Poinciana

I found this recording recently from a senior recital that I played a few years back.

Ammon, a friend of mine, and I had been jamming and playing Jazz together for a few years.  We had a good chemistry, he was/is a great piano player and I was happy to play with him.  We were doing a lot of out-there fusion stuff in a band that we called “The Weather Jackets” (a mixture of Weather Report and Yellow Jackets).  But we were also doing some trio stuff together, this is some of our trio work.

I was surprised by how much I liked this recording.  Maybe I’m just narcissistic, but I like listening to recordings of myself.  I guess it might not be totally narcissistic, because I’m as harsh in my criticism of my own playing as I am of others.

The song starts out pretty good, but I have a hard time laying down the groove without rushing just slightly.  Probably a bi-product nerves.  I anticipate the beat throughout the song just a bit, probably not enough to be noticeable if I wasn’t listening for it.  Other than the slight rushing of me and drummer I felt that the groove was good, the vibe and chemistry between the three of us was pretty good and we supported each other well in our solos.

Ammon’s playing was tasteful, his solos had a nice arc to them, and had a lot of really tasteful ideas throughout.  His comping was also tasteful.  Our drummer, Matt Millington did a great job of laying back and just supplying that groove that completed the song  but was in the background.  Overall I thought it was one the better performances that I was apart of. I even liked my solo, which is usually not the case.

Let me know what you think.

Jazz for Newbies

You learn a few things when you spend 7+ years of your life studying music in college.  Most things that you learn are either misunderstood or totally ignored by the majority of the people on this planet.  To be honest, most of the stuff I learned are things that most people wouldn’t even find interesting (Troubadour’s vs Trouvere’s anyone?  Anyone?  Thought not).  But, and even though, there are many things in music education that are not important or relevant for anyone other than musicians, there are many more things (IMHO) that people should know about music that they ignore.

I don’t think that people are ignorant of these necessarily because they want to be, or because they wouldn’t be happy to learn about them, but it’s just that no one has been able to explain them in such a way that doesn’t make them want to fall asleep.

There is one thing that I am very passionate about that I wish that people could appreciate more, and that is jazz music.  Whenever I ask people what kind of music they listen to eventually they ask me back and I say that I’m into jazz (among other genres).  Nearly everyone says that they like jazz (or appreciate it), but very few of them can name any examples of jazz that they like (apart from “Saxaphone jazz”, and “Kenny G”, or other such generalities).

I’ve tried a number of times to explain to my friends what is so awesome about jazz.  I manage to pique some interest among some, but for the most part I just see their eyes start to glaze over, and then comes the head nod and they say something like “uh huh, yeah that’s so cool”.

I was recently talking to a friend of mine at work about this very topic.  He’s been learning bass and guitar and he got me started on a (probably longer than he wanted) tangent about music and jazz.  He asked me to recommend him some jazz music to listen to so that he could hear what jazz guitar voicings sounded like (they sound very different from most guitar chords you’ve heard on the radio).  That’s when I got the idea of this post.

I got on Spotify (my music service of choice) and set up a playlist for Jazz-Newbies.  A list of songs that, to me, sum up what is awesome and diverse about jazz.

I could sit here and write out all of my touchy-feely thoughts on jazz and how everyone should listen to it.  But to be honest, nothing I could say would do it justice.  Jazz is far too big a subject and encompasses so many genres and decades that I couldn’t sum up jazz into a post that would be any shorter than an eBook.  So I figured I would set up a playlist so that you can listen to some jazz, in all sorts of varieties.  My idea in this is that I often talk about jazz, but I rarely get to “show” them jazz.  And for me, when I started seeing jazz live and really listening to it is when I realized how awesome it is.

On this playlist below I’ve got standard jazz, combos, big bands, fusion jazz of many flavors, vocal jazz, string jazz, bebop, swing, blues, and I even added some more modern, fusion-type jazz that incorporates some hip-hop and funk elements. Some of it is straight ahead, and some is just downright weird.

So I’ve attached the playlist.  My recommendation would be listen to it on random, or just pick random songs that look interesting.

Let me know your thoughts in the comments.  Which ones are your favorites, what would you like to hear more of?

(Keep in mind that this playlist is not meant to be an exhaustive list of all of the “essential” jazz songs, or “important” jazz pieces that changed jazz music.  It’s just a playlist that I think has a wide variety of my favorites/essentials/songs that I think that someone who knows nothing about jazz would enjoy listening to.)

How Jazz Changed My Life

I hated jazz. Jazz was the most boring, lame, outdated music in the world. If there wasn’t a wicked guitar solo or vocals it wasn’t worth listening to. (I did listen to some classical music, and for some reason that didn’t seem ironic to me at the time.)

My oldest brother started playing drums in his high school jazz band, and he started to listen to this horrible jazz music instead of Boston or Third Eye Blind. It didn’t make any sense.

I was 13 at the time and I was all about that rock music. Then something crazy happened.

One day as I sat downloading music on Napster, playing a ripped off PC version of Final Fantasy (they were simpler days), my brother walked up and asked me if I wanted to come to a concert with him and his friends. He got free tickets to see the Ray Brown trio live in Salt Lake City.

I had no idea who Ray Brown was, but my brother said he was great and I wasn’t about to pass up a free concert. So I went.

What happened next was somewhat of a miracle for me.

I sat in the back of the crowded hotel event center, surrounded by my brothers friends and lots of grown ups and began to witness something that I had never seen before.

I watched as Ray Brown played an instrument I wasn’t even aware existed, and was twice as big as any stringed instrument I had ever seen play improvised solos that blew my thirteen year old mind to the moon.

Ray took what looked like a behemoth instrument and played some of the fastest, most exciting solos those little ears had ever heard. He would back up his drummer and pianist in the most skillful ways. I understood in that moment why jazz musicians use the word “tasty” to describe a great lick or solo, when the Ray Brown trio played, it was so good I could almost taste it.

I remember to this day the moment that I decided I wanted to play upright bass. When Ray pulled out the bow and played a beautiful and moving solo over My Funny Valentine I was hooked. I had to play bass, I had to play jazz. Nothing in the world was going to stop me.

A few weeks later I started taking lessons, then I joined the high school’s summer orchestra program. I was too embarrassed to play with the orchestra because I had no idea what I was doing. But I would close myself off in a practice room at school and practice for three hours straight, every day, all summer long.

I joined the orchestra and jazz band when I got to high school and continued to play as much as possible.

Later I moved to Arizona with my family and, through a summer jazz workshop, I got accepted to the Mesa Community College jazz performance program.

I flourished as a musician at MCC. I practiced and jammed with great musicians there. I studied with Fred Forney, who taught me more about jazz in the one year that I was there than I learned in high school, and more than I would learn at Brigham Young University about jazz.

When I got back from my LDS mission I got accepted into the Brigham Young University school of music and quickly started playing in every ensemble I could.

Over my time at BYU I played in virtually every ensemble there was. I played in their top jazz bands, orchestras, concert bands. I started gigging at nights to help pay for school and was making some money, I still needed to work part-time elsewhere, but it was some extra income.

I met my wife in the practice room hallway of the Harris Fine Arts Center at BYU. I enlisted into the National Guard and now play with the 23rd Army Band. I’ve had the privilege of associating with some great musicians and continue to play music whenever I can.

My career goals have shifted while at BYU. Not all of my experiences in music were positive and I needed to make money, which music was not going to provide.

Even though I don’t play jazz as much as I used to I have never regretted the time I spent learning that art. I have made great memories, amazing friends, I found my wife (who is perfect and amazing for me), I have gained experience in life and music. I wouldn’t trade my experiences for the world.

Ray Brown died the year after I saw him in concert. He passed just months before he was scheduled to come back out to Salt Lake again. So I didn’t get to see him perform again. I’m OK with that now, because this way my only memory of Ray Brown was a life-changing one.

So thank you Ray Brown and jazz music. You are truly an inspiration.

 

Who are your musical inspirations?