Here is an exercise that I practice a lot. It runs through the 7 traditional modal scales: Lydian, Ionian, Mixolydian, Dorian, Aeolian, Phrygian and finally, Locrian. Using the key of C as an example, we start with a Lydian scale (C, D, E, F#, G, A, B). I drop the F# to F natural making the scale C Ionian. Drop the B to Bb and the scale becomes Mixolydian. Drop the E to Eb, the scale becomes Dorian. Continue lowering scale degrees by a half step (A becomes Ab- Aeolian, D becomes Db- Phrygian, G becomes F#- Locrian, C to B- Lydian) and we eventually replace all of the notes of the key of C with the notes from the key of B. We start the same pattern again with a B Lydian scale. Does this exercise have any practical application? Other than sounding cool and being a good finger workout, I have no idea. But who cares? Try it out, you might like it…
I had Kennedy Dream: Originals on vinyl many years ago and recently happened upon some of the music posted on Youtube. It’s a really interesting record that features Nelson’s arrangements of original music inspired by the life and times of JFK. In addition to being a top notch saxophonist, Nelson who is best known for his classic record Blues & The Abstract Truth, was an in demand composer, arranger and producer who penned classic TV themes like The Six Million Dollar Man, Columbo and Ironside. The music from The Kennedy Dream has a highly polished movie theme music sheen to it, with lush orchestral instrumentation played by top notch musicians. Snippets of Kennedy’s recorded speeches are used as song introductions. I like this record a lot. Phil Woods, who does much of the soloing, is fantastic. Anyway, As I listened to the song “The Artist’s Rightful Place” on Youtube, I couldn’t help but thinking that I’d played the melody in the past. It turns out that I had. It’s an exercise from Nelson’s book PATTERNS FOR IMPROVISATION. I loved playing through all those hip exercises back in the day! I think the book came before the record. Maybe Mr. Nelson was going through a bout of writer’s block and decided to lift his own material… A JFK sound bite begins “The Artist’s Rightful Place”. It’s a pretty powerful sentiment and brings to mind the poet/ activist Amiri Baraka who just recently passed… (Later) The melody of another song from the record, “Let The Word Go Forth”, is from exercise 44…
Virgil Jones, one of jazz’s unheralded trumpet greats, worked with a who’s who of musicians including Ray Charles, Dizzy Gillespie, Thad Jones- Mel Lewis, Joe Henderson… the list goes on and on. As a sideman for Johnny “Hammond” Smith’s date A LITTLE TASTE, he delivers an exciting chorus on “Nica’s Dream”.
“NICA’S DREAM”- VIRGIL JONES SOLO
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A transcription of “Yardbird Suite” from Warne Marsh’s self- titled date…
“YARDBIRD SUITE”- WARNE MARSH SOLO
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This Lee Konitz solo was taken off of his date LEE KONITZ WITH WARNE MARSH. A different take on the language of Dizzy, Charlie Parker and Bud Powell.
“DONNA LEE”- LEE KONITZ SOLO
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THE ETERNAL TRIANGLE featuring Freddie Hubbard and Woody Shaw is another record that I kept on heavy rotation during my time in college…
“MOONTRANE”- KENNY GARRETT SOLO
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If I were given a choice of one Mulgrew Miller record to listen to from this moment on, it would have to be WINGSPAN, with HAND IN HAND a close second. I first heard this record many years ago while in college. It was my first exposure to Miller and to the young alto saxophone phenomenon, Kenny Garrett. Needless to say, Garrett became my saxophone hero for a looooong time, but I was also attracted to Miller’s very personal compositional and improvisational style, as well as this record’s uninhibited drive and joyous feeling. Everyone should have it in their collection…
“I REMEMBER YOU”- MULGREW MILLER SOLO
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It’s been a long time since I posted anything on Practice Portal. For the past month, my family and I have been relocating from Japan to the U.S. It’s been a long, energy draining process but we are finally settling in and I’m just about ready to get down to business…
One of things I enjoy most about living in Japan is hearing great music in the most unlikely places. Out shopping at a grocery store, I might hear some Stanley Turrentine over the speakers. I might hear a gangsta rap song with explicit lyrics at a bookstore, or some Duke Ellington while eating at a family restaurant. It’s great to hear music by chance, music that I didn’t expect and that I haven’t heard in a while. I heard “Wiggle Waggle” recently in some random place and was reminded of how versatile Joe Henderson was as a soloist. He could move from cerebral to earthy in the space of a few bars. Single note riffing, complex arpeggiating, false fingering, note splitting, altissimo wailing, irregular phrasing… Joe Henderson was a bad man. “Wiggle Waggle” is featured on the classic Herbie Hancock album FAT ALBERT ROTUNDA.
“WIGGLE WAGGLE”- JOE HENDERSON SOLO
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The Jazz Crusaders- one of my favorite jazz units of the ’60s. They had the precision and group empathy that comes from putting in a lot of time with each other, they had lots of interesting, original material, and they are all great individual talents. My father had their first two LPs (FREEDOM SOUND and LOOKIN’ AHEAD) in his music collection and I kept them in heavy rotation. Wilton Felder and Wayne Henderson make up a powerful frontline- Felder’s tenor sax is a blend of hard bop vocabulary with heavy rhythm and blues sound. Henderson is a trombonist with bebop virtuosity and earthy musical style. Pianist Joe Sample’s “Freedom Sound”, the title track from the Jazz Crusaders’ debut album, always put me in a good mood. Here’s a sketch of it.
“FREEDOM SOUND”- MELODY
Horace Silver’s “Serenade To A Soul Sister” from his album by the same name, is a 24 blues waltz. Stanley Turrentine’s saxophone fits this style perfectly with his hard edged soul- blues concept. He had one of the most distinct saxophone sounds in jazz and influenced so many players… As I was transcribing this lead sheet I noticed some clashes between the melody and harmony. For example, on the E7 chord at bar 2, the melody sits on an “A”, the 11th. Usually, the 11th degree of a 7th chord is raised… A little later in the measure, the melody lands on the raised 7th which clashes with the flatted 7th of the chord. You will find these glitches in many compositions by Horace Silver. I think those rubs are intentional, I think they add a level of dissonance, friction and heat…
“SERENADE TO A SOUL SISTER”- MELODY AND STANLEY TURENTINE SOLO
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“The Cape Verdean Blues” is, in my opinion, one of Horace Silver’s most effective compositions. He takes an infectious melody and supports it with the very best aspects of his compositional style. The melody consists of two main motifs that are stated either in unison or with a simple diatonic harmony between the piano and sax. The rhythm section plays a calypso rhythm under the chord progression. The melody and the left hand accompaniment of the piano play off of each other in a call and response. What makes all of these devices work even more effectively is that they continue through the whole song creating a feeling of suspension. It also gives the impression that the entire song, solos and all, was written down and rehearsed. The rhythm section maintains its groove as Horace Silver creates a left hand/ right hand dialogue in his piano solo. Joe Henderson substitutes his tenor sax for Silver’s right hand during his solo… What I love so much about this way of interacting is that the musicians grab onto riff and work at it like a dog chewing on a bone. It takes a great deal of maturity to work a motif over and over and continue to find something new…
“THE CAPE VERDEAN BLUES”- MELODY
“THE CAPE VERDEAN BLUES”- JOE HENDERSON SOLO
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THE JODY GRIND- depending on the day and my mood, my favorite Horace Silver record. Silver augments his tried and true hard bop concept with nods to soul jazz, latin music and post bop. I love the more ambiguous chord progressions that he uses on this record. “Mexican Hip Dance” is a 32 bar (ABAB) song in 3/4 time by Silver. It moves between a straight 8th note, double time feel (when I hear it I think about the Mingus record, TIJUANA MOODS and of flamenco dancers) and a jazz waltz. The A section has the horns harmonizing a syncopated rhythm against a quarter note bass line. and a tight hi- hat/ rim shot drum pattern. At B, the rhythm section moves into a rumbling jazz waltz as the horns play an arpeggiated line. Woody Shaw follows the melody with a brief solo that is funky and oblique at the same time… Love it!
“MEXICAN HIP DANCE”- MELODY AND WOODY SHAW SOLO
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