Friday, September 30, 2011

Albums I'm Checking Out Now

This ain't Jersey City, pal....It's PORTLAND!
I'm still settling into the Portland situation;however, I'm still trying to expand my musical horizons. I've been hearing some great music around town, but I've also been checking out some albums from various eras and sources. I could easily just go to my hard drive with all my mp3s and find stuff that I haven't listened to. These are some things that were suggested to me, or actually given to me, recently. I'm in the process of checking them out. What a blessing it is, if you think about it, that we as the human race will never run out of music to listen to! And if the power goes out, we can sing and clap our hands, maybe beat a rhythm out on the hood of an abandoned car(I'm just picturing life after the apocalypse; even then,there will be music,but probably it will just be a lot of songs about radiation…).

I mentioned in a previous post that I traveled to Colombia recently. I was performing with clarinetist Don Byron, who always seems to be talking about some music of which I am ignorant. He was talking about his favorite Colombian musicians, one of which was a pianist named Edy Martinez. Martinez appears on an album by the late great conguero Ray Barretto called "Indestructible", released in 1976. I had seen the cover(It's Barretto looking like he's changing into the comic book character Superman), but hadn't really checked it out. It's classic Latin Jazz, with infectious grooves, and lots of powerful brass and passionate male vocals. This is unapologetic New York salsa at it's best. I would say this is more of a dance or commercial album, but there are some nice solos from Art Webb on flute, Roberto Rodriguez on trumpet, and "Little" Ray Romero on timbales.(I actually played timbales in the Baltimore based Rumba Club for a short minute. I still consider myself a beginner when it comes to Latin music, but I'm slowly attempting to rectify this.)

While I was teaching at the University of Manitoba Summer Jazz Camp in August, bassist Steve Hamilton turned me on to a number of great recordings. One which really impressed me was led by the great Jazz Guitarist John Abercrombie entitled "Abercrombie Quartet", which was released on the ECM label in 1979. This album is obscure, I suppose because it hasn't been re-released yet and is currently unavailable, unless you go on EBAY and find it on vinyl.(Full Disclosure: Hamilton burned me a copy.)The quartet features the harmonically innovative Richie Bierach on piano, much in demand George Mraz on bass, and Peter Donald on drums. I had never heard of Peter Donald before this recording, and I'm pleasantly surprised at how great he plays on this project. At times, he reminds me of Billy Hart; in fact, I probably would have guessed Hart in a blindfold test. And it's interesting also because Mraz is associated with many straight-ahead recordings, and he sounds a lot more creative than I am accustomed to hearing. And Bierach is also a surprise, yet contrastingly so, in that , for a creative project, he stays more in the pocket than I've heard him in other settings. This recording is so fresh, which proves that there's not much new under the sun. Compare this to any Kurt Rosenwinkle recording and I think you'd be surprised how "modern" things were in 1979.

Another recording Hamilton hipped me to is a duo recording by pianist Keith Jarrett and drummer Jack DeJohnette, again on ECM , but from 1971, called "Ruta and Daitya" (Daitya and Ruta  are Sanskrit  names for one of the last great islands of the Atlantean system in the Pacific Ocean)This is actually a fascinating look into the symbiosis between these two musicians, two of the greatest improvisors in jazz. The music is very spontaneous, and has a certain reckless abandon that you tend to hear from music of the 60's and 70's. And surprise, surprise, not only is Keith Jarrett playing piano, but he's playing bamboo flutes, as well as electric piano with EFFECTS! And organ as well! It's strange to me that Jarrett has taken up the position for many years that electric keyboards are not real instruments, adding that he always hated playing on them. Well, if you watch Keith Jarrett in the famous 1970 Isle of Wight concert with Miles Davis, he's playing an electric organ, and he looks like he's having the time of his life! And it's the same here; Jarrett is playing his butt off and his rapport with DeJohnette is one of the great pianist/drummer hook-ups of all time. Some of the music sounds more like Woodstock earthy ethnic world music space jam territory( "Algeria" features DeJohnette on hand percussion and Jarrett on flute), but there is plenty of intellectual free jazz as well("Sounds of Peru/Submergence/Awakening" is Jarrett modulating from introspective to free form to Americana gospel-y vamp mode). I'm gonna check this one out more……

And yet another album that Hamilton presented to me in the form of a blindfold test; I've been known to do well with those types of things, at least when they are jazz related, or at least I can make very educated guesses. Hamilton technically stumped me with bassist Miroslav Vitous' recording "First Meeting"; I'm a big Kenny Kirkland fan, but this is in a setting which most Kirkland fans have probably never heard. I think I guessed John Taylor, and then maybe Bobo Stenson, but there are some giveaways, in terms of the lines that Kirkland plays. The quartet also features John Surman on saxophones and bass clarinet, and Jon Christiansen on drums. It's another ECM, this time from 1980. A far cry from the the New York burning young lion Wynton Marsalis quintet type of music, this is as Euro-Jazz as it gets. Yet Kirkland fits in perfectly, such the great master musician he was. If you listen to "Silverlake" you can hear some recognizable "Kirklandisms", but other than that, it sounds like a completely different player.

I received CDs from two Portland area musicians recently. The first is a recording from the Portland Jazz Orchestra, conducted by bassist,composer, arranger, and educator Charley Grey. It's strangely titled, "Good Morning, Geek, ", but don't let the title fool you, this big band is no joke. It's a very modern mainstream large ensemble concept, but the arrangements are very smooth, and there are some wonderful solos throughout the entire album. Pianist Dan Gaynor takes a finger-popping ride on the title track(which is actually called "Good Morning Geek, Again". I'll have to ask him what this means….)Brian Dickerson is also an impressive soloist on Baritone saxophone. I usually find that big bands tend to be either very tight but lacking in satisfactory solo space, or vice versa, meaning almost feeling like a small group, but too loose in terms of ensemble playing(the Mingus Big Band always felt that way to me-great soloing but sloppy, rough around the edges,although this seems to fit Mingus' music somewhat). The Portland Jazz Orchestra seems to have a good balance of both. Grey has a good feel for shout choruses and orchestration, and there is a lot of craftsmanship within the arrangements on the album. " Lucy" is a great Latin jazz chart, with a virtuoso tour de force for solo trumpet( I believe Farnell Newton-it's not listed on the track), as well as the entire trumpet section, which shows their ability to scream into the extreme high register.

Another CD I acquired this week was from Portland-based guitarist Dan Balmer. We got an opportunity to perform together at Jimmy Mak's, which is arguably Portland's best jazz club. We had Kansas City native Todd Strait on drums. I got to play a really nice Hammond B-3, which I rarely get to do nowadays. We did a mix of Balmer's original music and my own, and a handful of standard tunes. The gig was loads of fun, I must say, and I believe it's the beginning of a fruitful association. After the gig, Balmer laid his most recent album on me. The album is entitled "Thanksgiving"(the cover features his two young sons playing guitars... it's adorable! As a father myself, I can relate). This CD features Balmer, organist and former Oregon resident Gary Versace on Hammond B3 Organ, as well as the well known Matt Wilson on drums. This recording just "sounds" great; I put it on in my car, and it's great night driving music. There is a lot of sonic variety in this trio, and that's from everyone; Balmer can play a very straight tone, but he can add effects very tastefully. Versace is very creative with his drawbar settings and all the other parameters that organists use to work that beast of an instrument. Matt Wilson is a great jazz drums, and some of his playing on here is surprising in that he goes into a heavy back beat mode that I had never heard from him previously. He's HITTING the snare drum on tracks like "Greasy Kid Stuff", which is a tune that nods to The Funky Meters, or "Stalled" where you might mistake his drumming for that of Stewart Copeland from The Police! But there's also his atmospheric side on cuts like " The Sea, The Sea", or " The Longest Day Of The Year." Balmer uses chorus and delay( I think)to great effect(no pun intended) Versace blends everything beautifully with his manipulation of the expression pedal and fast leslie settings.(Versace is one of the great modern Hammond B3 players; he's also a really great pianist and accordion player, as well.) I'm inspired by this CD and I highly recommend it.

Finally, I'll back track to my trip to Colombia. Usually, when you go to play at a jazz festival in a foreign country, they have somebody travel around with you as your guide; somebody who makes sure you get to the gig on time, makes sure you don't get sidetracked, or kidnapped, etc..Our "guide" was a young woman named Maria Monica Gutierrez. As we were leaving the jazz festival grounds, Maria gave me a CD to listen to. I usually make a point to at least try to listen to the CDs that people give me. I didn't really know what to expect in this case, but I was quite shocked when I put on her CD. The band name is Suricato(which is Spanish for Meerkat, a mammal which belongs to the mongoose family) and the title of the CD is"Remolque Juguete" (which may or may not mean "toy trailer" in Spanish). The music here is not you typical singer vs jazz trio at all(which is what I stupidly assumed, after Maria told me she was a jazz singer). The instrumentation is voice, guitar, bass, drums, and trombone, which the band uses in a varied and quirky way. At first listen, especially the first song, entitled"Duerme", the sound is Bjork meets MBase meets Colombian folk music. "Mariposas" has a dirge-like groove, almost nodding to New Orleans second line, while Gutierrez sings a soft, ghostly melody over top. It's very eerie. But Suricato threw me for a curve with the next tune, in which the soft and mysterious turns to anger. Gutierrez is now almost shouting atonally, while the band rocks out in a very free form manner. It's quite chaotic. Trombonist Sebastian Ciufuentes uses the full range of the trombone to create effects and distinctive sonorities throughout the CD. It's not truly a jazz CD, but considering how worldly jazz has become, it really IS a jazz CD in the most modern sense. This was a real sleeper for me; I see infinite potential for this band. I wish I could tell you how to buy their CD, because I highly recommend it. They have a Facebook page; maybe they'll be able to give ordering info in English if there is a demand. Here is a link to a youtube video of a live performance, which might whet your appetite a bit....

Monday, September 26, 2011

The Josh Ginsburg Interview

I've been playing with bassist Josh Ginsburg off and on for about a decade. I always liked his healthy, muscular sound on the upright double bass, and his approach to soloing stuck me as virtuosic without sacrificing the "bottom" of the instrument. He's appeared on three of my recordings(including the soon to be released trio CD on the Steeplechase label. He's busy as a sideman, but he is also now showing interest in becoming a bandleader. I got to be a musical part of his first CD as a leader. Ginsburg is doing a Kickstarter fund drive to help complete the CD, and in this interview he talks about that, as well as how got started as a bass player and a composer.

GC: Tell me about your background. What are you earliest musical memories? What started you on the road to becoming a professional musician?

JG:I'm from Baltimore, from inside the beltway, unlike some other people we know (haha).  I remember listening to mix tapes my brother made of just pop music when I was very young. Music seemed so parents didn't listen to much music at the time.  Then I remember in middle school a high school band came and played, and I was completely entranced for the whole concert. I had some piano lessons when I was very young, but that didn't go very well. Then I started playing saxophone in middle school. Then one day, my brother brought home an electric bass for me to play(he was learning guitar). I started playing the stuff that was popular in Baltimore/DC, mostly punk rock and go-go, kind of a strange combination actually. But I was also listening to jazz; my brother had a little bit of a collection. I remember listening to "Kind of Blue" through the door while I was lying in bed.  Also, my next-door neighbor was a big jazz fan; he and my father would sometimes take us to the Left Bank to hear live jazz. I remember hearing Louis Nash and just staring at his hands for the whole show.
 In high school, I wanted to play saxophone in the jazz band, but my director found out I played electric bass, and he needed a bass player. So he handed me this plywood bass with steel strings like 6 inches off the fingerboard and said "Play this". Many band directors don't know anything about string instruments, so I developed a lot of bad habits I later had to unlearn. 

Soon after that, I started working a little around town. I guess I had a decent ear, and of course it's easier to work as a bass player. And that's when I really started catching the jazz bug. I learned a lot
from the guys I was playing with. 

I remember one time, a trumpet player took me to a club on Pennsylvania Ave when I was probably 15 or 16. Pennsylvania Ave had been Baltimore's 52nd street, lined with clubs that had jazz and other live music. By this time though it was pretty rough, though it still had this crazy vibe- ridiculously swinging organ trios and customers dressed in bright colored suits... I remember him telling me, "Don't tell your parents I took you here......".

 Can you talk about some important learning experiences on the bandstand?
Well I'm always learning on the bandstand, every time I play. Maybe it's a chord substitution, or a rhythm the drummer plays, or something like that. But the most important overall things I learned early on from playing in Baltimore at the coffee shops, restaurant, and so forth. I was really just playing by ear at that point.

So then one day we played a concert in front of a real audience for the first time. And the trumpet player started playing a ballad, and there was no piano player, and I spaced on the changes, and things just went pretty badly. And WOW....that trumpet player was pissed (he was pretty old school) and he cursed me out! And that's when I started to realize that I needed to really get it together, really come to terms with that everything I play actually is of consequence.  I think once you are on that road it changes your whole perspective. In many ways , that is still my goal today, to make sure everything I play is full of intent.

I do a lot of workshops in schools and sometimes I feel like some students suffer from this, the school environment is so sheltered, it's easy to just float through everything and think that's ok. And of course it is complicated music; jazz is improvised and should be creative, sometimes you even want it to be vague!... but I think that experience actually helped me- it was a wake up call.
How did you develop your technique? Did you always have a natural feel for the bass?

I think what helped me at first was that I didn't know the bass was so difficult. The reality is the double bass is an insanely hard instrument to master, (or even just play simply on) but I think, at least for me, it was good to not know that. Because you automatically put up these walls of what you can and cannot do on the instrument. But one way or another you will eventually have to deal with the technical issues of the instrument.  

Until recently, almost all my technique came from just transcribing and playing and just trying to figure out ways to play things I liked, and make it sound "right" to my ear. It was not very formal, which I think has both advantages and disadvantages . I recently went back to school and am studying with John Patitucci, which has really been helpful with a more concrete technical approach. 
I didn't know you were are composer until recently. How long have you been composing and what inspires you?

I've been writing for a long time, at least 10-12 years. I am very critical of my composing, so I haven't performed the music very often. But I have seen a growth in the writing over time. I'm really happy with most of the music I've been writing lately. Perhaps I've "found my voice", so to speak.  I'm inspired by a lot of jazz ,obviously, but also other music; a lot of music from other countries and also some modern "classical" music.  I feel like I'm finally at the point where I've absorbed enough of my influences where I can just write something and let the music go where it goes,  and not try to force it to go somewhere.  Or at least keep the forcing to a minimum....
So what's happening with the new CD?

The CD sounds great, you really played your butt off. It also features Eli Degibri on saxophones and Rudy Royston on drums. Eli is really amazing, I love his sound, it's big and dark but still modern sounding. Rudy is also amazing, aside from just being a total badass, he has a really wide dynamic range and shapes the music outside of what is written on the paper, which is so important for this music.  I think we really got to some good places, musically speaking. 

I still need to get it mixed, mastered, printed, artwork etc.  It will be coming out in January on Brooklyn Jazz Underground Records, which is a musician-run label that will arrange for worldwide distribution and publicity. Unlike most other labels, I will have full ownership of everything, which is nice. 
What is Kickstarter and what made you want to try it?
Kickstarter is website that provides a way to "crowd-fund" artistic or other creative projects.  You send an application for your project, and if they approve it, they give you a page where you present your idea and anyone can go on and pledge money to help make it happen. 

Every pledge also receives a gift;  I have tried to make sure all the gifts are really worthwile. A lot of the lower pledges are essentially just a pre-order of the CD, either a download or a signed CD. Then at higher levels I have different thing; I am going to write extended liner notes so the "non expert" listener can can really get a sense of what we are doing, I imagine it like the director's commentary on a DVD.   Or I also have an option where I will send out some favorite, but less well-known, songs to people thorough Itunes, along with something about the artists, or the songs, or just what I like about it. 

 I'm hoping to use the Kickstarter not just as a way to raise money, but as a way to let the audience inside to see how the creative process works. I think that's really important now that the record companies are pretty much out of the picture.  And I think people are a little starved for understanding for that type of thing, there is so little information (and so much mis-information) for the general public about the arts and especially jazz. 

How can my readers donate to your project?

Just go to There is a video you can watch, which has some short music clips. And all the various gifts and pledge levels are listed. You do have to sign up for an Amazon account (if you don't already have one) to pledge, unfortunately there is no way around that.

The final date for the Kickstarter is October 9, and the funding is "all-or-nothing", so everyone, please check it out!

Any cool musical events coming up?
The main thing I'd like people to know about is the CD release concerts- January 12 at the Jazz Gallery and Jan, 14 at An Die Musik in Baltimore. Both are really great venues and we are going to be smoking!
How has family life changed you music and or your musical goals?

Well, before family, music was always the highest priority, which seems like a good thing, and maybe it is for a period. You know, endlessly obsessing over the craft. But at some point I think you can start to lose perspective. I think if you accept the idea that music is supposed to communicate something, which I do, then at some point you have to start living life and come down to earth. And definitely for me, the kids have forced me to do that.Nothing says "down to earth" like changing a few diapers! Hah!...And then just seeing kids grow up is so amazing, you really start to see what we are all made of.

So I really enjoy family life and get a lot out of it. I went back to school to get my masters because I could see doing more teaching, which would allow me to travel a bit less. Where at one time that seemed completely insane, I just wanted to play all the time.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

The One-Off

Isn't flying fun?

I've had many conversations with older jazz musicians over the years, and inevitably, the topic of conversation turns to the old days and how many gigs there used to be(compared to now). Billy Hart told me that he wouldn't tour for weeks, he would tour for MONTHS. They would go to the West Coast for six months. A club gig would be many weeks in a row. Musicians stayed on the road for as much time as they could stand. Vincent Herring told me that even in the 80's, you could move to New York, decide who you wanted to work with, and stay on the road, OR, you could make a living IN TOWN if you chose that way. Sadly, those days are over, unless you are with a pop or rock group. Now, the days of the one-off are here.  A one-off essentially means one gig, although it implies that you had to travel, and maybe quite a long way, just for one hit. I've been doing one-offs in New York and North America since the 90's. And occasionally, there might be a one-off in Europe.(UGH!)

I suppose you could relate the one-off to a one night stand. The freedom of not being "tied down" to one band has a certain thrill. I've certainly benefited from playing with many different bands, as opposed to just a few. In 2001, I counted that I had played the original music of about 30 different bands, just within that year. And most of the bands had only one gig, or maybe a handful at best! Eventually, however, just as in personal relationships, you might want to develop something more than just the one-off. That takes possibly more than the jazz scene can offer these days. Without more than one gig, how can the musicians really develop the music and be a "band"? Still, we musicians persevere, and try the make the most out of the one gig every once in a while.
Donald Edwards

I wanted to give a round-up of some of the fun one-offs I did in the last few months. One was with drummer Donald Edwards. A promoter in Italy asked Edwards to put together a band for a jazz festival which featured drummers in San Remo, Italy. Edwards called Boris Kozlov on bass and Jaleel Shaw on alto saxophone. The four of us have worked together as sidemen with the Mingus Band. However, it was a pleasure to play Edwards' music instead, which was quite challenging. Also, Edwards' treated the gig as somewhat of a collective, so we could also bring in some charts to play. The performance was musically satisfying enough to warrant the almost 5 days of travel(including layovers and extra days in San Remo). This is what makes the one-off so frustrating;a lot of hours in transit for a small, intense amount of music. It's times like this that I wonder when they are going to invent teleportation!

E.J. Strickland
Speaking of drummers, I've been associated with E.J. Strickland for a few years. He's been in my trio and we've toured and recorded a bunch. However, Strickland has aspirations of his own, and has been working diligently on his composing. Strickland had a one-nighter at the Jazz Gallery in New York in July; the band consisted of Jaleel Shaw again on alto, Strickland's twin brother Marcus on Tenor and bass clarinet, and Dezron Douglas on bass. Considering that we only had one short rehearsal, the performance conveyed an actualized musical vision. Strickland's writing has really developed in the past few years, and he's become a bona fide bandleader as well, leading his sidemen with his compositions and with his interpretive drumming.

The next week, I got the chance to play with my good friend and guitarist Tom Guarna. Guarna has been plugging away in New York as a sideman and bandleader, and he's working on some music for a potential recording(which will hopefully take place this winter). Guarna is a very well rounded
Tom Guarna
musician, and knows everything from classical to rock. He's influenced by fusion, but he has a deep understanding of bebop and more traditional styles. Guarna booked a night at the 55Bar in New York, with Richie Goods on bass and E.J. Strickland on drums. I played Fender Rhodes and a midi keyboard controller powered by my laptop; Guarna was very specific about some of the keyboard sounds for each song. Guarna has a great concept, and if the gig was a preview to the recording, then it's going to be a winner for sure.

Ari Hoenig
I love the challenge of getting to play new music, especially with the kind of virtuosi that populate the New York jazz scene. One such virtuoso is drummer Ari Hoenig. He's been on the scene for years, and he's really developed a unique conception as a drummer and a composer. Hoenig is a master of metric modulation, and he uses those techniques to enhance his compositions. Although Hoenig has been influenced by drummers like Jeff Watts and Ralph Peterson, he has developed a melodic concept on the drums that is all his own. He's an energetic, exciting performer, and it takes a lot of energy on my part to keep up with his exuberance. I was thrilled to get a chance to play with Hoenig one night at Small's in New York. We had a young bass player named Sam Minaie, who helped to keep the foundation of the music, while Hoenig and I rhythmically battled it out in a friendly musical boxing match.

Sebastian Noelle
One more challenging gig in New York for the summer; Sebastian Noelle is a German-born guitarist who has lived in New York for a few years. His original music pushes rhythmic envelopes as well as harmonic envelopes. I had recorded with Noelle during the previous summer; Noelle asked me to join him again on a CD release performance at Cornelia Street. The band was impressive: Thompson Kneeland on bass, Tony Moreno on drums, and Marc Mommaas on tenor saxophone. All of these guys are amazing players. I felt more like an observer than a participant, in that the other cats were playing so much information, I was more interested in listening to them than my own stuff. Noelle's recording is called "Koan" and it's available on the Fresh Sound New Talent label.

Buster Williams
A one-off in your town of residence is acceptable in that you can sleep in your own bed when it's over. However, the one-off which involve hours, maybe days of travel, are annoying. However, if the music is inspiring, one forgets about all the jet lag and inconvenience. I had two fairly lengthy trips recently; the first was in Sardinia, a Mediterranean island which is part of Italy. My itinerary was as follows: Portland to Minneapolis, then Detroit, then Rome, then Cagliari(the capital of Sardinia), then a harrowing hour drive around winding mountain roads(I was almost sick) with a borderline reckless driver(maybe it's a cultural thing). However, the concert was with bassist Buster Williams, drummer Cindy Blackman, and alto saxophonist Mark Gross. Once I dragged my sleepy head up onto the stage for sound check, my troubles were over. I've played with Williams off and on since 1995; playing Williams' tunes fits me like an soft comfortable sweater. And Blackman and Gross, although newer to William's band, gave a new perspective to the tunes. Again, it's unfortunate that a band like this couldn't do more than one gig, but we tried to make it count!

Don Byron
Finally, a trip to, of all places, Bogota, Colombia, for a long running festival called Jazz En El Parque. This gig came up rather last minute, and for some reason, the flights had to be routed from Portland to New York, to Bogota. It seemed a bit circuitous, but this is the reality of the modern airline industry; a more direct flight last minute would have added thousands to the price tag of my voyage. I decided to bite the bullet and make the gig; fortunately, it was with another long-time employer, clarinetist Don Byron. The music was repertoire from Byron's "Ivey Divey" recording. This music normally employes a trio with no bass player(clarinet,piano,drums). We were fortunate to have drummer Mark Ferber rounding out the trio. Again, a long way to travel to play a 50 minute set, but the Colombian crowd was incredibly enthusiastic. Its a really well organized festival, and it's quite a big event in Bogota. Our trip was entirely too brief to do any exploring, but I did come away with a good vibe from the Colombian people. And it was a musical challenge and thrill to play with Byron and Ferber. Even if it was only a one-off.......

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Mike LeDonne Part 1

I'm enjoying my first few weeks in Portland. However, it's not difficult to reminisce about my years in New York City. The Big Apple easily has more jazz musicians per capita than anywhere else on the planet. This is why the level of musicianship and creativity is so high; no matter how great you think you are, you are always competing alongside many, many other greats on your instrument. It can be daunting, however, if you can put your ego aside, it can be inspirational. The fact that you can go out any night of the week and get a "lesson" is one of the reasons that I still think eager young musicians should move to New York City.

I got a great "lesson" recently when I went over to Smoke, one of the best clubs in New York, located on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. Mike LeDonne has been in residence here every Tuesday for
Mike LeDonne
quite some time. LeDonne is quite busy as a jazz pianist, playing regularly with Benny Golson; he's worked in the past with Sonny Rollins, Bobby Hutcherson, Art Farmer, and many others. But he is also a tremendous Hammond B-3 organist. (Apparently, LeDonne played organ for much of his youth, but never really played in public until later in his career.)If you want to hear some ridiculously burning Hammond playing, then Smoke on Tuesday nights is your best bet.

On this night, LeDonne's quartet incorporated the talents of three other accomplished jazzmen: Vincent Herring on alto saxophone, Paul Bollenback on guitar, and Willie Jones on drums. The energy and precision of these four musicians together was very intense; the quartet indeed sounded like they had been playing together every night for a month!

All four men are virtuosi on their instruments, but LeDonne is particularly impressive as an organist. Now playing the Hammond B-3 is quite different from playing the piano, although obviously, they are both keyboard instruments, with 12 notes to the octave, divided into black keys and white keys. The sonic properties of each are very different; the piano keys trigger hammers which strike strings, and sustain and soft pedals can manipulate the sound, although most of the dynamic control comes from the hands. A good degree of weight is needed from the pianist in order to get sound from the instrument. In contrast, the Hammond B-3 organ's keys trigger an electronic tone wheel. The drawbars determine how many overtones will be heard in the sound: there are 5 sets of 8 drawbars, two for each manual( a B3 has 2 keyboards, one on top of the other) and one for the foot pedals(which is two octaves, struck by the left foot). The dynamics don't come from the fingers at all; an expression foot pedal is manipulated by the right foot. Additionally, you can add vibrato, chorus, percussion, and even trigger a switch which makes the Leslie speakers spin faster(did I mention that the speakers spin?).

If all of that isn't enough to make not just the Leslie spin, but your HEAD spin, there are the different ways in which the piano and the Hammond B-3 respectively function in a band setting. I personally find that the
Hammond B-3 with Leslie Speaker on the left
piano is usually more of an observer and commentator, adding chords and rhythms depending on what the drummer, bassist, and soloist are doing. The B3 is a different story; it tends to be the foundation of the band. The organist is playing the bass, either doubling the bass or tapping one pedal percussively, and playing big chords, and soloing! It's a whole different approach, which is why there aren't so many piano/organ doublers as might be expected.

Mike LeDonne is one of the few who is excellent at both piano and organ. As an organist, he possesses a great deal of confidence. His left hand is a marvel; his bass lines are completely fluid, and he can hold down even breakneck tempos accurately and convincingly. His sonic choices as an accompanist show his experience and taste; he knows how to comp differently with the right hand depending on the situation, whether soft, unobtrusive chords played on the lower manual are needed, or if big, all- drawbars out with fast leslie type-of-chords fit the bill. LeDonne, above all, is always swinging. He's got a great ear for melody and how to make that melody soulful.

I stayed for two sets. LeDonne was nice to let me sit in on organ(although I was already very intimidated) and drums(I was really intimidated by the formidable Willie Jones!). And LeDonne was also generous enough to lay his most recent CD on me. It's called The Groover(Savant) and it is a gem;
again featuring LeDonne and an all start cast of Eric Alexander on tenor saxophone, Peter Bernstein on guitar, and Joe Farnsworth on drums. It falls somewhere between a "blowing date" and perhaps something more produced. There are great arrangements and the group is tight, but there is also a looseness that you only get from jazz recordings nowadays. (What I mean is you get the feeling that this was a one or two day session, which is typical of any real jazz recording you will hear. We know that most of the "popular" music of today, for all of its banality, benefits from the luxury of big budgets and  loads of expensive studio time and editing. Much of the aesthetic of jazz is in the "spontaneity" of the recording, meaning that jazz musicians like to have a certain roughness around the edges; otherwise, it starts to become something else besides improvised music. Or so I think.)

I love the opening cut, Michael Jackson's immortal "Rock With You." It's a brilliant arrangement, and it sets the tone of the CD; It's as if LeDonne is saying, " Hey, welcome to my CD, make yourself at home, here's something you've heard before, except... this is how WE play it." The disco beat of the original is replaced with an intense medium swing, leaning towards a shuffle. It's amazing how well the melody and changes work in a jazz setting. The solo form is modified a little, but LeDonne and company have made it into a great vehicle for solos, which are succinct but still impressive. LeDonne keeps his bass steady despite fearsome double time lines in the right hand. His solo builds into an all-stops out frenzy, and tags with the proverbial "hold one high note on the right hand pinky and play lines with the other four fingers." It's debatable a perfect textbook Hammond B-3 solo.

"Blues for McCoy" (obviously for the pianist Tyner)is a serious burner. LeDonne comes out with a no-nonsense up tempo virtuoso flurry of notes, all the while keeping the bass together. It's no easy feat, and LeDonne nails it. It's really impressive when LeDonne will play ideas outside the key center, or even "float" rhythmically with his right hand lines. And the hook up between LeDonne and drummer Farnsworth is
drummer Joe Farnsworth
flawless; I've worked with Farnsworth, and I always felt that up-tempos were one of his strong suits.

"Little Mary" is a tune written by Benny Golson; it was written for LeDonne's daughter. It starts with a cute little music box type of intro, but then switches gears into a happy, medium swing piece. I enjoy that LeDonne doesn't always delegate the melody to guitar or saxophone; it's nice to hear him phrase melodies on the B3. This is one of those feel good tunes that should put anybody in a better mood.

"I'm Gonna Make You Love Me" is the classic 1969 Motown hit from a collaboration between the Temptations and Diana Ross and The Supremes, although others have recorded it as well. This arrangement is also a hard driving medium burner, with great solos from all. I love LeDonne's comping on this one. Alexander sort of blows against the groove with rapid fire lines, yet he's so well supported by LeDonne and Farnsworth. LeDonne plays some nice shout chorus figures behind Bernstein's solo.

"Deep Blue" features a beautiful solo into by LeDonne, where he makes great use of the sustaining power of the B3, as well as the richness of the bass register. The tune is a very slow, bluesy walking ballad, with a certain sophisticated introspection. Some of the harmonies might remind one of some of Mingus' writing; the feeling is C minor blues, but with some unexpected harmonies. This is the moodiest piece on the album.

The moodiness fades with the optimism of "Sunday In New York", which is catchy and simple, without pretension. The next cut, "Bopsolete" is another uptempo workout. Compositionally, it nods to Joe Henderson, but it's essentially a rhythm changes. I feel that playing rhythm changes(the chord changes to George Gershwin's "I Got Rhythm", in case you were wondering) is becoming a lost art. LeDonne and crew are quite masterful; check out LeDonne's unaccompanied "stop time" solo on this one.

The title track, "The Groover" is, as might be expected, a true shuffle, but not at all hackneyed; this is absolutely mainstream jazz, and unashamedly so. LeDonne and his quartet aren't re-inventing the wheel, but the wheel is what still gets us everywhere we want to go, right? All in all, I'm digging the CD, and it's inspiring me to try to get my organ playing together.

Stay tuned for Mike LeDonne Part 2, which will be an in-depth interview.(I'm incredibly backlogged,
and the moving and so forth hasn't given me much extra time to hook up with LeDonne. Hopefully this month.....)

Thursday, September 8, 2011

How To Be A Great Jazz Musician ….In One Lesson!

Portland, Oregon
The move from Winnipeg to Portland has been challenging, to say the least. But the last big challenge is over; I finally got my wife and 20-month old son on a plane to PDX. My wife Kerry, and especially my son Liam, are very jet lagged(even though it's only 3 hours difference between New York, where they spent most of the summer, and Portland. It's comical to watch Liam, whose natural state is in motion, but he can't fight the sleepiness around 4 pm.). So, they turned in early, while I ventured out to a jam session. The Camellia Lounge, located in the Pearl District, is a few minutes drive from my apartment. I had  great time listening to and playing with the Sam Foulger Trio. But while I was listening/sitting in, some things popped into my mind; thoughts on how to teach musicians to play better. I think it's important to keep in mind how incredibly simple it is. But why do so many students get stuck in a rut for years?Is jazz really so complicated?

Whether I'm teaching, or practicing, or playing, I like to look at the big picture; I want to be able to always have a system of foundational principles to refer to, in order to stay on track. Think of it as a musical Ten Commandments, or the Jazz Constitution! If we can agree on the basics, then we can always take a step back from what we are doing and ask, which of our foundational principles is this serving?

I've had students who came to me for one lesson. They may have come from out of the country, or they just couldn't afford regular lessons, etc….I've always wanted to have a way to impart as much
"Your parents can only afford one lesson, so let's make it count!"
information as possible in one sitting, so that even that one lesson would have a lasting effect on the student. Maybe this is a blueprint for that idea of "How To Be A Great jazz Musician In One Lesson"!

I'm probably going to subconsciously, or even with full intent and acknowledgment, borrow from some of the known resources on the subject of practicing music. There have been many attempts to take away the mystery of musical self improvement. This is is probably more for me than for others, but if you like it, then by all means use it. If not, then as they say, "keep doing what you are doing!"

Lesson 1 Part 1: Learn Your Instrument

This is something that is actually very tangible. Whatever your instrument or instruments of choice are, there are countless method books and resources on how to play them properly and how to develop technique. This part has nothing to do with jazz. The masters were always aware of this. Most jazz greats did not start with jazz. They took private "classical" lessons. Clifford Brown practiced out of the Arban's book. Almost all of the great jazz pianists were accomplished classical pianists. Charlie Parker admitted in interviews his use of method books. And wherever you live, there is probably at least one person on your instrument that can show you how to play it better. So don't miss this crucial step.

The idea that "jazz players can't really play their instruments" is a load of bollocks. I'm amazed at how this myth persists. And I'm also amazed by how many young players I work with, who seem to want to play jazz, can't play all their major scales, let alone all the other scales you are supposed to know to improvise on basic chord changes! (A good friend of mine, who is running the jazz department in a major music institution, told me a story of meeting with the Dean to talk about how the jazz players in the school "couldn't play all their scales". The Dean replied, " How can YOU tell?", implying that "jazz musicians don't know anything about scales and technique!" On the flip side, my trumpet teacher at Peabody, Mr. Wayne Cameron, frequently admitted that "jazz players have to have MORE scale technique that orchestral players".

Lesson 1 Part 2: Learn The Right Notes

Again, there is no mystery here; if you are still reading "Stella By Starlight" from the Real Book, then you know exactly what you need to work on-playing "Stella By Starlight" from memory! How can you improvise convincingly if you don't really "know" the material? (Now, I will admit that some people have issues with memorizing. As I explained to one of my students who was having trouble with memorizing, "Cannabis can be detrimental to memory!" And as we get older, it gets tougher, of
Cannabis can affect memory! But then again, so can television and beer.....
course.) But more than memorization, I mean "Learning The Right Notes" in the overall sense of being familiar with many jazz tunes, and knowing what notes work over the chord changes. Again, this is not a magic trick; if you go on line, or get any of the Aebersold materials, or any of the Real Books, you can begin to add tunes to your arsenal, and learn how to play your basic jazz scales related to these
tunes. Again, I'm fascinated by students who will blow their way through a jazz tune, and then when asked "what are the changes to this tune?" they have no idea. Getting a fakebook and memorizing chord changes is not something you need thousands of dollars worth of lessons to do. You can do that on your own.

Additionally, I am always amazed by students who will show up every week for months and years to a jam session and STILL not know the tunes that are being called. Drummer Carl Allen had a very simple idea that he would preach to Juilliard students: " Every time you are in a situation where a tune is called that you don't know, WRITE IT DOWN and LEARN IT, so that next time it gets called, you know it." Simple? Yes. Do I see anyone do that? Almost never. Again, this will cost you nothing except a pen and a little notebook. Or type it into your smart phone and text it to yourself! There's no excuses!

Lesson 1 Part 3: Develop Good "Time"

This is a very crucial aspect of jazz playing; the roots of the music are in rhythm. And yet, so much of "jazz education" deals with notes and harmony and repertoire. I know for a fact that most of the players that really get the calls to play are called because "it feels good" when they play. So at the very least, be able to play with consistent time. Playing with a metronome can help this. I used to play a lot
Modern day Metronome: makes a great gift!
with Aebersold recordings, which not only helped my time become consistent, but it helped my "feel" because I was getting to play along with great rhythm sections like Ben Riley and Ron Carter. (I tried to get many of my students to play with Aebersolds; I get the sense that few of them actually do it. I'm not sure why. Maybe I need to wrap their heads with brass knuckles!) Playing along with recordings is also good, which brings us to:

Lesson 1 Part 4: Listen To As Much Music As You Can

I would have said listen to as much jazz as you can, but again, the masters listened to everything. I think just getting a feel for great performances is vital to becoming a great performer yourself. And the cool thing about jazz is that everything you hear can be absorbed into your own style. Transcribing solos falls under this category. You don't need to do entire solos; maybe take small phrases from your favorite soloists and learn them in all keys. But generally, the more you develop a love of listening, the more you are going to develop as a musician. Not just listening to recordings, but listening to live music, as well as listening to your bandmates while you play is important. The better you listen on the bandstand, the more relevant your playing will be, which will make people want to play with you more.

Lesson 1 Part 5: Patience

Many young players want to become Coltrane overnight; we know this is impossible. But I think this is why people are always looking for shortcuts. Indeed, in this day and age of computers, ipods, smartphones, and overnight celebrities, our society is losing our concept of patience. We want everything instantly, with no effort. Learning to play music takes time, in fact, it takes a lifetime. Students need to accept that they need to settle in for the long haul; they may not be where they want to be by the time they graduate from college. They might not be there by the time they are 30. Maybe not even by 40. I'm 41, and although I have had some great musical opportunities, I still feel like I
have a long way to go musically. And I think this is what's great about deciding on a life in music; it is a LIFETIME of discovery. Most people in the workforce don't live this way; they punch in at 9 and out at 5. Not that there is anything wrong with that! It's just that musicians can look at practicing and playing as a road to personal fulfillment for their entire lives, rather than just putting in time until retirement. This makes up for the lack of financial reward! I think……

I didn't say anything about "developing your own sound" or "being an original" , because I think if you follow these five steps, your own sound will come naturally. Furthermore, not everyone is meant to be "the most unique groundbreaking musician in history." I do think that it's important to have the tangibles down before trying to re-invent the wheel. And obviously, there is more to it than these 5 parts. However, it's good to step back and take a look at the big picture once in a while, especially if you feel lost, or in a rut. Above all, be patient, and love the process more than the goal.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Portland Jazz Scene Part 1

Farewell, Winnipeg! Thanks for the memories!
For those of you who are new to my blog, just a quick refresher: I'm an American jazz musician who was born in New Jersey, grew up in Columbia, Maryland, lived in Baltimore and Washington D.C. in the early 90's, moved to New York in 1995, and was based there until 2009. In September of that year, I joined the faculty of the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg. Winnipeg is a small prairie city, smack dab in the middle of Canada, about an hour from the U.S. border and 3 hours north of Grand Forks, North Dakota. Winter lasts from late October to late April, sometimes into May. Zero degrees Farenheit(around -20C) is a nice day in the winter. Yes, it's cold ! However, there are some exciting things going on there, in terms of jazz; look back through some of my posts and you'll see what I mean. American bassist Steve Kirby has assembled a great faculty (Tenor saxophonist Jimmy Greene, drummer Quincy Davis, and newly minted trumpet professor Derrick Gardner) at the U of M, and there are a surprising amount of concerts and gigs for such a small, isolated town. Kirby has even started a jazz magazine called Dig! , which helps promote jazz happenings around the area. And I met some really wonderful folks in Winnipeg, and I had some really great teaching experiences, and made some good friends and good music.(Plus, my son was born in Winnipeg, which makes him a dual Canadian-American citizen. I guess he'll never be President of the United States, though….)

However, life in academia can be somewhat unpredictable.Back in the early Spring, I auditioned for and won a tenure-track position at Portland State University. And so, my Winnipeg experiment had
sadly come to a close. It was time again to pack up everything and move west, even further west, to Portland, Oregon. I had not spent that much time in Portland before, but the handful of times I had
This is right across from my apartment......
been to this Pacific Northwestern city, I always thought, "Wow, this is a pretty cool town." Portland is the only U.S. city that's always on the "Most Livable Cities in the World" lists. It's known for being environmentally conscious, and for liberal attitudes in general. It has pretty decent public transportation, great culture, food, and green spaces. And there is a jazz scene---but we'll get to that shortly.

My wife and I flew out to Portland in July to look for an apartment. Kerry had never been here before, but she was really struck by how lively the Portland downtown area seemed to be. When you look at many cities in the U.S., like Detroit, Baltimore, Rochester, Toledo, St. Louis, etc…you find that downtown is usually a ghost town-people seem to avoid it at all costs. Even in Winnipeg, downtown is kind of dead at times. Portland is one of the few cities where the downtown is still a destination. Portland also has a pretty good public transportation system, which is also a rare thing to find in our auto-centric hemisphere. We looked for 4 days straight for an apartment; we looked at all the quadrants of Portland (Northwest, Northeast,Southwest,Southeast).We even made a trip out to Beaverton, which is a popular suburb of Portland. The last place we looked at, and decided to take, was an apartment right across from Portland State University! My commute time will be virtually zero minutes…..

Now that I had a job and a place to live, I had to organize the move; we were in New York for most of the summer, but all of our belongings, including my 2006 Toyota Matrix, were still in Winnipeg. I returned to Canada not only to retrieve my car and make sure our stuff got moved, but to teach at the
Aqua Books, my favorite venue in Winnipeg
University of Manitoba Summer Jazz Camp. It was a little bittersweet; saying goodbye to friends and colleagues, reminiscing about the good times…I performed in a farewell concert at my favorite Winnipeg venue, Aqua Books. All the usual Winnipeg suspects participated; Steve Kirby, Quincy Davis, Larry Roy, Jimmy Greene, Marco Castillo, Jaime Carrasco. I also asked a lot of the students to sit in. I was quite surprised when, to mark the occasion, Jimmy Greene brought out a farewell CAKE! Again, it's tough to move away from friends, but I promise you, Winnipeg, I shall return someday.

After the moving van was packed and ready to roll, I and one of my former students, trumpeter Simon Christie, got in my Toyota and drove 28 hours to Portland. That was quite an experience in itself: I've traveled a lot over the years, but I've never driven 28 hours straight. We drove down though North Dakota (I had never been there) in through Montana, Idaho(also had never been there), Washington
Who knew Miles City would be completely booked?
State, and finally Oregon. We had planned on stopping in Miles City, Montana; looking on the map, I stupidly assumed that a one horse town like Miles City would be a place where you could just roll in to town and find a room for the night. Well, everything was booked solid. We decided to just suck it up and keep driving( although an old drunken gentleman at the gas station offered to let us stay in his room for the night. I decided against it, for some reason. The man was shocked when he saw the Manitoba license plate."Manitoba?" he shouted, as he stumbled a little. It was as if he had spotted an alien spacecraft. Who knows what his poison of choice was that night….)

We pulled up to my new building at 5:58 PM Pacific Time the next day, with 2 minutes to get keys from the managing agent. After parking the car and decompressing over sushi and beer, Simon and I went back to the apartment and slept on the carpeted floor. I noticed before I went to sleep that my feet were swollen.

Simon had only driven through Portland once, so he wanted to check out the city and also some of the music scene. Now, previously, the only thing I knew about Portland's jazz scene was pianist Darrell
Pianist and Educator Darrell Grant
Grant. Grant was in New York in the 90's and played with many greats such as Tony Williams, Wallace Roney, and Don Braden. He's been teaching at Portland State University for about a decade. But he's still making great music. After you go back and check out his Criss Cross recording entitled " Black Art", you should check out his recent CD, "Truth and Reconciliation" for the Seattle-based Origin label.(This is a really great double CD which features an all star cast of John Patitucci , Brian Blade,  Joe Locke, Steve Wilson and guitarist Bill Frisell.) Grant is credited with invigorating the Portland scene, not just with his musical presence, but with his influence on the many students who are coming out of the Portland State University Jazz Program. (At some point, I'll try to get an interview with him. Clearly, there is a backlog at the moment for interviews…..)

But there is a lot going on in the Portland scene; there are a number of great players and venues. Having mostly recovered from our drive, we ventured out to two jazz performances. The first was at a restaurant called the Globe. On the bill was a fusion keyboardist/composer named Mike Prigodich. The performance featured original compositions from his latest recording, entitled "A Stitch In Time" . The band featured Scott Hall,a great saxophonist who also teaches at PSU. Also featured were Damian
Erskine on electric bass and Reinhard Melz on drums. Erskine and Melz are apparently two of the busiest musicians on the Portland scene. It was refreshing to hear some music on the fusion side; I've lamented the lack of appropriate venues in New York for this sort of music. Prigodich's band bristled with energy, yet maintained a tasteful volume.

After listening to a set and wolfing down some excellent pizza, we drove over to the Northeast to a place called the Afrique Grill. A young trombonist named Javier Nero was performing with his quintet. Nero was a student of mine when I taught adjunct at the Juilliard School of Music; he was in my remedial piano class; thus, I didn't really ever hear him play trombone! Nero impressed me with his virtuosity and musicality; his linear concept remind me of guitarist Kurt Rosenwinkle more than the assumed trombone influences. I think Nero has a lot of potential as a trombonist, and as a composer. (It was nice that Nero let me sit in with the band; I was itching to play some music after all that driving.) Nero has one more year at Juilliard; I'm hoping to convince him to do his Master's degree at PSU…..

The next night, we went to a venue in Southeast Portland called The Goodfoot. This venue seemed more like a rock club than a jazz venue. We saw two bands. The opener was a young drummer from Seattle named Sean Hutchinson. The trio, called Still Life, included Canadian Chris Massey on electric bass and Maryland native Erik Deutch on keyboards. (Erik studied with me in the early 90's. I think he was still in high school. Erik has gone on to be a seriously in-demand keyboardist, touring with the
Erik Deutch in action
likes of Charlie Hunter.) Hutchinson's concept struck me as very contemporary, even though the first tune of the night was a chilled out version of the classic "Stella By Starlight." This trio was more about sound design than super burning linear excursions; Deutch used what he  said was a custom made delay pedal to superbly personalize the Rhodes patch on the Nord Electro keyboard. Deutch combined that with expert use of the in-house Hammond B-3 with his left hand. Hutchinson presented his musical vision well; his compositions seemed not too concerned with "drumistics" as can be the case with composing drummers, but more with the overall vibe. A slick arrangement of David Bowie's "Life on Mars" was a memorable moment in the set.

The second band was led by bassist Damian Erskine. This band, which had keyboards, saxophone, and percussion, as well as Reinhard Melz again on drums, was more aggressive, featuring more odd meters and harder grooves. Erskine's playing reminds me of players like Anthony Jackson, Boris Kozlov, or Janek Gwizdala, but maybe a little smoother. (Erskine is the nephew of drummer Peter Erskine, and they play together in Peter's trio; I listened to their new
CD,"Joy Luck", in my car. I've enjoyed earlier versions of Peter Erskine's trio; I had some of the ECM CDs with John Taylor and Palle Danielsson. This inception features a pianist named Vardan Ovsepian who has a marvelous touch on the piano, much like John Taylor, but with a fiery side as well. And there are some nice touches of synthesizer as well.)

I drove Christie to the airport very early the next morning. Since my wife and son wouldn't join me in Portland until the beginning of September, I figured I should enjoy being a free man, and go hear some more music! The next spot was in the Pearl District, a place called the Camellia Lounge, which is inside a restaurant called The Tea Zone. I sat with some delicious ginger tea and listened to acoustic bassist David Friesen's band, which featured Greg Goebel on Fender Rhodes and John Gross on Tenor Saxophone. Friesen's music is quirky and intriguing; the melodies aren't necessarily catchy, but they quickly create a mood, which is a great catalyst for solos. Dissonant harmonies pervade Freisen's improvisational vehicles, and yet, because of the absence of drums, the band created a very pleasant, listenable, chamber music vibe.

And Friesen's keyboardist impressed me so much that I went to see the Greg Goebel trio at Wilf's the next evening. Wilf's is a nice restaurant right next to Union Station in Northwest. Gobel's trio featured

Greg Goebel
Phil Baker on Bass and Randy Rollofson on drums. Goebel is quite the prolific composer; most of the night showcased original music. Goebel was nice enough to let me sit in, although merely plowing through " East Of The Sun" seemed like a let down compared to Goebel's tightly arranged pieces. Wilf's is a really nice trio space; plus the food is excellent, and the staff is very friendly, friendly enough to make sarcastic jokes to me. (I guess Portland is pretty laid back….)

The bassist Phil Baker informed me that Sunday nights in Portland are a good time to check out Clyde's in Northeast for the Ron Steen Trio Jam Session. It's a bit of a drive from downtown, but since there's no TV or internet in the apartment yet, I decided to go check it out. It's quite a scene. First of all, I will again say that the food is good at Clyde's; I had a Mediterranean Pasta for $11 that really hit the spot, as well as a delicious Key Lime Pie. I sat and listened to Ron Steen and his trio, which featured bassist Baker as well as someone they kept calling "Professor", Mr. Phil Goldberg on piano. This is a jam session that reminded me of the jam session's I used to attend, and then actually host for a while, at Twins Lounge in D.C.. Clydes was soon packed with horn players and vocalists who were eager to get on stage. It was quite a lively bunch, I must say. However, drummer Ron Steen kept everything civil and organized, and he presided over the affair with a lot of warmth and humor. Of course, I played some piano, trumpet, and melodica. Jam sessions can still be a great learning experience, and I certainly had a good time jamming at Clyde's.

My last stop for the week was Monday night at Jimmy Mak's(which is the main jazz club in Portland). I walked down 10th Avenue (Imagine, a major jazz club within walking distance!) to see guitarist Dan Balmer with his fusion trio. Balmer is a Portland native; he spent years on the road with vocalist Diane Schuur. Balmer reminds me a bit of guitarist Paul Bollenback, who I have worked with quite a bit, in that, like Bollenback, he seems to be able to in almost any musical direction. I'm supposed to play with Balmer in late September;this will probably be my first official gig as a Portland resident. I'm looking forward to it, and also eagerly anticipating becoming more acquainted with the Portland jazz scene.

Guitarist Dan Balmer