Randy Porter's Be-Bop harmonic devices

I had my first private lesson with pianist Randy Porter today. It's been years since I had a formal lesson with anybody. Randy has one of the deepest harmonic and rhythmic concepts I've ever encountered, plus he is my favorite saxophonist's (Charles McPherson) favorite pianist. We looked at a couple of standards and he gave me some new ideas to think about. One interesting harmonic device he showed me was a classic Bop delayed resolution for a Major chord. When you have a Major chord all you do is play a diminished chord/scale from the root of the Major chord and then resolve to the Major chord.

So in the context of a ii-7 V7 Imaj7 it looks like this:

D-7 / G7 / Cdim Cmaj7/

Simple, just really nice classic Be-Bop.

Another thing he talked about was using a melodic minor up a fourth over a Major chord, then resolving to a Major 6 chord.

So over two bars of Gmaj7:

C-maj7 / G6 /

This is something McPherson likes to do and it sounds cool. It kind of suggests a G maj bebop scale by bringing out the #5 of the Major. I Guess you could look at this as a special function dominant b7 with a #11
. You should really try to bring out the melodic minor sound with this one and then resolve to the 6th of the Major.

The most modern thing we worked on was four tonic substitutions over a Minor chord.
Randy had me play over Solar and over the first two bars of Cmin we substituted four different dominant 7th #9 chords, resolving after each one to the Cmelodic min. This is kind of a variation of Barry Harris' diminished subs where you can substitute any dominant seventh chord Minor thirds away from any other Dominant.

Example: over a C7 you can play a Eb7, Gb7, or A7 .

What we did was this-

C-7 /C-7 /C-7 / C-7 /

We played this:
D7alt Cmel- / F7a
lt Cmel- / Ab7alt Cmel- / B7alt Cmel- /

or you can think of it like this:
Ebmel- Cmel-/ F#mel- Cmel-/ Amel- Cmel- / Cmelodic- /

Randy seems to be
able to play anything over anything and still sound great. These harmonic devices seemed to be true classical BeBop (except the last one). My buddy Tom said that McPherson had shown him some of the same things when he took a lesson with him. I would highly encourage anyone to study with either of these modern Jazz masters. Charles McPherson lives in San Diego and is always available for private students and Randy Porter is in Portland, Oregon. If you're lucky you may just be able to hear them play together, otherwise check out their recordings.

Randy Porter's recordings
Randy Porter's workshops
Contact Randy Porter at: randyporter@randyporter.com

Charles McPherson's recordings (also try iTunes)
Contact Charles McPherson at: jazz@charlesmcpherson.com


Inner Jazz clip- the Fuze

Here's a short exerpt from an hour long episode of my Inner Jazz television series featuring the 'Fuze'.

Inner Jazz episode 1

Links fixed.............

I just fixed all my broken links for the Harmony workbooks and patterns on this blog. Sorry they were bad for so long, I have a real server now.



Paul Gonsalves out cold w/Duke Ellington

Paul Gonsalves was born in 1920. His first major job, was with Count Basie, whom he joined in 1946 after being released from military service. Gonsalves joined Duke Ellington in 1950 and stayed with him almost continuously for twenty-four years. Gonsalves replaced Ben Webster, and Ellington was initially attracted to his style because of its Webster-like influences. Over the years, however, Gonsalves style became more harmonically experimental. He flirted with atonality long before John Coltrane or Eric Dolphy. In fact, his combination of cool atonality with hot rhythms made him one of the most original of all tenor sax men. Gonsalves' virtuoso performance on "Dimenuendo and Crescendo in Blue" at the 1956 Newport Jazz Festival was largely responsible for a revival of interest in the career and work of Duke Ellington. This funny but extremely tragic video is of Gonsalves nodded out cold through an entire tune. He is woken up at the last second of the video. Paul eventually overdosed in a bathtub four days before Ellington died. Watch this before you start experimenting with dope kids!

Perdido on dope

YouTube Jazz videos

You Tube is fast becoming the major destination for Jazz lovers on the web. Finally the web is living up to long held expectations about how it would revolutionize music. You Tube has an unbelievable amount of Jazz videos, along with videos of just about anything else you can think of. Here are just a few........

Jessica's Birthday
Jive Samba
Work Song

Rahsaan Rolland Kirk:
Ode to Billy Joe
I Say a Little Prayer

Bill Evans:
Autumn Leaves
Beautiful Love in Berlin
Someday My Prince Will Come
Person I knew
My Romance
Waltz for Debby
How My Heart Sings
For Nenette


Alan Jones & Randy Porter's workshop

Last weekend I attended a Jazz combo workshop with two of my favorite players, pianist Randy Porter and drummer Alan Jones. The class consisted of two sets of rhythm section players and me. I've played many gigs with these two guys over the years and have always wanted to get a better idea about what they're thinking about when they play. Both these guys are true masters of their instruments and they both are able to weave in and out of the rhythmic structure in a way that is smooth yet complex. Randy has an incredible ability to create new harmony that doesn't interfere with the soloist or the spirit of the tune. When we play duo gigs together I always want to stop him say,"What was that right there?!" This was my chance to do just that.

They talked about their ideas of rhythmic feel and harmony and had us play as we thought about different ideas. As I soloed Randy comped for me and really started to take it out there with different time feels. He asked me to try to lock up with him in the different time feels that he was superimposing. Usually when we play together and he starts to take it out there like that I tend to emphasize the original time feel over what he's doing, otherwise I usually get turned around rhythmically. I was a little easier following him out into the rhythmic wilderness with Alan Jones locking the time down with his relentless swing. It also helped that we weren't on the bandstand. We also focused on creating extended harmonies while soloing. I had a tendency to play and think modally as I navigated harmonically. I think this is natural for post-Trane saxophonists. Randy asked me to think chordally (like Bird) rather than modally (like Trane). He asked me think about the exact individual chords that I was superimposing. When I tried playing this way everything seemed to open up. Even if the chord structures I was using were far from the changes of the tune it much easier to fit them over what was happening. Using scales to move outside created a much denser dissonant sound than thinking chordally. I found that I could get away with some pretty outside chords have them sound acceptable because they had a more distinct yet less dense structure than their scale modes did. It was a revelation.

One exercise that Randy had us do made us think about playing lyrically. Everyone has a tendency to play too many notes and that it clutters our playing and makes us less lyrical. He brought out a story that his kids had written and told us that since lyrically really meant 'with lyrics' we would play as if we were playing lyrics. He had us play over the tune Confirmation at a fairly fast tempo. The idea was to play a solos while we were reading the story, every note we played was to be a syllable in the story and every phrase was a sentence. We were suppose to create solos that made sense while playing every word of the story. Of course Randy was the only one who could do this for more than a couple of words.

It was an entirely different mode of thinking and it has the effect of making you play very simple and concise musical statements. The melodies that we were forced to create were just complex enough to tell the story. Not an unnecessary syllable/note. We all realized just how much we tended to overplay. It made me think of the old adage that first twenty years is spent learning to play notes and the next twenty years is spent trying to play less of them. Being lyrical cannot be done with too many notes, that is a hard fact. Try to make every single note really count and eliminate every unnecessary notes. To do this we need a radical exercise like Randy's because we are so conditioned to playing too much. Especially when we don't really know what to play. We tend to play more notes when we get a unsure.

Randy and Alan had a few more tricks up their sleeves and had us do some pretty interesting exercises with odd time signatures. I won't reveal any more of their methods for now, you'll have to study with them or listen to them yourself. Randy presents these combo workshops every couple of months and they cost $80 for a four hour session (well worth the price). Alan is also a great bass teacher. If you are lucky enough to study with these guys then you'll have to settle for listening to their music. I'm going to keep up my private studies with Randy.

Randy Porter
Alan Jones


Nine lives of Sonny Rollins B-day videos

Nine Lives of Sonny Rollins – A Special Birthday Tribute

Theodore Walter Rollins, aka Sonny, turns 76 today. To celebrate the birthday of the Saxophone Colossus, and the first anniversary of his website, nine rare video performances are posted on www.sonnyrollins.com for one week.

  • Featured Video Performances:

Paul's Pal- Stockholm '57

Weaver of Dreams- Amsterdam '59
52nd Street Theme- Rome '62
Oleo- Copehagen '65
Four- Copenhagen '68
Moritat - Tokyo '81
Smoke Gets In Your Eyes- Prague '82
My One and Only Love- Montreal '82
Serenade- Cerritos, California '06

After viewing these rare videos, visitors are invited post their birthday greetings for Sonny in his guestbook.


Dewey Redman- an Enduring Original 1931-2006

Saxophonist Dewey Redman passed away on September 2nd at age 75 following a massive stroke.

A review of his life's work
NY Times obituary
All About Jazz article
Jazzine interview
free MP3s

What I reach for first when I play is sound. Technique maybe, but there is technique in sound.” –Dewey Redman


Casa Valdez Studios steaming videos

I am going to start posting some of my recent television and DVD projects. Here is a direct link to a program on Sufi meditation.

Freestyle Sufi Jamming program