Larry McKenna's solo on My Shining Hour

Saxophonist Jeff Rzepiela is a regular contributor to Casa Valdez and has a great website of his own called Scooby-sax, which offers a ton of transcriptions for download. Jeff has transcribed and analyzed Larry McKenna's solo on My Shining Hour. This solo utilizes a lot of chromatic Bebop approaches which Jeff examines in great detail.

Larry McKenna's solo on My Shining Hour (with analysis)

Larry McKenna's website


How To Make Your Jazz Melodies Swing More

   This post was written by guest blogger Steve Nixon, who runs the website Freejazzlessons.com                                                                                                        

Have you ever played the melody of a jazz tune from a fakebook and realized what was written there just doesn’t feel right? Something seems missing rhythmically but you’re just not sure what it is?  Well, you’re not alone.  Most of the time what our favorite and most swingin’ players play on a standard is very different than what’s written in a fakebook. 

 So, how do we get our melodies to sound more authentic and to swing more?  Let’s take a closer look…..We’ll use the famous jazz tune Autumn Leaves because almost everybody is familiar with it. First, we will look at a “normal” version of Autumn Leaves. This is an an 8 bar example of how it’s written in most fake books. There are no swing rhythms added.

Now, we’ll take a listen to a guy like Chet Baker play the tune Autumn Leaves.  You can hear how well it swings.

 So, what did Chet do to make his melodies swing so hard?  What’s the difference between the original fakebook version and Chet’s version?

If you were listening closely you heard that Chet Baker played many of the same pitches as the original melody.  What was different though, were the rhythms. That’s where the “magic” lies. Chet Baker changes the rhythms. Lets take a look now at a couple of the rhythmic devices Chet uses and see if we can incorporate them in our own playing.

The first device that Chet uses is something called an anticipation.  If we want to anticipate a melody note we would take a melody note that would normally start on the downbeat and pull it back one eighth note.  Instead, the melody note would be played on the & of 4  I’ve written out the first 8 bars of Autumn Leaves again but this time I’ve added anticipations in there to demonstrate this technique more effectively.  (You can compare it to the original chart above).

Example: See how the D that would normally be played on beat 1 on the Bbmaj7 chord is instead  played an eighth note early in the previous measure.  That’s an anticipation.

Delayed Attack
Another rhythmic device that Chet uses is something called a delayed attack.  A delayed attack is a simple type of syncopation in which we take a melody note that would normally start on a downbeat and push it forward one eighth note.

The first melody note G normally starts on beat 2.  By adding a delayed attack I’m now starting the melody note on the & of 2.  Chet Baker and I both use the device every 2 bars as written here.

How To Practice Anticipations and Delayed Attacks

As you can see these anticipations and delayed attacks can really make your melodies swing more.

Now that you are aware of these cool swing rhythmic devices we should talk about a good way to practice them.  I recommend taking your favorite jazz standard that features a lot of quarter notes. This could be any tune (if you need a suggestion perhaps consider Here’s That Rainy Day). Spend some time adding these rhythms in.  If you’re not sure you can execute these rhythms entirely by ear or feel yet then there is nothing wrong with rewriting out the melody with anticipations and delayed attacks added in.

 Almost all my students can eventually feels these rhythms intuitively once they’ve added them into a jazz standard or tune.

So, how about you? What are some of your favorite rhythmic devices to make your music swing harder? If you enjoyed reading this post please leave a comment below.
For more of Steve Nixon's Jazz lessons check out Freejazzlessons.com



I got back from my trip to India last week. I'm still kind of recovering from the jet lag, cough and intestinal shock from the trip. It was the most incredible trip I've ever taken. My wife and I saw temples, ashrams, world heritage monuments, holy cities, Sufi durgas, museums, craft markets, and so much more.

One thing that was surprising to me about Indians was their view of teachers. When I told people that I was a music teacher they all had the same reaction, great respect. They said that teachers were the closest profession to god, and deserved higher respect than doctors, lawyers or politicians. They recognize that civilization is founded on the work that teachers do and that there is no greater work that one can do. Kind of a different view than how teachers are thought of here in the States.

I posted a ton of my pictures from India on my Facebook page, so here is a link to my India trip photo album.


Weber Iago/David Valdez Chamber Quartet Recording

Last week I went into the studio and recorded a few tracks with the Chamber Quartet I co-lead with Weber Iago. Below are links to the latest mixes.

Now is my home
Shades of Happiness
Nature Boy
The Nest
Autumn Leaves

Weber Iago- piano, composer
David Valdez- alto saxophone
John Nastos- flute, clarinet, bass clarinet
Evan Kuhlmann- bassoon

Engineered and mixed by Jonathon Swanson on 8/11/11


Original patent for the adjustable Selmer ligature

My buddy, and regular reader, Sammy sent me this patent filed by George Bundy in 1940 for what eventually became the Selmer adjustable ligature. I have seen these called Magna-tone, Adjusta-tone or Expando ligatures. I've played on of these on my tenor for several years now and they are great. Joe Lovano also uses one. The cool thing about the lig is that it can be adjusted to work on clarinet, alto saxophone and tenor saxophone, and probably bari sax as well. At one point these rare ligs were selling on eBay for $100 or more. Now, like about everything else, the prices have come down a bit, to more like $40. I like them because they help with a quicker response without adding too much high end. If you are reed obsessive like I am you can also change reeds very quickly. The patent has expired and there is a guy in Italy making replicas of these now. You can buy them in several different types of materials.


Travel/Jazz Truth

  Next week I leave for India! I'm trying to get everything in order here before leaving the country for 17 days. This trip is something I've wanted to do for many years and it is finally happening. I will not even be taking my horn with me. It will be the longest amount of time without my lips touching a reed in my recent memory. I might try to pick up a ney or nadaswaram while I'm there, but this trip will not be musically motivated. I love Indian Classical music, but I know very little about it. Maybe I'll be able to hear some at some point. I'm more interested in the art, religions, history and architecture of the Indian subcontinent. I have a full itinerary planned that includes the usual monuments like the Taj and Red Fort, but also some interesting temples, Sufi shrines and museums. I have done a fair amount of traveling in my time, but nothing as exotic as India.

 Before I leave I'm going to be recording a couple of different projects, one will be a duo recording with pianist George Colligan. If you haven't checked out George's blog called Jazz Truth you should. It is one of the most interesting Jazz blogs on the internet because it is written by a Jazz musician who is touring and recording with some of the best players on the scene, like Ethan Iverson's Do the Math blog or Darcy James Argue's Secret Society blog.  (I just totally redesigned George's blog and I must say it's looking pretty spiffy). George regularly tours with Jack Dejonette and Don Byron, as well as a lot of other great musicians. He has some fascinating interviews on his blog with different members of the bands he tours with.

Today Colligan posted an interview with David Fiuczynski, who is an old buddy of mine and one of my favorite guitarists of my generation. George, his wife (and pianist) Kerry Politzer, and their son Liam have been settling to the Portland groove nicely. I'm sure in no time they will both be gigging like crazy. George is now teaching at PSU, but he still does a decent amount of touring. There aren't many blogs out there that can keep my attention enough to read back through the archives, Jazz Truth is certainly worth some consideration.  

I'll be posting an interview with George Colligan soon, so stay turned.

 I may post a few pics of India from the road, but I probably won't be writing much until I get home in December.

George Colligan's Jazz Truth blog
George Colligan's web site


Later for You- Elmo Hope

Here is a great Elmo Hope tune based on the changes of  
All God's Chilun.

Later for you

Gaslight- Duke Pearson

Duke Pearson is one of my favorite composers. Here is his tune Gaslight.


Eyes So Beautiful As Yours- Elmo Hope

Here is a beautiful ballad composed by Elmo Hope titled  
Eyes So Beautiful As Yours.

Eyes So Beautiful As Yours
 Elmo Hope's biography

Bella Rosa- Elmo Hope

Here are PDF charts to Elmo Hope's tune Bella Rosa.

Bella Rosa


Tristano School Bonanza!- two-horn transcriptions

I've been co-leading a Tristano project with pianist Dan Gaynor for the last several years. We don't gig very often, but it's always a lot of fun when we do. After our last gig tenor saxophonist Tim Wilcox said to me, "I feel like I just got my ass kicked by a blind dead man". The tunes written by Tristano and his students (Konitz, Marsh, Brown, Bauer) is some of the most challenging and interesting material in the history of Jazz, imho. I've learned a lot about improvisation just by learning to play these compositions.

Dan Gaynor recently transcribed more of these two-horn arrangements. Much of the alto and tenor parts are in unison, but at times there is some interesting counterpoint and harmony. Thanks to Dan for allowing my to post these charts.

Two Not One
Jazz of Two Cities
Kary's Trance
Lennie's Pennies
Sax of a Kind


Sonny Rollins' letter to Coleman Hawkins

I recently got my hands on a copy of a three page handwritten letter that Sonny Rollins sent Coleman Hawkins in 1962. It is written on Sonny's personal letterhead and there is even an AMORC Rosicrucian seal on the final page of the letter, an organization that Sonny has been involved with for many years. At the moment my scanner isn't working, but I'll try to scan a copy to post soon.

   My Dear Mr. Hawkins, 
 Your recent performance at the 'Village Gate' was magnificent!! Quite aside from the fact that you have maintained a position of dominance and leadership in the highly competitive field of 'Jazz' for the time that you have, there remains the more significant fact that such tested and tried musical achievement denotes and is subsidiary to personal character and integrity of being.

 There have been many young men of high potential and demonstrated ability who have unfortunately not been 'MEN' in their personal and offstage practices and who soon found themselves devoid of the ability to create music. Perhaps these chaps were unable to understand why their musical powers left them so suddenly. Or perhaps they knew what actions were constructive as opposed to destructive but were too weak and not men enough to command the course of their lives. But certain it is that character, knowledge and virtue are superior to 'MUSIC' as such. And that 'success' is relative to the evolution of those qualities within us all. That it has been positive and lasting for you Coleman is to the honor and credit of us, your colleagues, as well as to your own credit. For you have 'lit the flame' of aspiration within so many of us and have epitomized the superiority of 'excellence of endeavor' and you stand today as a clear living example for us to learn from.
 It has always been a task to explain in words those things which in nature are the most profound and meaningful. Now you have show me why I though so much of you for so long. Godspeed in your travels and may I be fortunate enough to hear you play the tenor saxophone again in person.
     Yours truly, Sonny Rollins


The Master Speaks- Joe Allard videos

These YouTube videos were taken from a DVD entitled The Master Speaks: Joe Allard, which is available from the Sharper Video Productions website.
 Joe talks about a lot of the same concepts that are covered in an earlier post
Joe Allard Method Unveiled!

To learn more about Joe Allard check out the Joe Allard Project website.


Bayou Magic- Alvin Batise

Here's a Bb chart to an Alvin Batise's blues entitled Bayou Magic.

Bayou Magic- Alvin Batise

Thanks Markos.

Bat's Blues- Alvin Batise's transcribed solo

 Here's another post by Casa Valdez regular contributor Mark Sowlakis:

 Alvin Batiste is an unsung hero of the clarinet.  I heard him several times in New Orleans over the years, the last time being 2001 for the International Clarinet Conference there.   He was a forward thinking musician, and his small output of recordings hardly does justice to the depth of his work.  Here you can hear him using the interval of a fourth, something he did often when constructing his unique and original lines.  He blurred the line between inside and outside playing, and it takes a while to hear where he's coming from.  He mentored so many young New Orleans players, and his contributions are significant.     Check him out!  Markos

Bat's Blue's transcription- Alvin Batise


Konitz's solo on There Will Never Be Another You

 There Will Never Be Another You- Lee Konitz's solo
 (From Lee Konitz With Warne Marsh Atlantic 1217 June 1955, NYC)

JK Chang's excellent site

JK Chang is a composer and visual artist living in Taiwan who has a beautiful website with a lot of great Jazz resources. In the Bebop Cookbook of his site he has a lot of interesting articles on Charlie Parker, but what be even more interesting for you is all of the PDF downloads his has available. Chang's PDF books include: II-V-I Bebop Lines,  II-V-I Coltrane Lines, Jazz Lines in Fourths, Sight-Reading Etudes for Saxophone and more. This site is well put together. You will need to complete a quick registration form in order to download the PDFs.

JK Chang's website


Peter Spitzer's reed adjustment overview

Saxophonist Peter Spitzer writes a nice blog on Jazz and general saxophone topics and is also the author of the Jazz Theory Handbook (Mel Bay). He has put together a nice article on reed adjusting.


Sax neckstrap smackdown

  There didn’t used to be many options when it came to choosing saxophone neck straps. Remember when everyone played Ray Hyman straps? Those straps cut of the circulation to your brain in about five minutes. I can’t imagine a more uncomfortable strap than the Ray Hyman. Now there are many more options to choose from. I’ve had a history of neck and upper back problems that have been aggravated by playing the saxophone, so I have tried a lot of different neck straps over the years. For a while I thought that a harness was the answer, but the harness design has it’s own set of problems (the least of which is the fact that they look really lame), so no sax harnesses were compared for this post.

 I got a bunch of the most popular sax straps together and sat down with my buddy, fellow saxophonist and fellow gear-head, Mark Hutchinson to compare them.


This strap is make from heavy rustic looking leather and reminds one of the the old west, which is cool. Wide, stiff, not super comfortable but feels pretty supportive. This strap adjusts like a belt and if you don't like where the holes are placed you have to punch your own. Doesn't quickly adjust making it difficult to use the same strap for both alto and tenor on a gig. Nice heavy clasp. Generally high quality, though a little rough looking. You can use the Wiseman as a shoulder strap because there is no slider adjustment. This is a good strap for supporting a lot of weight, so it would work well for bari. I used this strap myself on tenor for a few years.
Price:$34+ shipping from Britain

The adjustment slider is a little bulky. This one cuts in on your collar bone because strap itself is too long. It’s also much too wide, making it pretty uncomfortable. Mark remarked "There's just too much on the back of the neck. I don't even feel like I can hold my head up straight!". Clasp seems cheap. This one felt kind of like  wearing a neck brace while you play. Kind of expensive, like just about everything else at Roberto’s.
Price:$64.95 Roberto's website

Slider on the Cebulla is also a bit big and bulky like the Roberto’s strap.  This strap has good clasp, but the big problem with this one is that the pads two are too thick and bulky,  almost seeming cut off circulation in the neck.  We tried a medium and the leather part of the strap was too long. Overall pretty good and it ranked about in third place.
Price:$75 for medium strap w/metal hook

BG Yoke:
 Way too wide and doesn't really even distribute the weight the way it's supposed too, though it is better than a thin strap if you are prone to neck problems. This one is so big that it gets hot when you play for a while, like wearing a turtle neck sweater. You can't put it under your collar.  Generally dorky looking. Nice idea, but meh.
Price:$65.99 WWBW

Both Mark and I have used the Oleg in the past. The leather on the Oleg is quite stiff and has very little padding compared to some of the other straps, this doesn't help it's comfortability. The V part of the strap goes a bit too far back on the neck, which is the point of the design, but this this puts most of weight on the spine rather than the neck muscles.  This strap gets really stinky after a while because of the way the leather is treated, which is the reason I stopped using mine. The plastic hook deadens sound and looks flimsy. I like how the cords are attached to the leather. If the crimp fails there is still a knot in the cord to keep the horn from falling.  No denying that the strap is very well made and the design is cool looking.
Price:$59.95 Oleg

Neotech Classic Strap:

Material absorbs sweat and gets stinky quickly, not ergonomically shaped to fit neck, plastic hook deadens the sound, fairly comfortable and light for a traditionally shaped strap, the material is like wet suit material and has some give to it, which can be annoying at times when it stretches while playing. If you are looking for a decent cheap strap then this may be the strap for you.
Price:$15.95 WWBW

Brancher (Crescent & Strip):
These straps aren’t bad. We didn't really like the wetsuit material that they use for the padding. The way Brancher attaches the cord to the strap leather is well designed, maybe the best of the lot in this one respect. These straps have a long skinny rubber coated brass hook instead of a clasp. The adjuster slider is just kind of a ring, or more like a large bead that you’d string on a necklace. These come in three sizes. Overall these straps are not bad. The rank somewhere in the middle of the bunch.
Price: $49.99

This is a German made strap that my buddy Tom brought back from Berlin. Tom thought that Oleg had copied many design elements of this strap. It has the same wing shape that the Oleg, Just Joe’s and Cebulla have that puts more weight further back on your the lower vertebras of the neck.The leather isn’t very soft, but it does have more padding than the Oleg. You can opt for the plastic of brass clasp. The slider looks nice. This strap is well made and comfortable, we ranked it number two after the Just Joe’s strap. I found the German website that sells this strap, but I couldn’t find the price.

Just Joe's Gel Strap:
By far the most comfortable of the lot, feels like it's not even there. Thickness, length and width of padded strap are perfect. The high tech padding material is great. This strap supports well without cutting off circulation. Mark said about this strap,“It really feels like it's a part of you.”  The leather is the softest of all of the straps. This strap uses a medical grade polymer material that is divided into two separate pads on either side of the spine. The Cebulla strap uses this same design concept, but the Just Joe’s pads are the correct thickness.  You can order this strap with a plastic hook, a small brass hook or a large brass hook (my favorite). Unanimous winner of the Smack Down by a wide margin.
Price: $59

de Jacques ultra strap:
This strap is kind of popular at the moment. It has a pretty cool clasp design that is unlike any other strap on the market. You just push the clasp onto the ring and it automatically opens and locks closed. When you want to release it you just push the clasp on and kind of angle it upwards and it releases, pretty cool but is a cool clasp on an otherwise unremarkable strap worth the $100 price tag. No thanks. The strap part itself is an old-school straight fabric strap that looks like it could have come off a camera case, no extra padding or spine saving design. That said, it does feel alright, just not worth the money. One advantage is that the if you really sweat the fabric of the strap won't start sliding around.

 The issue that has become more and more clear for me during this comparison is the fact that the clasp makes a significant difference in the overall sound of the saxophone. Many of you will scoff at this idea, as I once did, but it’s definitely true. All you have to do is try it yourself. Get a strap with a plastic hook and compare it with a strap that has a large brass clasp. The plastic hooks sound less resonant, less responsive and generally make the sound a little deader. I’m not saying that the clasp has as much effect as something like a ligature, but it is noticeable. A few days ago a gave a Just Joe’s strap to my friend Mary-Sue Tobin to show it to her sax quartet. She was a skeptical when I told her my clasp theory, but all four of them agreed that the large brass clasp made significant improvement in the sound of the saxophone. The de Jacque clasp may be cool, but it is mostly plastic aside from the two teeth that grip the horn, so it’s about like an all plastic hook like the Oleg has, and that deadens the sound. See my later post about the acoustical testing I had done at the Rodger's laboratory. The large brass hook proved to bring out higher partials on certain notes.
Price: $100


Wardell Gray's solo on Pennies From Heaven

Wardell Gray is without a doubt one of the most under recognized tenor saxophonists in the history of Jazz. This Pennies from Heaven solo was transcribed by saxophonist and Jazz blogger Jeff Rzepiela, who has a nice blog called Scooby-Sax where you can find a lot of other saxophone transcriptions.

This solo is a great example of Wardell's melding of Lester Young and Bird, though he definitely has a strong personal voice of his own. It's been issued on a CD under Wardell's name as Live in Hollywood or Live at the Haig, bit it looks like it's out of print (and very expensive). You can also find it under Hampton Hawes' name as Memorial.

Pennies from Heaven transcription


Barney Kessel's solo on Just Friends

Pere Soto transcribed Barney Kessel's guitar solo on Just Friends from the album of the same name.

Just Friends- Barney Kessel's transcribed solo 


More on the art of added V7s

Earlier I wrote a post called The art of the added subV7 on adding subV7s to chord progressions in order to give them more interesting tension and resolution. There are many other ways to add V7s to chord progressions when you are soloing besides just adding tri-tone subs and I'll cover some of these in this post.

I already showed you how to effectively add a altered Dominant a fifth above (or a Lydian Dominant a half-step above- same difference) the chord you are on (or going to) by playing a melodic minor scale a Major third below the target chord.  I'm reposting an example of this below to refresh your memory:
(click on the above graphic for a larger version)

There are some other harmonic techniques that I often use along the same lines as the above example. One of the first rules of chord substitions is that you can add a related V7 before ANY chord. This means that I can use any type of dominant scale option, not just a mixolydian scale. Actually, the more alterations use use in these added dominants the better. This is because you want to create enough dissonance so that when you do resolve to your target chord there is a strong resolution. For example, if you were adding a passing V7 to a bar of CMaj7 and you chose G7 mixolydian then it wouldn't be clear to the listener that you were adding anything because you'd still be in the same mode.
                  (added V7)
/ CMaj7    /G7         /CMaj7      /

Of course this example works fine and is one of the most common types of chord substitution, but if you play a single note instrument there isn't much you can do with this most basic added V7. Instead we want to look for dominant scales with more alterations to use for our added V7s. 

Below are the formulas for quickly finding scales for added V7s. These V7 can be used as passing chords over static chords, as added V7 before moving to a new chord in the progression, or as a way to create a delayed resolution. For these examples I'll use the passing V7 of a static target chord of D-7. So imagine we're playing Impressions and looking for ways to momentarily move outside by playing the related V7 of D-7, which is A7.

1. Pentatonic up a half-step from target: Eb pentatonic= A7alt= (#11, b13, b7, b9, #9)

2. Whole tone up or down a half-step from target chord: Eb w.t. = A+7

3. Diminished down a half step from target chord: C# diminished= A7(b9)

4. Major triad half-step above target and Major triad a minor third above target chord: Eb Maj + F Maj=A7alt

5. Melodic minor a Major third below root of target chord: Bb melodic minor= A7alt

6. Melodic minor a whole-step above target chord: E melodic minor= A7(#11)

7. Harmonic Major up a minor third from target chord: F harmonic Major= A7(b9, #9, b13)

8. Harmonic minor down a Major third down from target chord: Bb harmonic minor=A7(#11, b9, #9, b13)

FindTheBest’s Jazz Clubs Comparison

Jazz, America’s great musical art form, known for its cool, sexy tone makes for a great night of entertainment.  And yet outside of major Jazz hubs like New York or San Francisco it’s often hard to find good Jazz to satisfy your needs.

Luckily, there’s now a tool from FindTheBest.com to help accommodate every Jazz enthusiasts cravings.   FindTheBest’s new Jazz Clubs Comparison is an objective, easy to use, and most importantly helpful directory that allows a user to filter and sort by what criteria is most important to them when searching for the Best Jazz clubs.

For instance, if you were visiting a friend in Los Angeles and you weren’t familiar with the Jazz clubs out there you could simple enter Los Angeles into the location filter and all the Jazz clubs within a 50-mile radius of Los Angeles would be presented to you.   Furthermore, maybe you’re looking for a Jazz club in LA that also served dinner, you could additionally select “full meal” under the “dinner options” filter and you would be directed towards all the Jazz clubs in LA that served dinner.

Or maybe you’re a fan of the old school hidden basement venues, FindTheBest’s Jazz Clubs Comparison allows you to filter by “venue style” so you can easily find those basement Jazz clubs.

FindTheBest’s Jazz Clubs Comparison truly is a great tool for locating Jazz clubs in your desired area that meet your specific needs.  The comparison allows you to sort and filter by venue style, admission type, music type, location, cover charge, dinner options, club features, and much more.  A great tool for all Jazz enthusiasts out there, as well as those just looking to hear some great music.


Tenor Conclave solos & analyses

Saxophonist/educator Jeff Rzepiela has a lot of great material on his scooby-sax.com site. Here are his transcriptions and analyses from the Tenor Conclave recording that featured Coltrane, Zoot Sims, Al Cohn and Hank Mobley. Talk about Four Brothers!

Tenor Conclave transcriptions & analyses


Joe Locke's Sateilite- solo and analysis

Here is another great post from Ed Saindon's All Thing's Vibraphone blog, it's vibraphonist Joe Locke playing Trane's Satellite in a practice session. The solo was transcribed and analyzed by pianist Gustavo Agatiello. Joe plays the shit out of this tune.

Joe Locke's Sattellite

Ed Saindon's Improv Concepts

Ed Saindon, a Berklee professor and regular Casa Valdez contributor, presented this short clinic at the Berklee Summer Performance Program on July 8th, 2011. 

Topics covered in the clinic: 
  • Tension Resolution
  • Four Note Groupings
  • Major 7th #5 Superimposition

The first and second solos use Ed's "Tension Resolution" concept, and are based on the standards "All The Things You Are" & "Stella By Starlight". 

The third solo uses Ed's "Four Note Groupings" concept, and is based on the standard "I Love You".

The fourth solo uses Ed's "Major 7 #5 Superimposition" concept, and is based on the standard "Stella By Starlight".

Here are the written solos:


Airturn Bluetooth Foot Pedal Board

Airturn recently sent me their new foot pedal board. Basically what they've done is to mount two foot switches and their Bluetooth transmitter to a plexiglass board so that the switches don't slide around on the floor as you use them. This was my biggest gripe with the Airturn foot pedals before.....you constantly had to adjust their positions, which was a major drag.

 The second generation Airturn pedals seem to be made a little better than the first ones were. I like the positive response of the Airturn pedals and compared to the Cidada pedals, which I recently reviewed here, there is little chance that your foot will accidentally trigger the switches. I voiced my concerns about the mushy feel of the Cicada to the designer and his response was that they were also designing the pedals for the handicapped and they wanted to make the pedals very easy to depress because of this. The Airturn switches do not have much travel (unlike the Cicada pedals) and you really need to consciously push your foot down to trigger them, which I find helpful and I was having problems with unintended page turns when using the Cicada pedals.

Here's what Hugh Sung, Airturn's designer, had to say about his new product:

Dear David,

If you haven't received our new ATFS-2 pedal board, you should be getting it very soon.  We hope you enjoy trying it out!  The ATFS-2 is designed to be absolutely quiet in operation, aiming to be the most silent consumer foot switch on the market.  This is thanks to the fact that aside from the hinge, there are no moving mechanical parts - no squeaky hinges, no clicking switches, thanks to our unique switch design that uses a rare earth neodymium magnet and a rhodium reed switch, both of which are embedded in the body of the plastic.  I'm sure you'll appreciate this when you have to use it in professional recording situations that require the elimination of all external noises. 

By the way, did you know that the BT-105 is capable of toggling on the iPad's virtual keyboard?  Most other external keyboard devices force the iPad's virtual keyboard to hide by default, but with the BT-105, once you are in a compatible app's text entry field, just toggle the power button, and you should see the virtual keyboard appear.  You can then continue to use the virtual keyboard and turn pages with the BT-105.  If you accidentally hide the virtual keyboard, just toggle it back on with the BT-105's power switch again.  Here's a quick video tutorial demonstrating the BT-105's virtual keyboard feature:

The BT-105 is also capable of multiple keyboard profiles.  That means that you can change the keyboard output for different programs and applications.  In iPad mode, the BT-105 sends up and down arrow keys.  In PC mode, the BT-105 will send Page Up and Page Down keys.  Two other modes will send specific number keys and another set of keys specifically for applications in the disabilities market.  We've tried to make the BT-105 a universal device with applications far beyond page turning - we've already partnered with developers making apps for Teleprompting and audio track triggering, even one for looping (coming soon!)  If you'd like to try out some of the other profiles, you'll find the instructions in the manual that should be included with your BT-105.  Another subtle feature of the BT-105 is the way that it pairs automatically and displays its unique serial ID.  Most other external Bluetooth page turning devices require the manual entry of a passkey code.  Thanks to the BT-105's use of Bluetooth protocol 2.1 + EDR (the latest version of Bluetooth), it's able to pair automatically with the iPad without the need for passkey entry.  It also allows for the unique serial number to be displayed in the iPad's Bluetooth device settings.  If you ever have to work with multiple musicians all using iPads and their own BT-105s, you'll quickly see why this is so important - you can quickly and easily identify which BT-105 belongs to which iPad, since each device's unique serial number will show its connection status to any given iPad. 

Lastly, we hope you enjoy our new pedal board design.  While the BT-105 was designed to be a modular system, with the ability to use one or both pedals for page turns (I typically only use one pedal in performance, since I design my music to only require forwards page turns - this is to prevent accidentally turning backwards), we've been finding that most customers prefer using both pedals all the time.  The pedal board keeps all your equipment together in a sturdy base, with extra bumpers on the bottom for a non-slip grip on the floor.
 I've taken the new Airturn pedal board out for a spin on a few gigs was quite happy with how it performed. I didn't have any issues with accidental page turns, the pedals felt like they were in optimal positions and my foot was able to stay in a comfortable position. The pedals makes no noise whatsoever when you use them and they look unobtrusive on stage. I actually gave my Cicada foot pedal unit to my buddy because I was sure that I'd never go back to using it as long as I had the Airturn unit. The Airturn pedal board unit retails for $129.

Airturn BT-105 Foot Pedals


MuseScore: free music notation software

 I haven't tried this yet, but at the cost of zero dollars it's worth looking into. I have a difficult enough time trying to learn Finale, so let me know what you think if you do get this program going.

MuseScore is a free cross-platform WYSIWYG music notation program, that offers a cost-effective alternative to professional programs such as Sibelius and Finale.
You can print beautifully engraved sheet music or save it as PDF or MIDI file.

Some highlights:
  • WYSIWYG, notes are entered on a "virtual note sheet"
  • Unlimited number of staves
  • Up to four voices per staff
  • Easy and fast note entry with your keyboard, mouse, or MIDI keyboard
  • Integrated sequencer and FluidSynth software synthesizer
  • Import and export of MusicXML and Standard MIDI Files
  • Available for Windows, Mac and Linux
  • Translated in 35 languages
  • GNU GPL licensed


Symmetrical Diminished & Pentatonic Scale over Giant Steps- Ed Saindon

Regular contributor Ed Saindon wrote this solo chorus of Giant Steps using only Pentatonic scales over the Major chords and Symmetrical Diminished scales on the Dominant chords.

Giant Steps Solo

Ed Saindon's web site


Dred Scott- Dredsan

dredsan and brianji were meditating on a large rock overlooking a gentle stream.  brianji turned to dredsan and said,
'those who speak against killing and who desire to spare the lives of all conscious beings are right.'
dredsan replied, 'yes, my friend, it is good to protect even animals and insects.'
'but dredsan, i am troubled.'
'speak your mind, enlightened one.'
'what about those persons who kill time - those who destroy individual wealth or destroy the economy or the environment?'
'we should not overlook them.'
'and what of those who play killing jazz solos?'
'that is a different matter altogether, brianji.  one who plays a killing jazz solo is only guilty of self-indulgence.'
'not an admirable quality.'
'true.  but necessary in order to persevere in the pursuit of something that few can understand or appreciate.'
'so the killing jazz solo is actually an honorable style to be respected?'
'yes, brianji.  much respected.'

From Dred Scott's dispatches

Dred Scott's web page

The Joseph Viola Project

 I was thinking the other day about Joe Viola and how it would be valuable to try to assemble some of his teaching methods and create a website similar to the Joe Allard Project website. Joe V and Joe A were there two greatest saxophone teachers of the 20th century, imho, and they both deserve to have their knowledge recorded for the sake of posterity. Of course Joe Viola has left us several great saxophone technique books, but his unique methods of teaching sound production haven't been recorded anywhere (as far as I know).

 Joe V knew the saxophone like no one alive today. He knew exactly what was going on inside your mouth just by hearing you play and knew how to correct the problems, sometimes that even involved putting a latex dental finger glove on and poking around in your mouth to show you what you were doing wrong with your tongue. Joe knew how to work magic, that is the only way to describe what he did because his knowledge was so esoteric that it entered the realm of mysticism. This sounds far fetched, but I don't think that any student of Viola would disagree with me.

 If you can remember any of Joe Viola's methods or concepts and don't mind taking some time to write whatever you remember I think it would be a highly worthwhile endeavor. Then I'll compile everything and put a web page together. Each year that passes means fades our memories of what we learned from this true master of the saxophone.

You can email me directly at: casavaldez@comcast.net

Joe Viloa Era- Berklee tribute article


PageFlip Cicada- Bluetooth pedals

A while ago I reviewed the Airturn Bluetooth pedals. I've been using my iPad as a PDF sheet music reader for months now and the Airturn pedals solved the page turning problem, which allowed me to start playing tunes that were more than one page long. A few weeks after I got the Airturn pedals the company discovered a problem with the mono jacks and had to recall most of the units they had shipped out. I sent my pedals back and waited for the replacements to arrive. The post office lost my package for several weeks and I was getting quite impatient because I was back to only playing one pagers on gigs, which was a big drag. My buddy Joe had picked up a new foot pedal called the PageFlip Cicada that looked pretty cool. I went ahead and ordered one while I waited for the post office to materialize my Airturn pedals.

 There were a few things that initially interested me in the PageFlip. The first is the fact that the PageFlip is a single compact unit, unlike the Airturn, which consists of two separate foot pedals connected by cords to a Bluetooth transmitter box. One of the big issues I had been having with the Airturn was that the pedals would constantly move around as I used them. They had to be constantly repositioned by hand. It was a real drag to have to keep bending down to fiddle with the Airturn pedals on the floor between tunes. The PageFlip Cicada never needed to be repositioned because the pedals were connected.

 The Page Flip has a few features that the Airturn lacks. The PageFlip Cicada can be configured to transmit page turns in several different ways, depending on which application you are using to read music. It can be set to send signals as page up/page down, right arrow/left arrow, right mouse button/left mouse button, or underscore/delete. The Cicada also has a repeat switch in case you want the ability to turn multiple pages quickly.

 The Cicada takes up a lot less floor space than the Airturn units, which unfortunately also makes for a greater likelihood of stepping on the wrong pedal in the heat of battle. This brings me to the biggest problem that arose while using the PageFlip Cicada......accidental page flips. The pedals of the Cicada are fairly high off the floor compared to the Airturn and they don't have much resistance. This makes it quite difficult to tell when my foot was actually touching the pedal. Because of this I felt like I had to keep my foot raised up above the pedals, so as not to trigger them accidentally. If you're wearing hard soled dress shoes there just isn't enough tactile feedback to know when you are actually hitting the pedal. As I was soloing my foot would slowly drift down and trigger the pedals if I didn't pay attention to what I was doing, then....BAM...suddenly the guitarist I was playing with was reading the wrong changes. I eventually got the hang of it and learned to keep my toes higher in the air and just made more of an exaggerated stomping motion when I wanted to change pages. Annoying, but not a huge deal really.

 I figured out an easy mod to make the Cicada pedals more responsive. I just slipped folded pieces of paper into the top part of the pedal hinges, which lowered the pedals down to the point right above where they trigger. This eliminates the mushy first part of the pedals' motion, where I can't even tell if my foot is on the pedal or not. This also allows me to keep my toes lower, where before I felt like I had to fight to keep my toes elevated so that I didn't accidentally trigger the pedals. There is much more resistance with the pedals lowered and now I feel like I can actually tell when my foot is touching the pedals.

I think that probably the most compelling reason to go with the PageFlip Cicada over the Airturn in the end is the price. The three-piece Airturn (two pedals + transmitter) sells for $124.95, and more if you want to buy the board that holds everything place. The PageFlip Cicada sells for $79.95. I think the Cicada is the pedal that I'll be taking to my gigs.

PageFlip Cicada website


The Musical Octave- Thomas Váczy Hightower's writings

Thomas Váczy Hightower
I ran across an interesting web page written by a Dane named Thomas Váczy Hightower. This stuff is right up my alley. Hightower writes about Music & Society, Creation of Musical Scales, Effects of Harmonics on consciousness and health, Music of the Spheres, and other esoteric acoustical ideas.

Thomas Váczy Hightower's 'The Musical Octave' page


The saxophone actually has a parabolic conical shaped bore

(click above graphic for a large version)
My student Randy, who is an engineer for a pipe organ company, put this drawing together after reading a great book about the history of the saxophone called The Devil's Horn. The book explains how the side of the saxophone that has the tone holes is actually has a parabolic conical shape, rather than just being a conical shape. Adolphe was a true genius.


Ed Saindon's article on Harmonic Practices

Berklee professor Ed Saindon sent me his article on Harmonic Practices. In this two page article Ed covers many different types of harmonic slight of hand. This is a very good overview of many of the different harmonic concepts that I'm written about in this blog, definitely something that I'm going to start giving to all of my students.

Harmonic Practices- Ed Saindon's
Ed Saindon's web site


Over 1,000,000 page views at Casa Valdez Studios!

Yes, over the last six years this blog has gotten 1,025,238 page views to date. Thanks to all of you.


The Meist: Clarinetist Perry Robinson- by Mark Sowlakis

This piece was written by Mark Sowlakis, who is a regular guest blogger here at Casa Valdez Studios.
  Throughout the history of the jazz clarinet, there exists no such figure as the mercurial clarinetist Perry Robinson. The man is a living legend, having recorded on such famous albums as the first Charlie Haden Liberation Music Orchestra recording, Carla Bley’s epic Escalator Over The Hill and The Call, Heny Grimes legendary free jazz disc on ESP records. His debut as a leader, Funk Dumpling on Savoy Jazz (1961), features a band of legendary proportions: drummer Paul Motian, pianist Kenny Barron and Henry Grimes on bass .  Recorded when Perry was 19 years of age, it has withstood the test of time, still sounding fresh and interesting to this day. This recording was my introduction to Perry’s work. I remember bringing it home and listening to it the first time, and being stuck by his highly original tone and conception. Little did I know how much influence he would have on me over the course of the next 15 years……..Initially, merely through his recordings.

  My friendship with Perry, often referred to by his friends as Meist, short for Maestro, began after reading his hilarious biography The Traveler (Writers Club Press), co written with Florence Witzel.     The details of his life are incredible and too much to go into here, but the accounts of his days gigging with Dave Brubeck (while Jerry Bergonzi was in the band, I might add…) and other jazz legends is truly fascinating. At the end of the book it states that Perry was alive and well and living in Jersey City, NJ. I called him up and literally told him he was my spiritual clarinet grandfather and that we should be friends. We had several conversations over a few years and traded CD’s. Over time a plan was hatched and the result was my recording Sinfonetta, made in 2004 in New York City with Perry, George and Ed Schuller, and Frank Kimbrough. During the recording process, although I was familiar with Perry’s playing, I was struck by the lightness of his tone and attack, and the strength of his solos and the presence of his personality in the music. I must defer to some written words that I believe describe the personality, style and imagination that came across to me in the Meist’s  playing: Critic Rich Scheinin described Perry to me in an email recently….”It’s almost like folk music, and with such a free and impish kind of spirit, and very melodic.” Perry’s friend from New York, Matthew Snyder, said this to me in an email recently, “Nice transcription, it shows what great, understated and beautifully constructed solos Perry was capable of playing even in 1962.” In short, I couldn’t have said it any better myself.

  Recently I set out to transcribe a couple of Perry’s solos, in order to get a better sense of what he’s made of musically, and to try to deconstruct and demystify some of his work. The logical starting point seems to be Funk Dumpling, a Henry Grimes tune that becomes a blues in D flat concert after the melody statement.  Take a look at the transcription and have a listen to the edited recording, you’ll hear unique tone and notice the individual melodic sense that he creates, while staying pretty much diatonically rooted to the changes. If you delve fully into Perry’s music you will see what an incredible contrast this solo makes to some of the “free” and “out” things that he’s recorded over the years. I like to say that The Meist has a foot in both jazz camps, the traditional jazz improviser using conventional harmony, and the free jazz vocabulary that incorporates microtones, growls, and multiphonics. And that duality, to me, is the main thing makes him truly original and great.

  My tune Seaside Sanctuary really shows Perry at his best from the melodic side.  In the studio Perry forgot that he was supposed to take two choruses on this tune, as Frank does on his solo.  I sure do miss that second chorus, as he was developing some nice shapes here.  But instead he managed to create a very clever short solo that hangs together brilliantly; you’ll see again how he stays well within the traditional harmony.  Meist plays such cohesive phrases, he truly has a gift for melody.  I love what he did with this here, it is a Meist Classic!

   My tune Simple Beauty gave Perry a chance to show off his gifts in a minor tonality.  I wanted to give him a platform to make that kind of introspective statement that only he can make, and something minor and moody seemed the route I wanted to take to get that to happen. Again, a Meist Classic, great phrases, great mood and vibe, so very relaxed.  The breathiness of his tone, reminiscent of his mentor Tony Scott, really colors his sound here. This is a study in how to communicate a thought or feeling in the music, his note choices and phrasing truly sublime in this key. He did it again, a simple, beautiful and elegant solo…

Mark Sowlakis
   The clarinet has been forgotten for a long time in jazz. There are only a few great ones left to admire and study; Perry certainly has blazed a path for us. His recorded legacy is amazing, and I hope you will take the time to find some of his music and go on a musical journey with him. He’s opened my eyes to some things on the clarinet and in music that I might have missed  out on had I not followed his path.  Perry Robinson, what a character and what an original.  Thanks Meist……Markos

Funk Dumpling MP3/transcription
Simple Beauty MP3/transcription
Seaside Sanctuary MP3/transcription

Perry Robinson's MySpace page
Perry Robinson on Wikipedia
A Fireside Chat with Perry Robinson @ All About Jazz

Mark Sowlakis' website