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Anything Goes

Back to building my ultimate Jazz set. Got the blues and the bossa. Now is time for the bread and butter of all jam-sessions. Some elegant swing number in a major key that features all what Jazz is about. Ladies and gentleman, I give you the great American songbook.

Hold on a minute. Choosing a couple of golden oldies is going to be a massive tasks given the enormous pile of Tin Pan Alley material that has been adapted to the Jazz scene between 1940 and 1960.  Thanks to the creative minds of Messrs Gershwin, Kern, Porter, Rodgers, Mandel and al, Jazz musicians have got hundreds of standards at their disposal. So how am I going to select 2 of them?

Chord progression and melody are the basic elements. Nothing too predictable but it’s got to be varied enough for the band to have fun. These tunes will need to have different key signatures and offer some modulation. Somehow, I feels like being in the queue at Bertillon in Paris (or William Curley in London) and struggling to decide on what ice-cream to order. Too many flavours and not enough scoops…

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One for Daddy-O

Attention everyone, Father’s Day’s a-coming and this time I have come up with the ultimate present to give to your old papa.

Forget the Dad’s Army socks and the Best-of-English-Cricket/Rugby/Football DVDs. You’ll get a thank you but you can be sure the lot will end up in the local charity shop within 2 weeks.

Aiming for the latest Miles-Trane-Monk-Duke-Frank box-set or more books about Jazz paraphernalia will just add more clutter to the already filled-beyond-capacity shelf in the living room. And you’ll even get your mum whining about it in the process.

Technology’s the key perhaps? In case your old man’s a muso, then the invaluable app iReal will save the day with it’s massive collection of 1200+ Jazz charts and build-in player – one of 3 apps to get along with the metronome and tuner by the way! Chances are he’s got all that already.

So what then?  Read more…

David Weiss – The Mirror

Released in 2004 by this fantastic exponent of Contemporary Jazz that is Fresh Sounds New Talent,” The Mirror” is a great CD in continuation of what Art Blakey would have done had he been still alive.

Mostly fronted by 2 saxes and Weiss’s trumpet, the tunes form a very energetic collection of Hard Bop with  clever writing and arranging skills from the leader. I particularly like the title tune for the intensity provided by the band and all the refined solos. Think V.S.O.P. with the brakes still on.

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Dhum dhum dhum

For the same reasons that you wouldn’t put a set together without including a Blues, you need some latin vibe to mix genres. I don’t mean a hydrid tune who goes from latin to swing (“Speak low”, “You stepped out of a dream”, “Nica’s dream” or “Love for sale” for example), nor something based on a caribbean rhythm (“My little suede shoes”, “St Thomas” or “Song for my father”). I mean Bossa Nova. The gentle Brazilian rhythm that has invaded the Jazz universe since the mid 50’s. Now I bet you hear Joao Gilberto humming…

I remember reading that Ryuchi Sakamoto had purchased Jobim's piano after he died. It had the mark of the cigars on the side!

Nothing beats a Bossa Nova for its delicacy and softness. Just as a proof of it’s embedded character, you’d always find the trumpet player reaching for the Flügelhorn as you call for a bossa. The mellow tone of the Flüg matches perfectly the ambiance set by the Bossa. Gil Evans and Jobim fan’s, this is your post. Read more…

Straight no …

In the beginning was the Blues. Then came Charlie Parker.

As we all know, Bird was a great player and improviser, inspiring cohorts of sax players and musicians alike. He also made the blueprint to what is referred to as a Bebop Blues by transforming the basic 3-chord structure to a more elaborate reharmonized version with jam sessions usual suspects “Now’s the time” and “Billie’s Bounce”.

You can’t have a Jazz gig without a blues being played. This is the obligatory rite of passage for any musician. To play a 12-bars form 6 or more times during a solo and coming with fresh licks all the time. That is hard. The chord don’t just play themselves (unlike say “Dolphin dance” or “Stella by starlight”). Relying solely on playing the six notes of the Blues Scale for 72 bars is suicidal, you’ve got to think vertically (ie using different notes for each chord, sometimes twice a bar). That’s what makes the bebop blues interesting, the perfect comprise between the soulfulness of the blues and the agility of the beboppers. Read more…

1-2, 1-2-3-4

Welcome to all Jazz fans across the universe. This blog is a place to discuss Jazz tunes whilst I will attempt to establish the ultimate Jazz setlist.

From Real book favourites to obscure tunes and original compositions of the Jazz community (including my own), I will explore the pad and select charts to build my perfect instrumental combo set.

What makes a good jazz tune? How fast should it be played? What’s the best instrumentation and arrangement?

From the listener’s point of view, it should have the right vibe. But what of the musician? Do we want a pleasant chord progression with a pretty melody on top? Or are we looking for a more challenging grid to solo on and something more meaty for the head? Read more…

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