Warming Up

Warming Up

Monday, February 28, 2011

Listening Contest Winner

The winner of the seventh installment of the Outside Pants Guess The Trumpet Player contest is…….. no one! And the correct answer is……..Malachi Thompson. The tune is called “Take a Look” and it’s from the Delmark Malachi Thompson career retrospective compilation CD Timeline.

While I won't say that Malachi, a longtime AACM member, is one of my favorite trumpet players, I do have four of his albums and I enjoy them all. On straight ahead material Malachi can certainly hold his own (his front line partners include: Gary Bartz, Billy Harper, Carter Jefferson); on more adventurous stuff he shines. His sound is what attracts me. There is a reckless abandon in his tone that reminds me of later-era Lee Morgan when he had some chop problems. Things clearly were not working physically but he persevered with more hard blowing, which is probably not what you are supposed to do. When a trumpeter experiences chop problems he/she should lay off the horn for at least a day so that muscle tissue can heal and then the player can start over again with fresh chops and hopefully he/she will get back into shape with good form and mechanics. Malachi’s huge and often brash tone sounds sometimes like it's teetering on the verge collapse. I know that doesn't sound like a compliment but I mean it as such. Almost like his living on the edge gives his playing an urgency and heavy sense of purpose. Play like this is the last time you’ll get to play. That’s how Malachi sounds to me sometimes. When you function that way you are going to take risks, you are going to make mistakes, split notes, go out of tune because of too much pressure, etc., but you are also going to say something real. The best of Malachi Thompson does this. At least for me it does.

I only got to see Malachi play once. And although I cannot find anything to verify this, I think the performance I saw here in Philly was one of his last. He passed away from cancer about 45 days later (an obituary of sorts HERE). He must have been sick when he played. He did look a bit weak (at the time I thought it was age – even though he was hardly old). He left a lot of room to Texas Tenor Billy Harper (who has maybe the biggest tone ever – bigger than a house) who, of course, tore it up. Malachi played flugelhorn all night (the smaller bore flugel requires less air) except for one uptempo Eb blues when he played trumpet. At the climax of his solo on that tune, Malachi gave it everything he had and pinched out a high F (concert Eb). The crowd applauded his effort. And it did look like effort. Malachi looked beat after he hit that note. But he also looked victorious. Afterward I wanted to talk to him, to thank him for the music and for the inspiration. But I was nervous to introduce myself; maybe a mix of not wanting to bug him and also being intimidated by him. I should have said hi and shook his hand. He’s gone now. Glad to have his music at least.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Guess The Trumpet Player

Hello Readers, it’s time for the seventh installment of “Guess The Trumpet Player.” I really love this player’s sound. Hope you dig it too. If this installment is too hard I may have to give folks a hint. Let’s see how the guessing goes.

Click the link (it’s safe), click play, listen, guess the trumpet player. The first person to leave the correct name of this trumpet player in the comments section of this post wins a CD – your choice of Outside Pants Vol. 1 – Old School Players or Outside Pants Vol. 2 – Ron Miles Mix or Outside Pants Vol. 3 – Brownie Mix. The contest ends with Monday’s post.

Here’s the song: http://www.box.net/shared/dbgypkt4mx

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Video: Wynton Catching a Snake

Lots going on right now so I don’t have time to post anything extravagant. But check out this video documentary of Wynton from 1985 – “Catching a Snake.” Though I have a ton of respect for Marsalis, I am generally not a huge fan – I do enjoy “Black Codes From The Underground,” “Live From The House Of Tribes,” and some things from the “Standard Time” albums – but there’s no denying that Wynton is an amazing trumpet player and an economic force for jazz. This is a really cool video. As a trumpet player, there sure is a lot to learn here! Hope you enjoy.

Wynton Marsalis 1985 Profile: "Catching a Snake" from Wynton Marsalis on Vimeo.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Practicing: Transcriptions and Fourths Exercises

A number of years ago I stumbled across the website of Chicago-area trumpeter, Jeff Helgesen. Helgesen is one of those musicians that are in probably every town around the country – the local who is good enough to be on the national and international scene but for the most part they stay local, maybe raise a family, teach or work a job, all while playing at a very, very high level. I’ve never met Helgesen but I have heard his trumpet playing and he is very good. He’s also apparently very good at transcribing jazz trumpet solos. A while back he migrated all of his transcriptions to a blog. He doesn’t post stuff all the time like some bloggers, but occasionally a new solo or musician interview pops up. I’ve never been a big transcriber myself although I often wish that I did more of that sort of thing. That said, I do like to play through transcriptions sometimes just for practicing sight-reading and for getting ideas on specific tunes that I might be working on. There are tons of transcriptions of many different players on Jeff’s blog. And if you’ve ever heard of the somewhat obscure (at these days) trumpeter Don Fagerquist, you’ll be able to find transcriptions of practically every one of his recorded solos on Helgesen’s blog. Also posted are some classic Woody Shaw interviews. Also posted is this cool fourths exercise by pianist Walter Bishop, Jr. I like this exercise because all twelve tones are organized in fourths in the span of one octave. It’s a nice exercise on the trumpet because you don’t have to make big register changes and can really work on evenness and speed. Here’s the exercise ascending and then descending – I like to practice the descending one more because, like most trumpet players, I need more work on moving down than going up:

And here’s Walter Bishop Jr. playing the exercise:

Definitely check out Jeff Helgesen’s blog. Lots of fun stuff over there.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Listening Contest Winner

The winner of the sixth installment of the Outside Pants Guess The Trumpet Player contest is……..talented Philly trumpeter Chris Aschman. And the correct answer is…….Fats Navarro. Nice work, Chris!  Your prize is your choice of Outside Pants Vol. 1 – Old School Players or Outside Pants Vol. 2 – Ron Miles Mix or Outside Pants Vol. 3 – Brownie Mix.

And thanks to all who played! Many of you guessed Dizzy Gillespie, but this was indeed the great Theodore Fats Navarro – Fat Girl. The tune was “Lady Be Good” and it comes from a live August 1948 radio broadcast album called “Fats Navarro & Tadd Dameron at the Royal Roost 1948 Vol. 1.” And in case you were wondering, that Lester Young-inspired tenor sax player was Allan Eager. And it was Kenny Clarke on drums.

Navarro was only 24 at the time of this recording, but he would be dead in less than two years from tuberculosis (probably exacerbated by his unfortunate heroin addiction). While you can certainly hear some Dizzy Gillespie influence (especially on the phrasings going up to and coming down from high notes), the style here is really something new. And it’s all Navarro. When you hear this it’s pretty apparent who Clifford Brown listened to. It’s a shame that there isn’t much Fat Girl on record. That’s why live radio broadcasts like this are so cool. This is what the man really sounded like. He was a badass.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Guess The Trumpet Player

Hello Readers, it’s time for the sixth installment of “Guess The Trumpet Player” and get ready, it’s Bebop Thursday! Click the link (it’s safe), click play, listen, guess the trumpet player. The first person to leave the correct name of this trumpet player in the comments section of this post wins a CD – your choice of Outside Pants Vol. 1 – Old School Players, Outside Pants Vol. 2 – Ron Miles Mix, or Outside Pants Vol. 3 – Brownie Mix. Pardon the recording quality here. It was from a live session and it was made many moons ago (is that a hint?). The contest ends with Monday’s post.

Here’s the song: http://www.box.net/shared/cyzkvacrup

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Practicing: Some Sandole Literature

Here is a sample Week One lesson from early on in my studies. As I mentioned in last week’s Sandole post, the material I received from the Maestro was tailored to me and my needs and weaknesses. That’s the way Sandole taught – instruction for the individual. Therefore, my lessons aren’t necessary indicative of what other students received. Also keep in mind that I am a trumpet player. Sandole’s guitar students, no doubt, received different material. So, for whatever its worth, I’m just putting this out for people to see some of the literature. I’ll tell you what I did and you can of course feel free to use it in your practicing if you’re so inclined. As an aside – dig the Maestro’s writing. I always rewrote it so that I could read it! :)

Here is A1 – a chord progression with an accompanying melody line. The idea is to memorize this line and then play it back in all twelve keys at the lesson. As I mentioned in my initial post, I stink at memorizing, so I took the lazy way out and wrote out all twelve keys (sometimes I would memorize the original, but I was never good enough, nor did I usually have enough time to memorize all twelve keys). Even just playing through A1 lines was a workout though. To mix it up I would switch up my articulations and dynamics, and sometimes I would play the lines straight almost like contemporary classical etudes and other times I would swing the lines.

Here is an arpeggio from A2 (this is my writing from my first notebook- I couldn't find the original paper that Mr. Sandole wrote on). Same principle: memorize it and play it in all keys. This I could do. I didn’t always play them fast, but I could play them without mistakes. Subsequent Week Ones would have me playing an inversion of the original arpeggio – again in all keys. This cycle continued every Week One until I exhausted the notes and started a new arpeggio.

A3 for me was usually piano voicings. They were pretty basic for me since I had no (and still don’t have much) piano chops.

And here is one of the exotic scales that I would get sometimes. I amassed a whole bunch of these. Again the idea was to memorize them and play them in all keys. They could also be used in Week Four compositions. I have gone back to these scales to give me ideas for tunes I have written.

So there you go. I’ll try to post a Week Two lesson next week.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Album Spotlight: Avishai Cohen "Introducing Triveni"

Avishai Cohen’s album “Introducing Triveni” is ridiculously good. You should listen to it. It’s streaming in its entirety for free here - and if you like it, you should consider buying it at this very same link.

“Introducing Triveni” is one of the best new albums I’ve heard in a long time. Everything about it is good: great tunes and arrangements (the originals and covers are both equally strong and compelling); exceptional individual playing, wonderful interplay between the trio’s members; excellent sound, production and mix; and even great packaging.

I have a few of Avishai Cohen’s other albums (“Flood” and “After The Big Rain”) as well as some of the albums of an ensemble he plays with, Third World Love. Everything I have heard with Cohen on it is good. He is a really special player - the complete package. I’m generally not into super physical trumpet playing – the whole High, Loud, and Fast school. While I really do admire those who can play like that (it shows a serious level of commitment and devotion to get to such high levels of technical prowess), I usually enjoy music that hits me, moves me, makes me feel – often the pyrotechnic stuff alone just doesn’t do it for me. Sometimes though there are players that have these amazing technical abilities that also have the gift of being able to tell a story. Master musician trumpet players like Dizzy Gillespie, Clifford Brown, Booker Little, Freddie Hubbard, Woody Shaw, Dave Douglas, etc. Those guys can all play high, loud, and fast, for sure, but they can also really sing through their instruments while stretching the limits of what is physically possible on the horn. BTW – as an aside, I should really include Miles Davis on this list of virtuosos whose music I admire. Too often Miles doesn’t get credit for having the capabilities to  play high, loud, and fast, which he does; but it’s his ability to slay you with one note that does it for me (and millions of others).

Anyway, I’m rambling, back to the subject at hand – Avishai. He’s not really a high, loud, fast guy, but he can certainly burn on fast tempos. And he’s got high chops (not Maynard Ferguson chops, but I bet Avishai could pull out a Double C if he needed to). And I’m sure he can blow down the Walls of Jericho – but he also can play beautifully at a whisper.  Maybe most importantly, Avishai has impeccable musicality and he swings his ass off. He clearly knows and has seriously studied the tradition and lineage of jazz trumpet players. But he also has something unique and personal to say – always with a beautiful tone in all registers of the horn.  And he has amazing control, a real command of the instrument. When I hear him play I imagine that he has the ability to execute whatever he wants. That’s kind of the goal with playing this music. You want to be equipped with the technique and knowledge to play whatever enters your head/exits your heart. I think Avishai has these kind of chops. And he’s only 34. It’s going to be fun to watch and listen to him mature and develop. “Introducing Triveni” is a good venue to observe him at this moment in his artistic path. There’s a definite acknowledgment of (and respect for) the history of jazz, but there is also the underlying notion that something new must always be created to keep the tradition of development and innovation going. Have I mentioned that I like this record? When you have some time to really listen, check it out.

For more on Avishai Cohen look here: http://www.avishaicohenmusic.com/

And check out this WBGO interview and live session excerpts with Cohen and Triveni.

It also looks like Cohen is manning the trumpet chair (succeeding Dave Douglas and Nicolas Payton) in the San Francisco Jazz Collective and also touring with his siblings as The 3 Cohens.