Sept 5, 2015: Alex Hutton

Many thanks to Alex Hutton for a session in which we covered:

The Shadow of Your Smile” by Johnny Mandel
Groovin’ High” by Dizzy Gillespie

As usual, Alex’s session was packed with nuggets of good tips. See the whiteboard at the end of the post!

The use of E harmonic minor was discussed for use in “Shadow” as it could work over most of the tune. Introducing A- and B triads to create a bit of interest.

The use of patterns over the ii-V as a method of internalising the harmony as well as a spring-board for further improvisations: ii (1, 3, 5, 7) V (3, 2, 1, b7).

Starting the pattern on the third instead of the root to introduce 9ths: ii (3, 5, b7, 9) V (1, b7, 6, 5)

For “Groovin'” mention was made minor 6 pentatonics (1, b3, 4, 5, b7) throughout the tune: EbMaj7 (C- pent), A- D7 (A- pent) and G- C7 (G- pent).

Many thanks to Alex for coming to see us.


June 20, 2015: Roger Beaujolais

Many thanks to vibraphonist Roger Beaujolais for tutoring us in a session in which we covered

Lover Man” by Jimmy Davis
Body and Soul” by Johnny Green

Starting with “Lover Man”, we each took a turn playing the head applying our own interpretation to it. After that a round of improvisation was embarked upon with Roger point out the blues F7-Bb7 section.

Roger attempted to get us to up the tension using altered notes whenever a dominant chord was present.

After the break “Body and Soul” was played through with roger pointing out the use of Tritone substitutions at points in the song.

The importance of knowing your instrument discused, especially your arpeggios. Roger showed that simply by connecting arpeggios a melodic solo could be achieved. That’s a lot of work right there. Decorating arpeggios with a leading semitone below created more interest as did other patterns.

Many thanks to Roger for coming to see us.


June 13, 2015: Tommaso Starace

Many thanks to saxophonist Tommaso Starace for tutoring the session in which we covered:

“Killer Joe” by Benny Golson
“Whisper Not” by Benny Golson

Looping on the first part C7-Bb7 vamp of Killer Joe, Tommaso suggested a few approaches we might use. The one he particularly wanted to used was triad pairs, alternating between C and Bb triads and their inversions – these could be played over either of the vamp chords. We all had a go at this, but (for me) it is definitely something for the woodshed. Tommaso also suggested playing out by alternating the consonant triads with up a semitone triads to good effect.

Other suggestions were the use of the pentatonic scale (C minor) and playing a digital pattern 1-3-5, 2-4-6, 3-5-7 over the changes.

The bridge section was then tackled and we all had a blow over the changes. In a fit of sadism, Tommaso got us to perform a complete chorus with only drums. this is very telling, and shows up (as Tommaso pointed out) any lack of knowledge of the arpeggios.

After the break we played through Whisper Not.

Many thanks to Tommaso for an enlightening session.

June 6, 2015: Brandon Allen

Many thanks to saxophonist Brandon Allen for a session in which we covered:

Mr. P.C.” by John Coltrane
Cherokee” by Ray Noble

Tackling the blues Mr. P.C. first, after a brief demonstration, Brandon discussed the modes to be used over the chords and got us to play through them all, emphasising the importance of knowing your scales etc.

The use of motifs was discussed with Brandon demoing how this is done using relatively simple phrases played with confidence and good rhythm changing them subtly as the chords change beneath them. Great stuff. The co-op members took another run through Mr P.C. using the same technique.

After the break, Cherokee was looped a few bars at a time so that it was possible to get familiar with the chords and their related scales. While not performed at super break-neck speeds, this is still a tricky standard which the co-op managed to perform using this incremental approach.

Many thanks to Brandon for an educational session.

May 30, 2015: Dave Jones

Many thanks to bassist Dave Jones for an educational session in which we covered:

“Here’s that Rainy Day” by Jimmy Van Heusen
“Yes or No” by Wayne Shorter

The main theme for the session was the relationship of the diminished scale to the major scale with regards to the dominant chord. Barry Harris’ 6th diminished scale was also touched upon.

“Here’s that Rainy Day” was taught by ear, first by the roots of the main tonal centres followed by roots of the associated ii-V-I or IV-V-I etc. Finally, we played through the piece attempting to use the diminished scale over the dominants.

As some light relief towards the end of the session, we played through “Yes or No”.

Many thanks to Dave Jones for coming to see us.