John Stowell's Jazz guitar mastery book is here!

Master guitarist and teacher John Stowell has just released his instructional book/DVD (Mel Bay publishing). Stowell's unique and highly advanced harmonic concept is fully explained by this book and DVD. The DVD allows you to watch and hear exactly what he's doing and the book has transcriptions in guitar tab and music notation. John is all about modes of the melodic minor scale, he uses them over just about everything. Over dominant seventh chords he teaches students that there are several melodic minor options depending on how many tensions you want to use.

For example over a C7 chord you can play:
  • G melodic minor- one tension (#11)
  • F melodic minor- one tension (b13)
  • Bb melodic minor- two tensions (b9, #9)
  • Eb melodic minor- three tensions (#9, #11, b13)
  • C# melodic minor- four tensions (b9, #9, #11, b13)
He arpegiates these scales to obtain his signature open, modern and often vertical sound. John also explains in his book/DVD how to use the melodic minor scale (a third down) over Major chords. This gives us the Augmented Major scale, which has a #11 and a #5. John also uses the Melodic Minor scale a whole step up to obtain a Major scale with a b9. These are obviously very spicy scale choices over a Major 7th chord but John really makes them work in a way that isn't jarring to the ears.

You can order John's book/DVD from Mel Bay.

I'm definately going to sit down with this and learn how John plays those sweeping modern lines of his. There is no one that sounds like John does, YET. Look out John, we're all going to cop your shit now! :-)

Look out soon for the Portland Jazz Jams TV episode on John that I directed and Darren produced. John demonstrates his improvisation techniques. It will be streaming on the PJJ site shortly.


Dan's Polyrhythmic Practice a la Warne Marsh

This is courtesy of PDX pianist Dan Gaynor. Over the last few years I've been playing with Dan quite a lot. If he really does leave for an East Coast grad school it will be a major blow for the PDX Jazz scene. Thanks Dan!

"I'm reading An Unsung Cat: The Life and Music of Warne Marsh, by Safford Chamberlain (thanks mom! merry christmas!), and it's really informative. There are a lot of interviews and perspectives on Warne Marsh, his music and also on the 'Tristano school' of improvisation. Tristano's thing was very conservative in many ways. For example, he believed that "the major innovators in jazz up to 1945" were Louis Armstrong, Earl Hines, Roy Eldrige, Lester Young, Charlie Christian, Charlie Parker and Bud Powell, with footnotes for Billie Holiday, Billy Kyle (as precursor to Bud Powell) and Art Tatum, but not Ellington, Jelly Roll Morton or Coleman Hawkins. So, he had a very conservative outlook, to say the least.

One of the more interesting things that developed within his method was a means of practicing rhythmic phrasing. Now, this method itself does not appear to be outlined in the book, and I don't personally know any of Tristano's students, but there are a few clues. It mentions "five beat phrases", meaning five eighth notes, and also mentions the last phrase of Tristano's "April," where an 11/8 figure (3-2-3-3) repeats three times. Now, I don't have access to Lennie's method, but I have made a list of uneven groupings of eighth notes that can be practiced over a 4/4 form (or just with a metronome). Accent the first of each group. They repeat in uneven ways compared with the other meter (4/4).

  • 3 notes, repeating.
  • 5 notes, grouped as 2-3 or 3-2
  • 6 notes, 3-3 or 2-2-2 (also 3-3-2-2-2 for a 12 note grouping)
  • 7 notes, 2-2-3, 2-3-2, 3-2-2
  • 9 notes, 3-2-2-2, 2-3-2-2, 2-2-3-2, 2-2-2-3
  • 10 notes, 3-2-2-3, 2-3-3-2
  • 11 notes 3-3-3-2, 3-3-2-3, 3-2-3-3, 2-3-3-3

These can be practiced in as many ways as you can conceive. Here are some ideas for pianists:

1. Major/minor scales, both hands, 4 octaves, 16th notes. Play the accents within the scale (either legato or detached with each group).

2. Improvise on a standard song (simpler changes are easier for this exercise), with a LH walking bass in quarter notes and RH playing an uninterrupted line. This has to be done slowly. The simpler the RH line, the better, for purposes of the exercise.

3. Improvise with the RH with an ostinato accompaniment in the LH, like a bossa nova bassline, or more pianistic things like a stride LH or a boogie-woogie line, even.

4. Make a stride/boogie/latin pattern which follows the polyrhythm and try to play the melody with the other hand. Or play chords with the RH and sing the melody.

These exercises are ways to practice how to juggle the polymeter and the meter of a rhythm section and not get lost. They're not limited to a eighth-note and 4/4 context by any means, though it is most useful there. One can imagine Bill Evans practicing this sort of thing with triplets in a jazz waltz. Anyway, I hope you like this stuff. Cheers!"


Rich Perry- eating standards for lunch

When I was in New York I played a few gigs a rehearsal big band that was run by a Russian composer/arranger/pianist. Like many bands of this type there was a rehearsal book and a gig book. The rehearsal book was all original and very challenging music written by the band leader and the gig book was all classic stock big band arrangements. The band leader got great NYC players to read through his original charts regularly by offering well paying black tie big band gigs once in a while. The second tenor player on this band was a sloppy forty-something guy named Rich Perry. Being fairly new on the NYC scene, I had no idea what kind of player Rich since he gave almost all of his solos away. When he did blow he sounded very abstract and loose. He really seemed not to give a shit about what he sounded (or looked) like, even though he sounded great. He just wasn't trying to impress anyone (like the rest of the was). I found out later that Rich was a mainstay in the Monday night Village Vanguard band (formerly the Thad Jones/Mel Lewis band). His playing really intrigued me at the time because he sounded so unique and advanced, but I never got to hear really stretch out. A friend turned me on to a few of his recordings recently; 'Live at Eastman' and 'What is This?'. I've been listening to them for days now. I haven't had my ears opened up so much by a player in quite a while. Rich swings like a madman and his sound is huge and dark, yet very controlled. One reviewer wrote that Rick was "lackadaisical and bohemian". He is loose and snaky, taking a while to build his solos to fever pitch. When he does get to full throttle he tears it up as hard as anyone alive. He is so incredibly natural sounding, by this I mean that he never sounds contrived or forced. Like his messy hair, his lines aren't sanitized for the amateur listener. Rich never plays down to the audience, never compromising his advanced harmonic and rhythmic concepts in favor of wide accesibility. In short he is the musicians musician. Even though he stays on the cutting edge Rich's sound is always musical and melodic. He just always approaches melodic phrases from an extremely oblique angle. I've really can't think of a badder cat that flies so low under the radar. Garzone is a pop star compared to Ritchie. I don't see this changing in the future since fame and fortune are obviously not motivating factors for Mr. Perry. For the moment at least, Rich Perry is my favorite tenor player alive. I just ordered his CD East of the Sun and West of 2nd Avenue and a trio recording called Beautiful Love. Check out these links to hear some short sound clips of Rich chewing up standards into tiny little pieces.


Reed update

I switched from Java reeds to WWBW Paris Jazz reeds a few months ago. I'm not quite as exited about the WWBW reeds as I was at first. They tend to be a bit edgy, still they are better cane and more consistant than Javas. The problem right now is that WWBW is running out of them. They're on back order right now so I'm waiting for my next fix, I mean shippment. In the meantime I got recieved some Riggotti Gold alto reeds and some Gonzalez. The Riggotti cane is similar French cane to Marca and Francois Louis. The Gonzalez reeds are made from Argentinian cane. I've been playing more tenor lately and trying different pieces so my reed consumption is out of control (for my my budget that is). If I was making over $10k playing with a hippie jam band (like some people I know) then I wouldn't have any more reed problems. I would just buy cases of reeds at a time and go through them until I found the perfect reed for every gig. Right I'm spending way too much bread on wood chips that would be more useful as toothpicks. A few days ago I went to the local music store and hand selected (at FULL retail box price) a bunch of reeds of different brands and strengths. Hey, guess what? Every SINGLE REED SUCKED ASS! Big surprise. Not one was even close. I felt like I just bought a big sack of oregeno at Washington Square park. I'll update this reed quest as soon as I get into these new boxes. I've also got some Rico Jazz selects and Marcas on the way so keeping checking back.


New Jason Dumars recording

My good friend Jason Dumars has just released a new solo recording on his web site. It's VERY cool. He plays all the instruments and was also the recording engineer. He got a great sound- I wish I could find an engineer that would record my sound that well. This material is pleasantly loose and energetic with indeterminate ethnic overtones. There is a lot of engaging full on action that keeps things interesting and highly unpredictable. It's hard to believe that he did this entire thing one track at a time. Bravo Jason! Link to the sound files.


NW Jazz profile interview with Robert Moore

Robert Moore is a trumpet player, vocalist, composer, and bandleader who recently relocated to Portland from Birmingham, Alabama. Every time I see him play I am impressed by his uncanny ability to connect with the audience and put them in the palm of his hand. His vocal style is somewhere between
King Pleasure, Mark Murphy and Ray Charles and his trumpet playing is lyrical and reflective like Chet Baker's. He always seems to know just when to break out his blues harp in order to make the room go nuts. Here is what he had to say about performing when I interviewed him at my studio recently:

DCV: How is the music scene here in the NW compared to the South?

Room: I miss some of the things about the South, there’s rawness in the
players there. They’re less concerned with playing correctly and more
concerned with the feel and energy of the music.

DCV: Do the audiences in the south have a different orientation towards hearing live music?

RoMo: I don’t think the audiences are different here. The players are more concerned with technique here than in the South. Southern players are more focused on the emotion and energy that they’re putting out. I feel more comfortable just letting things flow when I’m playing in the South. Here I sometimes find that I’m more self-critical when I play. A real player can connect with their source and express their emotions, AND be technically correct. This doesn’t happen often enough for me (laughs). My orientation as a front man is geared much more towards the house than a lot of other musicians. There seems to be a huge tendency in this business for self-indulgence. A lot of players go deep into self-explorations that they themselves may find fascinating- It doesn’t matter to them that their music is totally inaccessible to the audience. God bless so many audiences for enduring these endless solos that they can’t really understand or even appreciate.

DCV: Some people would say that you’re talking about ‘playing down’ to the audience. Others might also call this ‘showboating’ or ‘crowd pleasing’.

RoMo: I think you can play with taste, integrity, and unique interpretation and still be accessible and generally appreciable. That’s still valid. I lean toward simplicity but I don’t see that as ‘playing down’. It’s just speaking in an understandable, interpretable form. Things become more potent when they’re reduced. It’s like being given a blank canvas and being told
that you can only use two colors. The requirements artistically for that are challenging but are often rewarding.

DCV: Do you think someone like Bird operated with this same type of orientation?

RM: I think he probably did. Just look at the number of twelve bar blues he recorded. He started with recognizable phrases and developed them into complex melodies. You don’t need directionless chord changes to be interesting. (smiles)

DCV: How about late Trane then?

RoMo: Trane was seeking and reaching, but that’s a perfect example of a music that alienated a lot of people from Jazz. Don’t get me wrong, I love late Trane, but to most people it’s just honking and squeaking that they can’t understand. One of the reasons I was attracted to vocals was that it allows accessibility for the audience. You’re telling a story or acting out a part, this gives a grounding point for the listener. Combine that with a melody that’s compelling and…........(raises eyebrows with sly look)

You can catch Robert perform on January 13th at the Blue Monk from 9pm-midnight. (3341 se Belmont, Portland, Oregon 97214, ph: 503.595.0575)

I’m directing a new Jazz TV series called Portland Jazz Jams TV. PJJ-TV features performances and interviews with some of the Northwest’s premier musicians and Jazz personalities. For PDX area show times or to watch the programs in high-speed streaming format go to: www.portlandjazzjams.com

Now get out there and support live Jazz!


Jazz Standards.com

I just came across a great site called Jazz Standards.com

This site is a must read for any working Jazz musician. For every Jazz standard they give useful information such as; anecdotes and origins, CD Recommendations, musician comments, Jazz history notes, research guide, soundtracks, harmonic analysis, origin, ranking, which Real books the tune can be found, music & lyrics, and other tunes written by same composer.


PJJ-TV show and new esoteric music Podshow

I've been working on a few projects with my good friend Darren Littlejohn, founder of Portland Jazz Jams. We've done a few different podshows and I'm co-producing and directing his new PJJ-TV cable show. The show is now available to stream or download and features Jazz performances, interviews and instruction by some of the North West's top artists.Here is one of the first episodes. I directed this one, we'll be doing more soon. If you have Tivo you can now access these shows be searching podcasts!

PJJ has also just released a podshow that I did with local saxophonist/composer/bandleader/engraver/web pioneer/scholar Jason DuMars.
We talk about the esoterics of music and play some free saxophone duos. I'm in the right channel.

My Jason DuMars blog post
Jason's bio page
Jason's vintage saxophone buyers guide
Jason's articles on his saxophone.org site