Bach Shapes Etudes ebook up for Preorder Now!

In my first year of Berklee, there was an eccentric piano player that lived down the hall in the dorms who was obsessed with Bach. I didn’t get it at the time, and I remember saying to him that “Bach just sounds like a bunch of predictable sequences” or something like that. 20 years later I’m putting out a bunch of books on Bach sequences. Anyway!

The new book covers are almost done,

and the books are up for preorder now at You can also still buy the original Bach Shapes print edition for only $10, though you may have to purchase them separately from any preorders, due to the way the system is set up. The Etudes books are going to be officially out on Bach’s (updated) birthday of March 31st. It will be his 336th birthday, 3+3+6 = 12 etudes. They include playalong audio, recorded by a great NYC band, that will be linked to once you download the book.

There are 7 pages of analysis, breaking down which shapes were used to construct the etudes.

10 of the 12 are based on standard progressions. They are:

  • All The The Things You Are
  • Just You, Just Me
  • Autumn Leaves
  • Love Me or Leave Me
  • Gone With The Wind
  • Just Friends
  • All of Me
  • How Deep is the Ocean?
  • Lady Bird
  • Indiana (Donna Lee)

Some preliminary feedback:

“I really like these!”

“the chord outlining in the melody and the way leaps between octaves are incorporated, make it super helpful for practicing finger evenness and center-of-pitch clarity”

“yeah man”

And some recent performances by friends:

Preorder here:

Stan Getz on Doubling

Dangerously close to letting a week go by with no blog post but here we go. I recently ordered a few CD’s from the label that will be putting out my next record in 2017, Fresh Sound. Known by many of my peers as a label for new releases of young jazz musicians, they have an extensive catalogue of reissues. A double CD of Stan Getz live at the Hi-Hat in Boston was the highlight of this order. The band features Bob Brookmeyer on valve trombone, Duke Jordan on piano, Bill Crow on the bass and Al Levitt on the drums.

Stan Getz Quintet in Boston


This was a band that Jimmy Giuffre said was the best he had ever heard. The recording quality is a little rough in spots, but it’s great to hear Bill Crow at the beginning of his recording career in 1953. Sounds as great then as he does now! Stan is taking chances, with repertoire, overtone effects and harmonic choices. Brookmeyer is always a great motivic improviser to listen to, and this is apparently his recording debut, as all of these players were in their mid 20s at the time.

While listening to this CD I was reminded of a pair of quotes from Stan that I recalled from the excellent bio by Donald Maggin. Lately, the more I carry around different horns and become known as a doubler, I can sometimes relate to these sentiments.

In 1952 Stan took a chance to come off the road and work in the NBC radio and TV studios. Some may not know that he played bassoon as a teenager and had hopes of playing in orchestras. In a Down Beat interview at this time, this is what Stan had to say about the experience:

I can imagine some guys finding this kind of work dull, but to me it’s great. On “The Kate Smith Show,” for instance, I had to play baritone, tenor, clarinet and bass clarinet. On “The Jane Pickens Show” I play clarinet only. Once I even played some jazz clarinet.

The other night I did “The Cameo Television Theater Show.” I was the only musician on it. There I was, all by myself playing bass clarinet. I had to create some themes, mood music to hold the sequences together…

One of the nice things about this job is that I get to hear the NBC symphony at work. (This would be with Toscanini at the time correct? Ed.)I’d like to play bassoon in the Symphony. I’m going to start playing bassoon on the pop programs as soon as I’ve studied some…

But Stan quit just a couple of months later, and had this to say about it years later:

It was just horrible. I was more like a technician than a musician-just press the right button at the right time, that’s it. I used to double on all sorts of things; I’d play clarinet, bass clarinet, alto, tenor, baritone. After about three months of it, I began taking bookings with the quintet-I think Jimmy Raney was on the band at the time.

I would work from 12 to 5 on the Kate Smith show, an afternoon television spectacular, and then catch a plane for Rochester or wherever. So I was working seven nights and five days a week, flying back and forth every day. Or if we worked, say, in Atlantic City, where there’s no plane, I’d drive…four hours there and back. After a while I just got fed up and gave up the studio work.

I always found this to be an accurate and amusing account of some of the dilemmas we all go through as players in the city. I think we can all be thankful that Stan stuck to his jazz gigs, this Boston recording being made just one year later.

Stan Getz playing the bassoon as a teenager.
Stan Getz playing the bassoon as a teenager.

On a side note, I’m considering calling this blog the 9:20 special, in honor of the great Basie tune. Comments and alternate suggestions welcome!

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.


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.