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Performance and Pedagogy Blog

A blog about the performance and pedagogy of music.

Filtering by Tag: jazz

Charlie Parker on Sharing Your Experiences Musically

Andrew Hitz

Music is your own experience, your thoughts, your wisdom. If you don’t live it, it won’t come out of your horn.

-Charlie Parker

This is why I insist that my students "have a life" separate from their horns.  You can't play a song about getting your heart broken if you've never had a broken heart.  You can't convey being scared or giddy if you've never experienced those things yourself.

If what's coming out of your bell is not your experience, your thoughts, and your wisdom, chances are you won't be compensated too much for it.

Jazz Funeral in New Orleans: Monday YouTube Fix

Andrew Hitz

The traditional New Orleans jazz funeral is a beautiful way to celebrate the life of someone who has passed away, rather than mourning their death.  To see one is an incredibly powerful experience and this video captures it perfectly.

This funeral was in honor of tuba player Kerwin James who passed away in 2007.  It is hard not to tear up watching this celebration of life.  My favorite part is when they lower the casket and rock it back and forth so he can "dance one last time."

I hope traditions like this one never die.  God bless New Orleans.

Kate Davis: Monday YouTube Fix

Andrew Hitz

One of the reasons I love twitter is because of the wonderful clips like this that pass through my feed that I might ordinarily miss.  It was hard to escape Meghan Trainor's "All About That Bass" this summer.  It's a great pop tune that's quite catchy.

This clip is a cover of New York City vocalist and bass player Kate Davis doing a jazz cover of the tune with her jazz trio.  I instantly fell in love with her voice and playing and watched this video three times in a row the first time I heard it.  It is a brilliant re-setting of the tune and Kate's voice just oozes style.  Her website says she has an album forthcoming and I very much look forward to hearing it.



Eric Dolphy: Monday YouTube Fix

Andrew Hitz

Eric Dolphy was one of many genius musicians who was taken from us way too early.  He tragically died from a coma brought on by an undiagnosed diabetic coma at the age of 36.  Whether he was playing the saxophone, the flute, or as in this clip, the bass clarinet, his phrasing had a purity and urgency that demanded the listener's full attention. As any musician will tell you, playing an unaccompanied solo in any genre is one of the most difficult things to do in music.  Even for a short clip like this one, it is difficult to keep things interesting.  I find this version of God Bless The Child absolutely mesmerizing.  Dolphy's playing is beyond engaging.  So many notes and yet the phrasing, not the virtuosity, stand out above everything else.

He had so much music left to make.  It is a shame we lost him so soon.  And unlike many of his contemporaries who also died at an early age, Dolphy was not involved with drugs and did not kill himself through excess.  Such a shame.

Paul Desmond & Gerry Mulligan - Monday YouTube Fix

Andrew Hitz

I am a huge fan of the recordings Gerry Mulligan did without any chordal instruments, such as this one or the very famous sessions he did with Chet Baker.  Two melodic instruments accompanied by only bass and drums leaves so much room for the music to breathe.  It also gives the songs a transparent quality that makes it very easy to process and very pleasant to listen to. This recording of "All The Things You Are" from 1962 features:

Paul Desmond - Alto Sax Gerry Mulligan - Baritone Sax Wendell Marshall - Bass Connie Kay - Drums

One of the commenters on YouTube linked to a perfect transcription of both solos on adjoining staffs.  Following along with both the solos and the chords is a great lesson.  The internet is filled with nuggets like this, we just have to find them!


Doc Severinsen: Monday YouTube Fix

Andrew Hitz

On Friday night I had the privilege of hearing Doc Severinsen solo with the incredible Alan Baylock Jazz Orchestra. It was one of the best concerts I've ever seen.  The writing, the ensemble, the communication and DOC SEVERINSEN! This guy is 85 years old.  That is not a typo, 85 years old, and is still playing his tail off.  I was accompanied by Joe Alessi to the concert and beforehand Joe said "Doc might be the greatest brass player of all time." If you know Joe, you know that he doesn't throw superlatives like that around too often.  He said no qualifiers and there was no context.  He is simply one of the greatest brass players of all time.

I wish I could tell you that Doc sounded good "for an 85 year old." He sounded good, end of sentence.  I'm not sure I've heard anyone be able to get more tone, more substance, on fast, passing 16th notes than he did a few nights ago.  It was truly incredible to witness.

After the concert Joe got us backstage and I got to hear the two of them reminisce and tell stories for about 15 minutes.  It was amazing.  The last thing I said to Doc before we split was "Every single phrase you play is #@$%ing master class.  It's truly incredible." I hope he knows I was serious.

This is Doc playing on the Jack Jones Show in 1977.  First is MacArthur Park followed by I Can't Get Started.  It will take your breath away.


Monday YouTube Fix: Oscar Peterson, Ray Brown & Ed Thigpen

Andrew Hitz

Oscar Peterson is such a bad man that it's hard to process.  Combine him with one of the best bass players in the world and a drummer with amazing touch and you've got a winner. Tunes don't get much more simple than C Jam Blues.  Couple that with the elegant and transparent instrumentation of a piano trio and it allows for a lot of space for these three gentlemen to operate.  I love the piano breakdowns.  As with any great jazz musician, Oscar keeps grooving his you know what off when the rhythm section drops off.  We classical players can learn a lot from that.



Monday YouTube Fix: Sam Pilafian and Gabe Hall-Rodrigues

Andrew Hitz

Tuba and accordion. Lots and lots of jokes have been told about each of these instruments but not when these two guys are playing them.  It's an instrument combination that seems to be made in heaven.  The conical, wide sound of the tuba with the punchy sound of an accordion. Probably the coolest thing to me about Sam Pilafian's career is the constantly changing settings of his performances.  I've seen him perform for packed concert halls with the Empire Brass and also seen him play a free jazz gig for about a dozen people at an Inn in the middle of the Berkshires.  He has never surprised me with any project he's been involved with and as a result always keeps me as a listener on my toes.

This is a fantastic version of the jazz standard Sweet Georgia Brown performed at Arizona State.  When I grow up, I want to be just like Sam.