Tag Archives: Jazz

Band in a Box 2011

PG Music has updated their awesome program, Band in A Box to the 2011 version. The main new features are:

  • More natural sounding real tracks over various tempos (ie: better pitch stretching and compressing technology)
  • Takes up less space (I haven’t been brave enough yet to try this on my install of Band in a Box yet)
  • Multistyles and Change of individual RealTracks. So you can pick your favorite parts of RealTracks and put them all together or have the style change midstream.
  • Scales Wizard which is great for students of Jazz

The basic look and feel of the program is the same, which if you love it, then all is well in the universe, and if you think the circa 1991 look sucks then….well….it’s going to suck. I think PG Music really needs to hire an interface specialist and completely overhaul the look of the program. Functionality wise, it is amazing. But a LOT of things could be better, like the Preferences area (please PG Music, look at like Digital Performer or even FINALE on how to clean up the Preferences), or just navigating the program in general. I know the program’s roots are from the Atari ST days, but the whole concept of GUI is different now, and PG Music still doesn’t seem to get it.

Take for example the new Mixer. While it is very nice to have a mixer, it is completely backwards. And there are 5 tabs to access the features, where a smart design could have put them all in ONE spot. And left right for volume? The only program I use that has that is Garageband. A standard DAW type mixer where there are UP DOWN volume, knobs for panning and tone, a pop up level thing for reverb. And it always wants to be the top window. DAWs like Digital Performer or even ProTools let you the mixer behind other windows.

Things like this drive me mad. I mentioned the whole mixer thing several times in the Beta test, and nothing happened. *Sigh*

Band in a Box is still a program without equal though. The complaints about interface quirks don’t tarnish the program. As a musician, you’d be foolish NOT to own this program with ALL the RealTracks. Once you hear it, and use it, you won’t be going back to your Aebersold play-alongs.

I give it a 9.5 out of 10. More features, smaller footprint for the RealTracks, generally faster than the previous version, more RealTracks, more options. All great additions to an already great program. 0.5 deducted for PG Music still not fixing strange things in the interface or just cleaning it up. Though, this program still runs FINE on my 2006 iMac as well as my MacPro.

PS, I HIGHLY recommend getting the Hard Drive versions. Since downloading the program can take hours, and several 10s of gigabytes. A lot of ISPs are now capping your monthly allocation as well (Comcast, and now AT&T). PLUS, getting it on a hard drive means you can RUN it from there or have it as a backup.

Leon Breeden Dies

Sad news

“Leon Breeden, the longtime director of jazz studies at the University of North Texas, who half a century ago transformed the program from a clandestine enterprise into the international Mecca for jazz training it remains today, died on Wednesday in Dallas. He was 88.”

My college band got to do a concert with North Texas State’s One O’Clock band (well after Mr. Breeden left). We were rehearsed and sounded good playing Thad Jones arrangements. They came in and sightread all the tunes we had prepared and sounded better. Damn.

Band-in-a-Box 2010.5 – Mac

PGMusic just released Band In A Box 2010.5 for the Mac. Improvements? Yes, several. Here are a few that I think are noteworthy:

  • Styles can now be made that are set to use Half-Time and Double-Time RealTracks. For example, you can make a Jazz Ballad style (tempo 65) that uses a Sax Soloist at tempo 140 (playing double time).
  • For RealTracks, many Jazz comping styles now play triads (instead of 7ths) when simple triads are entered, instead of “jazzing them up” to 7ths chords (e.g. Guitar: Freddie, Wes Piano: Some Jazz. All Stride, Rehearsal). If you prefer this “the old way”, where triads are automatically “jazzed up” when comping using Jazz RealTracks, then you can set the Prefs-Realtracks settings option to force 7ths for triads.

Plus, you get a bunch more RealTracks. One of the Paks comes with some B3, and other has some excellent Jazz Guitar.

Is it worth the money? Yes, I think so. It is a great tool for musicians who want to practice 50 choruses of soloing…..at whatever speed……in whatever style……in whatever key. Or perhaps you’ve like to figure out some chords for a song you were working on? Done. BinaB can help you there. Or maybe figure out what chords were played in a song? Yep, it can help you there too. So many uses for this program…..it should really be a REQUIREMENT for a Musician to own it.

UPDATE: A few of the RealTrack Saxophone tracks are Eric Marienthal. How cool is that???

The Real Book Play-Along – Volume 1

Hal Leonard is selling a CD set of backgrounds to ALL the songs in the Real Book Vol. 1. For about $100, you get 12 CDs of piano, bass and drums background that range in time from about 2 1/2 minutes to 6. Depends on the song. A couple of songs, like Wave, have guitar on them….sorta….it almost sounds like a synth patch. Or it was added as an afterthought. Some of the tracks could have been better with just guitar, bass and drums (like wave or Summer Samba). A couple of songs they took the piano out and replaced it with an electric keyboard type sound (like Sugar) which isn’t bad, but it isn’t as good as, say, a good B3 type of sound.

Is it worth the $100? Yes. Originally I thought this would be sort of a lame package, or something that wouldn’t really add anything to the songs one might already have the Aebersold versions of. Or maybe that my favorite program, Band in a Box could do what this offers and more. The backgrounds on these discs are accurate playings of the songs found in the Real Book that Hal Leonard publishes (or if you still have the “illegal” version that used to float around until Hal Leonard picked it up). The guys on the discs will give you whats on the page. I suppose that Band in a Box could do that too with some work, but it still couldn’t capture the drum hits on songs like Some Skunk Funk.

9/10. It’s a little costly, some of the songs aren’t as long as I would have liked, and I wish there was more variety than 90% if the tracks being Piano, Bass and Drums, but it still offers a lot of songs (240 according to my iTunes playlist after I imported all of them) to practice with.

Band in a Box 2010 for Macintosh

It has been really hard keeping the cat in the bag (I was a beta tester for the last 2 weeks or so), but tonight PG Music finally released Band in a Box 2010 for the Macintosh. As was the case in the previous version, this version is Intel only. So, you people with G5s or other PowerPC chipped computers….you are out of luck. Though the speed increases in this version (more on that in a sec) probably would have made Band in a Box 2010 tolerable for G5 Macintoshes.

There are quite a few new features, and I’ll list the ones that I think are the best.
1. “No more long waits for RealTracks to generate! RealTracks generate much faster, 4X faster on average. A typical song with RealTracks that took 20 seconds to generate will generate now in about 5 seconds. And if you freeze some or all tracks in the song (see below), playback of RealTracks is almost instantaneous.” In Band in a Box 2009.5, generating Real Tracks took FOREVER. Even on a MacPro, it took a while. On an iMac…..it could take nearly a minute in some cases. NOT ANYMORE. On my iMac from 2006 (a lowly 2 Gigahertz Core 2 Duo iMac), it was fast in generating real tracks. Most took maybe 5 seconds to do. I think the longest (like 10 choruses with 4 real tracks and a real soloist) took maybe 10 seconds. Ok, 12. But that was still totally fine. They are NOT kidding about the speed. It is way faster. Useable fast.

2. “Time for generation of MIDI arrangement is much faster – now ‘instantaneous (less than 1 second)!” Yup. Midi arrangements are nearly you press play and it goes. Even if you do 20 choruses with 5+ instruments.

3. “There is now a “Plug-in” mode for your favorite sequencer (GarageBand, ProTools, Logic, Nuendo, Reaper and more). With the new plug-in mode, BB is open as a small always-on-top window, and acts as a plug-in for your favorite DAW/sequencer, so that you can Drag-n-Drop MIDI and audio (AIFF) tracks from BB to your favorite sequencer. Work in your favorite sequencer, type a progression in Band-in-a-Box, and then simply drag the track from Band-in-a-Box to your sequencer’s track at the desired track and bar location.” This is actually really cool, though how it works is a little strange initially. You can, say, load up Garage Band, and say you have been working on a tune that is in 3/4 and is in the key of A and you need a guitar line. Or solo. You can fire up Band in a Box, type in some chords, select a style or soloist or real track, or real soloist (or whatever they call it), and switch Band in a Box into DAW mode, tell it you want to generate AIFF or m4a audio tracks or Midi tracks, and drag the track right into Garageband. Boom. (I did leave out one step, but I feel you need to SEE it to understand it)

4. “Freezing (locking) MIDI or Real tracks/RealDrums. Any track can now be frozen (MIDI or Real track). When frozen, it won’t get changed or re-generated. This saves time when replaying previous songs, and allows you to freeze an arrangement that you like. If you freeze the whole song, you don’t have to wait at all for the song to regenerate. Next time you play, it is ready to go. (Note: this new freeze feature is different than the previous limited freeze feature that renders the whole arrangement to the audio track)” Kinda cool, but since it is so much faster overall in generating tracks I didn’t really use it much. Though if you FREEZE all the RealTracks, it plays back the song instantly.

There are some other things like it will Normalize a rendered Audio file, Endings of songs work better, you can resize the window, things are saved with the song. All good stuff. But the 4 listed above I think are the bread and butter. Ok, so, there are still some things that are in the Windows version of Band in a Box that are not present in the Macintosh version. Most notable is the Ear Training part (which is really nice). It doesn’t detract from the overall amazingness that this program has. If you do music, you NEED to have this program on your computer. If you are a Jazz student, or someone who plays jazz, this program is something you need to have for working out that new chord progression at whatever tempo, for 30 choruses, in a Polka style. Or whatever.

Upgrade price from Band in a Box 2009 is $159. First time purchasers $399. You get something like nearly 70 gigs of stuff. Amazing sounds. Totally worth it. 10/10 (and I can’t remember the last time I gave something a 10 out of 10)

Jazz Phrasing For Beginners by Greg Fishman

jpfbGreg Fishman has a number of excellent books out. I’ve reviewed and highly recommend his Jazz Etudes Book Vol. 1 and Vol. 2 and his Saxophone Duets book. His latest book is Jazz Phrasing For Beginners, which is aimed at the beginning student. It contains 10 melodic tunes that great examples of idiomatic “classic” jazz tunes such as “C Jam Blues” and the like. The tunes are great studies in good voice leading and use of jazz rhythms. Also great motivic (or sequential) development. You get 2 CDs with the book. One CD that has Alto Sax demos and backgrounds, and one that has Tenor Sax demos and backgrounds.

As a book for someone who is just starting to play, this would be a good first book before diving into something like Jim Snidero’s Jazz Conception Easy. The etudes are short, and emphasize excellent idea development. However……
Continue reading Jazz Phrasing For Beginners by Greg Fishman

Can Jazz Be Saved?

The WSJ has an article up called “Can Jazz Be Saved?“. Basically, the article says that in 2002 10.8% of adults went to listen to jazz, and in 2008 that number fell to 7.8%. In the college market it fell from 19.4% in 1982 to 14.9% in 2008.

I somehow think that there are more factors than the author suggests. I think there is a big fissure between people who want “traditional jazz” and those who don’t really care what type of jazz it is. I know I have encountered the former attitude in several bands I play in, where arrangements by Gordon Goodwin are sort of mocked and some crappy B-side arrangement of some song no one knows (and after we play it we know why) is favored more.

I know my own listening habits have been to go back to the great music of the 70s and early 80s. LPs I’ve been getting in Berkeley that. The new last “album” I bought was Gordon Goodwin’s latest. Not like the Vandermark 5, or yet another reissue and remaster of Coltrane or Miles Davis.

Bolling Suite For……Soprano Sax

I recently transposed and modified 2 movements of the Bolling Suite for Flute and Trio for Oboe. It was a simple click of a button to make a version for Soprano Sax. Enjoy.

  Baroque And Blue (127.4 KiB, 155 hits)
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  Sentimentale (106.6 KiB, 149 hits)
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The Music of George Garzone & The Triadic Chromatic Approach DVD

George Garzone has a 2 DVD instructional set coming out next month. $89.95. Sounds interesting.

“The Music of George Garzone & The Triadic Chromatic Approach”, is a Jazz Improvisation Instructional DVD and much, much more.
MADE FOR ALL INSTRUMENTS

  • Performances: Solo, Duos, Trios, an Sextet performances
  • The Triadic Chromatic Approach: 23 Chapters & 30 Examples of In-Depth Lessons
  • Trading Play Alongs: George Plays / You Play w/ Rhythm Section
  • Pure Play Along: You Play w/ Rhythm Section
  • Garzone On Sound: In-depth Lesson of Saxophone Sound Production
  • PDF Supplements: Transposed for all instruments, examples, exercises and lead sheets
  • Bonus Features: Interviews, Alternate Takes, Extra