Tuesday, October 11, 2011


Just to give an example of what I was saying with my last entry about leadsheets vs arrangements, I included a chart from my most recent album 'At the Edge', just to show how much is written vs how much is improvised.

Monday, October 10, 2011


Blog # 90: Standards

I have mixed feelings about jazz standards and the tradition. I, like everyone else, listened religiously to Miles Davis, Chet Baker, Clifford Brown, Horace Silver, Woody Shaw, Joe Henderson etc. I learned standards in school, transcribed solos from my favorite performers, practiced licks in all 12 keys and absorbed the tradition. Then I started to write my own music. First composing leadsheets(melodies with chord changes) and then got more into writing out bass lines, piano figures and getting more into creating a specific texture outside of just "I'll play the melody, you playing a walking bass line, you ride the cymbal and you comp". There comes a point where, as a composer, you get bored with just writing a melody with chord changes. You want to do something more. You start thinking outside the limitations of that format. Maybe you want to combine different influences, styles and genres you like. Now once you come up with something that isn't just 'standard straight-ahead jazz' you are forced to rationalize 'your style' with the tradition and the idea of standards. Are you still going to play your new music and standards on the same gig? Will it be weird switching between styles?

I actually really love playing standards and they are an amazing tool to use when you're playing a gig with no rehearsal. They are a common language that enables you to play with people you've never even met before, but I wonder how much you can play JUST standards your whole career and develop your own identity. I know personally, I feel like my composing is very linked to my musical identity. I just don't know what the future is in playing standards forever and I feel like I want to create something different. I also don't feel like playing nothing but standards is that original. And while we're on the topic, there have been enough tribute albums made covering Coltrane or Monk's music.(Seriously, record labels, STOP WITH THE TRIBUTE ALBUMS!!) Our Jazz heros were playing their original stuff and the best tribute to our jazz hero's is to continue to compose our own new original music. I go back and forth on if I even want to play standards publicly again. But I have no answer or conclusion. These are just more things I think about...

Monday, October 3, 2011

Sound Quality

Blog # 89: Sound Quality

One thing I've been thinking a lot about recently about is sound quality. I know when I was in school I would always hear "Oh my god, have you heard _____?, he has the biggest sound." or "I saw ____, last night, what a HUGE sound!".

Recently I've been thinking about this, and I'm just over the cliche of having a 'big sound'. I've come to the conclusion that I'd rather have a 'beautiful sound' than a 'big sound'. In fact, I've heard stories that Joe Henderson's sound on saxophone wasn't particularly big. He played pretty light reeds and usually hugged the mic. Towards the end of his career Chet Baker used to put the microphone all the way into the bell of his horn. And lastly, Ron carter has been documented as saying Miles Davis' sound wasn't big, but it was 'focused'. Isn't Miles the best example of how much focus, intensity and quality can overcome having a big sound? When Miles played a note, everyone would lean forward and anticipate the next one. Plus, he's arguably the greatest Jazz Musician of all time.

Anyway, I'm over it. I've been spending a lot of time just trying to get my tone the exact way i want it over the past several months and I've come to the conclusion that I'd rather have a beautiful, perfect tone than a big one. If the sound is the quality I want it, I don't care if its big, small or in between. I've been obsessing with the details of every interval, and every nuance of a note. You really can play every note an infinite number of ways. The fewer notes you play, the more you can obsess about the details of just one note.