Wednesday, August 6, 2014

First Review of 'The Rehumanization EP'


Here's the first review of 'The Rehumanization EP' written by Nicholas F Mondello at AllAboutJazz.com


The "EP" tag sitting on the title of trumpeter Jon Crowley's The Rehumanization EP is an obvious abbreviation for "Extended Play." Given an extended listening, it might be more apt to be interpreted as "exceptionally pleasing" or "exceptional performance." Both descriptions precisely fit this, Crowley's third release as leader. And, it is just as terrific as its two predecessors. 

With The Rehumanization EP Crowley, originally from the fecund musical womb ofPhiladelphia—and now a Brooklyn resident—continues to offer intriguingly explored tonalities and textures. The four selections on this somewhat shorter in duration recording are all superb Crowley originals. Each is a somewhat slower selection more melismatic in nature than balladic. The melodies of each tune eschew faster tempo and notation, allowing Crowley and crew to expand on lengthy ribbon-like solo forays. In an appealing way, the four selections seem to echo one another emotionally, with each commencing at an almost drone state and developing, highly energized into a finale of sorts. This is music of deep thinking and emotion, yet it is sonorous and easily grasped. 

What works so well here—and there are quite a few elements to that point—is Crowley's playing. This is a thoughtful, emotionally penetrating player. His near vibrato-less tone is robust, yet somewhat vulnerable. Wisely, he's a trumpeting minimalist as opposed to a technical braggadocio—something unfortunately more common today. Think the emotional quotient of Chet Baker with a more focused, inviting resonance—that's Mr. Crowley. His improvisational lines spew effortlessly from the melodies he created and they extend out with each fragment generating another unique idea. 

Alto saxophonist John Beaty joins Crowley in a frontline that is superbly more ensemble driven than one that stands out selfishly at the expense of the rhythm section—which is superb in its abilities to support the slower and energy-developing formats. 

While the Free Spirits, Smooth Jazzers, Giant Steppers and Beboppers each have their players and proponents, Jon Crowley, with his horn and pen almost has created a totally unique format with this recording and his prior efforts. It is a most enjoyable—and especially human—change of pace.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Practice Tips


My practice set-up when I visit my parents at their house



Blog 115: Practice Tips


Back when I was studying at Muhlenberg College I had no real trumpet teacher for the 4 years I was there, instead I bought pretty much every book on trumpet that existed; Clarke, Arban's, Walter Smith, Colin, Schlossberg, Claude Gordon, Farkus etc(!)  I would play through book after book, getting stuck on certain exercises, rarely advancing and generally just toiled in mediocrity.  Without any guidance, I could only practice for about 2-3 hours a day before my chops would shut down…and those 2-3 hours were spread out over the course of an entire day; maybe 45 min in the morning, 45 in the afternoon and 45 at night or so.  Since I had such limited ability and limited endurance spreading out my practice time gave me the chance to recover between sessions.  It was an easy lesson to learn since it was pretty much all I could do to get as many hours as I wanted on the horn.

Senior year I remember I lived with a guitar player who was definitely a heavy practicer at the time.  He would be up in his room playing for 3 hours straight and then he'd come out, with his eyes dead and slow and barely able to speak.  This was my first exposure with 'mental fatigue' from practicing…something I'd never felt first hand because I physically got tired well before I would ever reach that point.

Fast forward to my time in NYC, after I began studying with Laurie Frink.  After 2 years of studying with Laurie the work load of drills she'd given me had reached about 4 hours…that's 4 hours without playing a single note of music..just technical studies.  Eventually I got my practicing up to 5-6 hours a day, which is what I still do.  Through Laurie's method I finally learned first-hand about mental fatigue since my endurance improved so much.  I still spread out my practicing into three sessions: Morning, Afternoon and Night, but within those sessions I've learned to pace my practicing differently so that I can maintain my mental focus and keep my physical ability together to play longer and get more done.


During the morning warm-up and technical studies, I play for 2 hours, giving myself many short rests between exercises.  During the afternoon and evening practice sessions I structure them differently though.  I play for 30 minutes, then I take a 10 minute break.  Then I play for 20 minutes, then I take a 10 minute break.  Depending on my mental focus that day I can keep up that pattern for 3 hours or so.  During the 10 min breaks I go to the Kitchen and drink some water, I check my email or maybe just lay on the floor.  But practicing in those short focused bursts is good for the mind and the body.  If you practice for more than 40 minutes straight, I'd venture to say your mind will probably drift at some point and you won't be getting as much as you want out of your practice session.  It's best to get the most out of the time you're spending practicing.

Friday, May 23, 2014

The Rehumanization EP




Blog 114: The Rehumanization EP


So happy to finally announce that 'The Rehumanization EP' is finally available on iTunes, amazon, and CDbaby.  I started recording this album last June(2013).  My plan was to record both a full length album and a shorter EP simultaneously, instead of doing 2 days back to back like most Jazz recordings, instead we did shorter days(4 hour sessions) spread out, where we could hit harder and have more time between sessions to figure out what we wanted to fix/clean up.  The end product was 3 separate recording days(June '13, Sept'13 and Jan '14) and two records.  'The Rehumanization EP' is now ready and available!

This EP is the first glimpse into what I've been up to these past few years. The music is intense, emotional, and deals with questioning many things we take for granted in the Jazz genre; including form, structure, style, melody and even the roles of the instruments.   I truly believe this is my first great record and am so happy to finally share it….even happier that in a few more months they'll be another full album to follow.  As of this writing 'The Rehumanization EP' is available for just $3.96 via an error or iTunes, so go pick it up before the price is adjusted and ends up higher.

Secondly, we'll be celebrating the release of this record with a show at Pianos Upstairs Lounge in NYC on Tues May 27th.  Two great bands playing before us; Cantina and Relatives.  Big fan of both these bands, it's going to be an awesome night of music, hope to see you there!  Show starts at 7pm, Crowley hits at 9pm


-Jon

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Discipline



Couldn't pick just one motivational poster this time




Blog 113: Discipline


If you asked me what the most important elements to improving your trumpet playing were, I'd say:  discipline, consistency and knowing what to practice.  Discipline and consistency go hand and hand, since it takes will power and focus to practice every day.  I think without discipline and consistency improvement is essentially impossible, at least with regards to the trumpet.  I've had a lot of conversations with strangers in bars, airports, at parties etc about how trumpet really doesn't give you a day off and how incredibly unforgiving it can be as an instrument.  This is usually met with a lot of surprise.  I then explain that even if you just go light for a few days you'll notice some ability lost in your range, tone, or flexibility.  

My explanation regarding this has always been the regeneration of the tissues in your lips and mouth.  I read once that in all the places in your body, blood circulated in your mouth the second most (the brain being the #1 area for most blood circulation).  A great demonstration regarding bloodflow and cell regeneration is such:  When you get a cut on your arm, it'll scab, and then take around a week or more to heal, whereas when you bite your lip it heals within just a few days.  I'm not a scientist, but I believe it is for this reason that if you're not constantly maintaining your embouchure it will leave you quite quickly. 

For the reason that the body is in a constant state of flux, I think it is incredibly important to provide some sort of order if you want to play consistently and as I'm always telling my students 'if you want to play consistently, you've got to practice consistently.'  If you look to professional weight lifters who are trying to add more weight to what they can lift, it's a steady schedule with small incremental additiions of increasing difficulty.  Can you imagine a professional weight lifter(or any athlete) who takes off 3 weeks and then goes to pick up right where he left off?  The results would probably end up causing a lot of physical harm to the person in question.  Having a daily routine with both elements that maintain your current ability as well as aspects which expand, challenge and expose your body to new demands is essential.  There is no growth without preserving what you already have.


Lastly, knowing what to practice is an incredibly important element to improving as well.  As I stated in my last blog, it's important to be honest with yourself about what you can play and knowing how to build; knowing how to intelligently push your limits.  I still stand by my statement that I good teacher is the best way to go(finding a good teacher is a challenge in of itself though.)  I believe a good teacher has a system of increasingly difficult exercises to will slowly steer a student towards improvement in a brick by brick fashion.  This is exactly what my teacher Laurie Frink did with me (and all of her students).  It was a step by step process, each week going back and receiving the next in the series of exercises.  This is the method I teach as well; exactly what Laurie gave to me, taking into account a player's specific natural physical tendencies as well.  Over the past few years it's been incredibly satisfying to see Laurie's method work with my students.  The sky is the limit for any student that comes to the right teacher with discipline and consistent practice.