Tenor Players Passing Through

It’s been an exciting 2012 here in Nashville so far.  Monday nights have been a fun hang  since Chester Thompson started leading his trio at the Commodore Grille, and now the Nashville Jazz Orchestra is playing an early set there every Monday at 5:30!  Sportsman’s Grille has continued its Wednesday night jazz series, the Charles Walker Trio has been playing many Tuesday nights, Beegie Adair Trio on Thursdays at F Scotts…it’s been a thrill getting out and hearing so many inspiring players. As a tenor saxophonist it’s been an especially thrilling winter.  First Bob Mintzer was here as a guest soloist with the Nashville Jazz Orchestra.  The band played about 12 of his charts and Bob sounded ridiculous.  He’s so incredibly expressive, and his tone …

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The Famous 27 Chorus Paul Gonsalves Solo

Few solos in the history of jazz have as much notoriety and hyperbole as the 27-chorus solo played by tenor saxophonist Paul Gonsalves with Duke Ellington’s band at the Newport Jazz Festival of 1956.  The solo was an interlude between “Diminuendo in Blue” and “Crescendo in Blue,” two separate compositions penned by Ellington in 1937 but usually woven together in performance by a piano interlude and tenor solo. I’ve heard and read various contradictory accounts about the events leading up to the performance of “Dimiuendo and Crescendo in Blue” at Newport in 1956.  The recent lack of success of Duke’s band; possible punishment for recent performance problems stemming from Paul’s alcohol and drug addictions; tensions among the ‘high-society’ patrons of Newport with the younger dancehall …

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Voice

How can we recognize the difference between “good” art and  “bad” art?  The question is inherently unanswerable – ‘good’ and ‘bad’ are subjective terms, and the question implies an objective answer: choose good/bad like you would choose yes/no or black/white. Before we pass any judgements, we must realize that context HUGELY affects our feelings for a work of art.  Imagine a picture of two solid-colored squares – on the wall of an elementary school hall, you might think “pretty easy” – on the wall of the MOMA, you might think “pretty brilliant.”  But that’s an oversimplification – to understand the squares, you need to know the title and some information about the artist’s background.  If you learn that the artist has also drawn highly detailed …

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Sexy Sax Man – Not What You Think

So by now, you’re likely to have seen the latest viral video craze – the “Sexy Sax Man. ” If you’re lucky enough to have spared yourself, allow me to explain: the video features Sergio Flores playing the memorable saxophone riff from George Michael’s first single and 1984 megahit “Careless Whisper.”  The video has gone viral because Flores delivers the song in the great tradition of Tom Green and Jackass: inappropriate and random settings, erotically dressed, complete with pelvic thrusts. When I first watched the video, I immediately recognized the saxophone riff, but couldn’t remember from where.  That got me thinking about composition – some of the most effective and long-lasting music features riffs or tunes that get stuck in our head, no matter the …

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Thinking of Dexter Gordon

Saxophonist Dexter Gordon is one of the first names I mention to young students looking to get hip to the sounds of jazz.  Unmistakable for his saxophone sound and rhythmic feel, Dexter’s playing remains easily identifiable among legions of followers and imitators.  I learned a number of standards from his recorded renditions, including It’s You Or No One, Love For Sale, The Shadow of Your Smile, You Stepped Out of a Dream, and Star Eyes. While Dexter became known to a mainstream audience late in his career due to his leading role in the movie ‘Round Midnight for which he was nominated as best actor for the 1986 Oscars, he has always been known to jazz fans for his use of riffs and quotes in …

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Thinking of Coltrane

As a high school student first piquing my interest in jazz, I remember becoming fascinated by the way John Coltrane cut through the changes of standard repertoire in the ensembles of Miles Davis.The Prestige album Workin’ was one of the first albums that I ever purchased, and the solos of Miles and Trane on the tracks ‘Trane’s Blues’ and ‘In Your Own Sweet Way’ were some of the first material that I ever transcribed. To a young listener developing my ears with the vocabulary of jazz, I found it enthralling to listen to Trane flow effortlessly and melodically across harmonic changes. In Your Own Sweet Way As I furthered my musical studies, I found that I preferred the playing of a number of John Coltrane’s …

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