Friday, July 31, 2009

Thelonious Monk Competition

I recorded with bassist Aaron Nebbia last night for his Thelonious Monk Competition entry. The competition is open to bassists under the age of 30. I am told it will be judged by Ron Carter, Dave Holland, John Pattitucci and Gary Peacock. Every year this competition features a different instrument. It's winners (and finalists) have gone on to lead very successful performance careers.

Aaron studied piano with me about five years ago, before making the switch to string bass. The progress he has made in such a short period of time is both astounding an inspiring. We recorded five tracks:

- "When Will The Blues Leave?", by Ornette Coleman
- "Loud Zee", by Jerry Bergonzi
- "Rhythm-a-ning", by Thelonious Monk
- "Whisper Not", by Benny Golson and
- "Misty", by Erroll Garner

Aaron played very well and I wouldn't be surprised if he was called for the next round. I wish him the best of luck.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

UConn Summer Jazz Camp

This week’s UConn Jazz Camp has been both fun and productive. UConn’s Community School of the Arts has done a terrific job handling all the administrative aspects. We have twenty campers and the distribution of instruments was such that we could create three well-balanced combos and a big band. The days are structured as follows:

9:00 – 10:20 Combo Rehearsals

10:30 – 11:50 Master classes. Each instrument breaks off into their own room to receive instruction in instrumental techniques and required skills unique to each instrument. Saxophones, Brass (trumpets & trombones), piano, bass, guitar, drums.

--- LUNCH --- (jazz videos played)

1:00 – 2:20 Faculty Presentations
(jazz theory & improvisational concepts, jazz history, performance demonstrations, practice tips, the business of music, question & answer sessions).

2:30 – 4:00 Combo Rehearsals or Big Band

Every afternoon one of the faculty members presents a lecture topic of his choice. As I write, Henry Lugo is giving a talk on the recorded histories of Miles Davis and John Coltrane, showing their musical development and outlining their essential recordings. Yesterday, Doug Maher provided an overview of the ENTIRE history of jazz. (I marvel at how he did this in an hour and a half.)

On the first day, the faculty performed for the students and answered their questions. Some interesting discussions ensued. My suspicion that students no longer buy entire CDs was confirmed. They simply download individual songs. How the world has changed!

On Friday the students will perform a brief concert for the parents, choosing selections from the material addressed in combo rehearsals. Here is a list of tunes each group is currently playing:

Combo 1:
Mr. P.C. – by John Coltrane
Doxy – by Sonny Rollins
Bright Mississippi – by Thelonious Monk

Combo 2:
Recordamé – by Joe Henderson
Billie’s Bounce – by Charlie Parker
Watermelon Man – by Herbie Hancock

Combo 3:
Impressions – by John Coltrane
Sonny Moon For Two – by Sonny Rollins

We have seen noticable growth in the students' understanding of chord symbols, scales, and the outlining of song forms. The instructors have brought in recordings of the pieces the students are performing so that they are learning the musical aurally. Working with these young students and seeing them make such huge strides in a short period of time is gratifying to say the least.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Video of Miles Davis' 1964 Group

My friend Maurice Robertson brought this video to my attention. It is astounding what all is available on You Tube. I have always wanted to see footage of Herbie Hancock with Miles' quintet, and here it is! (It certainly doesn't dissapoint.)

Sunday, July 26, 2009

39 Ain't So Bad

Today I turned 39. I received the best gift imaginable from my mother-in-law --- a full afternoon of babysitting so that my wife and I could go out together. Our romantic date included spa treatments (!!), lunch at Max Burger in West Hartford, walking hand-in-hand around the Blue Back Square shopping complex, and then dessert at the Cheesecake Factory. It doesn't get much better than that!

I had the Sunday off from playing at the St. Paul's jazz service. As much as I love playing, I really enjoy the weeks when I am not scheduled and can listen to Jen Allen's wonderful piano playing. Rather than feeling distracted by the music and thinking about how I might do it differently, I find myself smiling, singing, and more fully engaged in worship than ever before. Going to church has become something that I truly to forward to each week.

In two weeks time, we will begin yet another experiment at the St. Paul's jazz service. Saxophonist Kris Allen has begun practicing the string bass and I have been working away at the drum set. We will make our debut on these instruments on August 9th. Both Kris and I are really looking forward to it. (Jen and the others: probably not so much.)

The UConn summer jazz camp for high school and middle school students starts tomorrow. I'll be working with Doug Maher, Henry Lugo, and Ben Billelo. Throughout the week I plan to post my observations and thoughts here regarding what we have been sharing with the students, and how they are responding. It should be a great week.
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