Like Kenny Rodgers said, "You've got to know when to hold 'em, know when to fold 'em," and this applies to working big band repertoire. You can spend significant time choosing repertoire to fit your ensemble, and I often choose challenging music, but at some point you have to decide if you double down or if you fold 'em and acknowledge that the chart does not fit the band. There could be various reasons why a chart will succeed with more work, either communally or individually. Or, it may never "swing," but at some point you must make that call and be confident in your decision.
I am finding that one of the best ways to practice improvisation in any tune is to practice switching between playing the melody and your favourite chord pattern in four bar, two bar, and one bar phrases. Ideally, you are referencing the melody and the chord structure in your melodic improvisations so force yourself to move between them in your practice sessions. You will find that you come up with some very interesting phrases. You will also find that you are playing some pretty lame phrases, but that is a small price to pay for the benefits of this exercise. Making your brain switch back and forth between focusing on the melody and the chord structure really challenges you and creates some interesting lines. Sure, it is best to play along with the masters and learn the vocabulary and style that way, but if you are looking for a different way to free your improvisation lines, this might be for you.
Free improvisation handouts on guidetones and riffs based on them in the blues #jazz #MusicEducation
I just posted four handouts (one exercise in treble clef, bass clef, Bb and Eb transpositions) that review the two guidetone lines in the blues and then offer some suggestions for riffs based on these notes. It is fairly straight ahead, but this might be just what you are looking for if you are easing yourself into improvisation or the blues. Feel free to download them and share them.
Getting back to playing along with J. J. Johnson and encouraging @AHBBjazz to lift their favourite #jazz artist
In my latest improvisation workshop, we focused on lifting a lick from a jazz master and using that to base our improvisation off of. The players were sounding better than ever and it reminded me of the importance of listening and immersing yourself in the sounds and figures of a jazz giant. Really internalising a great line has immediate fruition for an soloist.
I found this picture kicking around my house and thought that I would post it. If David was not wearing I.U. wear, he was often wearing clothes in support of his beloved Los Angeles Lakers. I believe this shot was taken at one of his parties that he had each year for his students. Love and miss that man.
Recently, I have been a prolific writer for my band. At times, I have felt guilty rehearsing all of my charts. I need to lose this guilt as, modesty aside, I am a good writer and my charts are written specifically for the interests and skills of the players. Admittedly, my actions are not completely self-effacing as I wish to gain recognition as an arranger and I hope that others will play my music. But, my first concern is writing music that works for the After Hours Big Band. On that note, I hope that others in the band will try their hand at writing, as it can be a very rewarding endeavour. It would also add some colour to our repertoire. I hope to hear a new arrangement or composition soon. I know I am about to release another one to the band. Hopefully, someone else will rise to the challenge.
I just changed my endorsement from David to "the late David." That hit me hard when I heard about it recently. I saw it on twitter over Easter. After that, I was not the best house guest; withdrawn and pensive. I considered him a friend, ally and a great mentor. I may not have made it through my doctoral studies without him and I sure did learn a lot from him, musically and over-wise. What else is there to say. Miss you man.
Finally, I have my article on Paul Read posted, with permission from the Canadian Music Educator - thank you! I think you will find it an interesting read.
My first peer-review article "Inclusivity and Adversity in Jazz Education: A Case Study of Paul Read" was just published in the fall 2015 edition of the Canadian Music Educator (57,1). I will post it shortly. Picture of Paul Read to the right. Do not be mislead by the Peer Review Corner heading, it was not edited in any way, other than the usual peer-review process. This is either good or bad, depending on whether you like the writing. If you have ever tried to get anything published, it is a long and tedious process. When it does happen, you can either be elated or you can just feel numb. I feel both - is that possible? I am jazzed that I have something out there for people to read and numb to the fact that I need to join the circus again, start performing and wait for the reviewer's applause. What only 1 of 3 audience members clapped? Well, on to the next circus ;)
I just finished writing an arrangement of Love for Sale as a mambo. A month ago, I would not have been able to do this, as I was ignorant (and maybe still am) about Afro-Cuban styles. Now, I have a little help with the "Salsa Guidebook for Piano & Ensemble" by Rebeca Mauleon. It really helped me to grasp the basic roles for each rhythm section member. It was recommended to me and I recommend it to you.
Dr. Michael Kearns
Musician, educator, husband, father, web designer ... my life is like a mosaic with each piece vying for my attention.