New Music: Tigran, Katie Ernst, & Makaya

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

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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 first Tigran live show, all I can say is “wow.” His music is rhythmically complex, but somehow it still manages to groove insanely hard. I call it Armenian folk jazz metal, maybe Armymetazz? I’ll workshop that. But for all the intensity this group brings during the hard-hitting grooves, they balance it out with sparse, melodic interludes. The contrast can be schizophrenic, but that’s also part of the appeal. He sings, whistles, and tickles the ivories as well as anybody in the business. I’m so glad Nonesuch is now backing Tigran’s efforts, since he has deserving of wider recognition for many years. Get it on iTunes.

First, The Grid:


Then, Out Of The Grid:

 

Katie Ernst: Little Words

An equally gifted bass player and vocalist, Katie offers a gentle touch and compelling melodies in this beautiful release. Setting to music the work of American poet Dorothy Parker, Little Words …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 glaring issues in my time, which you will witness for yourself below. These apps might not win any design awards, but the highly specialized utility they offer makes them invaluable practice tools.

Let’s go through each of these three iPhone apps, and along the way I’ll demonstrate how and why I use them in my quest to become a better musician.

Sorry Android users, only Time Guru offers an Android version, but please, don’t even get me started with the follies of Android…

 

DoubleTime

As I said above, this one is relatively new to me. Developed by fantastic jazz pianist Dan Tepfer, DoubleTime‘s basic premise is that you can learn to feel the groove by incrementally spacing out metronome clicks. That’s the app’s killer feature – a big button that says DOUBLE – allowing you to easily “double” metronome click intervals with a single tap, so you don’t miss a step. It’s so simple, yet so brilliant. Dan is a wonderful solo/duo player, so if this is the process he’s using to improve his internal rhythm, there must be something to it!

In the example below, I improvise over the standard All The Things You Are at quarter note = 240bpm. I’ll start with clicks on beat 1 of 4 (clicks every 60BPM = one second) and begin to play the tune. Each chorus, I hit the DOUBLE button. Here’s a play-by-play of the embarrassment that ensues:

  • 1st Chorus (click every 1 measure/second): I feel pretty good, my lines flow somewhat naturally, and all is well. Then I hit double…
  • 2nd Chorus (click every 2 measures/seconds): My lines become more unimaginative as I’m focusing on keeping the groove. I begin to rush over the bridge, and I’m a bit off.
  • 3rd Chorus (click every 2 measures/seconds again): Since I wasn’t feeling locked into the time during chorus 2, I took another chorus to settle in. I begin by completely missing an altissimo thing I’m going for, c’est la vie. At least my time is slightly better, and I’ve internalized the groove just a bit more.
  • 4th Chorus (click every 4 measures/seconds): I get slightly off around the bridge again, but by the end of the chorus I’m feeling the groove more deeply. Time for another double!
  • 5th Chorus (click every 8 measures/seconds): I’m not nailing the metronome clicks as they swing by, but I get a bit lucky with a few that line up well. I’m feeling adventurous by the end of this chorus, so I’ll hit DOUBLE again just for fun.
  • 6th Chorus (click every 16 measures/seconds): Disaster. Now I’m starting to guess at when that little metronome click is going to chime in, and you can hear everything break down. To be fair, that’s fewer than 4 clicks per minute! By the end, I’m just lost…
  • …read more

    An Improviser’s Tour de Fourths

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

    4-slice-sandy

    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 fourth creates. I hope to open your mind, your practice routine, and your playing. After all, it’s called a perfect fourth for a reason!

     

    Let’s start from the beginning and work our way up.

     

    What is a fourth?

    Let’s take 10 seconds and cover the extreme basics. The fourth is an interval. In the key of C, moving from C to F is moving from 1 to 4 if you number each note sequentially:

    Harmonically speaking, the fourth takes a similar form. In the key of C, an “F” chord is known as the fourth.

    Building a Major Scale Out of 4ths …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 Belgian pianist Bram Weijters:

    Chad and I sat down last night and geeked out for a few hours, taking turns picking our trumpet idols off the top of our heads and sharing YouTube clips until we came up with 50 names.

    Preface:  

    The following list represents a group of today’s amazing jazz trumpet players. This is by no means the gold standard, it’s entirely our respective opinions, and the exact rank order should be taken with an extra-large grain of chunky sea salt; it’s just a guide. There may be 50 other guys who we’ve never heard or have inadvertently omitted who are equally deserving of praise. Regardless, you should still check these fine players out.

    The aim is to provide a window into some of the top guys on the scene today

    Sorry, no Miles Davis here. This is meant to be representative of how each musician is currently playing, which means every individual is living and making incredible music.

    Hopefully this helps you discover new artists. If any one of these guys is playing near you, please go check them out!

     

    Top 50 Trumpeters

     

    1. Avishai Cohen

    [Chad] Melodically, trumpet-ly, so much tradition. He’s both rooted and forward-looking at the same time.

     

    2. Ambrose Akinmusire …read more