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7/2008 BJAM Session Newsletter

(July 2008)

Previous issues of the BJAM Session are available online at http://www.bakersjazzandmore.com/news/

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


INTRODUCTION – Spring has sprung, Fall has fell, now it’s summer………
NEW MUSIC – info on new additions to the catalog
FEATURE SOLO – Dan Cavanagh, Assistant Director of Jazz Studies, UT Arlington – What to do with the classical pianist in your jazz band.
OPEN CHORUSES – Open for discussion
SHOUT SECTION – Who’s playing BJAM music?
CODA – Final Words
INTRODUCTION – Spring has sprung, Fall has fell, now it’s summer………

And it’s hotter than, uh, usual. I hope everybody’s getting at least a little break in between band camps and family vacations (why are vacations always so much work?) before starting preparations for Summer Band in August. Here at BJAM there’s no letting up during the summer. For us, the Fourth of July menas more than family, food, and fireworks, it means that there’s only three weeks left before the Texas Bandmasters convention. Pedal to the metal time!

So, in that light, we’ve been writing more new music, getting this month’s BJAM Session together, keeping the printer busy making sure inventory is stocked up and ready, AND…………..

We’ll have a big announcement ready soon. Look for it in the special pre-TBA issue that will be arriving in your inboxes in a few weeks.

EL Gato Chulo, a fun Grade 3 samba is now available. Lots of attitude and lots of room for everybody to shine. Solos for tenor sax and trumpet and drums while a montuna section features the trombones and bari sax. Loud and proud all the way.

Middle school directors – we’re currently working on several new charts at that level. Please stop by our booth to see scores.

Also in the works is a new feature chart in our new Mike Vax Series. This will be a medium swing tempo and based on the chord progression of Honeysuckle Rose, per Mike’s request.

Also, as has been mentioned elsewhere in this issue, keep your eyes and ears open for a major announcement in a few weeks, and, as always, check <>for all of our charts for middle school, high school, and college programs. If you’re looking for a particular type of chart, let us know. We might be able to fill your need with something we have already in the works – OR – we are available for commissions and will be happy to work with you and your band to create custom music for your band. Contact paul@bakersjazzandmore.com to discuss further.



This month’s contributor, Dan Cavanagh, Assistant Director of Jazz Studies at UT Arlington, has recently returned from participating in the Steans Institute For Young Artists Program for Jazz as part of Chicago’s Ravinia Music Festival. He is also in the final phases of completing a newly recorded big band CD called “Pulse” which features musicians from around the country playing his original compositions and will be released this Fall on OA2 records www.oa2records.com. Also in the works are the UTA Jazz Orchestra’s new CD due this Fall as well as a new UTA Faculty Jazz CD slated for Spring 2009 for which Dan will be doing all the arranging. If you’re in the Dallas-Ft.Worth area, keep an eye out for Dan’s gigs across the area, too. To learn more about Dan and his music, check out www.dancavanagh.com.

In his article below, Dan offers valuable insights and tips for encouraging and developing the pianist in your ensemble.

What to Do with Your Classical Pianist in Jazz Band

If your middle- or high-school jazz band is like most, you have a pianist who has no idea what to do with those slashes and chord changes. Often when I go to clinic middle- and high-school jazz ensembles, much attention has been given to the drummer and bassist along with the horns, but little has been said to get the pianist actively involved. Due to the fact that the piano has a hard time being heard without a microphone in a jazz band setting, the pianist ends up sitting out, or plinking chords at random with little direction. Hopefully this article will give you some techniques and strategies to get your pianist more involved in the music.

The first thing to remember is that usually your pianist is the most accomplished musician in the band. While horn players start playing late in elementary school band, pianists typically begin taking lessons in kindergarten or first grade. Hence, by the time they’re in seventh grade, they have been playing their instrument for at least six years! In comparison, that’s the amount of time a wind player has been playing when he or she is a senior in high school. While I’m sure you are aware of this, it pays to capitalize on that fact. Most piano teachers incorporate not only reading and technique, but theoretical concepts into their lessons. All of the popular piano method books include a theory component, and any piano teacher worth his or her salt teaches with that component alongside the technique and performance components. What does that mean for your beginning jazz pianist? They already understand theory! By the time they have gotten to sixth or seventh grade, not to mention high school, they understand the concepts of tonal centers, I, IV, and V chords, and have been drilling I-IV-I-V7-I exercises every day. I have found it is usually easy to extend those concepts to ii chords.

Theoretically, since your pianist most likely understands the above concepts, all you need to show them is the different nomenclature jazz chord symbols uses. Show them how an F7 chord is the IV of Cmaj7, and a light bulb will (usually) go off. Once they are theoretically involved in the music, they typically become musically involved in the music.

While there is not sufficient space to delve into building chords here, I presented a clinic entitled “Beginning Jazz Piano for the Experienced Pianist” at the 2008 Texas Music Educator’s Conference. Along with the talk I presented a handout detailing the specifics of basic chord construction stemming from chord quality (maj7=MM7, 7 = Mm7, min7 = mm7, etc.). You can download a copy of that handout from my website here: www.dancavanagh.com/music/education/. (Feel free to make copies for all of your pianists!)

The other area that your pianist will need to consider is comping. I usually describe comping as having roots in the words “accompanying” and “composing.” The pianist in a jazz setting is accompanying either a soloist or the rest of the band, and they are typically composing their rhythms and chord voicings on the spot. The main problem when beginning jazz pianists see slashes is typically not what to play (since they understand chords somewhat), but when to play. Rhythmic placement is the key to effective comping. A very important point when comping is to ensure the pianist is tapping his or her foot to the beat (with very fast tempos, it helps to tap in cut time). If there is no physical connection to the beat, it is very difficult to keep one’s place in the sea of slash notation. Ensure they are tapping with their left heel to prevent fatigue that comes with tapping their toes. Using the left foot frees up the right foot to use pedal if necessary. (However, it is very un-stylistic to use pedal when playing jazz piano, with the exception of ballads – if you find them unconsciously using pedal all of the time, loosely secure their right leg to the piano bench with a bungee chord, and they will be cured of that habit rather quickly).

There are several exercises you can provide to your pianist that will get him or her headed in the right direction for comping. As I just stated, ensure they are tapping their foot to every beat. Start with playing a quarter note chord on the downbeat of every measure. Often charts written for middle- or high-school jazz bands write out chords using whole notes, but it is more appropriate to use short sounds when comping. Only after they have mastered the art of tapping their foot, keeping their place, and playing quarter note chords on the downbeat is it time to move on to more sophisticated rhythms. Following is a list of common comping rhythms:

Dotted-quarter (long), eighth (short), half rest
Half rest, Dotted-quarter (long), eighth (short)
Quarter rest, half note, eighth (long) eighth (short)
Anticipate each chord by one eighth note (and of four eighth (short), and of two (short))

Once your pianist is comfortable with the above exercises, ask them to start combining them to create “comping phrases.”

There are obviously many, many other rhythmic patterns to use. The best way to discover those other rhythms is through listening. Great comping jazz pianists include any pianist that routinely played with Miles Davis (Wynton Kelly, Red Garland, Herbie Hancock, Bill Evans), McCoy Tyner, Tommy Flanagan (esp. with Ella Fitzgerald, John Coltrane, and Sonny Rollins). The list continues ad infinitum.

Hopefully this article has provided you with some strategies to get your pianist more involved in jazz band. If you have any questions or want further information, please feel free to contact me on my website, www.dancavanagh.com. or www.uta.edu/music/jazz. Good luck!



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 paul@bakersjazzandmore.com 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.



Who’s Playing BJAM Music?

Lots of people all across the spectrum – recent customers include: Kealing Middle School, Austin Texas, North Garland HS, Garland, Texas, Westwood HS, Austin, Texas, Texas State University Jazz Bands, The Crimson Jazz Orchestra (professional jazz band in San Antonio), All-Region jazz bands.

And a big shout out and thank you to the Rocklin, CA school district who recently purchased 22 charts!

Finally, come out and see us at TBA! We’re in booth #819 in the main room (East Hall). We’ll have all of our charts available to peruse and purchase, and we’ll be happy to answer any questions you might have about us or the music.


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.

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

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.