Jam Sessions PDX/Barcelona

Next Wednesday will be the second Billy Reed's Jazz Jam session. Last week some players showed up and a good time was had by all. The book I put together for the Jam contains mainly Blue Note era Hard-Bop tunes by composers like Horace Silver, Cannonball Adderly, Sam Jones, Lee Mongan, ect. The food is good again, the room has been remodeled, and the tables have black table cloths with candles, a big improvement over the previous vibe. The session is from 8-11pm at 2808 NE MLK jr. BLV, Portland.
Come out to play or just listen so we can convince the new management that Jazz is viable again.

On the June 7th I'm off to Barcelona for two weeks to host more jam sessions with guitarist Pere Soto. On June 8th we play a session at Plaza Universidad. On the 11th I head north to Italy and the French riviera, coming back to Barcelona on the 18th. On June 19th Pere and I play the main Jazz club in town, the Jamboree. Once again another Jam session. I'm really looking forward to playing with some Jazz musicians from the motherland (my family came over from Spain almost 400 years ago) and eating some authentic Paella! Pere Soto is scrambling for us so there may be a few more gigs on the horizon. Buenisimo!


EJMA solo transcriptions

EMJA is a French website with a ton of transcriptions. This site is amazing.

Transcriptions page #1
Transcriptions and practice routines


Shifting focus for performing- the Zone

One of the most difficult things to do as a performing musician is to get in 'the zone'. Many classical musicians take small amounts of tranquilizer type drugs like Xanax to calm their nerves. One of my best friends, an accomplished jazz saxophonist, simply cannot perform without a small dose of Ambien before every gig.

Throughout the history of Jazz many of the greats felt that they needed some extra chemical 'help' to really play their best, this could be anything from a shot of espresso to one beer or a massive speed-ball. Even 'Pops' had to have his herbal remedy in order to feel truly creative. All of these chemicals have some degree of negative side effects (such as cotton-mouth or death). If you start to depend on any one of them to play music you lose control over your own creativity, becoming terminally dependant on a chemical to operate.

The creative mindset is almost an ecstatic state of consciousness. It's not like the state of mind that we are in while shopping for food in the grocery store or driving a car. We can't be distracted by thoughts of the past or future, or by what the audience is doing or thinking. We want to hyper-awake, yet relaxed and loose. We want to be able to tap into and react to deep emotional states as well as be able to remember theoretical considerations. We need to be highly receptive yet electrically active and energetically explosive. This is starting to sound like the qualities and states of the Buddha, a Zen master or a master Yogi, right? Maybe this also sounds like a stoner?

Lately I've been playing a double header gig at a club every Wednesday. The first gig is a duo from 4:30-7pm and the second, a jam session goes from 8pm until 11pm. This is a recipe for burnout and I've been resorting to drinking a couple Red Bulls throughout the evening. If I drink one too late then sleep doesn't come for me until around 3:00a.m. I've got to stop doing this to my already whacked out sleeping patterns.

So before you hit the triple capp, spliff, Valium, speedball, or chocolatini here are some ideas to help get you into the 'zone' without breaking the bank, going to jail, the hospital, or just making an ass out of yourself.

  • Panayama breathing exercises are a fast, safe, easy and powerful way to reach non-ordinary states of consciousness. Check out my article called yogic breathing for musicians.

  • Meditate before the gig or on the break. The are many different methods, find one that works for you.

  • Stretching- endorphins are released and nerves calmed. Musicians can't afford to hold body tension.

  • Acupuncture- if you've never had a good accupuncture treatment you really don't know what you're missing. Acupuncture balances the energy currents in the body can have a drastic positive effect on your mental and emotional (as well as your physical) well being. Many insurance plans cover accupucture, if you live in Portland check out Working Class Acupuncture. There are community accupuncture centers all over the country, these work on a sliding scale.

  • Blood Sugar- watch what and how much you eat before and at the gig. Eat too much and you'll get loagie, too little and your brain will starve and make your playing suck.

  • Go for a walk on the break. This is simple yet really makes a huge difference in your state of mind on the gig.


Jazz Society of Oregon musician of the month

The JSO has featured me as musician of the month for May. Thanks Rita!

Here is the article/interview:

Musician of the Month (May, 2006)

Interviewed by Rita Rega

Name: David Valdez

Instrument: Alto and Tenor Saxophone

Early Years/Education: Grew up in Santa Cruz, California when the schools still had funding for music programs. I started on the alto at eight simply because it looked cool and had the most buttons. By the time I was in junior high I knew I wanted to be a musician.

My parents who are both artists were very supportive. My mom would take me to the local Kuumba Jazz Center on Monday nights to see live jazz, and we saw everybody. My high school had a very strong music program. We'd go to the Monterey Jazz Festival to perform and eventually toured as an all-star "Monterey" band.

We toured Japan and Europe; I probably had fifty big band gigs a year in those days. From high school I received a full scholarship in jazz performance from the Berklee College of Music in Boston from '86 - '89.

I've studied saxophone with Joseph Viola, Jimmy Mosher, George Garzone, Bob Mover and Paul Contos. Studied arranging and harmony with Ray Brown (saxophonist) at Cabrillo College '84-'89. I've played the alto for thirty years and picked up the tenor just last year.

Portland: Moved here from New York where I'd lived for four years. I hated the weather there and even though I was playing quite a bit it was always a trek to get to the gigs. What did it for me was playing a gig in Cannon Beach with tenorist Rob Scheps (who I knew from Boston), pianist Steve Christofferson, bassist Glen Moore, drummer Alan Jones and vocalist Nancy King. Every one of these players was not just smoking, but truly world class! Nancy, in particular, talked me into moving here.

Casa Valdez Blog: I post everything on my blog . . . it's multi-media. You can view TV shows I've done for Portland cable access, interviews or profiles of musicians I've worked with, live performances, etc. I started writing jazz improv lessons last July (which was when the blog started) and now I'm totally obsessed with it! You'll find articles about harmony, esoteric music philosophy, and interviews.

I also write for "NW Jazz Profiles" magazine based in Seattle. Some of those interviews are on the website. I get feedback from all over the world.

There are links on the IAJE (International Association of Jazz Educators) web page to my blog. I use it to help my students. All my teaching materials are posted there. It's specialized for the college level/professional level student. It's also great to promote my gigs. The address is: http://davidvaldez.blogspot.com

Currently, I teach out of the Ethos Music Center, which is a non-profit music program in north Portland. I have a jazz combo and improv workshop there. This is an eight-week session and the workshop has a full rhythm section. The students get to put into practice what we're learning. The students are mostly adults, college age, but I'd love to have some younger ones.

Bands: I lead the Lawrence Williams Project, which is a quintet devoted to the music of Williams. Williams used to live here in Portland and is one of the finest jazz composers ever. He is a mentor to me now. His tunes are analyzed at Oberlin Conservatory in composition classes.

I also have a Latin-Jazz group with Randy Porter, Al Criado, Reinhardt Melz and Jeff Burres. Then there's the David Valdez Quartet with Mark Deflorio, Dan Gaynor and Dan Schulte. That's the same rhythm section as the LW Project.

Musical Influences: Bird, Cannonball, Trane, Charles Macpherson, Lee Konitz, Johnny Griffin, George Garzone, Phil Woods, Dick Oats, Frank Srozier, Gary Bartz, Joe Henderson, Warne Marsh, Stanley Turrentine, Bob Mover, Rich Perry, Sonny Rollins, Sonny Criss, Sonny Stitt, Steve Grossman, Jimmy Mosher, Johnny Hodges, Lenny Tristano and all the artists I saw at Kuumba Jazz Center growing up.

Most Satisfying Experience: Playing with Dave Holland, Kurt Rosenwinkle, Charlie Hunter, John Medeski and the Fringe have been a few of my most exciting jazz experiences. While living in Santa Fe I had the opportunity to perform and record with the master Flamenco guitarist Carlos Lomas. Carlos taught Tomatito and Ottmar Liebert. Playing with Carlos changed my entire concept of time and emotional expression.

Favorite Recordings: I've been listening to a lot of Rich Perry and George Garzone lately. Rich is a tenor player in the Monday night Village Vanguard Band and George is another tenor player who taught me at Berklee.

I also have 114 days of MP3s on my home computer. The only way for me to really dig into all of that is to use the random Party Shuffle mode. It always allows me to listen to great music that I wouldn't normally choose myself.

Discography: "Making Lunch" Ken Schaphorst Big Band (1989 Accurate Records), ‘Small Clubs Are Dead" Dred Scott (2004), Klezmocracy (2003), "Reasons to be Thankful" Art Lillard (2006 Summit Records), Dan Schulte Sextet w/Nancy King (2006), "Doggie-n-Cookie Unleashed! (2006) (Avant-garde duo CD with pianist/drummer Dred Scott). Dred is a Bay area musician who now lives in New York and works with Jay Collins.

Gigs: I'm leading a funky jazz jam session with Jo Janiga and Danny Meyer every Wednesday from 8-11 pm at the club formerly known as Billy Reed's.

We plan on starting on May 24th. I'm trying to make this session a little different by playing tunes that are less commonly performed. We've put together a big book of interesting charts for players to choose from. I wanted to stay away from tunes that you hear every time you go to a jam.

We'll focus on the groovier side of jazz, doing material from the hard bop era...Cannonball, Horace Silver, Stanley Turrentine, Lee Morgan, Kenny Dorham, etc. The last Thursday of each month I play with Dan Schulte at the "Jazz Loft" on Alberta. It's a private loft they open to the public.

The last couple of performances are on my website. I'll be at Abou Karim on May 6th with Danny Meyer; and I'll be with Robert Moore at Cathedral Park Jazz Festival this July 15, 16.

Future: Recording an album with Art Lillard in July, writing a book on jazz improvisation, debuting my new Latin-Jazz quintet, composing for a Latin-Jazz album and learning the vibes.

Other: I love living here . . . you can drop into a fun jam and play with really great musicians, the scene is very cohesive.

Quote from alto saxophonist Warren Rand, "David has an unusual vocabulary with intricate phrasing...it's a joy to listen to."