Happy New Year! Hope all is well and apologies for not posting for a while. I’ve been busy finishing up the MA at City College, playing gigs, teaching and working on a couple of projects. One of those projects is the transcription and eventual performance of some of the arrangements from the Lee Konitz meets Jimmy Giuffre album, which I highly recommend: Lee Konitz meets Jimmy Giuffre. One of the original performers on that record was the great tenorist Ted Brown. I’ve been honored to know Ted and have played with him, one of the most melodic improvisers I know. I was pleasantly surprised to come across Marian Jago’s article on Ted at the Journal of Jazz Studies: Dig – It: The Musical Life of Ted Brown. It was great to learn more about Ted’s personal life and some of the specifics he worked on when studying with Lennie Tristano. Hopefully more will be written about Ted in the future.
In other news, my upcoming quartet album, As The River Sings, is mixed and mastered, and will hopefully be out later this year. The Bach book is still in the works, also hoping to get some work done on that this month. See you all soon!
I’ve posted about this book (Giuffre’s only published book) before on this blog, but I wanted to announce that I’ve posted my scan of the book on Scribd. The book will be available there, hopefully for all time! Apologies for the less than perfect quality, I was only allowed to take cell phone photos of each page in the library. Here it is:
Enjoy! Jimmy’s writing is illuminating. Stay tuned for an interactive map of New York’s famed former jazz clubs that I’m currently working on.
Here’s a short bio of Jimmy that I recently wrote:
(b Dallas, TX 26 April 1921; d Pittsfield, MA, 24 April 2008). American jazz saxophonist, clarinetist, composer and arranger. Giuffre began playing clarinet at age nine, later picking up the tenor saxophone. He earned a music degree from North Texas State University, then voluntarily joined the Air Force where he continued to work on his music for four years. After the war, he moved to LA and studied composition with mystic composer Wesley LaViolette. LaViolette’s emphasis on the importance of counterpoint strongly influenced Giuffre’s writing. In 1947, he helped define the burgeoning “cool jazz” sound with his composition and arrangement “Four Brothers.” In the 1950s he played in bands with Shorty Rogers, Shelly Manne, and Howard Rumsey, and in 1956 he formed the first incarnation of the Jimmy Giuffre Three, featuring guitarist Jim Hall and bassist Ralph Peña. This chamber group featured innovative arrangements of standards and Jimmy’s original pieces, often blues and Americana inspired. Peña was replaced by Bob Brookmeyer on valve trombone, forming a group that is immortalized in the film Jazz on a Summer’s Day, which features their signature tune “The Train and the River.” Meeting Ornette Coleman led Giuffre to form a new free jazz trio with Paul Bley and Steve Swallow. This group recorded the fully improvised album Free Fall (1962, Columbia), among others. Free Fall is now regarded as a critical recording of the early 1960s but at the time was a commercial failure. For the next 10 years, Giuffre focused on teaching; first at the Lenox School of Jazz, then at New York University and the New School. In 1978 he joined the faculty of the New England Conservatory of Music, where he taught for almost two decades. He published his only book, Jazz Phrasing and Interpretation, in 1969. In the 1980s Giuffre recorded a few albums featuring electronics, along with a reunion of the Swallow and Bley band in 1990 and 1992. He was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in the early 1990s and was forced to retire from teaching and playing for the last 10 years of his life.
I had the pleasure of visiting the Vandoren Musician’s Advisory Studio today, where I tried a bunch of alto mouthpieces and even took home a couple of alto clarinet pieces to try for a couple of weeks. I strongly recommend you visit! Excited to try these guys for a bit, then go back for some Bb clarinet help.
After that I stopped by Barbes and had the pleasure of listening to and playing a set with a great band consisting of Oscar Noriega, Brian Drye, Matt Pavolka and Chris Speed. I’ve been a big Chris Speed fan since college and it was fun to play with him for the first time. What a unique tenor sound! Seeing Chris and Oscar reminds me to keep working at my clarinet doubling.
One more thing I’d like to mention today, I’m starting work on a book, and I’d like to know what you think. I would like to create a simple book of diatonic sequences extracted from the works of JS Bach. I’ve pieced together a few already and hope to flesh out another 20 or so. I’m amazed at how much material I’ve gotten out of one short sonata movement, and would like to work at this for a while. The tricky decisions are: should I write each sequence out in all keys? Only a few keys for each one? Let the player do all the transposing? Right now I’m organizing the patterns by major or minor and ascending or descending. Here’s a small sample. I hope this is of benefit to you. The idea is that this could be useful information for the improviser. Of course it has technical benefits, but I wanted to strip the patterns down so you can use them in any diatonic situation. This is akin to the “filler” material that Lennie Tristano advocated, it’s different ideas to try on a line. You can superimpose the rhythms, break them up, I hope that they will be used loosely and not mechanically. Any feedback is much appreciated. I hope to have the book done next year, for saxophone, or all instruments.
The show was a lot of fun last week, thanks to those who came. Tronzo and Garth really made the music happen. It was nice to have all that extra sonic space without a drummer playing, nice and difficult too. Stay tuned for a sound clip or two from the show.