Silent Night!- Tomas Trulsson's reharm

Here's a nice reharm of Silent Night for your X-mas gigs.
Thanks Tomas!
(click the above graphic to enlarge)
Silent Night! mp3


iReal Book- wireless chord changes on the your iPhone

Music is moving into the 21st century and with the introduction of the iReal Book you can now get changes to tunes on your iPhone. For $7.99 you can now download a new iPhone app called iReal Book that allows you to access 500 tunes on your iPhone. My buddy Charles writes,
"After it was installed I was completely blown away with how easy and fast you could pull up a tune and with two taps of your finger you can transpose the changes to any key. And the list of tunes is not just from Vol. 1, but the best from many books. It took less time for it to download and install than to type my Apple password (about 5 seconds). You first have to use iTunes on your computer to set up an Account with credit card info. Cheers from Charles."


Herbie Hancock's Round Midnight reharm

(click on above graphic to enlarge)


Triadic etude #3- combining a traditional triadic approach with Garzone's TCA

I wrote this etude to illustrate how one might combine Garzone's Triadic Chromatic Approach and a more traditional triadic approach.

The first eight bars of this etude consists of Major triads used over a C7 alt or dim chord the triads used are (in order): F#, D, Bb, C, Ab, D, E, Eb, F, B, Bb, C, Ab, D, F, Ab, E, Ab, E, Bb.

The second eight bars were written using Garzone's TCA, then every eight bars alternate between the two different approaches.

You can hear how bars 1-8 and 17-24 actually fit neatly over the C7 alt/dim chord, but bars 9-16 and 25-31 sound more harmonically nebulous and freer. I do like both sounds and they contrast nicely with each other.

You might experiment with limiting the number of triads that you use to contrast the TCA to three or four instead of the eight that I used. This will create a bigger contrast between the traditional triadic approach and Garzone's TCA. For example by using Ab, F# and D Major triads over the C7 alt, when you make the shift to the fully chromatic triads of the TCA it will really sound more like it has opened up harmonically.(click on the above graphic for a larger view)
Listen to the audio file of this etude

House concerts

Next week I'm going to Ajijic, Mexico, which is just outside of Guadalajara. I'll be there for two weeks. I have a couple of gigs at a nice club right on beautiful Lake Chapala, Mexico's largest lake. I'm just taking my mouthpiece, there's a retired LA studio guy there who's going to let me play his horn. It's freezing right now in Portland and they say that tomorrow will bring six inches of snow. In Ajijic it almost 80 degrees, oh yeah baby. I'll try to do some writing while I'm down there, I won't have much else to do really.

I played a session today at my place with guitarist John Stowell, who I try to play with whenever he isn't out of the road. John sounded killing, as usual. He has been making his living for many years doing small clubs, clinics and house concerts on the road. He goes out alone and drives all over the country in his little Honda Civic. He says that the generosity of the friends that he stays with allows him to do what he does. He seems to have built up enough connections over the years to keep him working most of the year.

John was saying today that he was hearing from musicians all over the country that things were getting pretty rough. He thinks that the future of Jazz is house concerts. He may be right about that. The future certainly doesn't seem like it's going to be the Jazz clubs. There's nothing more rewarding than playing for a small room full of people who are intensely interested in your musical performance. No blenders whining in the middle of a ballad or smokers in the first row chatting away, just attentive listening.

House Concerts in Your Home web site


Monks advice- 1960

Damien Erskin just sent me this treasure. It appears to be advice Monk gave to a sidemen.

My favorite is- A genius is the one most like himself.

Thanks D! (Click on graphic to enlarge)


Etude combining all elements of Garzone's TCA

(Click on graphic for larger view)

Audio file of above etude
(I bet you guys weren't expecting this!)


Matt Otto's Triadic Chromatic Blues #6

This is a blues etude based on Garzone's Triadic Chromatic Approach that Matt Otto just sent me. This is in every key, moving up by half-steps. Matt studied with Garzone for several years, at Berklee and at the New School.

Matt writes:
"One other thing we used to do in lessons was mix up the number of notes in each triad .. even playing only one note from a triad occasionally, the cool thing is the weird groupings of 8th notes that arise, like in your line grouped in 3s over the bar.... one could do 3s and 4s and 2s and 3s etc.. "
Blues #6- by Matt Otto
Analysis of Blues #6

Triadic Chromatic Approach lines

I wrote this as an exercise for myself, to better to hear the differences when the different types of triads are used with Garzone's Triadic Chromatic Approach.

(click on image to enlarge)


Review of George Garzone's Triadic Chromatic Approach DVD

In the world of Jazz education there are few teachers who have been as influential as George Garzone over the past few decades. He is the quintessential musician’s musician. Most serious players are aware of his playing; yet few outside of Boston, MA know his music. . The list of his students reads like a who’s who of major modern Jazz saxophonists. Just a few of the students he taught when I was studying with him in the 80’s were Donny McCaslin, Josh Redman, Douglas Yates, Kenny Brooks, Chris Speed, Seamus Blake, Mark Turner, Matt Otto, Chris Cheek, and Teadross Avery. Rest assured there will be more major artists emerging from the Garzone School in years to come.

George has been promising an method book for as long as I can remember and some of his signature lines have been circulated by his students, but up 'till now there has been no way to learn his method
without attending an East Coast Jazz conservatory and shelling out $100 an hour to study with him privately.

I had posted a few pages of George’s lines and an explanation of his triadic concept by one of his former students over a year ago and George contacted me to ask me to take down the post. He told me that his book was in the works and that when it was finished I would be one of the first people to get a copy. I was skeptical because he had been working on this fabled book for over a decade. I was surprised and more than a little excited to learn that Jody Espina (also a former student of Garzone) of JodyJazz mouthpieces (which Garzone endorses), had produced a Jazz improvisation instructional two DVD set called The Music of George Garzone & the Triadic Chromatic Approach.

When I studied with George twenty years ago his teaching concept seemed fairly abstract and esoteric. He was known for turning all the lights out during his Avant-Garde ensemble and telling his students to play a tree or play a sweep. It was hard to define his concept and
it seemed there was a certain amount of osmosis involved in his teaching style. George didn’t teach the nuts and bolts of Jazz improvisation. He was more like a Zen master you went to after you had all your fundamentals together and were ready to have your concept expanded. Back then it seemed to me that the way he skated on the jagged edge of the chord changes was something so abstract that it couldn’t be talked about directly. Twenty years of teaching has crystallized George’s concepts to the point that he is able to convey them simply and clearly- in a way that can be widely understood.

George’s deceptively simple yet devastatingly profound triadic chromatic concept can be explained in a just few minutes - although he stresses that the concept takes many years to truly master. He also emphasizes that a player first needs a strong foundation of Jazz harmony and the language of bebop in order to apply this triadic concept effectively- otherwise when you take it out using the concept you’ll have nothing to come back inside with.

Without going into full detail, the idea of the triadic chromatic concept is to take either major, minor, diminished or augmented triads and move them around chromatically and in random inversions. If you don’t repeat the same inversion twice in a row and move chromatically on each successive triad you will be borrowing from the twelve-tone row. Triadic lines created in this way have a strong forward motion and resolve themselves often. George argues that lines created using this concept are even more likely to resolve than lines created using chord-scales. He notes that scales cover and obscure the underlying chords, but that triads played in this particular way allow you to explore all of the different available tonalities.

When watching George demonstrate his concept on the piano, playing a root/fifth drone, I was surprised at how logical and melodic the triadic lines sounded. Structures are created with the CTC that are harmonically ambiguous, but they support the underlying harmony. This concept is much more than, as one of my students recently remarked, just a fancy way of skating over changes. The significant innovation here is the application of the 12-tone system in a way that allows the player to create these lines in a spontaneous and flexible way while improvising over changes. Many players have experimented with incorporating 12-tone lines in jazz improvisation, but all too often the 12-tone lines are taken note for note from sources like Slonimsky's Thesaurus of Scales and Melodic Patterns. Probably because 12-tone lines are almost impossible to improvise on the fly.

It is clear that, as George says in the DVD, to fully apply this concept takes many years of practice. It’s quite a simple concept to understand, but in order to pull it off you need to be able to think very, very fast and woodshed it for a while. The thing I wonder about is: did Garzone develop this concept as a rationalization/explanation for the way he naturally hears things, or does he have this concept in mind clearly when he plays his crazy lines? It is hard to imagine someone of George’s caliber thinking so intensely when he’s playing free music with the Fringe.

I must say that this DVD did give me a totally new understanding of why Garzone’s lines sound so unique, and for that alone it is worth the price of the admission ticket.

The other piece the Garzone’s formula is his Random Chromatic Approach, which consists of two basic principles:
  1. The constructed melodic lines MUST stay within an interval of a Major 3rd.
  2. The same intervals CANNOT be repeated consecutively in the same direction within the chosen Major 3rd.
The idea here is avoid repeated patterns, which seems to one of George’s major guiding principles in life and music. George once told me that the finest example of the CTA is his line on Have You Met Miss Jones. When I first heard this line on his Four’s and Two’s CD I was floored. This line moves so unpredictably in the direction it takes as it weaves in and out of the changes that you almost lose track of which way is up and which way is down. The line is pretty dissonant if you take the time to analyze it, but it never seems to stray too far from the changes as to not sound good when played with the standard head.

I think that if you really want to get inside this concept then some time spent with this line would be a good place to start. With George’s permission I have included a link to a PDF chart of this line.

The two DVDs in the set are packed with over three hours of footage, plus 32 pages of supplemental material in PDF format. The first DVD has six performances by the Fringe + saxophonist Frank Tiberi (a major inspiration and influence for Garzone), vibraphonist Mike Manieri, and guitarist Chris Crocco. One of these tracks is of George doing a solo version of "I Want to Talk About You" with a nod to Trane. George’s sound is amazing on these DVDs. As a television and DVD producer myself I really appreciated the production quality of every aspect of this project.

The Jody Jazz mouthpiece George plays is, to my ears at least, more focused, centered and maybe even cleaner sounding than the Otto Links that he used to favor. It’s hard to imagine how a tenor sound could be any better; it's rich, warm, sweet, fat, and complex. I must say that this recording made me want to try a hard rubber Jody Jazz piece. There’s also a duo version of Soul Eyes with Mike Manieri that is stunningly beautiful. George’s sound here is something like a perfect marriage of Getz and Trane.

There are examples on the first DVD of the CTC played on piano, soprano, tenor and guitar, all over a root/fifth pedal. The last two are play along tracks, one in 3/4 and the other in 3 over 4, so the student can practice the concept over a drone. After watching the first DVD the student should have a clear understanding of how to apply the concept and be able to start the process of applying it.

The second DVD in the set starts off with a great exposition by George on sound. After all, George is like the Louis Armstrong of the saxophone and a Garzone DVD wouldn’t be complete without this lesson. George stresses the importance of a loose lower lip and gives an airstream development exercise that Joe Viola (who also taught George) used to have me do. He also talks about focusing the airstream down into the instrument. George plays a 10* tip opening, but I wouldn't recommend such an extreme tip opening to just anyone. He guarantees a hernia within two weeks to anyone who isn’t prepared for such a monster piece.

I hear that George runs ten miles each morning, which has to be a big factor in his ability to get such a massive sound. George goes on to talk about how his sound concept was influenced by his uncles and cousins, who all had the spectacular Garzone family sound. George learned the saxophone in the back of his uncle Rocco’s pizza shop and would come home from his lessons with flour all over his clothes from the flying spinning pizza dough. This chapter is as entertaining as it is educational.

There are twelve play along tracks on the second DVD, some are the usual Aebersold style play-along and some have George trading choruses with you. These tracks are like sitting in with the Fringe (but without the intense stress that comes from the real experience.) No other play-a-long will ever seem satisfying again after a few hours with this multi-media Fringe play along DVD. Here again the production quality shines. The second DVD is rounded out by extended interviews with all the musicians on the project.

The price tag of close to a hundred dollars may seem high compared to other instructional videos,DVDs or books, but when you see just how much great content is here you’ll realize that it really is a bargain. You’d have to spend many hundreds of dollars to obtain this material in private lessons with Garzone (if you could even get accepted to the colleges where he teaches).

George, Jody Espina, and everyone else involved obviously have put a lot of love of hard work into the production of this project. I must say that it was well worth the long wait. This DVD is a must have for any serious student looking to expand their harmonic horizons and I have no doubt that it will be an important and influential piece of work in the years to come.

The Chromatic Triad Approach has been unveiled!

Link to buy The Music of George Garzone & the Chromatic Triad Approach

George Garzone's web page
Video trailer for the DVD
Garzone's line on Have You Met Miss Jones

[Special thanks to Monk's Dream, Carlitos and Chicken Little]


Bob Berg @ Eastman

Here's a nice recording of Bob Berg with the Eastman big band from the 80's.

It's nice to hear Bob playing very straight-ahead in a situation like this. His rhythm changes later in the set is really nice. Someone please transcribe this solo because and send it to me!

I'm also posting a what I consider one of Berg's signature recordings- Steppin' from Live in Europe, an incredible rhythm changes track.

(You can hear that this was recorded on an old school Marantz recorder from the octave shift at the beginning)

Bob Berg @ Eastman

Steve Grossman Clinic

Steve Grossman is a very bad man.

This clinic was recorded when Grossman came to Berklee in 1985. Thanks to Nat Kline for this recording.

Grossman Clinic


Michael Brecker Master Class- Berklee 1987

My buddy Nathan Kline recorded this 84 minute master class when Michael Brecker came to Berklee.

Michael Brecker Master Class


Brain Push Ups

Mr.Otto just sent me an interesting PDF document called KEEP YOUR BRAIN ALIVE - 83 Neurobic Exercises to Help Prevent Memory Loss and Increase Mental Fitness by Lawrence C. Katz and Manning Rubin.

There's some interesting exercises and ideas in this this book, definitely worth checking out, especially considering how so many Jazz musicians treat their brains.


Thanks Matt!



Saxophonist Curtis Swift was encouraged to transcribe solos by Matt Otto. Matt told him that transcribing would be good for his ears. By now Curtis' ears must be amazing because he has transcribed almost 1600 saxophone solos.

Curtis' transcriptions are accurate and very clear. You can buy individual solos for fifty cents per page directly from his Saxsolos.com website.

Here are a few sample solos from Curtis' site:

Impressions- Trane, Impressions (32 pages!!)
Impressions mp3

Boston Bernie- Dexter Gordon, Long Tall Dexter

Sammy Nestico fake book

Sammy Nestico fake book

Library of Musicians' Jazz fake book

Library of Musicians' Jazz fake book

On the cover in small print it says:

This collection of popular music has been compiled to furnish a compact library of the most requested songs for professional musicians and is not intended for sale to the general public.

557 JazzStandards (Swing To Bop) Fake Book

557 JazzStandards (Swing To Bop) Fake Book


Study with David Valdez online!

I'm now accepting students online (Skype or iChat) and by phone. I accept PayPal and my rate is $35 for 30 minutes.

Send me an email at: casavaldez@comcast.net

Gordon Lee w/John Gross- videos

Here's another tune from the DVD I just finished producing.

Some of you were having problems opening the last.mp4 files I posted, so I encoded these in .mov format.

Land Whales

Note: These are huge high quality files so they will take a while to load even with a fast connection.


Voice leading exercises

Players of non-chordal instruments tend to think about chord changes very differently than chordal instrumentalists do. A pianist or guitarist is usually much more aware of how chord changes are connected to one and other because they are constantly creating chord voicings that move from change to change. The strong chromatic and stepwise motion between chord changes is the glue that binds strong chordal progressions together. Voice leading is like the veins and arteries that move the harmonic blood through the chord progression. Without strong voice leading between changes chords sound choppy and disconnected to each other.

It's just as important for horn players to be able to create strong voice leading lines as it is for harmonic instrumentalists. Strong voice leading lines give a solo powerful forward motion and a sense that you're really playing though the changes, rather than just puttering around on top of the changes. Voice leading exercises are a great way to get beginning players to understand chord progressions and navigate through them. I find that beginning players are usually pretty stressed when they first try to blow over changes. They find it hard to relax and think calmly when first attempting to improvise. The voice leading exercises that I have them do gets them focused on creating simple melodic lines with strong forward motion.

  • Play whole notes on chords that last a full bar, half notes for two beat chords, ect. Pick a chord tone on the first chord of the tune, it doesn't matter what chord tone you choose. On successive chord move down in half-steps or whole steps, depending on what would make the strongest line. Make sure you're not playing avoid notes, such as a natural 11 on a Major or Dominant or a root on a Major 7th chord. If there's a dominant 7th chord that is going down a fifth in root motion to the next chord then feel free to add any alterations you like, such as b9,#9, #11, b13. Remember that you may add a #11 to any Major or Dominant chord at any time. If you can not move down in half or whole-steps then stay on the same note. Each new chorus try starting from different chord tones on the first chord of the tune. The Jobim Aebersold (vol.98) works well for these exercises.
  • Pick a note to start on like exercise #1 and play one note per chord except this time try to stay on the same note if at all possible, that is if that next note works well over the chord. If you cannot repeat the note you are playing then move down by a half-step. If the note a half-step below isn't good then move down by a whole-step. This exercise gets you to be more aware of common chord-tones from chord to chord and helps you create suspensions.
  • For this exercise move upward by half-steps or whole-steps instead of down. Like before if you cannot move up then stay on the same note.
  • Now try playing two notes per chord using the guidelines from one of exercises above. Try starting with two notes that are close together, then space these note further apart (one octave or even two octaves). Next try making these two notes move in contrary motion. You might want to do this set of exercises over a ballad so you have more time to think about the notes you are choosing.
I like to think of these voice-leading lines exercises as a way to learn to build sturdy framework that will support the rest of your solo. Once you learn to hear and play these strong leading lines your solos will become more solidly melodic and have more compelling forward motion. The voice leading lines can also become anchor points that hold together more complex lines and give them more harmonic cohesion.