Gordon Lee's Rough Jazz Videos

Here at Casa Valdez Studios we just finished producing an hour long DVD project (after about six months of work) for the Diatic record label. The DVD is of pianist/composer Gordon Lee's Rough Jazz project and it is a live concert shot here in Portland at Jimmy Mak's.

The band features Gordon Lee on piano, John Gross on tenor saxophone, Dan Schulte on bass and Alan Jones on drums. You can order the full DVD directly from the Diatic Records web site.

Tobacco Monkey
Yi Meng Shan


McCain & Palin Sing!

My buddy David Goldblatt just forwarded me these YouTube clips of McCain and Palin speeches. Pianist Henry Hey has transcribed the vocal tracks and written accompaniment to fit to them. These candidates can really sing JAZZ!.


Chris Potter must DIE!!!

If you play the saxophone then this recording will surely make you feel like switching to the wash tub bass or kazoo.

Chris Potter is a guy that makes me say to myself,
"Self, why even bother practicing anymore? You'll never practice even a fraction of the time that Chris Potter put in practicing the saxophone. Give it up!"
Chris Potter plays a solo version of All the Things You Are

(This track was from the very good Urge To Burge Jazz Blog)


RadioDirectX update

I thought I should give you guys an update on how my RadioDirectX investment has panned out so far.

The charge to submit a Jazz CD for six months is about $500. It's been just a few couple of months and so far we've sent out fifty CDs directly to radio DJs and programmers. These are people who have already heard several tracks from the RadioDirectX site of our CD and want to play it on the radio, not just random mailings.

The countries that I've sent CDs to are: France, Luxembourg, Columbia, Netherlands, Turkey, Italy, Australia, Armenia, Macedonia, Germany, Poland, Canada, Trinidad and Tobago, Scotland, Ukraine, and Belarus. By far the most requests have been from Australia.

We've gotten some very good feedback, including contacts for Polish CD distribution and yesterday we were invited to play at a Jazz festival in Columbia (often DJs are also involved in promoting festivals).

I would say that RadioDirectX has been a worthwhile investment. After all, those CDs could still be sitting in boxes in my basement.



The Sideman's By-Laws

These were posted on Craig's List here is Portland yesterday:
  • Never recommend anyone who plays better than you.
  • Always suck up. (Leaders, bartenders, bride and/or groom, management, etc.)
  • If you don't know it, play harmony.
  • Double book, then choose.
  • Always assume the leader knows nothing.
  • Always degrade types of music you can't play or know nothing about.
  • Always bring your own business cards and solicit during breaks.
  • Never play requests (especially if you know it).
  • Never smile. Always complain.
  • Save all high notes for warming up and after engagement.
  • Never show up sooner than 30 seconds before an engagement. (One minute if you have equipment to set up.)
  • Never leave a book in order. Whenever possible, write on music in ink.
  • Always play Trane or Parker licks during fox trots, tangos, waltzes, or anything in D minor.
  • Always open spit valves over music.
  • If the leader is not sure of a tune, always use substitute changes over his vocals or solos.
  • Always worship dead jazz greats.
  • Be negative about anything connected with the job.
  • Always bring drinks back to the band stand.
  • When a break is over, always disappear. If this is not possible, make a phone call.
  • If you're backing up an act, talk when not playing. If it's a comic, don't laugh.
  • Always bum a ride.
  • Always wait until someone else is buying before you get thirsty.
  • Never bring your own cigarettes to an engagement.
  • Avoid tipping at all cost (waitresses, coat room, valet, etc.).
  • Always ask, "When does the band eat", or "Where's our table"?
  • Remember, it's not your gig. Mingle with guests and enjoy yourself.


Eddie Harris- The Electrifying Giant

I have always loved Eddie Harris. Many people have only heard Eddie's funky stuff might say 'Eddie who?', but Eddie was a giant and a true musical genius. Eddie recorded seventy albums wrote seven great books. On the official Eddie Harris web site I discovered that Eddie was an astrologer and numerologer and that he had written a book about the astrology and numerology of Jazz.

I found it interesting, but not surprising, that Eddie became sick of playing Funk after his huge Swiss Movement album became a massive hit (one of the few Jazz albums to sell of a million copies).
The Swiss Movement is a live album recorded on June 21, 1969 at The Montreux Jazz Festival in Switzerland. The Les McCann trio, Eddie Harris, and Benny Bailey came together to record one of the better live jazz albums of the era. Even though the band played at a very high level, both Eddie Harris and Benny Bailey say that they were unprepared because they had not had rehearsals. "I didn't know any of the tunes, and there was no rehearsal. They had to call out the changes for me." said Benny Bailey. Eddie Harris was also unprepared and said this: "I told Les just to play his normal stuff with the Trio, and I would look over his shoulder to check the chords- because I used to be a piano player." One of the albums biggest songs was "Compared to What" which spoke out against the Vietnam War, other songs like "You Got it in Your Soulness" and "Cold Duck Time" featured explosive solos from McCann, Bailey, and Harris. The hit song "Compared to What" quickly grew in popularity, especially among the young African Americans integrating college campuses thanks to the civil rights movement. The song's themes are relevant today with their focus on an unwanted war, racism and poverty. Elders in the civil rights movement and African American community, however, were often offended by elements of the song and seldom fans of the piece.

Eddie's biography from his official web site:

Eddie Harris was born October 20, 1934 in Chicago, Illinois. He began his career as a singer in various Baptist churches throughout Chicago. Around the age of three, Eddie’s cousin, Bernice Benson, who played piano at Eddie’s mother’s church, began teaching him how to play the piano where he learned how to play by ear and eventually learned to read music.

Eddie Harris’ educational background began at the John Farren and Burke Elementary schools. He later attended DuSable and Hyde Park High Schools in Chicago. Eddie Harris first started playing the vibraphone while attending DuSable High School under the guidance of a well-known and influential Black leader, Captain Walter Dyette. Capt. Dyette was responsible for the development of several Jazz musicians who came out of Chicago during the 1940’s, 1950’s and the early 1960’s. Capt. Walter Dyette passed away in the mid 1970’s.

Eddie Harris always wanted to play the saxophone simply because he admired the way it looked. But in order to play saxophone for Capt. Dyette one had to play the clarinet first, so Eddie’s first wind instrument was the clarinet. Eddie took private clarinet and saxophone lessons for many years and then began his saxophone career playing with all types of bands.

After graduation from high school, Eddie Harris continued his musical studies at Illinois University and Roosevelt University. Eventually, he was drafted into the Army, at which time he was placed in the area of electronics. He later went airborne and soon became disgusted with seeing many of the soldiers being injured. He auditioned for the Army band. By this time, Eddie could play the piano, saxophone, vibraphone, clarinet, trumpet, trombone, and the bassoon. He took the Army’s music exam and out of a possible score of 100 where he was tested on reading music, ear training, written phrases and command of the instrument, Eddie received a score of 98. His score was so high that it was recommended that he play in the Seventh Army Symphony Orchestra in Germany. The symphony was unable to take on any additional band members at that time, so Eddie was placed in the Army band in Fulda, Germany for eight months. Subsequently, Eddie became a member of the Seventh Army Symphony Orchestra and he became part of the Jazz band that was formed from the orchestra and was able to tour France and Germany. As a result, Eddie became internationally known. He also took classical saxophone lessons at the Paris Conservatory of Music. Upon his return to the United States after leaving the armed services, Eddie began living and playing in New York City. He worked consistently with Pit Bands, Jazz Bands and combos as well as playing piano.

Due to an illness in his family, Eddie returned to Chicago, Illinois and eventually met and married Sara Elizabeth and they had two daughters - Lolita and Yvonne. Eddie has always been known for his experiments with the tenor saxophone. For example, he used to play the tenor saxophone with a trombone mouthpiece and called it the Saxobone. In later years, he began using a clarinet, double barrel joint in between the neck and the instrument. The tenor sax was made to sound like a bass clarinet. He then began playing saxophone with a bassoon boccel instead of the tenor sax neck. He recorded with these sounds on his album entitled, A Study in Jazz on Vee Jay Records. The main purpose with the boccel substitution was to make the tenor sax sound like a bassoon. He could make all these sounds with only a few spare parts along with the tenor saxophone.

Another one of Eddie’s creations and most popular was the reed mouthpiece. He holds the U.S. patent for the reed mouthpiece for the trumpet, coronet, trombone and flugelhorn. Eddie Harris was the first musician to create the Electro Voice and Selmer Saxophone creation for all saxophones and the attachment was called, The Varitone which was designed in order to play along with the sound of the saxophone a sub octave plus a filter that could change the timbre of the tone. Eddie later signed onto the Chicago Musical Instrument Company, also known as Noreland. He introduced their new unit called the W2, a filtering unit for the saxophone and the clarinet that emulated the organ stops. He then went with a company called Innovex, a division of Hammond Organ that created a unit called the Condour. This unit was similar to the W2 but had more tabs and a modern circuitry. Eddie began advertising for a company called Frapp which had one of the most sophisticated audio pickups for wind instruments. Eddie developed The Eddie Harris Attachment, a wind synthesizer housing four oscillators that enable any sax player to play in five (5) part harmony as in a reed section of a big band. Eddie played on a Selmar sax, a Mark VI with a Selmar mouthpiece called a C start with a Selmar reed size number three (# 3). Eddie encompasses the use of his genius ability of the reed trumpet, tenor sax and the Eddie Harris Attachment on the CD entitled, Eddie Harris Quartet Steps Up on the track Freedom Jazz Dance. Eddie Harris was a man immersed in music as a composer, bandleader, performer, writer, innovator, inventor, and social critic.

It was during the 1960’s that Vee Jay Records asked Eddie to record for their label, but they wanted Eddie to play piano. After some discussion, it was agreed that Eddie would record half the album playing piano and the other half playing saxophone.

Eddie made his first major recording under his own name with Vee Jay Records in 1961. One of the tunes made on his first album was entitled, Exodus to Jazz. This composition was entitled, Exodus from the motion picture of the same title. The song was first released on a 45 rpm and sold well over a million copies which placed him at Gold Status. After two years, Eddie left Vee Jay Records and began recording for Columbia Records and then Atlantic Records. He recorded on Atlantic Records for over a decade.

Eddie recorded Listen Here (a hit which coined Eddie, The Electrifying Eddie Harris) and composed the jazz tune, Freedom Jazz Dance which became a standard modern work recorded by Miles Davis and 53 other artists. He is noted for a very successful partnership with pianist Les McCann in the late 60’s; a union which produced the Atlantic LP Swiss Movement - another million seller in 1969. In 1970, this record awarded Eddie and Les a Grammy nomination at the 13th Annual GRAMMY Awards for the category of Best Jazz Performance/Small Group or Soloist with Small Group. Eddie performed throughout the world at several domestic and international venues, concert halls, NBA games, and festivals. Some of his most notable festival performances are: The Montreaux Jazz Festival in Switzerland, Soul to Soul in West Africa, The North Sea Jazz Festival in the Netherlands and The Playboy and Monterey Festivals in California.

Although Eddie played and experimented with several instruments, his primary and by far most proficient instrument was the tenor saxophone. Eddie Harris, the saxophonist, is the exploration in self-study. He describes his sound as a soft sound. Some call it the Stan Getz School, but it’s really the Lester Young School. Eddie plays this type of sound so he can skip over the horn faster, in which he sacrifices volume for speed. According to Eddie, “cats can play loud like Gene Ammons and Sonny Rollins but don’t play as fast as Sonny Stitt. When anyone else plays fast, they get softer because they can’t maintain volume going that fast.”

In later years, Eddie began singing due to the restrictions he faced playing the saxophone on funk tunes. “I would play more saxophone, but I realized the fact that if I played more saxophone I’d have to play a lot more Listen Here, and that was limiting my saxophone playing, so I figured that a way that I didn’t have to play so much funk on the saxophone was to start singing.” Vocal recordings for Eddie represented pragmatism rather than fashion and provided both latitude and fulfillment for him as a jazz instrumentalist.

As a composer and performer, Eddie is not limited to any of the musical vehicles within his grasp. He is most closely identified by the public and music critics in the funk-fusion genre – identification not without benefits. One such benefit has been access to the mass audience. A second product of the funk label, not necessarily a benefit, has been the problem of stereotyping and categorization. His reputation as a funk player has narrowed the public and music industry’s view of him. As a result, in the mid-1970s, Eddie worked consistently, but he did not have access to many of the prestigious and profitable musical outlets (concerts, tours, etc.) his situation did not embitter Eddie, but has made him an astute businessman and musician and in turn, allowed him to concentrate more on his music.

Part of understanding Eddie Harris, THE MUSICIAN, is understanding, Eddie Harris, THE MAN. One characteristic of Eddie the man is his dislike for cliques and fads. “I’m not hung up with fads, for the simple reason that they stunt my growth.”

This love for individuality is apparent in Eddie Harris’ music and in whom he cites as influences. “I call it inspiration,” and “I like to hear anybody that is individualistic especially if they are individualistic minded. You can hear it come out in their playing…Monk, Miles, Mingus, Duke, Sun Ra, Tristano, Kool and The Gang, Sly, Bartok, Scheonberg… anything that people do that is unique and different.”

Eddie Harris is much more than the funk player and humorist that he is often presented as. His musical and intellectual interests and capabilities are broad and he seems guided by one consistent force which is HONESTY. After talking with him briefly or listening to one of his live performances, his sincerity and honesty are easy to detect.

In the course of recording more than 70 albums and CD’s, and the author of seven (7) music books, Eddie has displayed himself as a jazz artist who has played blues, rock, jazz fusion, straight-ahead, soul and funk grooves. Eddie’s pioneering work in musical electronics and the effective conjunction of different elements of blues, rhythm and blues, jazz and funk has had widespread influence of what is generally considered today’s music. Eddie’s music has been sampled by over 30 artists including: Macy Gray, Jamiroquai, DJ Jazz Jeff, Heavy D and the Fresh Prince.

Eddie was by far and foremost a great musician and a great human being. He was a master of his talents and a wonderful family man. His demise in November 1996 was a tragedy to his family and fans. His contributions to the music world will always be appreciated, recognized, and remembered. Eddie is survived by his wife Sara and their two daughters.

When I was younger I used to practice out of Eddie's Jazz Cliche' Capers book, which is one giant long etude consisting entirely of pieces of tunes and Jazz cliches'(including Freedom Jazz Dance in just about every key). Next I picked up Eddie's crazy hard book called The Intervallistic Concept, which is mostly unplayable by anyone but Eddie Harris himself, but still very cool. This book was inspired by Eddie's mastery of the altissimo range of the saxophone, which he used to more interesting effect than just about anyone who has ever lived.

Today I just discovered that Eddie wrote a book of Jazz duets that I didn't know about called Fusionary Jazz Duets. I've always enjoyed playing Jazz duets so I just ordered this one from Amazon.

Eddie Harris comedy (not for kids)-
Ain't Shit Happening
Eddie takes questions from the audience
What I'm Thinking, Before I Start Playing
In the Projects and High Rises
The Next Band
Singing and Straining
People Enjoying Themselves

Solo 'The Song Is You'
Eddie singing That's Why You're Overweight
Eddies sings Sonnymoon For Two
On A Clear Day

Eddie Harris official site
Jazz Cliche' Capers book from Sheet Music Plus


New Sextet recording project

This weekend I took a three-horn group into the studio to record a demo to send to festivals in Spain for next summer. My partner in crime Pere Soto wrote all the charts and will be adding his guitar tracks at a studio in Barcelona before giving the demo to our manager. The session was on of the most stressful recording that I've ever done. There were a lot of problems with our headphone mixes, time limitations and worst of all Pere had overlooked some problems with the charts.

Here are a couple of tunes from the session for your listening pleasure.......

Bossando Pra Ella
Chick Came Around

The lineup-
David Valdez- alto sax
Dick Titterington- trumpet
John Moak- bone
David Goldblatt- piano
Dan Schulte- bass
Alan Jones- drums

Coming soon....

I just wanted to let you know what to expect here at Casa Valdez in the immediate future, so you can be motivated to keep checking back.

  • In depth interview with master sax mouthpiece maker/refacer Brian Powell.
  • Master Jazz flutist Anders Bostrom talks about constructing post-Trane Jazz lines
  • Full review of Gearge Garzone's long awaited instructional/play-along 2-DVD set
  • Interview with Jazz educator Gary Campbell about the use of Triad Pairs in Jazz.

Trio Live @ the Jazz Bungalow

Last weekend I played a house concert with pianist David Goldblatt and bassist Al Criado. There's no comparison in my book between a large talkative crowd at a night club and a highly attentive audience in an intimate room.

More people should throw these sorts of Jazz parties in their homes, especially at this time when clubs are closing right and left. We had a great time and walked with more bread than we usually make at many so called 'Jazz rooms'. I threw in a couple of CDs, our host put up some of his poetry books and we had a raffle to support the band.

If things keep going like they seem to be going these type of events may soon be the only real Jazz gigs around.

Here's our last tune of the evening 'Incognito', which was composed by my good friend Art Lillard:

(This gig was our first attempt at experimenting with a laptop for percussion loops)


New Matt Otto CD- free download!

Matt Otto has just released his new CD "La Commune" for free on his blog. If that isn't enough you can also download all the scores in PDF format. In your face Radio Head!!

Matt Otto's blog