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09/2007 - September Newsletter

THE BJAM SESSION

http://www.bakersjazzandmore.com

(September 2007)

You are welcome to copy and distribute these newsletters to other directors, students, or anyone else who might be interested.

TABLE OF CONTENTS:

INTRODUCTION – How and why BJAM is different from your usual retailer/vendor
NEW MUSIC – New composers and new original music for all levels – Middle School, HIgh School, and College
GUEST ARTIST – Rick Lawn, Dean of Performing Arts at the University of the Arts – Methods for Practicing Jazz Improvisation
OPEN CHORUSES – Open for discussion
SHOUT SECTION – Calendar of University of Jazz Concerts in Texas
CODA – Final Words

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INTRODUCTION

We’re back in the saddle once again. I hope everybody’s off to a good start with the new school year. I’d like to start off by thanking all of you who stopped by the BJAM booth at TBA in July. It was great to make new acquaintances and renew old friendships. We handed out lots of catalogs and CD’s, and if you have any questions or if we can be of service, please contact us and fire away.

One question that came up was, “Is your music available through (insert retailer here)?” A similar statement we heard was, “I can only purchase through (insert retailer here) because our district has an exclusive contract with them.”

Here are the answers: No, our music is not available through retailers. It is only available through us. We’re trying a new business model that’s actually been around for centuries. We make the product, we market the product, and we sell the product. Thanks to the internet, this is now much more feasible than in the past and allows the small businessman to get on the field with the big retailers. We can even ship overnight just like they do.

Typically, the big retailers offer a poor commission rate to small publishers, do little or no specific advertising for our music, and then lump us in with hundreds of other charts waiting for schools to order them out of the blue.

We think things should be different. We think we should reap the benefits of our labor. We also think a publisher should do more to enhance jazz education and music education overall. To that end, this newsletter contains articles and announcements to help build your program and educate your students. We think there should be a relationship between the schools and the publishers. Can you call your retailer and ask a question about the music you’ve purchased? Does your retailer know who you are or anything about your program? Does you retailer announce your upcoming concerts? Is your retailer available for clinics?

While we don’t yet offer hundreds of charts to choose from, we are aggressively growing the catalog and composer roster. We currently have four composers and roughly 30 charts with many more in the works. I have personally played every chart in the catalog, and almost all of them have been performed in concert by student or professional groups. This is good music that you can’t get anywhere else. I hope you’ll take a few minutes to check out the audio clips on our website and hear for yourself. Caveat – the Grade 2 First Chorus chart demos are currently MIDI, but we will be upgrading those as soon as possible. All other demos are live performances by professional or college ensembles.

On the second topic – we have done some research and found that there is most likely a way to buy directly from us. Disclaimer, we haven’t checked with every school district, but we have checked with some, so please check with your local people and contact us if we can help.

BJAM is the “Sole Source” for our products. As I said above, they are not available through any other vendor. By indicating that BJAM is the “Sole Source” on your P.O., that should be enough to get it through the system all well and good. Whatever BJAM needs to do to get set up with your district, let us know, and we’ll get it done.

I hope you will support us in our endeavor.

As always, please visit our website at http://www.bakersjazzandmore.com for chart descriptions and mp3 audio clips.

We’re looking forward to earning your business and making great music together.

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NEW MUSIC!!!

We’ve added two new composers, Dr. Paul White and Dr. John Vander Gheynst to the catalog along with audio clips of the music. Paul’s music can be found on the Straight Ahead page as well as the Extensions page. John’s music can be found on the Extensions page. For those in the Central Texas area, keep an eye and ear out for the Contemporary Works Jazz Orchestra, led by John, and the Acoustic Mayhem Big Band and Paul White Quintet led by Paul.

Middle School Music: We’ve spoken with a number of middle school directors looking for new music for their groups, and we’re happy to announce that we now have six new charts for middle school ensembles in our catalog. Demos can be heard on the First Chorus page of our website.

These charts cover the range from swing to latin to rock, and are much more than the usual “unison everywhere” charts that so many directors we spoke with were complaining about. Trumpet range is usually to written F# or G. Trombone range is usually no more than Eb or F, and the low trombone range is never lower than low F on the bottom of the bass clef.

The bass and piano parts are written out, but chord changes are included. Guitar parts include written notes as well as chord symbols for comping. The drum parts are partially written out to indicate a suggested pattern or style, but there is room for the player to play on his/her own as well. Written solos are included for the soloists along with chord changes for those who choose to improvise.

Alternate parts are available upon request – flutes, clarinets, French horn, euphonium, bass clarinet, etc. Let us know what you need and we’ll get it to you quickly.

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GUEST ARTIST – Dr. Rick Lawn

Each month we’ll try to feature a guest artist/clinician in this space who will contribute an article or mini-clinic on a topic related to jazz education.

This month, I’m proud to present Dr. Rick Lawn, Dean of the College of the Performing Arts at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia, Pa. Prior to his current position, Rick held positions at the University of Texas, Austin, the University of Northern Iowa, and Hartwick College. In addition to being a fine saxophonist (Lionel Hampton, Chuck Mangione) and composer (Unknown Soldiers, Sea Breeze Records) with compositions published by Kendor Music, CL Barnhouse, Walrus Music, Concept Music, Alfred Music, Dorn, and UNC Press, Rick is also the author of three jazz education texts – “The Jazz Ensemble Director’s Manual” – Barnhouse, “Experiencing Jazz” – McGraw-Hill, and “Jazz Theory and Practice” – Alfred Music, co-authored with Jeff Hellmer.

As a follow-up to last month’s article by Ron Wilkins’ Treatise on Jazz Improvisation, Rick offers this practical advice on what to practice and how to practice it.

Some Thoughts on Practicing Jazz Improvisation

By Rick Lawn

Edited by Paul Baker

General Practice Routine Approaches

Having some sense of history, and particularly the lineage of your instrument is important.

Jazz, possibly more than any other style of music, requires a thorough understanding and assimilation of its history. Barely a century old, jazz has gone through numerous transitions and stages of growth that have taken it from its raw beginnings to its current state of advanced concert music. In that progression, harmonies have advanced from simple chords to complex structures and atonality. Rhythms have progressed from being march, polka and cakewalk influenced to the most complex syncopations and polyrhythms. A knowledge of and familiarity with these developments is essential to the modern player who may be called upon to contribute to any musical environment, sometimes having to improvise on the spot.

For the individual player seeking to advance on his or her instrument, it is imperative to know the players who came before you on that instrument. Who were the great players throughout history? What did they sound like? What are their famous recordings? Who else did they play with? What were their life stories? What inspired them and shaped their careers?

Listening is a critical component in learning jazz history. Nothing conveys the music better than the music itself. Working a listening period into your practice time will greatly improve your results. As has been said many times before, Jazz is a language, and what better way to learn to speak a language is there than to hear it in use by its masters?

Youtube.com is a treasure trove of videos and recordings of famous jazz musicians.

Calisthenics – practice scales and arpeggios in all keys and tonalities so that they become involuntary, a reflex action. The goal is that no key should sound or feel more difficult than another.

The last thing you can afford to do while improvising is to think about which fingers to be moving in order to convey your musical thoughts. This is only accomplished through many hours of practice on the fundamentals until those patterns literally are reflexive in nature. It’s not glamorous or exciting, but the results certainly can be when you stand up to play your solo.

Incorporate various ways to practice scales

Apply variations suggested below to melodic and harmonic minors, symmetrical scales such as octatonic (1/2-whole or whole-half) and whole tone.

Practice scales/modes more melodically, playing through them by intervals rather than stepwise motion; then improvise melodies using only the scale tones

Practice scales by broken tone triads and seventh chords ascending and descending

Practice neighbor (surround) tone patterns (2-1-7-1-4-3b-3-65-#4-5 etc.)

Adding these variations to your practice routine will not only give you some additional challenges and interesting material to work on, the variations will also help in building your musical “vocabulary”. If jazz is a language, then these scale fragments, arpeggios, etc., become the words that build the phrases of that language.

Practice the above exercises with a metronome – ticking on 2 & 4 is good – or a recorded drum track.

Probably the most critical element of jazz performance is time feel, aka “swing”. Even the simplest phrases sound great when they’re played “in the pocket” with the rhythm section. Conversely, the hippest licks just don’t make it when played out of time against the rhythm section. Practicing with a metronome is a good start and having the clicks fall on 2 & 4, or practicing with a drum track, is even better.

With the popularity of computers and audio samples, it’s not too difficult to set up a drum track or even an entire virtual rhythm section to practice with. A program like Band In A Box (www.pgmusic.com) is a very popular example of such software. It allows you to not only create rhythm tracks quickly and easily, but you can also set the tempo to your current comfort level and increase it when you need more of a challenge.

Remember that learning to improvise is like learning a new language. Keep in mind that there is a long time lag between working on something in the practice room, whether it is a new tune or a pattern or cliché from the jazz language, and actually putting the idea into practice without it sounding very planned or contrived. It is just like learning new words in any language; you must build your vocabulary of words and phrases before creating longer coherent sentences and paragraphs.

As with anything musical, time and practice are required before significant results are achieved. The more you work at it, the more it becomes ingrained in your musical sensibility and the more it will come out in your playing.

Practice improvising freely with a drummer – don’t necessarily worry about playing on a progression.

Again, time feel is paramount. Just playing with a drummer without the constraint of trying to fit your notes into fixed chord changes frees you to concentrate on where the notes are being placed in time. This practice technique also fosters interactive listening as well as better interaction with other players.

Learning to Improvise on a New Tune

Learn to play the chord progression at the piano using jazz style chord voicings

Learning some basic keyboard skills will help every player. The piano provides a wonderful visual aid so that voicings and guide/color tones (3rds, 5ths, 7ths, 9ths) can be identified. Playing the chord voicing in the left hand leaves the right hand free to try out melodic ideas that can then be transferred to another instrument.

A page full of hieroglyphic chord symbols can seem nonsensical or daunting. Playing through the chord progressions brings it to life, giving a sense of the structure of the tune and the various key centers incorporated within it.

Analyze the melody and how it relates to each chord in the progression. Thoroughly learn the melody and chord changes by memory. Read through the lyrics if there are any.

Understanding the lyrics of a tune is an often overlooked step, but can be quite helpful in gaining a deeper understanding of what the music was meant to convey. For instance, the standard tune “Come Rain or Come Shine” is hardly about the weather. It starts off, “I’m going to love you like nobody’s loved you, come rain or come shine.” That puts an entirely new spin on things, doesn’t it?

Practice playing bass lines over the changes on your instrument (sometimes called guide tone lines) Do this by first simply outlining chord tones, then try adding diatonic and chromatic passing tones.

Sit at the piano and isolate each chord, improvising melodies over the chord with your instrument.

Locate a recording(s) of the tune and do a transcription – learn it, if not by memory or in its entirety just the highlights. Learn phrases you like and write them down in a music manuscript book – your personal diary. Try adding your own prefix or suffix to a “borrowed” idea or cliché to make it your own.

Different artists might approach the same tune from very different musical directions. It can be very instructive to be aware of these multiple points of view. For instance, one artist might play the tune as a ballad while the second plays it at a fast bebop or samba tempo. This can broaden your own perspective when approaching new or old tunes.

See if the tune is available on the Jamey Aebersold play-along collection. If not, try using a computer program like Band in The Box or Smart Music. Use published transcriptions if they are available, but don’t rely on them.

There are numerous transcription books on the market which provide a wealth of information. Not only are the notes revealed on paper, other performance aspects can be studied as well, such as rhythmic figures (lots of eight note bebop lines or more rhythmic syncopated figures?), note density (busy player or some space between the phrases?), note ranges (all over the horn, lots of altissimo or pedal tones?), etc. The immediate beauty in these books is that everything is written out so it’s easier to grab a lick and begin internalizing it. However, such books can become a crutch and make the process too easy, when in fact it isn’t! Learning by ear, while more challenging, is a more lasting approach forcing you to internalize the music. This technique will reinforce other areas of performance where listening is critical, aka “all of it.”

Summary

While the above techniques are great for private practicing, there is no substitute for playing in a live group, no matter what the level of experience. A popular analogy is made to football players who practice and practice, but they’re really put to the test when they step on the field for that first game, performing in real time. Private practice enables the group as a whole to be more effective when they step on the bandstand, and a lot more fun, too.

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OPEN CHORUSES

Have any topics for discussion? Have any questions you’d like to ask? Have any comments you’d like to make?

This is the place. Send your topics, questions, and comments to <> and we’ll put them in the next issue of the BJAM Session. The goal is to share knowledge and experience for the benefit of all, teachers and students alike.

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SHOUT SECTION

It’s my contention that few things are more valuable in music education than hearing good music played by good musicians. Below is a listing of some of the major university jazz program concert listings for the Fall 2007 semester. If you are in proximity to one of these schools, I strongly urge you to load up the school bus and take a field trip. If your school isn’t listed, please don’t be offended, I was trying to hit the major metro areas primarily, but do send me your performance dates so I can add them to the list.

High school and middle school programs – I’d like to post your performance dates, too. Send them in and I’ll post them in the next issue.

THERE IS NOW A “CALENDAR” PAGE ON THE WEBSITE WHICH CONTAINS ALL THE INFORMATION POSTED BELOW. THIS PAGE WILL BE UPDATED AS INFORMATION BECOMES AVAILABLE. PLEASE PASS THIS INFORMATION ALONG TO OTHER TEACHERS OR STUDENTS SO THAT THEY CAN BE AWARE OF ALL THE MUSIC GOING ON IN THEIR AREA.

People are making music everywhere and they need an audience. Everybody benefits!

In no particular order:

University of North Texas http://web3.music.unt.edu/calendar/

Search for Jazz, All Venues, Major Ensembles

There are many more informal concerts on campus throughout the semester that are not yet listed on the calendar. Contact the Jazz office for more information.

Darla Mayes, Jazz Studies Administrative Assistant
P.O. Box 305040
Denton TX 76203-5040
phone: (940) 565-3743
fax: (940) 369-7227 jazz@music.unt.edu

University of Texas, Austin www.music.utexas.edu/calendar/

9/27 Jazz Faculty – Jessen Auditorium

10/12 Jazz Orchestra

10/18 Jazz Ensemble

11/1 AIME – Advanced Improvisation Music Ensemble

11/16 Jazz Orchestra

11/19 Jazz Combos

12/3 Jazz Combos

TCU www.cfacf.tcu.edu/recitals_fall_2007.asp

10/24 Jazz Combos

11/4 Jazz Ensemble

11/8 Jazz Ensemble

11/29 Jazz Ensemble

Texas Tech www.depts.ttu.edu/music/SOM/calendar.asp

10/1 Jazz Ensemble I

10/28 Jazz Ensemble II

11/12 Jazz Ensemble I

Texas State University, San Marcos www.finearts.txstate.edu/Music/index.html

Click on “Events”

10/1 Jazz Ensemble

10/8 Jazz Orchestra

10/29 Jazz Lab Band

11/5 Jazz Ensemble

11/19 Jazz Orchestra

11/28 Jazz Lab Band

12/3 Jazz Ensemble Christmas Concert

University of Texas, El Paso http://academics.utep.edu/Default.aspx?alias=academics.utep.edu/musicevents

University of Texas, Arlington http://www.uta.edu/music/jazz/

9/20 Jazz on the Lawn

10/1 Jazz Faculty

Texas A&M, Kingsville www.tamuk.edu/music/calendar/calendar.html

University of Houston www.music.uh.edu/events/calendar.pdf

10/4 Jazz Ensemble, Jazz Orchestra

11/14 Jazz Ensemble, Jazz Orchestra

GET OUT AND HEAR SOME LIVE MUSIC!!!

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CODA

Thank you for taking the time to read our newsletter. It is our desire to make this newsletter a valuable tool for you by hosting letters, posing questions to the community, offering rehearsal, performance, or arranging tips or whatever you’d like to see discussed. If you have a jazz education topic you want to explore, please contact us at paul@bakersjazzandmore.com and we’ll include it in our next newsletter. Eventually, we’d like to get enough response to set up a discussion forum on our website http://www.bakersjazzandmore.com.

If you find this information valuable, we encourage you to forward it on to anyone else who you feel might benefit from it. One of our main goals is to “spread the word”. The more information educators and students have about jazz, the better the music will be and everyone benefits.

We’re looking forward to hearing from you, and we hope that you’ll be looking forward to hearing from us as well.

Until next month,

Paul Baker

Owner and Composer

Baker’s Jazz And More

paul@bakersjazzandmore.com

If you would prefer to not receive future issues of the BJAM Session newsletter, then please email us at paul@bakersjazzandmore.com and you will be unsubscribed post haste.

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