On the Evolution of Kendrick Scott Oracle’s Covers and “We Are the Drum”

Posted by on Oct 15, 2015 in Inspiration

Kendrick Scott We Are The Drum

What do Flying Lotus, Kendrick Lamar, Sufjan Stevens, and Björk have in common? Besides their shared flare for artfully blending electronic and acoustic sounds, they are among the unintentionally curated set of non-jazz artists that jazz musicians, myself included, have almost universally anointed …read more

Saxophone Altissimo Systems and Your Hidden Second Octave Key

Posted by on Jun 4, 2015 in Practice Tips, Sax


Learning to play in the altissimo (extreme upper) range of the saxophone requires patience, mostly on the part of the player, but also for whatever unlucky souls are forced to listen to your squawking. Progressing from squeaks to music is a process, but there are basic principles that should be isolated if you want to learn to control this demanding range of the …read more

Highnote App: 1-tap key and tempo change, on the fly

Posted by on Apr 19, 2015 in Improvisation, Practice Tips


In the past, I’ve used various pieces of software to alter the tempos and keys of recordings. Whether I want to slow something down to more easily transcribe a passage, or work on playing in different keys, the process involves (1) uploading said track so some program (i.e. Audacity, SlowGold, etc.), (2) finding the …read more

Experimenting with Melody, Harmony, & Rhythm

Posted by on Mar 26, 2015 in Harmony, Improvisation, Practice Tips, Rhythm

“…it’s so hard to describe music other than the basic way to describe it – music is basically melody, harmony and rhythm – but I mean people can do much more with music than that. It can be very descriptive in all kinds of ways…”

~Charlie Parker from an interview conducted by Paul Desmond (1954)

The more I ponder Bird’s fundamental decomposition of music, the more I discover how aptly anything musical can be described by its harmony, melody, and rhythm. There’s still that lingering, intangible “much more,” the part that gives music meaning. But let’s save the “much more” for another post…

As improvisers, we …read more

50 of Today’s Best Jazz Pianists

Posted by on Mar 12, 2015 in Inspiration, Piano


Adding to my previous top 50 sax and trumpet player posts, I think it’s time to show the piano, keyboard, and organ some love.

Looking for an answer to something like this? “I love Bill Evans, Monk, and Keith Jarrett. But I don’t even know where to start with most of these modern guys.” Well, here’s a list of contemporary …read more

New Music: Tigran, Katie Ernst, & Makaya

Posted by on Feb 26, 2015 in Chicago Scene, Inspiration


From local Chicago friends to Armenian prodigies, musicians worldwide continue to knock my socks off with their new releases. Here are three recent albums that span the vast array of music that gets lumped under the unassuming and all-too-broad label of Jazz.


Tigran Hamasyan: Mockroot

Tigran made his first journey to Chicago 2 weeks ago, and after attending my …read more

3 iPhone Apps That Improve Your Groove & Intonation

Posted by on Feb 19, 2015 in Practice Tips, Rhythm

As some of you may be aware, my day job is in mobile app software development. So, when I come across useful, intuitive apps that actually help me solve real problems that I face as a musician, I get really excited!

I’ve been using Pitch Primer and Time Guru with some regularity for over a year now. I recently also came across Double Time, and let’s just say it’s revealing …read more

An Improviser’s Tour de Fourths

Posted by on Feb 12, 2015 in Harmony, Improvisation, Practice Tips, Theory


Back in the late 60’s and 70’s, fourths were the hippest thing since sliced bread. Jazz entered the age of treble-heavy bass and electric fusion, and musicians were overlaying fresh-sounding (at the time) intervallic fourth patterns over all sorts of funky modal groove tunes.

But fourths are so much more than just a few licks to plug in. Let’s explore the harmonic and intervallic possibilities the …read more

50 Killer Living Trumpet Players: Chad & Mike’s Excellent Adventure

Posted by on Feb 5, 2015 in Inspiration, Trumpet

Avishai Cohen meets Bill and Ted

Correction: The names of Jim Rotondi, Bert Joris, and Jonathan Finlayson were previously misspelled and have been corrected below. Sincere apologies for the lack of proofreading, we still love your playing!


This week, trumpeter Chad McCullough joins me for The Woodshed’s first ever jazz fantasy draft. After the interest I received in a previous post, 50 Living Sax Players You Need to Check Out. Right Now., I knew Chad was the perfect companion to help me follow up, hipping you to a more stylistically and geographically diverse set of trumpeters than I could possibly concoct on my own.

Chad’s a wonderful trumpet player; look out for his upcoming Origin release with …read more

Live in LA: Ben Wendel Quartet, Jeff Parker w. Eric Revis, & Kendal Moore’s Octet

Posted by on Jan 29, 2015 in Bootlegs, Inspiration


After 5 action-packed days in Los Angeles, I’m rejuvenated. Yes the beaches were amazing, the sunsets made for beautiful sky porn* (like this shot I took after almost running out of gas just north of Malibu), and the sushi was scrumptious. But even better was the music. All three shows I checked out while visiting …read more