Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Article on Nicole Glover in PSU Vanguard

I hate to be like those people that put the "My Son Is An Honors Student At James P. Huffington Middle School," but I'm pointing you towards a feature article in the PSU Vanguard about one of our students in the PSU Jazz Program. Well, on her way to being a true professional, Nicole Glover is one of those students that, in the face of the increasing challenges to jazz and art music, really gives me hope for the future of the music. We are extremely lucky to have her in our program at PSU; she will be graduating this year and probably heading to New York City next year. I've been trying to encourage her to record her own album as soon as possible; hopefully, she will be able to organize a recording session soon.

Her is a link to the article.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

My Week in Los Angeles: Catalina's and NAMM

Lenny White
I've never had any inkling to move to Los Angeles. Although there is a music scene, and quite a few great jazz musicians living there, I always felt like New York City was the Mecca. I'm not sure if that's still true, but I did enjoy this past week in LA. I was performing with drumming legend Lenny White; we've played together with Buster Williams for over a decade, but I had only worked with White's own ensemble for a brief period in 2008. ( We did a recording called "Anomaly" which actually features some of my compositions, as well as White's.) I was really glad to get the call and do some playing. I'm blessed that I have gotten to play with two of the living legends of jazz drumming; White and Jack DeJohnette. Both of these men worked with Miles Davis (and Jackie McLean, now that I think of it), but they both have their own approaches to being bandleaders. DeJohnette lets things be a bit more free form, while White is very conscious of orchestration, form, and presentation, almost like an orchestral conductor. I also think that they both choose their sidemen with extreme care; our week in LA would include not only electric bass giant Victor Bailey but also Foley on lead bass(known for his years with Miles Davis and Prince.) The three nights at Catalina's also welcomed the addition of Bennie Maupin on tenor sax, soprano sax, and bass clarinet, which was a real treat, especially when we played Herbie Hancock's "Butterfly"; Maupin played on the original recording.

The gigs at Catalina's went well. We stayed near the club, which is in Hollywood. I've never found
Hollywood, especially Hollywood Boulevard, to be a great neighborhood; however, I was able to get in many runs at Runyon Canyon Park, where if you make it to the top of the hill, you can see a great aerial view of the city. I also made it over to the Hollywood Gym on La Brea, which was very low key. There's something about nice weather which makes you want to go out and exercise!

After three good nights of playing, we headed over to Anaheim for the NAMM show; we were scheduled to play a short set for the drum company Tama's 40th anniversary. Replacing saxophonist Maupin would be guitarist Nick Moroch(who played on White's classic fusion album "Streamline"). If you aren't familiar with NAMM, it's the National Association of Music Merchants and it's like being in a gigantic Sam Ash music store; every company in the world that makes musical instruments shows their wares at this massive event. After our brief sound check, I got my badge and headed over to the convention center. It was extremely overwhelming, to say the least. I tried to look at some keyboards and drums; I played the new Tiger Plastic Trumpet from Warburton, which really was amazing! Although it was somewhat overkill, I wouldn't rule out going next year.

We played after a great set by Billy Cobham's band. After a very exciting set with White and crew, I felt lucky to get to play with some of the heaviest musicians on the planet. Now it's time to head back to Portland for teaching and cold rainy weather.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

OMEA Weekend

I had a great weekend down in Eugene; I was mainly there to give a clinic/lecture for the OMEA(Oregon Music Educators Association) Convention. However, I also got to play music to nights in a row at The Jazz Station, a really nice local venue. The first night was I was playing piano with saxophonist and legendary educator Steve Owen. We played some of Owen's originals and arrangements with Eric Gruber on bass and Jason Palmer on drums.  The second night Jason Palmer and I worked with tenor saxophone monster Joe Manis. I was playing Hammond Organ instead of piano; both nights were fairly intense, and there were good crowds who were very enthusiastic. 

It was a really nice weekend overall; the gigs were good, the clinic was fun, and I got to see Jason Palmer give his clinics, which were quite impressive from an educational standpoint. I also got to see a little more of Eugene than in times past, including the music facilities at
Jason Palmer
the University of Oregon. Before my gig on Saturday night, I got to hear the U of O Jazz Ensemble a bit( in addition to some of the Oregon All State Jazz Band). They were very impressive. Steve Owen has a heck of a program. Indeed, as part of my clinic, I was able to work with some of the top U of O students, and they came ready to play jazz on a high level.

My clinic ended up being somewhat extemporaneous; however, I actually wrote many ideas down in speech form, and I decided to print it hear for those of you who missed the clinic.

Steve Owen
Musings On Jazz In Our Schools

Jazz is America's Classical Music. We don't have to debate this. However, Jazz still has to struggle for attention. The days of jazz as America's Popular Music are long gone; Jazz is not part of our cultural vernacular. Whether it's watching TV, or going to the movies, or going to a restaurant, or listening to the radio, the chance that you might hear jazz is very low. Live jazz performance in America is not as commonplace as it has been in the past. In some ways, it is thriving more in the educational realm. Even when it is established as a real part of a program, whether it be large or small ensembles, improv classes or Jazz history classes, jazz still struggles to be understood. As a freelance musician based in New York for about 15 years, I always found it odd that Jazz seems to have far more legitimacy in Europe and Japan than in the United States.

The more I teach at the college level, the more I wonder about what's going on before kids get to college. Obviously, there is something going on; even as the idea of a career in jazz becomes more precarious by the year, we still get plenty of folks at Portland State University who want to make it their life's work. Not to say that everyone who is in jazz band should go on to major in music; however, jazz in the primary and secondary schools are crucial not only for future jazz majors but also for future jazz listeners, which we who perform desperately need! Almost every gig I play in Portland, someone will come up to me afterwards and say, "Man, I enjoyed that set! I used to play in my high school jazz band." My point is that professional musicians as well as college jazz professors owe a huge debt to the high school, middle school, and elementary school band directors.

I have spent most of the past 20 or so years as a freelance jazz pianist; however, my training was in classical trumpet and music education. Back in 1990, I was fortunate to do my student teaching under Barry Enzman at Glenelg High School in Howard County, Maryland. I think many of us would be envious at the success of Enzman's program; basically, the band program WAS Glenelg HIgh School! All the other teachers worshipped Enzman; I would eat lunch with him in the faculty lounge, and the conversation would always seem to shift towards the band program, without provocation from Mr. Enzman. His Jazz Ensemble was the best in the county, probably even in the state. I asked Mr. Enzman how he had such a great program; his response was naturally-"The feeder schools!" Music students pined for the Glenelg High School program from middle and elementary schools- maybe even from birth!

As a middle school and high school student, I idolized my band directors. My goal was to follow in their footsteps. Mostly by accident, jazz piano took me in another direction for many years. However, I can't help but wonder about what place Jazz has in a Bachelor's in Music Education or a Master's in Music Education these days, more than 2 decades after I got my Bachelor's from Peabody Conservatory. Judging from the Reno Festival last year, jazz groups at the high school level, large and small, are thriving!  However, my guess is that, what with methods class, practicum, conducting, pedagogy, and more, there just isn't enough time to spend on jazz in your average Music Ed program. So I would like to offer some suggestions for band directors who have questions on how to improve your jazz band.

1. Be Positive! You or your students may have a lot of questions, such as, "Who was Theolonious Monk, and why did he write such quirky music?" Or " What is swing?" Or, " What does C7b9 mean?" Or " What is a rhythm changes? And when does the "rhythm"change?" Be positive; don't be discouraged if you don't know the answer, or if your students never heard of Coltrane, let alone Michael Brecker. It's not their fault, and it's not your fault. As I said previously, Jazz is not ubiquitous; therefore, it's something that has to be sought out. There is a lot to know, but thanks to the internet, it is actually much easier to find the answers. However, resist the urge to say things like, "Wow, you never heard of Bud Powell?" Or "Wow, you really need to check out some Max Roach!" Also, resist the urge to beat up yourself in the same way if you are unfamiliar. Life is about learning. The more we know, the more we realize we don't know. We need to welcome the process of learning, which means possibly feeling ignorant for a few seconds. If you can get past the embarrassment for yourself, or the urge to condescend to students, you'll have a better time, everyone will learn more, and then everyone will be enthusiastic about learning, because they will see the results of the process, rather than the side effect of negativity. Remember, no one should feel bad about NOT knowing something about jazz. Indeed, there really aren't any good reasons in this day and age why anyone SHOULD know anything about jazz. ( I remember the first time I played with drummer Billy Hart in Washington D.C. in the early 90's. He made a point to ask me, " Why are you DOING this? What made you decide to get into jazz?" He was really curious, if not completely baffled as to why a young kid from a Maryland suburb would want to play this music.)

2. Listening is key. I like to say that the biggest problem with jazz is that you actually have to listen to it! I'm joking of course, however, one thing we must remember is that much of the true element of jazz does not exist in the written music. The blues and spiritual elements which New Orleans musicians brought to European instruments is what is so fascinating about this music. It's as sophisticated as it is street. The street elements-swing, groove, inflections, phrasing, improvisation, interaction, rhythmic feel,sound, articulation-these are very hard to understand if time is not spent listening. I believe that what really inspired me the most as a youngster was a summer Music Appreciation class I took when I was in middle school. During the class, there were two recordings which completely blew me away: Clifford Brown's "The Beginning And The End", and Herbie Hancock's "Headhunters." I ended up signing these two records, among a few other records, out of the library countless times. I would listen to them over and over. Then, a neighbor down the street heard I was into jazz, and he "lent" me a handful of recordings, including Miles Davis "Milestones," Dizzy Gillespie "New Wave", Art Farmer and Donald Byrd "Trumpets All Out," and Clifford Brown and Max Roach "Joy Spring." I wore these recording out, as they say.( My neighbor never got his records back, by the way.)

Again, the internet alleviates the need for walking back and forth to the library; we can access almost unfathomable amounts of music on youtube and spottily for free. If you choose to support the industry, you can download almost anything on iTunes without leaving your home. Some educators believe that, in a way, because of the easy access to so much music of all genres at the touch of a button, students either completely take it for granted, or they "skim" content, never really absorbing anything. This might be true. Be that as it may, I believe that this access to material, if used wisely, can open up a whole new world of advantages for jazz enthusiasts and jazz educators everywhere. When you consider that one youtube video can lead you in many different directions, think of it this way; you may have a student who says, " I want to get into jazz. Where do I start?" Well, how about start with Miles Davis? Miles will lead you to Coltrane, but it might also lead you to Charlie Parker. Charlie Parker might lead you to Lester Young, but he might also lead you to Dizzy Gillespie. John Coltrane might lead you to McCoy Tyner, which might lead you to Elvin Jones, which might lead you to Dave Liebman, which might lead you to Richie Bierach. But McCoy Tyner might also lead you to Wayne Shorter, which might lead you to Esperanza Spalding. Dizzy Gillespie might lead you to Stan Getz, which might lead you to Joao Gilberto, which might lead you to Antonio Carlos Jobim. My point is, it only takes a little bit to lead us down a path of discovery.

3. Anyone can improvise! Yes, I realize that this is jazz education icon Jamey Aebersold's catchphrase! I am not a paid endorser of Aebersold products. However, I do believe in his play along method. But we shall come back to this. I believe that most musicians who don't attempt to improvise do not do it because of lack of skill or knowledge. They don't because of fear. We are afraid of sounding bad. Unfortunately, even when we do learn a lot of skills and information, and we progress in many areas of music, we still get hung up by fear. There are a lot of things to be legitimately afraid of- natural disasters, nuclear fallout, Adam Sandler movies, and so on. But we should not be afraid of playing music. The most important thing from beginners to professionals is to have a good feeling about making music. Negativity is what makes even the most talented music students quit before they realize their potential. This doesn't mean we should never be critical. But we need to be encouraging. We should also realize that "SOUNDING BAD" is actually part of the process. So, when we begin to improvise, whether it's just playing without sheet music, or playing on a blues, or playing along with an Aebersold, or playing a solo in a big band chart, we should embrace the process rather than the result.

I believe that it is only natural for band directors to emphasize arrangements and ensemble playing over improvisation because it is much much easier to present written material at competitions and winter concerts. I agree. However, don't procrastinate. The earlier that kids get comfortable with improvising, playing by ear, and experimenting on their own, the better. It's all about putting the fear away. The only reason I took solos in my high school jazz band was because I was the only one that volunteered. And believe me, I sounded HORRIBLE! I had no idea what I was doing. But I wasn't afraid. if I hadn't taking the risk of walking out and playing a flugelhorn solo on "Tomorrow" (from "Annie "), I wouldn't be where I am today.

I realize that rehearsal time is precious. Well, concert bands warm up with scales. Why not warm up with jazz scales? Go beyond major- harmonic minor, dorian, blues scale. Why not warm up with a blues where everyone in the band gets a chorus or two? I believe at this level it's about inclusion, not exclusion; give EVERYONE a chance.

4. Conducting a jazz band is easier than you think. This might be obvious to some, but you'd be surprised that there is really tendency to OVERCONDUCT a jazz band. However, if you think about Count Basie, Duke Ellington. Maynard Ferguson, Buddy Rich, Dizzy Gillespie, Thad Jones, on so on, they were mostly playing, not conducting. They might give a lot of cues, or indicate dynamics, but it's surprisingly minimal. The tempo comes from the rhythm section. It may be a challenge for your students to shift from the "follow the conductor" concept of the Concert Band versus the "listen to the rhythm section" vibe of the jazz band. This is where warming up on a blues or a standard might also help- so that students can get used to LISTENING while they play.

5. A good rhythm section is invaluable to your big band. This is why they should also play together outside the group on fake book tunes; so that they can learn how to play together and how to go beyond what is in the chart. I realize that, especially when working with more beginners, that it might be completely necessary to stay with the written material. But oftentimes, the more you will get away from the written material, the better. I will come back to this, but everyone in the rhythm section should think like a drummer. What I mean by this is that the more the bassist and pianist, and even guitarist focus on rhythm above all, the better the groove is going to be.

There are some common pitfalls for rhythm section, which include:
A. Drummers pick terrible cymbals for the ride cymbal. The ride cymbal is the most important cymbal for your drummer. You might need to spend a little bit of money. I t also might be worth it to find a pro drummer in the area and get him to help to find a cymbal or recommend something. I would say something in a 20 to 22 inch, something dark sounding , hopefully not too washy but with enough sound to create intensity. Too dry can be perhaps too revealing and ends up being too harsh. I personally love dry cymbals, but you need a really good drummer to make it work. Also, don't worry about rivets; one of those "chains" can work fine for a ballad.

B. Young drummers, particularly those who don't listen to swing music, tend to overemphasize one and three on the ride cymbal. If you can get them to flip it, everything will sound much better. It doesn't have to be hard accents on two and four, but the primary emphasis should be on 2 and 4. Basically, the drummer should be able to sound great WITHOUT the help of the hi hat.

C. Upright bassist who come from playing electric oftentimes have a incorrect hand position, especially in the left hand, which if left unsupervised, can cause tendonitis. I believe that that might be one are where at least one lesson with a professional would be crucial. Don't necessarily force your electric bassist to play upright just because there is one in the band room. Electric bass is fine for jazz, in some ways, better because it's more practical in terms of traveling. Plus, you can hear it! You might have to help them get the proper eq for walking lines.

D. Bass players should try to get past the written bass lines and improvise using the chords and scales as soon as possible. This will help with the time. As I said before, the bassist is like another drum, and he needs to worry most of all about hooking up with the drummer, particularly the ride cymbal.

E. Oftentimes, the pianist in your jazz band comes from a classical background, and unlike the rest of your band, they might not have any concert band or even any group experience at all. Again, you want to encourage them to listen to the rhythm section, and to the band, and not to get bogged down in reading the chart. Although there might be key things that they need to play verbatim, much of the piano parts are obscured by everything else that's going on in the band. One thing you might encourage is to play the written voicing but play different rhythms.

F. There is always the question of " if the pianist is comping, what does the guitar do?" Well, that's a great question. Aside from the "Freddie Green" thing, which is quarter notes kind of "chunking" along, there are a few options. Piano could play for a while, then guitar, so essentially, they totally stay out of each others way. Another approach is to compliment each other; if the pianist is playing big chords, the guitar could play single notes. If the pianist is playing slow moving chords in a sustained fashion, the guitar could play more rhythmically with more space. It's definitely an area for experimentation with listening to each other.

G. It's very common for the entire rhythm section to be confused about the differences between Latin(Mambo, Salsa, Afro Cuban) and Brazilian( Samba, Bossa) grooves. Latin grooves tend to be based on either a 2/3 or 3/2 clave, whereas Brazillian is not as static in terms of a clave; it might use what's called Partido Alto, but it's a very different rhythmic approach. I would recommend listen to Eddie Palmieri, Tito Puente, and Ray Barretto for Latin music, and Antonio Carlos Jobim, Stan Getz, and Joao Gilberto for Brazillian music, just to start.

H. I would give as homework to each member of the rhythm section the assignment of  3 legendary musicians on their instrument to listen to. Again, youtube guarantees it's a mere finger click away. I picked three who are known as great accompanists.

Piano- Red Garland, Wynton Kelly, Herbie Hancock
Bass- Ray Brown, Paul Chambers, Ron Carter
Drums-Max Roach, Philly Joe Jones, Elvin Jones
Guitar-Freddie Green, Joe Pass, Jim Hall

6. I love all kinds of music. But if I had to be very general about the difference between the jazz aesthetic and the European Classical aesthetic, it's that classical musicians will fudge the time in favor of note accuracy. Jazz musicians, because we are listening to the rhythm section and playing in a GROOVE, will fudge the notes to make the "time" feel good. If you use this philosophy, I believe you will be surprised with the results. Especially when it comes to improvisation, but I think even when we are dealing with ensemble passages, you want it above all to "feel good." Indeed, I'm proof of this idea; when I first started playing gigs on piano, I had no technique, and I only knew a few songs, and I couldn't really read piano music. But because I had done a lot of listening, and because I had played trumpet along with Aebersold records for so many years, I knew by ear what good comping was supposed to "feel" like. So I got hired.

My last thought about the Aebersold series is that I prefer them over the irealbook for the main reason that the irealbook is very computer stiff sounding, whereas the Aebersolds give you the opportunity to play along with the feel of REAL jazz musicians like Ron Carter, Ben Riley, Billy Hart, Kenny Barron, etc…I was in New York for 15 years and I never got to actually play with Ben Riley or Ron Carter….except that I sort of got to play with them every day in my apartment in Baltimore while I played along with the Charlie Parker Aebersold volume! I think it's a really great and fun practice tool; indeed, you can work out your ideas in real time and learn how to play forms and how to swing and so forth with master rhythm sections who never get tired. ( I asked Randy Brecker how he keeps his chops up and he said he plays with Aebersold recordings every day.)

As I mentioned, not every member of your jazz group will go on to become a jazz major, but perhaps having a great jazz program will give them a lifelong interest in jazz and other forms of music. I believe that jazz can offer a creative outlet that arguably playing in concert band may not. This is not to devalue concert band, or reading great charts. I just believe that we should encourage the creative process wherever possible. I believe everyone should be creative. Everyone should write a song if they want to! It's not a matter of being great! It's about being expressive and about self discovery. It is about personal growth. It's not about competitions. Don't be afraid of the unknown. It will never be known unless you search for it.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

TONIGHT! Darrell Grant presents "The Territory" at The Jazz Standard

If you live in New York City, and you love music, and good food, you have probably been to the Jazz Standard(116 E 27th St between South Park Ave & Lexington Ave). If you can make it, TONIGHT at the Jazz Standard is a special performance by a great pianist and one of my colleagues at Portland State University. His name is Darrell Grant and he is presenting "The Territory," a large scale jazz work for which we won a Chamber Music America grant.

Not only is the music amazing, but the all star line-up, a mix of famous New Yorkers and top level cats from Portland and elsewhere, guarantees an exciting night. No doubt you know Joe Locke on vibes, Steve Wilson on alto, and Brian Blade on drums, and of course Terrell Stafford on trumpet. Bassist Clark Sommers is one of Chicago's top musicians.  Vocalist Marylin Keller, a Portland resident, will mesmerize you with her deep contralto. Charles Pillow on bass clarinet(on the faculty of Eastman) and cellist Dorothy Lawson (an incredible virtuoso) round out this stellar ensemble.

Not only did Grant win a competitive and prestigious CMA grant, but he successfully funded his campaign for extra travel funds(which are obviously extensive with all these people in the group). It's wonderful that this performance is going to happen, and you can see it for only 20 dollars! That's bargain basement, considering the musicians involved. My colleague Darrell Grant lived in New York for years before he made his way west to teach at PSU; this night is his first performance in New York in 13 years. You should not miss this! I don't care how cold it is, or how much a taxi costs; go see this gig. I mean, you could stay home and watch American Idol, but that would make you a terrible person! GO SEE THIS GIG!

Here is a link to a video of some of "The Territory."

Monday, January 13, 2014

Lost in Polish Translation

Poland, I love you! I do!
I am always happy to get positive press. I was just made aware of a review I received on a Polish blog from writer Robert Ratajczak. It's a nice review; of course I didn't know until I ran it through the "Translate Polish To English" program. Again, I want to emphasize that I appreciate the good review, and I thank Ratajczak for his compliments. However, I couldn't resist printing the translation, because it is unintentionally funny. I want to reiterate that I am in no way making fun of the Polish language, or the Polish people. I am making fun of the translation program's result. That is of course in addition to promoting myself shamelessly. Which is really what the internet is all about.

The original can be found here. Here is the translation:

Versatility George Colligana often delights and surprises jazz lovers . The 45 -year-old New York-based multi-instrumentalist ( piano , drums , trumpet ) and composer born in New Jersey is an exceptional leader of their formation ( of which so far has published more than 20 CDs ) as well as very desirable by the greatest contemporary jazz sideman . Over the years it has had the opportunity to hear , among others, Lee Konitz the constellations , Richard Bona, Cassandra Wilson , Christian McBride , Buster Williams , Al Foster, Benny Golson or . As a pianist, he is led by his mentors : McCoy Turner , Thelonious Monk , Chick Corea and Herbie Hancock , adding to their great inspiration a great deal of his own eclecticism also supported by careful education in the field of classical music.The latest project Colligana is based on the idea of ​​the piano trio and the 10 new songs that fill his new 24 artist album '' The Endless Mysteries '', recorded together with Section dreams : the bass Larry Grenadier and the drummer is none other than the legendary Jack DeJohnette himself , with whom George Colligan has toured in the past few years.'' Waiting For Solitude '' is an excellent opening this brilliant album . What an exceptional mastery of jazz music and a kind of intuition ! Hard, full of depth piano chords , walking bass and oscillating quite invaluable skill DeJohnette , make it really hard to imagine a better persuasion on the part of the musicians on this album spend at least a few hours during repeated her hearing.More dynamic song is'' Song For The Tarahumera ''. Fast-paced , galloping bass Grenadier ( excellent solo in the middle of the topic ! ) , Jack DeJohnette synkopujący full of energy and lots of piano.Respite brings a quiet, impressionistic about '' Her Majesty '' maintained at an average rate . Colligan playing complex melodic structure while maintaining a kind of classical discipline and a wonderful piano cold. In the background '' crazy '' Jack DeJohnette , of course , and Larry Grenadier regales us in the middle of another improvised stunt .The central part of the disc is somehow separate chapter '' The Endless Mysteries ''. While the theme '' Liam 's Lament '' George Colligan appears to us as a great virtuoso harmonica -key melodica , perfectly controlling the breath and the space between the notes of the natural reverb sound of the instrument .Jack DeJohnette mastery dominates the '' It's A Hard Work '', juicy okraszonego of percussion and a great bass line . Colligan is here in the shadow sections, allowing the parties to dominate the piano his companions .Two further topics: '' Thoughts Of Ana '' and'' Outrage '' were composed by the pianist in response to the senseless shooting at a school in Newtown on Dec. 14, 2012 year. It is then the result of insanity 20 -year-old killer killed 28 children and teachers , including 6 -year-old Ana Greene - Marquez- daughter Colligana friend , saxophonist Jimmy Green. It is dedicated to the poignant theme '' Thoughts Of Ana ''.The second theme dedicated to this tragedy is full of expression and anger '' Outrage '' ('' Scandal ''), in which amidst the unique , dynamic party can clearly see the anger and resentment , which emanate instrumental parts . It's really very moving fragments album ...Beautiful ballad '' The Endless Mysteries '' derives from a deep listener somehow transfer the previous few minutes , opening the third chapter '' '' plates ; far more sober and calm emphasizing instrumental parts in place of the dynamics that accompanied us in the first part of the plate and the deep emotions that zdominowy the middle.An impressionistic '' When The Moon Is In The Sky '' and nearly 9 -minute , almost monumental about '' If The Mountain Was Smooth , You Could Climb It'' in style crown the work .George Colligan , Larry Grenadier and Jack DeJohnette is the ideal , in which each instrument can flawlessly , intuitively zakcentować every phrase and pause , either in the form of dialoguing parties and solo improvisation.In addition to '' Out Here '' (2013) Christian McBride Trio , is definitely one of the most interesting American positions recorded in the convention record piano trio in 2013.Jazz world championship - unusual and unique trio , excellent album !

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Hailey Niswanger Masterclass at PSU

Hailey Niswanger
Even if you have a stellar full time or adjunct faculty at your college or university(which we do in the Jazz Department at Portland State University), sometimes it's great for the students to hear a different perspective on jazz educational topics. Sometimes, it's good to hear the same perspective from a different source! We have been having some cool masterclasses this school year; I posted regarding the Mike Clark event, and we've had some others. David Valdez, who is actually adjunct at PSU, has been giving some great and valuable masterclasses since he's been on the faculty; Valdez has so much chord-scale material that students walk out of the room with their minds thoroughly blown. Chris Brown, a prodigious drummer, saxophonist, pianist, and composer, who is a Portland native and resident, gave an exciting lecture/demonstration recently. We have had two visiting bassists who have dazzled our students with their wisdom; Marcus Shelby gave a wonderful masterclass on the blues, and Clark Sommers talked and demonstrated some deep rhythms.

This term, we kicked it off with alto and soprano saxophonist Hailey Niswanger. A native of West
Linn, Oregon, Niswanger was a star pupil at Berklee College of Music in Boston, and has gone on to the professional jazz world of New York City. She has been touring with Esperanza Spalding, and also with Mike Clark's band, in addition to leading her own groups. She was back in town for the holidays, and also to record her third CD. I thought it would be great if she could come and do something for our Area Recital period.

We played some and Niswanger talked about her career and her
musical vision; we alternated like that for a while. Niswanger performed with the Park Avenue Group, which is a small group led by yours truly. The group features Nicole Glover on tenor saxophone, Jon Lakey on Bass, and Brandon Braun on drums. It's a learning experience for them to play with different guest artists in a casual, yet intense performance situation. I was impressed with how well Glover and Niswanger phrased together as a front line; hopefully, we'll get to try that configuration again in the future. Also, Nilswanger is an incredible sight-reader; she was reading my tunes for the first time for the masterclass, and they were not Eb charts, meaning that she had to transpose at sight, which adds another level of challenge.

Below is a video of one of the songs we performed. ( It's called "The Confident One," and it is a contrafact. Try to figure out what the changes are based on!) Just to let you know, we have many more masterclasses and performances this term at PSU. Our Area Recital time is 5-7 on Tuesdays in Room 47 in Lincoln Hall. Future performances and events include:

January 14  Kerry Politzer Masterclass 5-7 Lincoln Hall 47 Free
January 21   Scott Cutshall Survivor's Suite 5-7  Lincoln Hall 47  Free
January 28   Joe Manis Organ Trio 5-7 Lincoln Hall 47 Free
February 4    Guitar Heroes/ Lords Of Justice 5-7 Lincoln Hall 47 Free
February 11   Bebop/Hard Bop/Contemporary  5-7 Lincoln Hall 47  Free
Feburary 18   Persian Jazz Ensemble/Heppners  5-7 Lincoln Hall 47 Free
Thursday Feb 20  Jazz Conversation with Ahmad Jamal.  12-1 Lincoln Hall 75 Free
February 25   Ken Ollis Free Ensemble/ Colligan Men 5-7 Lincoln Hall 47 Free
Saturday Mar 1 and  Sunday Mar 2, 12-6 pm LH 75- PDX Jazz Festival Student Stage
March 4     Mark Simon Masterclass 5-7 Lincoln Hall 47
March 11    MUS 194/Vocalists 5-7 Lincoln Hall 47

Monday, January 6, 2014


About a week ago, one of my eager students posted this on Facebook:

The George Colligan Standards List...LEARN THEM IN ALL 12 KEYS!


1.Stella By Starlight
2.All The Things You Are
3.Autumn Leaves
4.What Is This Thing Called Love
5.There Will Never Be Another You
6.Tune Up
8.Beautiful Love
9.Alone Together
10.Body and Soul
12.Someday My Prince Will Come
14.Bye Bye Blackbird
15.On Green Dolphin Street
16.There Is No Greater Love
17.I Love You
18.How High The Moon
19.Just Friends
20.If I Were A Bell
21.Night and Day
22.Au Privave
23.Moose The Mooche

I remembered back to last term of my Advanced Jazz Improv class. We had spent the Fall working on basics: scales and the chords they relate to, simple patterns, and the beginnings of jazz vocabulary. I sensed that, while there was still a long way to go fro most of the students, I felt as though there was a collective push towards application of this information to actual MUSIC. However, I posed the question: " How many of you can tell me the chord changes to "Stella By Starlight?" Only one student, the same eager student who posted this list, raised his hand. " If you can't tell me what the chord changes are in their most basic form, how can we apply these concepts to the chords?"

The class and I  then set about creating a manageable list of jazz tunes that I felt were basic enough that were essential; by this, I mean that I would be remiss if a student graduated with a degree in jazz performance and couldn't play these tunes at a least a basic level. Mind you, I am not expecting everyone to know all of Wayne Shorter's obscure tunes, or any Kenny Wheeler tunes, or Tin Pan Alley songs by George M. Cohan, or any obscure Ornette Coleman tunes, or what have you. I just want our jazz students to know THE BASIC jazz tunes. Keeping in mind that great jazz musicians know hundreds if not thousands of tunes, I don't think it's too much to ask for 20 tunes by the time you graduate. I would love to ask for 200 tunes. But for now, at least for the improv class, I think we will work with 20. So let's just change this list a slight bit. We can say that you should know blues form and rhythm changes form, and you should know at least a handful of heads for F or Bb blues and Bb rhythm changes, if not at least ONE good one. But for standard tunes, here's 20 , yes, 20 tunes that please lord I want you to learn them:

1.Stella By Starlight
2.All The Things You Are
3.Autumn Leaves
4.What Is This Thing Called Love
5.There Will Never Be Another You
6.Tune Up
8.Beautiful Love
9.Alone Together
10.Body and Soul
12.Someday My Prince Will Come
14.Bye Bye Blackbird
15.On Green Dolphin Street
16.There Is No Greater Love
17.I Love You
18.How High The Moon
19.Just Friends
20. Solar

I don't think this is asking too much. Also, there might be some debate, but I'm guessing your list could be very very similar to this. Indeed, we could probably spend the rest of the year on these tunes. In once sense, there is the belief that if you really learn a handful of things in jazz, you can apply it to everything you play and learn in the future. I believe this is true. But we need to make sure, if we are concentrating on these smaller areas, then we have to do it correctly. My this, I mean 
memorizing the melody, memorizing the changes, knowing the root movement, knowing all the chord qualities and chord scales, and being able to play it in time. I can even overlook the whole "playing it in all keys" thing. ( Actually, the only one of these I would be challenged by in all keys would be "Confirmation," not the changes so much as the melody. I haven't practiced it enough. I can play " Donna Lee" in all keys, sort of. Actually, my hat is off to trumpeter Bryan Lynch, who floored me with his warm up of Donna Lee in all keys. It's not easy on piano, but it's REALLY not easy on trumpet.)

Anyway, this whole idea of a list of tunes sparked an interesting debate:

David Jernigan:
The people who are going to be successful as versatile jazz players are going to need the ability to learn lots of tunes (standards and others). Some EXTREMELY gifted players get by without learning a vocabulary, but those people don't need no improv class. And probably couldn't hang on any of the gigs I played this week.

Dave Allen:
 I'm finding that a lot of players are now using ireal book on their ipads and not memorizing as many tunes. Not good.

David Weiss:

I saw a kid looking at his phone for changes to a tune we were playing at a jam session. I asked to see it and the changes were wrong. I told the kid the changes were wrong but he didn't seem to believe me. Who are you going to believe, your phone or the human being next to you.....

Luke Gillespie:

 Nice list, George. For those who want a rhythm tune (instead of or in addition to Moose the Mooche), how about Anthropology and Oleo? In addition, how about Afternoon in Paris, Take the "A" Train, Have You Met Miss Jones, Blue Bossa, and In A Sentimental Mood (and you still keep the list of 30)?I suspect the list can also depend on where one lives. Various cities and regions tend to include or emphasize more tunes by local or regional composers. For example, here in Indiana, we might play Hoagy Carmichael (Star Dust, The Nearness of You, Georgia On My Mind, Skylark) and Cole Porter tunes more readily, though Cole Porter is represented nicely with three tunes in your list.

And of course, David Berkman weighed in with THIS:


All Blues
All of Me
All of You
All the Things You Are
Almost Like Being in Love
Along Came Betty
Angel Eyes (vc)
Alone Together
Anthropology (rhythm)
Ask Me Now
Au Privave (blues)
Autumn in New York
Autumn Leaves
Bags Groove (blues)
Beautiful Love Beatrice
Bemsha Swing
Bessie’s Blues (blues)
Billie’s Bounce
Black Nile
Black Orpheus
Blame it on My Youth Blue Bossa
Blue in Green
Blue Monk (blues) Blues for Alice (bird blues)
Body and Soul
But Beautiful
But Not For Me
Bye Bye Blackbird Caravan
Chelsea Bridge
Cheryl (blues)
Child is Born
Come Rain or Come or
Come Shine
Con Alma Confirmation
Darn That Dream
Days of Wine and Roses
Do Nothin Til You Hear from Me (vc)
Dolphin Dance
Donna Lee
Don’t Get Around Much Anymore (vc)
Don’t Mean a Thing if it Ain’t Got that Swing Doxy
Easy to Love (vc)
Embraceable You
End of a Love Affair
Eternal Triangle (rhythm)
Everything Happens to Me
Falling In Love with Love
Fee Fie Fo Fum
Fly Me to the Moon (vc)
A Foggy Day (vc)
Gentle Rain
Georgia on my Mind Getting Sentimental Over Y ou
Giant Steps
Girl From Ipanema
Gone with the Wind
Good Bait (rhythm— variation)
Green Dolphin Street
Grooving High
Have You Met Miss
Here’s that Rainy Day Hi-fly
Honeysuckle Rose/Scrapple From the Apple
How Deep is the Ocean How High the Moon/ Ornithology
How Insensitive
How Long has this Been Goin On
I Can’t Get Started
I Didn’t Know What Time it was
I Fall in Love too Easily
I Got Rhythm
I Hear a Rhapsody
I Love You
I Mean You
I Remember You
I Should Care
I Thought About You
I’ll Remember April
If I Should Lose You IfIWereABell
If You Could See me Now
I’m Old Fashioned
In a Mellow T one
In a Sentimental Mood In Walked Bud
In Your Own Sweet Way Inner Urge
It’s All Right With Me
It Could Happen to You
It Never Entered My Mind
It’s You or No One
I’ve Grown Accustomed to Her Face
Jitterbug Waltz
Joy Spring
Just Friends
Just in Time
Just the Way you Look Tonight
Lady Bird
Let’s Fall in Love (vc)
Like Someone in Love
Long Ago and Far Away
Love for Sale
Lover Man
Lullabye of Birdland (vc)
Lush Life (vc)
Maiden Voyage
The Masquerade is Over
Milestones (old)
Milestones (new)
Misty (vc)
Moment’s Notice
Monk’s Mood
Moonlight in Vermont
Moose the Mooch (rhythm)
The More I See You
Mr. PC
My Foolish Heart
My Funny Valentine
My Ideal
My One and Only Love
My Romance
My Shining Hour
Nearness of You
Never Let Me Go
Nica’s Dream
Night and Day
Night in Tunisia
Now is the Time (blues)
Old Devil Moon
Old Folks
Oleo (rhythm)
One Finger Snap
One Note Samba (vc)
Our Love is Here to Stay (vc)
Out of Nowhere
Prelude to a Kiss
Polka Dots and Moonbeams
 Rhythm-ning (rhythm)
 Round Midnight (Monk’s changes, Miles’ changes)
St. Thomas
Sandu (blues)
Satin Doll
Secret Love
Seven Steps to Heaven
 Shadow of Your Smile
Smoke Gets in Your Eyes
Someone to Watch Over Me
Speak Low
Spring Can Really Hang You Up the Most
Somewhere Over the Rainbow
Someday my Prince will Come
Soul Eyes
Sophisticated Lady
Star Dust
Straight No Chaser
Sunny Side of the Street
Stars Fell on Alabama
Stella By Starlight
Stomping at the Savoy
Someday my Prince will Come
The Song is You
Star Eyes
Sweet and Lovely
Sweet Georgia Brown
Take the A Trane
Take the Coltrane
Teach Me Tonight
There is No Greater Love
There Will Never Be Another You
That’s All
Twisted (vc, blues)
Turn Out the Stars
 Up Jumped Spring
Well You Needn’t
What a Difference a Day Makes (vc)
What is this Thing Called Love
What’s New
When I Fall in Love (vc)
 Whisper Not
Will You Still Be Mine
Willow Weep for Me
Without A Song
Woody’n You
Yardbird Suite Yesterdays
You and the Night and the Music
You Don’t Know What Love
You Go to My Head
You Stepped out of a Dream
You’d be So Nice to Come Home To

David continues:

I wrote that a few years ago and added a couple of the suggestions people added when I posted it before. It's not exhaustive, it's just a starting place. Anyone interested is welcome to it.

Tim Ferguson:
Really important! We can discuss the details of the list all day, (more tunes, fewer tunes, more American songbook, more jazz composers, etc.), but the fact remains that if you want to be able to go out and communicate with other musicians in the language of jazz you need to be familiar with the vehicles used by jazz players.

Mike Lee:

Excellent list. We've got to insist on these bare minimums for students. I would add I Can't Get Started. These lists often under emphasize Ballads.

Michael Pope:

I don't really even get the whole thing with learning tunes. I can't remember a time when I was coming up where I had to actually sit down and learn anything in terms of a run-of-the-mill jazz standard. If I didn't know a tune, we would play it on the gig, usually with no chart and a piano player just leading me through it so I learned it by ear, and by the time the tune was over I knew it. Done deal. Sometimes I'd learn five or 10 tunes a night when I was 15 years old. This is the way most of the people that I knew learned music. Why is it a big process now? I guess if you're a horn player learning bebop heads it's a little bit of a different story, but it seems to me that just about anybody should be able to find their way through the melody to Cherokee after hearing it once or twice. Too much talking, not enough playing. That's what I think, anyway.

Damien Erskine:

Indeed, this is something I've struggled with in the past. I am a bassist who plays a lot of jazz gigs and I don't have a single standard memorized (and never really cared to). I realized one important thing..... I don't self-identify as a jazz musician. Rather, I'm a very good bassist (maybe even an improvising musician) who has used Jazz as a tool for development in the shed enough that I can certainly take a lot of Jazz gigs. While I agree that any serious student who aspires to be a true "jazz musician" should certainly have the vernacular together (if you learn enough tunes, you know them all) but those tunes to necessarily relate to what's happening in the more aggressive and original versions of jazz out there today. I don't need to know Stella to play George's fusion gig but, the truth is that I would better interact with the music in a way that may be more in line with George's intentions, if I did. Not sure about that but I do feel that if I knew a few dozen tunes, I would likely relate more personally (on a musical) level with certain musicians. My trio gigs with Peter Erskine and Vardan Ovsepian are a case in point. The band sounds great, I love their playing and they seem to love mine. But, I also feel like I'm not approaching the music from the same place that they are and I get a bit self conscious about that at times. Maybe any tension created by my "non-jazz-guy" musical preferences is a small part of what makes that group sound the way it does? (I actually told them that they should get an upright player when I joined the band because I was hearing it as "super jazz guys piano trio". That was not what they heard and the results have been pretty great). Anyway, long story short. I decided at one point that, being an electric player, listening to the music that I do and loving to play ALL kinds of music, it was ok for me NOT to self-identify as a 'Jazz musician' even if I do play a fair amount of jazz. I agree with George, tho. Any self-identified JAZZ MUSICIAN should know the language of jazz and that requires some serious time spent with a real book, going to jam sessions and learning those tunes in a much deeper way than my "I'm going to practice scaler patterns over Nefertiti because it just makes me a better musician", use of the idiom.

David Berkman:

It all depends on what you are going to do. The reason why these tunes need to be memorized is because if you are reading out of your iPhone you aren't thinking ahead or listening for the substitutions that are part of the tradition of playing standards. Different Players play different changes or vary them chorus to chorus and reading Stella out of a book doesn't prepare you to open it up much. Having said that, there are a lot of different types of jazz out there and I wouldn't say that a knowledge of standards is essential for every "jazz" player. Also there's more to this than memorizing some changes from your iPhone. There are players that have a deep knowledge of the song , it's structure, ways to navigate the changes that they've discovered or learned from other players--the idea is that spending time with all the things you are or bird blues teaches you something about how chords work.

I think a lot of valid points were made. Indeed, Mr. Erskine came in a nailed my difficult fusion music when we played at Jimmy Mak's with guitarist Tom Guarna. It wasn't a standards gig. And to further that point, I've heard that Pat Metheny will admit to not knowing very many standards. Be that as it may, I don't think it could hurt! David makes a great case for why it helps to "know" it rather than "read" it.

It's interesting that  D.C. based bassist David Jernigan posted because my early gigs with him were one of the things that motivated me to learn a lot of tunes. I could never stump him; he seemed to know everything in every key! I recently was going through emails and I found my old list of tunes from the 90's that I used to work from. I need to edit it but I may post that in the future. I have to admit that I've forgotten many of the tunes, which kind of adds to the debate the idea that it's hard to remember these tunes if you aren't playing GIGS which require you to play a ton of standards. Anyway, I'm going to get back to work with my Improv class and see if we can't at least get 20 together by the end of the year.