Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Poll Results




Blog 65: Poll Results:



The Poll Results are in! I had a poll on the sidebar of this website going for a few months, asking everybody who reads this blog what they would like to see more of. Here are the results:



56% Free Bootlegs of my Live Shows and Rehearsals


43% Talk of Life as a Musician


37% My Thoughts on Music

37% Educational- Music Theory and Improv Ideas

37% Trumpet Exercises and Technique


31% Discussions on Composing Music


25% Charts of my Tunes


18% Transcribed Jazz Solos


12% Shameless Self-Promotion



SO, Ask and ye shall receive! I'm going to try to record more live shows and rehearsals this year and post them on this website, or put up a link to www.JonCrowleyMusic.bandcamp.com , where I usually post live bootlegs. I'm going to try to record all sorts of different music projects I'm in and post them, so there should be a lot of variety; from the post-rock band 'Red Light Growler', to my minimalist-jazz project, some pop-rock stuff, to some straight-ahead standards, ballads etc. Maybe I'll even link some of the music I've been writing for Solo piano.


The second most votes went to 'Talk of Life as a Musician'. I can't even exactly remember what I meant when I wrote that, but I guess I can talk more about the struggles of being a working musician in NYC and the US. Maybe I will talk more about the day to day stuff of what a musician does to make rent, keep playing etc. I also have a camera and Flip Video recorder, so I'm going to try to record and take more pictures of going to gigs, hanging out, talking tunes, discussions about music with friends. Maybe I'll make some sort of video montage type stuff of my life in New York and playing gigs.


Tied for third, is 'My Thoughts on Music', 'Educational stuff' and 'Trumpet stuff'. I haven't put much of this stuff on this blog before. The closest I did was some exercises on Octave Displacement : http://joncrowleymusic.blogspot.com/2010/04/trumpet-flexibilities-octave.html and a few entires about Voiceleading: Voice Leading in Composition So more of this stuff too.


I'm looking forward to doing more stuff in this direction. This blog has been going on for almost 2 years now, looking forward to covering some different ground.


-JC



Lastly, 'Shameless Self-Promotion' only got 12% of the votes :(


Saturday, December 18, 2010

Free Download



Blog # 64: Free Download


Just wanted to share some free music with you. From a show with a band I'm in called 'Red Light Growler'. The show was at Bar 4 in Brooklyn 12/6/10. Download it FOR FREE at www.JonCrowleyMusic.bandcamp.com or Just listen on the site.

'Red Light Growler' is:
Jon Crowley- Trumpet, Compositions
Ross Edwards- Keyboard, Effects
Noah Garabedian- Bass
Deric Dickens- Drums

MERRY CHRISTMAS!

-JC

Monday, December 13, 2010

If the Music is Good, then I'm happy

Played at Bar 4, Brooklyn and at Chris' Jazz Cafe, Philadelphia this past week




Blog 63: If the Music is Good, then I'm happy.


So I feel like I haven't written a blog in a while, I got a little busy with some gigs this past week. On Monday I played a show at Bar 4 in Brooklyn with a band I'm in called 'Red Light Growler'. I had a great time playing this one, with this band we play all originals of mine, but because we rehearse pretty regularly we can attempted more complicated music. This means I don't have to dumb down my writing to compensate for a band that is sight-reading. It was super cold monday, so we didn't have a lot of people there(maybe 15?), but I was really happy with the show because the music was good. I've realized in the past few weeks that that's where I'm at right now. Obviously, I'd like big crowds and full shows, but I played a show a few weeks before to a really full club, but the music wasn't great; so I was unhappy. So for me its this simple: If the music is good, I'm happy. If the music is not good, I'm not happy.


You can hear the 'Red Light Growler' show and some other live stuff I recorded this week here:

www.JonCrowleyMusic.bandcamp.com

If the recording of 'RLG' sounds strangely mixed, it is because my recorder was actually BEHIND the band, so my trumpet was pointed the opposite direction.


The show in Philadelphia at Chris' on friday was alright; rocky at times, good at times. All and all, it was a learning experience(aren't they all). It was a pick-up band(never played together before and unrehearsed) and we pretty much just played standards all night. I've finally realized there are some patterns to audience turn-out. I usually play at Chris' 3 times a year(April, August, and December). August is usually a full house, April is usually pretty good and December is usually the lightest show. It was still nice to come hang in my home town and a big THANKS to the tourist group(people from France, Brooklyn etc). You guys were super cool and thanks for buying all those CDs! Enjoy


Lastly, I gotta say, I really enjoy playing shows out of town and wish I could do it more. So far, I've only played in Philadelphia, Allentown, DC, with my groups (I mostly play around NYC), but I just really like driving, hanging in the car with the band, and going to new venues. And while, I'm not a people person(I'm pretty anti-social and have a low threshold for BS), I really like meeting jazz fans who are cool and respectful. Its a pleasure playing for these types of people.


Sunday, November 28, 2010

Playing in Tune



AutoTune (Kanye west fans? haha!), A great Tuning fork Picture :)





Blog #63: Playing in Tune


I think that playing in tune is strangely the last thing many musicians learn. Many jazz musicians spend so much time working on quick phrases, articulation, range etc we overlook pitch accuracy perfection. Its pretty easy to neglect it when so many jazz musicians play so many notes, and its usually only noticeable when a musician holds just one note for a longer duration. I actually believe a lot of horn players 'hide' in all those notes. Recently I was listening to some early recordings of John Coltrane was he playing pretty sharp. Kenny Dorham and Jackie McLean are two other examples of guys who regularly play sharp.(and I say this without disputing their greatness).


Whether you're aware or not, most instruments are inherently out of tune. I could get all scientific and talk about the pythagorean comma, and the creation of the equal tempered scale, but I'll keep it simple. I'll speak about horns, because that's where my knowledge is, if you're familiar with the harmonic series(the ascending notes on a give fingering) the notes become increasingly flat as you ascend. To give you an example: C# and D below the staff are sharp, D 2nd from the top line is slightly flat, E and Eb are pretty flat...etc. Really every note on the trumpet has a particular tendency whether that be slightly sharp, very sharp, slightly flat, very flat and as a horn player you have to adjust using your lips and your slides. This means playing in tune is a lot harder than just adjusting the tuning slide and blowing away. If you're a horn player you really have to listen to the rhythm section(piano, bass, guitar) and use that to guide your ears into playing in tune. The slower you play, the more obvious it will be as to if you're in/out of tune.


Besides just 'playing in tune' with the rhythm section, there is also playing in tune with the other horn players in the band. Saxophone seems just as naturally out of tune as trumpet(especially alto, though soprano can be downright painful in untrained hands). I remember when I was in school and did an ensemble with John Scofield. He told us that there is an art in doubling melodies and the key is to put one ear on yourself and one on the other horn. I know this is really simple advice, but you'd be surprised how many people just put themselves into the music stand and don't listen to the other horns. The key to playing well with the other horn is to try to make yourselves into one thing. You try to make the two horns sound like one peson and you try to make your phrasing identical. Besides articulation and breathing, a big part of that is Tuning.


One thing I've been checking out recently is using alternate fingers to play certain notes in tune better. One of my songs "Progress" is in Concert C#(my Key of B). The melody I wrote(on piano) is super hard to play in tune and I've realized in the past few days if I play D# top line with 2-3 fingerings, instead of 2, its easier to play in tune. I'm going to experiment with this sort of stuff more.


Lastly, one of my big pet peeves is vibrato. I've never liked it, and that's one reason I never got into early jazz and swing. The vibrato is just too much for me. I prefer horn players with straight tone, and I try to keep mine very straight and clear. I've always been partial to players like Chet Baker, Miles Davis, Woody Shaw etc. I think certain players use vibrato as a way to hide their pitch accuracy. The straighter the tone, the more obvious it will be if you're playing in tune. Certain bass players like to put the vibrato one when they get in the upper register: gag me. That shit sounds terrible. I'm not even going to try to sugar coat it or be polite on that one.


Playing in Tune on naturally out of tune instruments is hard, but I think its a very important thing to be aware of.


Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Post Bad Gig

I've decided to put certain music on the 'back-burner', unless its adequately rehearsed.




Blog # 62: Post bad gig.


I usually don't blog impulsively, but I'm in a certain mood this morning. I played a gig last night in NYC under my name with a band playing my original tunes. Once I made all the calls and knew who was playing the gig, I tried to schedule a rehearsal. We had an email chain that was 20 messages long, until we accepted that we weren't going to get a chance to play before the gig because everyone was so busy and the band would have to read my tunes on the gig. I emailed them their individual parts, full scores of the music and mp3's of the tracks from other gigs.


We had a pretty good turn-out, and people seemed to like the music, but to my ears(because I wrote it), it was sloppy, stiff, and sounded like we were all reading. The music we were playing wasn't even that complicated(no mixed time signatures or super crazy changes). I remember playing and trying to build my solos, and feeling like the rhythm section wasn't listening to me. It was pretty frustrating and while in life its almost impossible to get me mad, it seems that music is the one thing that can do that for me when its not going well. It pisses me off when people play my music wrong because in my mind it makes me look like I can't write.


I've been thinking a lot about my 'minimalist-jazz' project, which will be my next record and I think it might be time to put it on the back-burner or make it a 'studio project'. Unless the band is rehearsed, the music doesn't sound right. I think I'm going to write more lead-sheet-type tunes that bands can read without rehearsal, and if we DO get a chance to rehearse, than I'll dig out some of my more complicated stuff. The good news is I have a band called 'Red Light Growler' that plays some of this music in a more rock setting and RLG is a well rehearsed unit. New York can be a frustrating place for a composer, everyone is doing so many gigs, its almost impossible to get your band tight and rehearsed. On most gigs in New York, all the musicians are reading. It sucks. I would rather see a well-rehearsed band of no-names, than an all-star band stumbling through complicated music.


It seems like there are 3 options:


1)If you want to play more complicated music, rehearse.


2)play simpler stuff that the band will be able to read on the gig


3)Hire some REALLY great musicians(and hope for the best)

Friday, November 19, 2010

Time Away

Coltrane liked to Shed in the attic of his house. I do all my practicing in my apartment in Brooklyn, and occasionally go back to my parents house outside philly to get away



Blog # 61: Time Away


This past month has been an interesting one for me. When I'm in New York, I tend to play a lot of house sessions, rehearsals and Jam sessions(2-4 a week usually). I also like to practice about 5 hours a day(and I haven't taken a day off since I had my wisdom teeth removed in 2003). But scheduling rehearsals, practicing that much, and booking gigs was burning me out. About a month ago I was playing duo with my friend Deric Dickens and he sent me the bootleg recording he made afterwards. We were playing in a drum room(totally dead acoustically) and I heard a ton of things that I felt I needed to work on in my playing. Soundproof rooms are pretty unforgiving on trumpet. I decided I needed to get away for a while and doing some very specific shedding on weaknesses I heard, work on some bad habits and avoid playing with people for a while.


So for 3 weeks I didn't schedule any sessions, avoided all music related calls and just practiced like a madman. I even went back to my parents house in Philadelphia for a week to get further away from any distractions. I was practicing about 6 hours a day, but my practicing was lot more focused, specific and I felt that it was a lot more productive. I learned there is a big different between practicing just to maintain your ability and stay in shape and specific goal-oriented practice. When your mind is clear and focused you can get a lot more out of your practicing. It felt really good to get away and work on some things and last week got back into the scene and scheduled a session/rehearsal everyday. I definitely felt that I had made some progress during my time away(with music, you're never going to feel completely satisfied, but I felt I made some significant improvements).


Its been good to come back out, see my friends, play some sessions and gigs. I still feel like I am riding an intense practice period, but now I'm going to try to balance it with playing with people again, at least for a while. The funny thing about the little hiatus is that it felt so productive, I have the urge to take another one already. I may try to do this once or twice a year. I want to continue to improve and that's why I've been so drawn to music. Its really endless as to how far you can take it.


Its good to make a list of weaknesses and things you want to fix in your playing and then to get working on 'em. Bad habits die hard, so you gotta be mindful of them everyday. The practicing never ends, but there are times its more productive than others. I always really liked jazz/improvised music because I view myself as the thing I'm working on and the performances and CD's as just a gauge to where I am at any moment.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

The Reality of History

A photo looking into 'Smalls', a jazz club in NYC




Blog # 60: The Reality of History


Like many other music students, when I was in high school and college I listened to all the greats; Chet Baker, Clifford Brown, Art Farmer, Miles Davis, Kenny Dorham etc. I was blown away by the talent of these people and really viewed them as I'm sure most kids view sports stars(I never followed sports). These guys were untouchable; they were perfect, even when they made mistakes. And in my view of history, I imagined jazz to be very popular before I was born. I saw photos of billboards saying 'Miles Davis Quintet Tonight, Horace Silver next week'. I assumed that these musical hero's of mine were playing sold out shows, with lines around the block. But the more I learn about Jazz and History, the more I question these thoughts.


Recently I downloaded a Kenny Dorham live recording off itunes from a club in Queens called 'The Flamboyan'. Its a good live recording, with Joe Henderson and Kenny Dorham in their prime being broadcasted over the radio. The disk jockey tells the radio audience that they can call in with requests. He also repeatedly tells people they should come out and that there is no cover, no minimum and that the band will play every monday night until 3 or 4 in the morning.(he even says the band needs the bread!). But most tellingly he implies that there is no one in the audience(!) and that they are essentially playing for an empty room. The announcer also says there are dance nights and latin music nights later in the week, and that monday is jazz night. (doesn't really sound like The Bluenote, The Vanguard, or Birdland)


I think we forget that no matter the talent, most musicians have played some shitty gigs during their career. We all play shows with packed houses, and have done some really depressing nights playing for just a couple people at the bar. I used to think light audiences were just a product of current music tastes, but apparently even great musicians like Kenny Dorham and Joe Henderson played some crappy gigs. While these guys are still just as great in my eyes, maybe its history that let people realize how great they are and maybe they were under-appreciated in their time too.


Another musician that comes to mind is Eric Dolphy; who I consider to be a phenomenal musician. He had his own voice on 3 instruments: flute, alto sax, and bass clarinet. Despite his talent, Dolphy had great difficulty finding any work during his life. I've heard stories of him surviving on a large bag of beans that he kept in his closet, because he couldn't affort any thing else to eat. He may have also developed diabetes from this diet, which later lead to his early death. He wasn't a junkie, his death may have been just the result of people not 'getting' his music.


Pop Jazz sells out tourist trap jazz clubs and big festivals. These musicians are on magazine covers and are sponsored by instrument companies. They are popular today, and will be forgotten in 20 years, because 'Pop Jazz' isn't really jazz. Its a watered down version for the general public and its stars have bright smiles and seductive eyes.


But Real Jazz is a different thing. It isn't necessarily glamorous, well paying, or popular. And these real jazz musicians probably won't win any beauty contests. But Real Jazz, as part of history, lives forever. People will never stop listening or talking about Real Jazz, but it will never be appreciated as much in its time.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

My Trumpet Gear History

My horns(L to R): Bach 72, Bach 43, Kanstul 1525, Old Couesnon






Blog# 59: My Trumpet Gear History



I thought I'd take a second to share my thoughts and history with different trumpet gear. I usually avoid talking about gear because with trumpet. It really is the player making the sound, the horn is just the microphone(it amplifies the sound of your lips). Searching for the perfect horn is pointless; you'll never find it. I just try to find something that works and go with it.


I have to admit, I have certain fear when it comes to trumpet gear, mouthpieces etc. My chops are pretty sensitive, so when I switch trumpets or mouthpieces, I feel off and like I can't get my sound together like I want. Even if I start playing too much flugelhorn, that can make my trumpet chops feel off. This has been the case ever since I started playing trumpet when I was a kid. I'm a one horn, one mouthpiece kind of guy. And the few times I've changed gear over the years, I usually have a fairly long adjustment period(I usually have to find where all the notes exist on each horn). So to some degree, I've tried to avoid learning too much about mouthpiece throats and trumpet bore's, and I try to keep my mind on making whatever instrument I'm playing work for me.


My Gear History:


I started playing trumpet(though I had no desire or motivation at the time) at age 6. The first instrument I owned was a Conn Director trumpet(you can find them on ebay for $25!) with a Conn 4 Mouthpiece. I think this trumpet was my uncle's when he was a kid. I played this horn and mp all the way into high school. Sophomore year my parents bought me a brand new silver Yamaha 6335 and a 11C4 mouthpiece(that came with it). (11C4 was yamaha's version of a Bach 7C). This was a REAL horn compared to the Conn Director. I played the Yamaha for 4 years(last 2 of high school, first two of college).


Junior year of College I was studying with John Swana and he let me play his old Bach trumpet during a lesson. This was an incredible horn so I decided to sell my yamaha and buy a Bach(which I purchase used from John's friend who buys hundreds of trumpets on ebay). I got a used Bach 43 (made in the early 90's). It also came with a Bob Reeves Valve Alignment, and the fastest valves I've ever felt. Around this time I also was involved in my first 'Mouthpiece safari'. I tried tons of mouthpieces and settled on a Bach 5C, which I really liked, and still think is a great mouthpiece. I played this Bach 43 trumpet and 5C for the last 8 years. I also bought a Couesnon Flugelhorn on Ebay that I played during my college years which I played during that time. I had an awesome repair guy in Philly, Bret Gustaffson, who put a trigger on the 3rd valve slide. Unfortunately, Bret moved to Australia :(


The exception during that 8 year period was I bought a new Bach 72. I felt this horn was a bit darker and had better projection. The downside is it required more effort to play. I played it for about a year until I took it to a repair guy in NYC to clean and he offered a discount on a valve alignment that ended up pretty much ruining the horn, at which point I went back to the Bach 43. Also for those 5 years in NYC I started playing a Kanstul 1525 Flugelhorn(which was the sound I was going for on Flugel at that time). Plus I also found it annoying that the Couesnon leaked oil on my hands. I played the Bach 43 and Kanstul Flugel on my first Album, 'Connections'.


Two years ago my trumpet friend Eric gave me a Monette B6, which I've been playing since. Occasionally I play my old Couesnon(I got a plastic thing online to keep from getting oil on my hands). Recently I've been playing my Bach 72(the one the repair guy messed up). The valves still suck and I'm not in love with it, but It still projects better than the 43 and is a bit darker. Hopefully I can get used to it, I don't want to have to try out trumpets again. (In fact, even when friends want me to try out their new horns, I usually pass.)


So that's my gear history!

Written out, it sounds like a lot of equipment, but it pretty much boils down to:


Conn Director w/ Conn 4 --------------- 10 years

Yamaha 6335 w/ 11C4--------------------4 years

Bach 43 w/ Bach 5C------------------------8 years

(Monette B6 mp for 2 of those years)

Bach 72-------------------recently(we'll see if I go back to the Bach 43)



Flugels:

Couesnon w/ Bob Reeves 43.5DF-----3 years

Kanstul 1525 w/ Bach 5A-----------------4 years




I dunno, a horn is a horn, you still need the person to play it.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Voice Leading in Composition











Blog # 58: Voice Leading in Composition


One thing that I think is very important in composition is voice leading. I write almost all my songs on piano, and most of the time I find a chord voicing that I like and then I experiment with voice-leading. Coming up with a good line for the top voice(melody) and bass movement that I like too, and then filling in the inner voices. Seeing how many notes you can keep the same too. I think you can come up with some really beautiful progressions this way, and it will also help out if you're writing parts for larger ensembles. Its funny, because its essentially the same technique you learn in school when studying classical harmony IE 'Bach Chorales'.(who'd a thought that stuff would actually be useful?)


I remember tons of Music Theory classes while I was at Muhlenberg College and later NYU, doing harmonic dictation or 'figured bass' chord progressions. (I always had tons of red marks for 'parallel 4ths' and 'tritone movement'. The beauty of being out of school, is I write what I like, and I can break the classical rules whenever I want to and just let my ears guide me.


Try writing a tune as if it were a 4 part 'Bach Chorale', just use 7th chords, #5's, #11's, Altered Chords, whatever you want instead of boring triads. Its one great way to start writing tunes.




Sunday, October 10, 2010

Trumpet Secrets



Blog # 57: Trumpet Secrets:


Trumpet is a very strange instrument. I don't know any other instrument which requires the type of discipline that trumpet does. You have to practice every day for years and years just to get a decent sound and if you are slacking, the trumpet lets you know IMMEDIATELY. Everyone has heard the old adage:


if I take one day off I notice,

if I take 2 days off my friends notice,

if I take 3 days off the audience notices.


or Dizzy Gillespie's famous line:


"Somedays you win, and sometimes the trumpet wins, and it goes on and on like that until you die...and then the trumpet wins."



I thought I'd take a second to share a few little tricks I've learned.


My first trumpet Secret is if I'd had a really rough gig the night before and my chops feel beat-up. I'll do a very slow warm-up while drinking some hot tea. I think drinking the tea while warming up helps me slow down and take more rests between exercises as well as getting the blood flowing in my lips. I try to save this for the morning after a hard gig, when I know I have another one the next night. I try not to over use this trick because I don't want to 'spoil' my chops or make it a habit.


My second trick is for when the trumpet 'just isn't happening'. I use this trick every so often when I feel like my chops aren't responding or when I just can't get satisfied with my sound. I'll wear a pair of headphones while I'm practicing. (not the kind that completely cover your hear, just the kind that go over the top of your head and sit on top of your ear). This kind of muffles the sound, and lets you focus on the notes themselves, as opposed to your sound. This way you can work on your phrasing and lines without obsessing on imperfections in your sound when you're having one of 'those days'; and this way you'll still have a productive day.


Years ago I used to use an Alto Horn Mouthpiece to buzz on the morning after a hard gig. I thought this helped loosen my chops. It may work for you, but I haven't used this technique in a few years. I liked it for a while though during my college years.


Obviously the real key to good trumpet playing is consistency. I studied with Laurie Frink for 2 years('05-'07 and still see her occasionally) and she gave me a wealth of exercises that keep my trumpet playing together. My playing has become so much more consistence as a result of our lessons. I have 3 different warm-ups that are all different lengths depending on how much time I have. The most important thing though that I always tell my students is, 'If you want to play consistently, you must practice consistently', and I think the last time I took a day off from the trumpet was back in '03 when I had my wisdom teeth taken out(and even they got infected because I started practicing again too soon). All the tricks in the world won't shortcut hardwork, but the ones I've shared above can help out a little bit.



Please share your 'Trumpet Secrets' under Comments


Tuesday, September 28, 2010

New Album Status

Photo from 'Connections' recording Session Jan '09





Blog # 56: New Album Status



So as I've mentioned a few times in previous blogs, I'm hoping to record my second album this spring. Right now, I'm refining my concept and am finishing up writing the music. The music on this album will be a departure from my last record, 'Connections', which was a 'modern straight-ahead' record. The new record will use elements of minimalism, indie rock rhythms, along with improvised solos, and will be much more of a 'concept' album. Some of the songs I've already finished and have been playing them live, figuring out exactly what I want to do with each of them and getting comfortable playing on the forms and chord structures. 'Shine', 'Progress', 'Patience', and 'Fixation' will all appear on the new album. (you can hear some of these tunes in their early stages on my bandcamp website: www.JonCrowleyMusic.bandcamp.com)


When I wrote 'Fixation', and wanted to have an interlude piece played before like an intro, which is how I came up with 'Patience'. This got me thinking, and I've decided the album will have several longer compositions with shorter interludes between them. It is my hope to use the 'interludes' to bring the whole album together into one large piece, that is the whole album. These interludes won't just be random intro's, but will hopefully link song to song to make a more seamless flow. I'm also thinking of using these interludes, to combine different instruments in the band. Maybe one Interlude will be solo piano, another just bass and trumpet.


I'd like to write 3 more tunes (I have one already half-finished) then work on the 'connecting' material. Then ideally I'd like get the band to play a few live shows, to get it all working smoothly.


I've also started to figure out who I want to use on the next record. Some people I want to use I've only played with a little, but think there is potential with, others I've done a lot of playing and gigging with. I know a few of the people I hope to get have never played with each other, so I'm also trying to set up some sessions soon to make sure the chemistry is good. Some of these guys are pretty big names and pretty busy; so we'll see what happens. (sorry to be so vague and mysterious here, but I don't want to shoot myself in the foot by saying too much now).


Lastly, I'd like to say that I've been thinking a lot about what I want to say with this album and what I want to express. I keep coming back the idea and progression of: 'Sadness, Suffering, Hope, Triumph', which has become the working title for the album and that is what I'm trying to express with this music.


I'm starting to get excited about this project as it comes together. The next step is to finish the music and start looking for funding.


Stay tuned......


Monday, September 13, 2010

Jazz Musician Bio's



Blog #55: Jazz Musician Bio's


A friend and I have an ongoing joke about Jazz Musician Bio's, and the new trend for people to boast and exaggerate about their accomplishments, or mention irrelevant information to gain credibility. Several venues will even list the musician's bio on their website, as a way to hype the gig, or validate the performer. My friend found one recently that even used the phrase. "Near Genius IQ" to describe the musician in question. I read another bio that claimed "______ is the most promising new tenor saxophone player of her generation". (wow, pretty lofty statement until you realize, she wrote it in her own bio). I know another musician, (who happens to be a fantastic player), who has 'Degree in Physics and Mathematics' from an Ivy League School in his bio. This has nothing to do with music, other than to imply: 'He is probably a genius, so if you don't like his music, you're probably not smart enough to get it.' I understand the point of a Bio is to let people know a little bit about yourself and what makes you special but some of these exaggerations are just down right crazy to me(and perhaps crazier is that the public/industry people/venues believe this hype). To me, the Truth is in the music, the rest is Bullshit.



So to stay competitive in the JazzWorld, I've created a new bio. Maybe it will lead me to fame, fortune and commercial success too:


Genius, Jon Crowley is one of the most talented people who has ever walked the earth. While in elementary school, Jon realized he could cure aids and cancer if he focused his energies toward pursuing a career in medicine. Instead, Jon thought his amazing god given gifts would be better put to use by changing every person's life for the better who listened to his music. Have you ever heard of Mozart, Beethoven, John Coltrane or Miles Davis? Jon is better than all of them combined. Simply put, Jon is the Best musician who has ever been and ever will be.



I think I should probably make it a little longer.





**I want to say, the musician who mentions his degree in physics and mathematics, I understand he's just sharing information about himself, that will help people know him better. And why shouldn't he share it? I am only pointing out the fallacy of how other people may use this information to validate his music. coincidentally, I actually do like his music :)

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Red Light Growler



Blog #54: Red Light Growler



More FREE music!


Check out my new Post-Rock band: Red Light Growler

We're playing our first show next friday(Sept 17th) at The Local 269, in the Lower East Side(NYC).

8-9pm


These are our first recordings from a rehearsal, reading through some tunes of mine. I'm very exciting about this new project and hopefully we'll be playing some different venues and will be coming to a town near you soon!


Listen or Download here:

www.RedLightGrowler.bandcamp.com


-JCrow

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Live at Chris' Jazz Cafe 8/26/10



Blog # 53: Live at Chris' Jazz Cafe 8/26/10



A week or so ago I took a band down to Philly to play at Chris' Jazz Cafe. None of us had played together in a few months because of summer tours, being out of town, work, vacations etc. We also didn't have a chance to rehearse before the gig, so I thought it might be a good chance to play some standards for a change and some easier(lead sheet-style) tunes of mine.


The gig (and the drive) were a blast, everyone played well and the audience was awesome. It was actually our biggest crowd yet at Chris' and a few friends that came out said it was their favorite show we've done. A few days before the gig I rediscovered my old Couesnon flugelhorn in my closet while I was cleaning my apartment. I hadn't really been playing flugelhorn for about a year now and I had totally forgotten about this magic instrument. It was like seeing an old friend; I played it on 'In the wee small hours of the morning', 'Wind Chimes' and 'Theresa'(written for my mother). I love playing ballads and I plan on playing it a lot in the future.


I was able hide my recorder under the piano, and got most of the show(a couple of tracks had some distortion and weren't usable). Just finished cutting it into tracks and uploaded it on my bandcamp website for FREE download (or you can listen from the site too). This recording is rare opportunity to hear my band play standards, we usually play all originals of mine.


Lastly, I wanna say Julian Pollack played an unbelievably gorgeous piano intro on 'In the Wee Small hours of the Morning'. This kid is so talented, keep an eye and ear out for him.



ENJOY SOME FREE MUSIC DOWNLOADS:

www.JonCrowleyMusic.bandcamp.com


Jon Crowley- Trumpet, Flugelhorn

Julian Pollack- Piano

Peter Schwebs- Bass

Nick Anderson- Drums


('Wind Chimes', 'Theresa', 'Don't Vibe Me', and 'Mind Travel' are by Jon Crowley)



I hope to put up a lot more bootlegs in the future, include some of my new rock band 'Red Light Growler'.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Risk Taking VS Technical Perfection

Chris Potter- Saxophone


Anderson Silva and (Forrest Griffin knocked out)




Blog # 52: Risk Taking VS Technical Perfection



Recently I've been listening to a lot of bootlegs; specifically live shows of Chris Potter, Dave Holland and Joe Henderson. As a result I've been thinking about technical perfection and its relationship to Jazz; both historically and currently.

Being a musician, I am constantly striving to clean up my playing, and work daily on the technical aspects of playing the trumpet. Its a weird thing to be a trumpet player today and to listen to all the greats: Dizzy Gillespie, Miles Davis, Kenny Dorham, Donald Byrd, Freddie Hubbard, Booker Little etc. All of them have their own shortcomings. For example, Kenny Dorham seemed to play a bit out of tune occasionally and frequently bended into pitches(and whether you like it or not, its not textbook precision). However, the beauty of all these performers was that sense of adventure. Each of them seem to be operating at the edge of their ability. This caused them to make mistakes, flub notes, occasionally play out of tune etc. But the positive thing that came out of this type of playing was a real sense of excitement. When these performers 'went big', there was a chance they'd mess up, and a chance that 'they'd actual pull it off'.


The problem today is there seems to such pressure to achieve technical proficiency on one's instrument. With the institutionalization of Jazz at the university level, teachers must grade their students. It would make sense to push your students hard to have perfection intonation, articulation, as well as to play within the changes at all times. I think the result is you have a huge number of musicians who leave schools being able to play 'a perfect solo'. The problem is that 'the perfect solo' just isn't very exciting. Its safe and what made Joe Henderson and his generation so exciting is that they never played safe. They made lots of mistakes. And to me, that's the best part about Jazz.

I mentioned Chris Potter earlier, who is arguably the most technical improvisor on saxophone living today. Chris has perfect articulation, intonation, and plays things every night that you thought were impossible. However, I believe that Chris still plays at the edge of his limit. He plays at that border between what he knows he can play and what he might mess up on; and that's what makes him so exciting. He's really exploring while he plays. Which is why people are so attracted to his playing. He is playing with the same spirit of adventure and exploration, just with a increased technical proficiency.(He too makes mistakes).

On a similar note, I am a big fan of MMA (mixed martial arts) and have followed the career of Anderson Silva for years now. Silva is largely considered the best fighter in the world. For years he not only easily beat his opponents, he made them look like they had no place even fighting him. He was way beyond all others in his field(much like Michael Jordan or Wayne Gretzsky). However in the past year he has had some lackluster performances and seemed 'bored' during competition. He refused to take any chances and seemed content with 'a safe win'. However, last week he had a very exciting fight, where he lost the entire match, up until he finished his opponent in the last round. The consensus of the fans is that he is now exciting again, and people like him more because he struggled(for the first time of his career) and came back and won.


I think this same principle applies to music. People want to see that struggle, they want to see someone show their heart and risk what they have for success. The great musicians of the past were able to put it on the line for the adventure. They didn't care if they messed up, they were all about growing and testing themselves.

My advice to musicians today is: Its better to go big and fuck up, than play it safe.



At least that's how I feel.


Wednesday, August 11, 2010

More Reharmed Blues



Last night I wanted to see if I could re-write a blues using Maj7#11 chords. This is what I came up with. There really are a million things you can do to a Blues, and an infinite number of substitutions. Check out 'Teeter Totter' from Joe Henderson's Album 'Our Thing'.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Re-writing The Blues





Blog # 51 : Re-writing The Blues



First of all, I'm back! After a month of working and helping my parents move in Pennsylvania I'm back in NYC and ready to get this blog up and running again.





One thing jazz musicians have to do today is reconcile their style with the jazz idiom; IE how they're playing style can be adapted to playing standard repertoire. Some jazz musicians today choose to be traditionalists, learning classic bebop language and playing ONLY standards or tunes based off good 'ol ii-V harmony. Other Jazz musicians completely abandon the classic repertoire and play only original modern music.


While, I prefer playing original music, I have definitely found myself on numerous gigs with musicians I don't know well, without rehearsal and we have to rely on our common knowledge of standards to get through the gig. And while I enjoy playing standards, I don't think I would be satisfied playing ONLY standards for the rest of my life. I derive a lot of my musical identity from my writing, so I've made quick arrangements or reharms of standards and have composed a few of my own Blues to get through certain gigs(and feel artistically satisfied).


I could write a lengthy essay about 'THE BLUES', but it's unnecessary and I'm sure you could search the internet and find a lot better information than I have to say. When I talk about 'The Blues', I'm talking strictly about the 12 bar form used in Jazz. The most basic form being as follows:


Bb7 | Eb7 | Bb7 | |

Eb7 | | Bb7 | |

F7 | Eb7 | Bb7 | |


This form is usually the first thing a jazz musician learns and is relatively easy to play. The difficult part is saying something new on a form that has been around for SO long and that has been played SO much. This, coupled with the fact that I was sick of playing the same Blues' over and over, lead me to try to re-write the blues and add my own additional changes. This isn't a new concept whatsoever. Coltrane, Miles, Joe Henderson as well as countless others have all re-written the blues form to adapt to their style and I have also found that re-writing the blues has been a valuable compositional challenge.


In re-writting the blues, I think the most important thing to keep is the harmonic content which defines the blues. That is: starting on the tonic chord and going to the IV chord at the 5th bar. (I think it's relatively important to return to the tonic chord at bar 7, but there are ways around it). Both blues' I'll uploaded on this blog share these characteristics.


'Philly Nudge' was the first blues I ever wrote, which was about 4 years ago. I used two ascending dominant chords in bar 4 to chromatically move up to the IV chord in bar 5. Then bar 5 and 6 has the same 'up a minor 3rd' relation as bar 7 and 8 (notice I also returned to the tonic chord in bar 7). Normal V chord resolution in bars 9 and 10, and then a pretty standard jazz turnaround at the end of the tune. Melody-wise, you'll notice repeated rhythmic figures which gives the tune some cohesion.


Here is the chart:


Below is me playing the chord progression on Piano:







'Don't Vibe Me', I wrote recently and is a blues based of side-stepping. Here in bar 2 instead of going to the IV chord, I've gone chromatically up by a half-step. The E7#11 chord in bar 4 is a half-step above and leads into the IV chord at bar 5. Bar 5 and 6 have a 'down a minor 3rd' relation, which is also used in bars 7 and 8(still using the tonic chord in bar 7). And then instead of going to the V chord at bar 9, I've substituted dominant chords moving in whole-steps and arriving at A7#11, which is a half-step below the tonic chord, which it returns to at the top of the form.


Here is the Chart:



Here is the progression played on piano:






To my ears, both of these 'tunes' still sound and feel like a blues.




Just to sum up, re-writing a blues can be a really good exercise to start the process of reharmonizing tunes as well as a great way to play a tune on a gig that is fairly easy for everyone to read and feel comfortable on. If you really like the changes you've written and they make sense, there is also a good chance you can force them on a regular blues when playing at a jam session or gig.