or if a solo really fascinates me from beginning to end, I'll go for the whole "enchilada". Again, remember the "means to an end" theory, and the fact that your aim is generally not to play another artist's solo verbatim. It's also easier, in a sense, to tackle a project in "highlight" format, because you can simply "hunt around" looking for those aforementioned "special" moments.

Your Transcribing "Toolbox"
You'll need three essential "tools" to effectively handle a transcribing project: your guitar or bass, a decent tape machine, and later some manuscript paper for getting what you're interpreting into standard notation. The tape unit should ideally be a portable cassette deck with a "half-speed" switch, though in my formative transcribing years I managed to burn-out a couple of nice open-reel machines, just by the sheer amount of pausing and rewinding to listen and verify the accuracy of what I was doing. On the cassette front, Marantz has made the most widely used model for transcribing purposes for many years. Also in vogue nowadays is a number of relatively inexpensive digital samplers, many with the ability to playback at a variety of speeds. The main negative with these, from what I can see, is the fact that you're limited to usually around thirty seconds (give or take ten or fifteen) per sample. It's much nicer to have the full three or four minute track to work with, along with any other projects that you care to squeeze on to a cassette tape.

Step By Step, Inch By Inch...
As you begin the initial stage of transcription (i.e. the "ear" part of the equation), be prepared to do three things with every event that you try to capture. First listen, then hum what you've heard, and finally imitate what you're humming on your instrument. You'll do this over and over again until you're as certain as possible that what you've come up with is the "real" deal, and not some facsimile of something that you've heard before. One huge tip that I can offer is to limit yourself to as few notes as possible, making it much easier to verify your accuracy. Stop after each note, making that pitch the last event that you've given your ear a chance to hear. Tedious? Sure, but it's the only way to get the job done and sharpen your ear.

To recap our most recent chapter, we touched base on several issues that confront the aspiring transcriber. I spoke about bracing yourself for the tough task ahead, whether to tackle all or part of a particular project, the practical "tools" that are required for the job, and finally offered a brief summary of the actual process of listening, humming, then imitating what you're trying to learn. We'll spend this final discourse on how to decipher chord progressions, plus I'll outline some fundamental guidelines on the subject of notation. All set?

The Bass Line Always Rules!
I've expressed my feelings about playing bass many a time in the past, as well as stressing the importance of a bass part from the compositional point of view. Well, guess what? The understanding of what the bass is doing in a transcribing scenario is absolutely critical to your chance of success in breaking down a chord progression, because the bass part holds the singular most important clue: the "root" of the chord.

Nine out of ten times, if the bass is on a C note, the chord in question is a C chord (or A for A, F for F, etc). Learning the root of the chord is priceless information, because it now allows your mind to join in the "detective" hunt.

More Chordal "Clues"
Once you've determined the root by dissecting the bass, there are three remaining clues. First up is the "melody", and by that I mean either the highest voice that you can detect on a chordal instrument (guitar/piano), or the melody of the song itself. When you put the bass clue together with the melody clue, the picture really starts to shape up. For instance, you may arrive at a C chord with a G melody, or an A chord with a C melody, etc. Since chords are generally constructed of three to four tones, at this point you might have half the information that you need! With every new "piece of the puzzle" that you gather, the job becomes increasingly easier.

Next up is the "personality" of the chord in question. Your choices are two: major or minor. Add either the major 3rd (E in a C chord) or minor 3rd (Eb in a C chord) to what you already have (assuming that the melody isn't the 3rd) and take your best shot. It shouldn't require much practice for you to be able to distinguish the difference. Now the final clue to search for I sometimes call the "flavor" of the chord. Is it a 7th? A 6th? A 9th? You might not even need this clue if the music is fairly simple in nature. If not, be prepared to utilize the pieces that you've already collected with some "trial and error" until you find the answer. In time, your ear will relate to what it's heard before, and this entire deductive process will be very quick.

Notation? The "Nickel" Tour
Don't even consider picking up your pencil until you can play what you're going to attempt to notate. And by the way, use a pencil (not a pen) with an "industrial strength" eraser. Accept the fact that you're going to make a lot of mistakes until you get good at this. I sure did!

Do you think that notation is difficult? Let me tell you why it won't be. Besides the obvious fact that everything you do amounts to accumulated time and experience (i.e. "been there - done that"), the truth of the matter is that the most challenging aspect of accurate notation is rhythmic interpretation, an area that is certainly not infinite in the least. Believe me, once you've experienced an 8th note followed by a pair of 16ths even a few times, it becomes "old news". But if you never allow yourself to experience it at all, notation can remain a mystical science for your entire career. Tips? Sure.

Since a lot of your mistakes will stem from inaccurately gauging the value of pitches, write only the "heads" of the notes under lightly penciled vertical "hash" marks that represent the beats of a given measure. Refrain from adding flags, stems, and beams until you can verify your judgment later. If I encounter a "three-note" group as I described above (an 8th note followed by a pair of 16ths), I'll pencil in a small "8" next to the note that I believe to be the eighth. When I return to my transcription "shorthand" later, logic tells me where the stems and beams go.

Hal Galper-Playing in half time

Hal Galper has put together an informative web site. He is of the great pianists of our time, working with players like Cannonball, Phil Woods, Lee Konitz, Michael Brecker, John Scofield, Chet Baker, and Tom Harrell. He has some great articles on his site worth checking out.

Here is an exerpt from Hal Galper's 'Forward Motion' book. Here he describes the advantages of thinking in half time.

"The faster you play, the slower you count." - Dizzy Gillespie

Excessive physical and emotional excitement are pleasurable and rewarding but have a negative effect on instrumental technique, endurance and emotional control. They reduce a player's ability to perform at the highest level. Performers mistakenly assume that these low-level rewards are an essential element of the playing experience. This over-emotional approach is also used as feedback to insure that they are "into" the music, that they are playing with passion. Paradoxically, the reverse is true: one achieves the highest levels of performance by developing a dispassionate and uninvolved approach. Notice how physically "quiet" most professional performers are.

This overly excited approach to performance is caused by two factors: feeling time and tempo as 1/4 notes and stage fright. (To gain a more complete understanding of the psychological problems of performance anxiety, see my article "Stage Fright and Relaxation" in the Articles section of my web site.)

Quarter-note time has a dynamic, propulsive quality that makes it difficult to play by choice and with control. It induces tension and creates over-excitement, compulsive 8th. note playing, literally reducing instrumental facility by 50%. Eighth-notes played with a 1/4 note feeling have a forced, over-articulated quality. These difficulties occur for one reason only: 1/4 note tempos occur at a rate of speed too fast to conceive and execute 8th. note ideas! Reconditioning your attitude and conception of playing 1/4 note time can eliminate this effect.

Use of 1/4 note time is a hold-over from childhood musical experience. All young music students must develop an internal "clock" and learn how to count tempo in steady 1/4 notes. This concept is then mistakenly carried over into adult musical behaviour. Although most childhood behaviour becomes modified when reaching adulthood, somehow we think this is not true of many early musical concepts. Most of us feel our tempo "clock" in one of four ways: as steady quarter-notes, on 2 & 4 of the bar, on 1 & 3 of the bar or in a steady stream of syncopated rhythms. Defined as "Swing beats", 1/4 note time and 2 & 4 of the bar are emotionally charged beats. Note that when you listen to jazz you snap your fingers on 2 & 4 because they swing. They are often used by a player as a "crutch" for keeping place and imparting a false feeling of swing to their ideas. Those who count using these beats have yet to reach rhythmic maturity. Learning to play in half-time is adult rhythmic behaviour.

The half-time approach to playing time can be applied to most tempos, except ballads. By altering your subjective perception of playing 1/4 note time to playing in half-time, you'll feel the tempo as being half as fast. You'll therefore be twice as relaxed, have twice as much time to conceive ideas and double your technical facility. In effect, you will be conceiving every tune as a ballad! It's impossible to become over-excited playing a balled tempo.

You can experience the feeling of playing in half-time by trying thefollowing experiment; tapping your foot on beats 1 & 3 of a 4/4 tempo (counting every two beats as one beat at 1/2 the tempo) and counting over two bar phrases, you are tapping out 1/4 notes of a ballad ( 1/2 time) tempo. "