Posts Tagged jazz
Not long ago, I posted about “Courting the Muse.” I that post, I said that I was trying to practice every day. When I wrote that, I had a plan to do some reading, some scales, some tunes, and some solo transcribing. Well, that’s not really worked out. I’m not in a place where I have time to really focus on that many different areas. However, where I ended up has been good because it’s both fun and productive. I have been basically been working on 2 things.
On Mondays and Tuesdays, I’m working on the Double from J.S. Bach’s Partita for Violin No. 1 in B minor at the suggestion of my friend Sean Gilbert. This thing is a beast! By working on this, I’m covering technique, scales, reading, arpeggios (galore!), harmonic development through single note lines, the list goes on… I’m not yet at performance speed and I haven’t even learned the whole thing yet. I’m getting about 2 measures a week. Still, the improvement in my chops is definitely showing. You can download the Partinas here.
On Thursdays and Fridays I’m working on systematically reviewing jazz repertoire. I’m doing this by taking the University of Tennessee Jazz Jury repertoire list and going through all the tunes from that list that appear in the Real Book starting with Level 1. I first play the melody and the changes by myself, and then I turn on a YouTube play along and go with that (it takes 30 seconds to type “[song title] play along” into google to find what you need). When I feel sufficiently comfortable with a tune, I move on to the next. Play alongs are the closest thing to a live set so I’m working toward being able to play tunes (not from memory but with help from the chart) as if I was on a gig. This is helping with reading, scales, licks, changes, comping, repertoire, and more. It’s fun and it’s giving me a workout.
Wednesday is my day off at home and I’m changing diapers. Sometimes, I can sit down and play while my 1 yr old bangs on the guitar and grabs the strings. Saturday and Sunday, I’m playing worship tunes.
I should add that it’s always good to set a 30 minute timer for myself to help encourage me to go ahead an practice even when I’m busy. In reality, once I get started practicing is so rewarding and fun that I need the timer to make me stop.
What I like about this routine (or maybe what has kept me successfully following this routine) is that it’s very simple and fun. Like a good physical exercise routine, the less barriers to getting started and doing it every day the better.
Back in my day, we had to bootleg Jaime Aebersold tracks from the school library.
I heard a TED talk or something that said that if you have a personal goal then the last thing you should do is to tell someone about it. The reason they gave was that the act of telling someone your goal gives your brain the same warm fuzzies that you get from actually accomplishing the goal. As a result, New Year’s resolutions never work because once you share them, then you loose the internal motivation to get them done. That being said, I want to share one of my resolutions in the hopes that this post will sabotage the whole thing.
My resolution is to practice my guitar more and with more purpose. As a professional musician, I play the guitar all the time but I’ve not really practiced in any focused way since college. Here’s the general plan that I’ve come up with to practice about 30 minutes, 4 times a week.
Monday – Reading practice
Tuesday – Transcription
Thursday – Tunes and Repertoire
Friday – Scales & Technique
I started last week by reading through the lessons in William Levitt’s Method Book 1. I’m transcribing Charlie Christian’s solo from Seven Come Eleven. For tunes last week, I worked on memorizing the head to “Seven Come Eleven” and “Freddie The Freeloader.” Then for scales I pulled out a textbook from college, Jerry Bergonzi’s book on Pentatonics.
If you are a jazz player or any other kind of pro for that matter, this might seem pretty light, but I’m just trying to wade back into this so cut me some slack.
Gee, it felt good to share that with you. Now, where’s my phone? I need to go back to playing Subway Surfers.
Gospel music is good stuff. I’m a fan. I have been deeply affect by gospel over the years. Especially the music of Fred Hammond, Kirk Franklin, Richard Smallwood, Hezekiah Walker, the Hawkins, the Clarks, Andrae Crouch, Israel Houghton, Kurt Carr, Tye Tribbett, the list goes on. Lately, I’ve been uninspired. There seems to be a very strong commercial drive to get the next hit. I realize that this is nothing new in the global marketplace of pop music and the “Christian” sub-genres have been absorbed into that same stream. In fact, after spending weeks listening to new releases, I heard a 1984 recording of Edwin Hawkins, Taste and See and it was like a breath of fresh air to hear a song so thoughtfully composed.
With that being said, it’s very refreshing to hear this recording from DOXA, Centered. DOXA is the name of the worship music ministry of Dr. Eric Mason‘s church Epiphany Fellowship. My dad recommend this to me and the first thing I heard when I previewed it was the glorious horn parts and lush changes. Yes, Lord! Looking into it more deeply through the handy lyrics link on their website, I found that several of the songs were actually written or co-written by “holy hip hop” artist, Shai Linne. How cool is that? Can we start seeing more lyricists lending their gifts to creating congregational music? There seems to be a strong sense of collaboration between the lyricist, the musical director (Aaron Johnson, I think), and the pastor who also sings on the recording. Less stars, more community. They have included a few good examples of using creativity combined with congregational considerations. Hymns and popular tunes covered and rearranged without losing their familiarity. There’s a freshness to this recording that brings to mind the music of next gen black artists like Robert Glasper, Esperanza Spalding, or even the band-for-music-geeks, Snarky Puppy.
I’m not sure that I’ve picked on that I can use at New City Fellowship. I’m going to listen for a few weeks and see what sticks with me.
I just posted a bunch of my songs to ncfmusic.com. Here’s what I added today:
I wrote Your Presence is Here early in the morning on Easter Sunday in 2008. I remember that because my son was born a few days later, and I had a million contingency plans in place if my wife went into labor at any point during Passion week. The song is about the meaning of the resurrection of Jesus in our regular worship practices. He is risen, and he is present in every worship service. It was kind of a response to the gospel hit that was popular at the time, “The Presence of the Lord is Here.” The song as well as almost all the others on this list are included on my recording, “Guardian Grace”.
Restore Us was written when I was in college and listening to Coldplay’s first CD a lot. It’s based on Psalm 80. This was one of the first songs that I wrote that really seemed to click with people in worship. We’ve only sung it once at my church even though we have a ministry called “Restore St Louis.”
Rejoice In The Lord comes from my jazz performance days in college. I was interested in what it would be like to use “Rhythm Changes” to create a song for worship. The verses were inspired by the Steely Dan tune, “Peg” The text is from Philippians 4. It’s a real harmonic work out for all you music nerds out there. I had so much fun arranging the horn parts for the pros I hired on the recording.
New Creation was written after I was living in St Louis for a while. Our church had a large group of Liberian immigrants who were struggling with some pretty serious sin issues in their community that called into question their understanding of what it means to be changed by the gospel. So, I had the idea of writing a song in an African style using the text from 2 Corinthians 5:17. The bridge is composed in the typical African worship fashion where the group repeats a short idea over and over and the leader embellishes/preaches over top.
Walk the Talk was the theme of the 2002 Urban Camp at New City Fellowship in Chattanooga. It was composed for that purpose and a team of African American high schoolers (including NCF-Chatt musician Nikki Ellis) helped sell it to the kids. Among the other things that were created at that camp were the “Afro Man” videos and friendship with a certain counselor that would turn into an engagement a year later. Good times.
Greater Is He Who Is In Us was also composed as a song for kids in our ministries at New City Fellowship in Chattanooga. There was another song we were singing by the same title that I was really tired of, so I composed a new one.
To check out all the songs that I have on ncfmusic.com you can hover over the “My Songs” tab at the top of the page.
A few quick items from the last two weeks:
My buddy, Santo Garofalo, has successfully funded a recording project through kickstarter! Santo is the pastor of New City Fellowship in Atlantic City, and unlike most PCA pastors, he is also a face-melting shred guitarist. It’s encouraging to me to see a fellow cross-cultural, justice-minded brother get crowd-funded to produce a recording. I have songs to record, and I hope that it won’t be long before I can get a kickstarter campaign started for myself. Please pray that the Lord will make a way somehow for me to make another recording.
This commercial is good. America is hopefully a beautiful place to everyone who immigrates here from all over the world (and to those whose ancestry goes back to before English was ever spoken here.) As a music guy who leads some worship in non-English every weekend, I can relate to the joy expressed in this ad. I also recommend the interview clips with the ladies who sang the non-English portions for a little more context. As far as the racist and ethnocentric reactions to it, I say overcome evil with good, y’all. May justice and righteousness begin in the church.
Our Reconciliation and Justice Conference was a lot of fun, especially playing and working with other musicians from our sister churches. I’m looking forward to seeing how God is going to build stronger bonds with some of these fellows musicians in STL. Ronnie Perry stayed in our home during the conference. Ronnie is part of a cross-cultural church plant in Durham, NC called Christ Central Church. It was nice to hear about the work there and to get to know him better. If you are in Durham, you should check out their ministry.
Speaking of Durham, we are introducing a new (actually old) song by Durham’s native son, John P. Kee, this weekend called “I Do Worship.” This song is from a classic 1997 recording of The New Life Community Choir called “Strength”. Definitely check out this tune as well as “Lord, Help Me To Hold Out” and one of our church’s favorites “Clap Your Hands”. Jazz geeks: “I Do Worship” is like an etude for the iii-vi-ii-V progression. Here’s a link to where you can purchase sheet music.