LA in May

Excited to perform for the first time in Los Angeles in May. I’ll be doing a night at Vibrato Bar and Grill in Bel Air on Friday, May 9th. Hopefully more dates to come!

Also, the Jon De Lucia Group is planning on heading back to the studio this summer to record its second album. A whole new lineup this time, featuring Greg Ruggiero on guitar, Chris Tordini on bass, and Tommy Crane on drums. Very excited to do this. Some show dates upcoming.

Now is the time to sign up for summer lessons, on saxophone, flute, or clarinet. Hope to hear from you!

 

Studies in Hot Playing

I really enjoyed looking at this pamphlet shared by a user on the Sax On The Web forums, titled “Studies in Hot Playing” by R.A. Schwab, 1926. It sets out rules for embellishing a melody: note above, note below, various eighth note embellishments. I think it’s great, and pretty straightforward and relevant to beginner students even now. Here’s the introduction:

R.A. Schwab Studies (intro)

Don’t get too hot!

And here’s one of the later examples:

Schwab pg 13C-2

 

This reminds of an article Lee Konitz did for Downbeat a while back, explaining his various stages of embellishing a melody, the last one being an entirely new melody. I always thought that was a great way of looking at improvisation, versus a chordal approach.  Here’s the article: http://www.melmartin.com/html_pages/Interviews/konitz.html

‘Til next time, happy practicing!

Name Brand Method Books Pt. 2

Hello and Happy New Year! I’ve been meaning to return to my Method Books theme for over a month now, and finally can after a busy December touring with Christmas Celtic Sojourn up in Boston. Here I’ll cover the Clarinet Method of Benny Goodman, along with the Saxophone Method of Jimmy Dorsey. Two Swing Era stars, their books are in very similar formats.


Benny Goodman’s Clarinet Method

 

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I was first drawn to the Benny Goodman book after reading that Paul Desmond was practicing out of it in the 40′s, when he was still a clarinetist primarily. He also mentions the Baermann book, a favorite of mine and one that I’m practicing out of quite a bit currently.

Goodman stays pretty standard for the first half of the book, long tones, dynamic range exercises, scales in all keys and intervals followed by some diatonic tunes for phrasing. He then includes a bunch of 2 measure repetitive fingering exercises, similar to the Baermann, which are great for working out technical issues and going into a Phillip Glass-esque trance at the same time.

It gets interesting towards the end. The last few pages before the transcriptions are what he calls “Modern Studies in Rhythm” The rhythms are mostly 8th notes in bizarre chromatic motion. A lot of not-quite patterns abound and nothing implies a very clear chord structure. I’m not sure if these are meant to be Modern, as in jazz, or Modern, as in 20th Century Classical music. Also unclear is whether these exercises should be swung, as in the Artie Shaw and Jimmy Dorsey books. Here’s a recording I made of one of them, it made a little more sense to me.

 

There’s not much else to this one, no words of wisdom, some full band transcriptions towards the end of some of Benny’s biggest hits.

 


Jimmy Dorsey’s Saxophone Method

 

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Jimmy Dorsey was a great big band leader, who broke off from his brother Tommy Dorsey, and moved out to Hollywood, where his band would appear in films. Like this one:

He has a clarinet-like sound and approach, which you can hear above. There are some nice things in this book: an exhaustive amount of scales, tonguing exercises, and arpeggios along with some nice little pieces aimed at learning legato swing tonguing. Then he goes into the usual etudes for learning syncopation and new time signatures, similar to the Goodman book, but the melodies are of the more cute variety.

What’s really interesting is the second half of the book, which explains the various types of dance music, and how to start to improvise through chord progressions. This has to be one of the first books to discuss that. He talks about the Foxtrot, Tango, Rumba etc., explains chord structure, then gives a bunch of sample chord progressions to be studied. This is followed by phrases on different chords, following the line where he says, “the notes which may be used to form the melodic line of your improvisation are the notes forming the chord plus embellishing notes.” The licks are nothing too exciting, but a good insight into early swing big band vocabulary.  Finally there are transcriptions, including this tune, Tailspin, where Dorsey takes a couple of burning solo breaks!

Both of these books are still in print, and while they may not break any new ground for the modern woodwind practitioner, I still think they are worth having in the library.

Trio Shows Every Week

Just wanted to take a minute to bring up that I’m playing every Friday and Sunday night at Osteria Il Paiolo, a great Italian restaurant in Williamsburg.

So far we’ve had some really great trios performing, including guitarists Greg Ruggiero, Kris Kaiser, and Tatsuya Sakurai and bassists Murray Wall, Scott Ritchie, Zach Lane, Aidan O’Donnell and Gary Wang.  This Friday (November 8) we’re doing something a little different, we’ll be featuring Neapolitan singer Simona De Rosa, and I’ll be playing healthy (or unhealthy) amount of mandolin and clarinet as we approach some well worn standards from the land of my father. Then on Sunday November 10 we will return to more straight ahead jazz with Greg and Murray Wall, known for his work with Benny Goodman, Warne Marsh and many more.

Please come and hang out at the bar, the vibe has been really great. We play from 7-10 pm. No cover.

Name Brand Method Books, Part 1

I’ve wondered recently why the method books put out by some of the biggest names in jazz never seem to be used anymore and many have gone out of print. I’ve made an effort to unearth some of them, to augment my teaching and to gain insights into what players coming up in the 40′s-60′s were practicing out of.
The book that started my search was the now out of print Jazz Phrasing and Interpretation, by the late great Jimmy Giuffre.

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Currently available for the low low price of $75 (for a 60 page book) on Amazon, I had to make a request at the New York Performing Arts Library to be allowed to view this book. After they called my number and handed me the book I was then allowed to take cell phone pictures of each page, but no photocopies. (I ended up taking a photo of every page and creating a pdf if anyone is interested). The book has some interesting exercises, aimed at teaching a class, or individual, jazz phrasing, swing feel and various embellishments. It’s also full of such wisdom as this:

2. The Flowing Beat – Stand back. Take in the music as a whole, in terms of the over-all movement: sing it…feel it…relax your mind and body. Feel the time as it rolls by — nothing else… There should be a dance in the music.

Now, when you begin to play, keep this calmness and lack of tension – but don’t lose hold of your own strength and intensity. From that inner power plat let a constant supply of energy flow through your whole being, effortlessly… music from the core of your body, not its surface!

Just typing this makes me want to spend more time with this book, I’ve only scratched the surface. I don’t know how books like this fall out of print when the market is flooded with other books on how to play jazz but my advice is to seek these books out.  They are a great way to learn about a specific players methods and views. Here’s an excerpt from the conclusion of Giuffre’s book:

What hits me is that when the jazz player picks up his horn or sits down at his instrument it is just a continuation of his living. There’s no separation…and I believe that comes through to the audience. 

Jazz sounds like it’s being lived.

Just for fun I recorded one piece from the book. Crazy notes, but it works! Here’s Exercise 14 D:

 

 

I think I’ll make this a series. Next week, I’ll cover the Benny Goodman book, followed by Jimmy Dorsey, and Artie Shaw. Obviously I have a wind player bias, but please share any other exceptional books you’ve found helpful by well known jazz players.