Surprise Brecker Appearance!

Michael Brecker made a surprise appearance at Carnegie Hall Friday.

"In a surprise, they were joined on Mr. Hancock’s “One Finger Snap” by the saxophonist Michael Brecker, who has been ill for the last year with MDS, or Myelodisplastic Syndrome, a bone marrow disease. It was the first time he had performed since his hospitalization. Mr. Brecker looked slightly tired, but otherwise gave it his all, playing long, tumultuous lines at full strength through the song."

Great to know Michael is doing better!! He does look a lot thinner now though…….

Real Book Listening Project

I came across an interesting site. Real Book Listen. The goal is to provide links to audio clips of the songs found in the Hal Leonard Real Book (the one that was “illegal” about 10 years ago, and now is “legal”).

It’s a good idea, especially the iTunes links. I think the author should have included links to Emusic as well as they have a lot of classic Jazz available there.

Beyond The Horn – Backgrounds

Yes, you knew it was coming. Backgrounds to practice Walt Weiskopf’s great new book, Beyond The Horn. A lot of these are based on “standard” tunes. A couple are original chord changes. All of them are very challenging to play with the Etudes out of the book. It’s different, it’s fun, it will bust your chops for sure. Enjoy!

  Beyond The Horn Backgrounds in Band-in-the-Box format (10.5 KiB, 16 hits)
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Windcontroller Group (Group Think)

Over this weekend, I got into this heated argument on a Yahoo group about Wind Controllers. I was interested in perhaps getting a new EWI 4000 to supplement my practicing. I said in one post that I thought a lot of the people using the controller as a sax made it sound cheesy. And, honestly, the sounds do sound cheesy. And I stated that you should try to be a sax, or a flute at all because it just doesn’t sound right. Wow. The little people on that list blew up, calling my statements “stupid”, calling me “bipolar” when I said that the Garritan Jazz Band sounds sound good (but not good enough) and slandering me about everything under the moon. The moderator, Matt at Patchman Music decided to just remove me from the list without any explanation. Nice moderating there guy.

I thought it was really interesting that these guys have deluded themselves into thinking that playing a flute patch, or sax patch sounds as good as the real thing. One gem, was posted by this german guy “We emulators must have come very close to the “real thing” otherwise they wouldn’t feel to threatened and be so passionate about preventing emulation”. I totally don’t agree. You are doing a disservice to the music community. Whatever happened to tone? Isn’t tone the most important part of someone’s playing? If you are proficient on wind controller, why not just play the real instrument then? There is not much of a leap from EWI to clarinet. Why not just play it as it’s own instrument with it’s own unique sound?

Group Think

Ah, anyhow, the little group there seems to think not. Thus I got bounced, though people who slandered me seem to have been allowed to continue to post. I think the wind controller players are limiting themselves if they do emulation, or even think it sounds a “believable” substitute for a real instrument. Steps Ahead would not be on my iPod if Brecker was using a flute patch to play all those songs.

But what do you all think? EWI as a substitute for a real instrument? As it’s own entity (ala Brecker)? I am totally for the latter, and opposed to the former.

Beyond The Horn

Walt Weiskopf and Ed Rosenberg, have released a great new book, Beyond The Horn. It is more of a follow up to his great Around The Horn book. The 246 pages are filled with Octave Displaced Triads, and a bevy of Octave displaced minor, melodic minor, harmonic minor and a bunch of other modes. Plus, there are some etudes based on original and standard chord songs that incorporate the material studied throughout the book in them. The funniest title, for me, was “You’re Modern” which is based on the chords to “I’m Old Fashioned” by Jerome Kern. Get it?…..get it? Aw, nevermind.

They forward in the book says that the material was tried out with a captives from the Eastman Music school. Supposedly no students were injured in the testing….though it doesn’t say that…..

All of Walt Weiskopf’s books are must haves in your library. His Around The Horn, “Coltrane – A Players Guide To His Harmony, Intervallic Improvisation, and Augmented Scale In Jazz are well written, easy to read, concise books every saxophone player should have. This book gets a 10 out of 10.

DEVONThink

I tend to gather stuff while online. Pictures, articles, PDFs, this, that, the other thing. It’s really hard to keep track of stuff. Perhaps it was a website where you read this great article about taking care of your reeds. Or maybe it was that PDF of a solo you downloaded, but what was the file name again? Mac OS X’s Spotlight can only help so much in finding stuff. And on Windows…..you’ll have to wait for Vista for anything like Spotlight.

Fear not. There are a number of solutions for this information overload, and the one I picked was DEVONThink Pro. It’s a great program that can keep track of all the STUFF you gather. All the PDFs I’ve collected. Articles out of FluteTalk, or the Double Reed Society. Or out of Downbeat. I have something like 16 gigabytes in DEVONThink right now. PDFs of songs. I can organize them. Categorize them. Type in some good descriptions. Plus, if I want to find a Beach Boys song, but I don’t remember the title…..I can search on it….instantly.

I don’t really know of anything like this for Windows, but if you have a Mac, you should check it out.

II-V-I Patterns

I have updated the II-V-I patterns yet again. I consolidated some of the other patterns I had (like the Ray Brown ones). There are now 286 pages (or 286 4 bar patterns in all keys) to enjoy. Also gone is the Jazz Font. I am in favor of a more clean, professional look using Bill Duncan’s Fonts for Finale for this going forward.

  II-V-I Patterns in Bb (4.6 MiB, 12,317 hits)
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  II-V-I Patterns in Bb Pages 1 to 100 (1.7 MiB, 11,401 hits)
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  II-V-I Patterns in Bb Pages 101 to 200 (1.9 MiB, 10,927 hits)
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  II-V-I Patterns in Bb Pages 201 to 289 (1.6 MiB, 10,938 hits)
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  II-V-I Patterns in Eb (4.7 MiB, 11,606 hits)
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  II-V-I Patterns in Eb Pages 1 to 100 (1.7 MiB, 10,417 hits)
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  II-V-I Patterns Reference (600.9 KiB, 11,978 hits)
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These patterns were designed to be used with Aebersold Vol. 3, Track 2. Also included is a 24 page reference of the patterns.

Intermediate Jazz Conception

Jim Snidero has added another volume to his Jazz Conception series. Intermediate Jazz Conception features 15 songs based on chord changes to “St. Thomas”, “On Green Dolphin Street”, “Confirmation”, “Well You Needn’t” and others. The Alto version features Jim Snidero (as do all the other Alto versions of his books), the Tenor version features Ted Nash.

For style and sound, all these books are excellent….

You’d be hard pressed to find a better sound on Alto than Jim Snidero’s. On tenor, previous versions of the book have featured Walt Weiskopf and Eric Alexander, who are excellent players. However, I think Ted Nash’s sound is great in this book. I’d say better than the other two (but that is just my opinion).

The book’s tunes. Honestly, the tunes (or etudes) in this volume are lack luster. The first tune, “Splank Street”, has a great sound to it, but the tune never goes anywhere unlike in previous Jazz Conception books (IE: Basie’s Blues). “St. Sonny” is ok, “Confirmed” and “Freedom” are good. But there is nothing that just screams “cool” to me. In the original Jazz Conception book we had a ton of cool tunes like “Passages”, “Bird’s Blues”, or “Groove Blues” to name a few. But this volume, they are playable, but….not memorable.

Rating. It’s a solid edition to the Jazz Conception series. I give it a 8. I love Ted Nash’s playing in this book. But the tunes are not as good as they have been in previous Jazz Conception books. I’d still love to see Jim Snidero tackle a more contemporary play-along. Something that is really lacking out there.

Future Of MP3 and Surround Sound

Wired magazine is running a story pondering the MP3 format, how long it will last, and where surround sound is going to fit in. Basically, it looks like it will be around for a while even though better formats, like AAC or MP3Pro, are out. AAC is part of the MPEG4 standard, but a lot of people, like the geeks on Slashdot have issues with Fairplay encoded AACs (or Digital Rights Management (DRM) AACs. Stuff you buy off iTunes Store for example).

For myself, I gave up encoding to MP3 years ago. Most everything I encode now is 160 or 192 (due to cymbals in some jazz recordings getting “washed out” at 160) bit AACs. They sound great on my iPod (and new iPod video), and on both my stereo systems (studio and home).

I see AAC and MPEG4 winning out over other formats, though we will probably have to put up with WMA (Microsoft) formats for a while longer.

iPod “Video”

After nearly 3 years of faithful service, my 3rd generation iPod died. It wasn’t the battery. It was the hard drive. The hard drive finally decided to check out. I was sad.

For the last 2 or 3 weeks, I’ve been going through iPod withdrawal. Shuttling my music files between home and the studio is a pain. I’ve been using a “portable HD” that I usually use to backup my stuff. Plus, those nights when you want to listen to music before going to bed? Or in the car?

So, it was a choice between an iPod Nano or an iPod (with video). The Nano is very nice. A number of my students have them. However, 4 gigs is just too small. My finale files I transfer back and forth take up nearly 500megs, plus if I wanted to put all my Aebersold play-alongs on there, I couldn’t. So, I decided to go with the iPod. Wow…..

(Update: 02/21 21:00 GMT by E :The Aebersold AACs/MP3s take up about 10 gigs. I don’t have all the playalongs, but I have 85-90% of them)

First off, it “looks bigger”. But it is not. In fact, it is the same width, and the depth is almost half that of my 15 gig iPod. It looks bigger due to the screen. And the screen is absolutely incredible. Clear, color, crisp. Man, in 3 years they have done wonders. I haven’t watched any videos on it, but I imagine they look great.

Sound quality is great. I plugged in the standard headphone and it sounds great. I plugged in my Shure headphones, and it sounds “greater”.

Two bad things. First is the case. It’s really flimsy. I am planning on getting a better case ASAP. I don’t want any scratches. Second bad thing, no dock. My previous iPod came with a nice little dock, this one comes with nothing. They will sell you one for like $40. Um. No. Not right now, thanks.

Rating. 8 out of 10. No dock and a poor case are the two points taken off. They could have at least done a clip case like what came with the 3rd generation iPod. And no dock, that’s just cheap Apple.

Update: 02/28 08:50 GMT by E :Found another interesting thing. When you unplug the headphones while playing, the iPod will put what it was playing on Pause for you. That is a very nice little thing to have.

Gordon Goodwin Big Phat Band Play-Along Series

This is pure gold. 10 songs, playing with the Gordon Goodwin band. The solos are written out. The chart is there. Everything. You get a small clip of the band playing the tune (full band), and then you get the band minus your part and the solos. It’s the actual recording. Hunting Wabbits, yes, it’s the same as the recording. If you listen hard, you can hear a very faint bleed in from the solos.

You need to get this. You need to get both the Alto and the Tenor versions as the written solos are not the same in both books (IE: the solo for Swingin for the Fences is in the Alto book, but not in the Tenor. The solo for Jazz Police is in the Tenor book, but not the Alto).

On a scale of 10, I give this series of books a 12. No, a 14. Hell, ok, 15. It’s good stuff. Very good stuff.

Update: 02/17 21:49 GMT by E :You can get the book via Aebersold, or J.W. Pepper

2006 Grammy Winners

Congrats to Gordon Goodwin for winning “Instrumental Arrangement” for his “Incredits”. Sonny Rollins won the “Jazz Instrumental Solo” for “Why Was I Born?”. Wayne Shorter Quartet won “Jazz Instrumental Album, Individual or Group” for “Beyond the Sound Barrier,” and the Dave Holland Big Band won the “Large Jazz Ensemble Album” for “Overtime”.

Too bad Gordon didn’t win for Jazz Ensemble as well. Then we would have had a Saxophone sweep at the Grammys.

Silent Saxophone Practice

Ok. Brass instruments have had that Silent Brass system for a while. Most sax players wish they would use it all the time ;-). Now, it seems saxophone players can have something similar.

E-Sax is a new case/silent practice thing. Interesting stuff. Looks really funny, but they say it works. You can even do Karaoke with it. Woohoo!

I have always been hoping for some sort of noise cancelling system to come out. A system where you’d hook a mic up, and while you play a digital box takes your sound, and then produces and blasts out the inverse and cancels out the sound. Perhaps someday….

Jazz-Sax, all things Jazz and Sax