March 16, 2013: Buster Birch

Many thanks to Buster Birch for providing such a well prepared session in which we covered:

“A Night in Tunisia” by Dizzy Gillespie

To prepare for the performance of “A Night in Tunisia”, Buster got us to stand in a circle and rock slowly from our left to right feet while clapping out a few simple rhythms found in the tune. Once we’d got that under our palms we returned to our instruments with the request to remember the rhythms and not just return to our default settings. Buster provided each musician with a specially written part that combined to produce a fantastic rendition of the tune. When it came to solo, each coop member had two plays through of the form complete with the initial break taken at the end of the previous performers tag section.

Buster also provided us with some analysis of the composition in terms of scales to use. We were also given a transcription of the Charlie Parker break for homework; if I could play anything that fast I’d be a happy person.

Thanks again to Buster for a great session that we all enjoyed immensely.

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March 9, 2013: Nic France

Many thanks to ace drummer Nic France for a great session in which we covered:

Mannenberg” by Abdullah Ibrahim
“Another Star” by Stevie Wonder
“Deluge” by Wayne Shorter

As a warm up, Nic treated us to the gentle composition “Mannenburg” taught to us by ear through the use of the Melodica that he usually brings along. This is a simple melody over a simple four chord vamp.

The tune “Another Star”, familiar to many members of the co-op, didn’t provide too many issues and everyone enjoyed playing over it.

The great Wayne Shorter penned “Deluge” was played after the break. This is a tricky composition containing lots of #11 chords and apparent shifts in key that obviously created some issues with the co-op.

Thanks again to Nic for a great session.
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March 2, 2013: Frank Griffith

Many thanks to Frank Griffith for a challenging session in which we covered:

“2-5-1’s in 6 (more) keys” by Frank Griffith
“Road Song” by Wes Montgomery
“Holland Park” by Frank Griffith

In a well attended session, Frank gave us a little warm up exercise consisting of a series of six ii-V-I’s descending in fifths; we all took two solo’s over the form. This was a little more tricky than perhaps it should be (for me anyway), and this has been added to my practice routine.

The excellent “Road Song” was given a run through with the A section being taken relatively straight and the bridge being taken as swing. This was more comfortable territory for most attendees.

The last tune of the session “Holland Park” was a great composition in 3/4 penned by Frank himself that consisted of a modal section followed by a trickier chordal one.

During the course of the session Frank noted that a lot of us were taking solos using as many notes as possible, whereas we might be better off taking a simple idea of say a triad and playing with that.

A first at the Cambridge Jazz Co-op was a “tap” solo from one of the attendees. Great stuff.

Thanks again to Frank for an entertaining session.
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February 23, 2013: Paul Jayasinha

Many thanks to Paul Jayasinha for a challenging session in which he covered the following compositions:

“Vivo Sonhando (Dreamer)” by Antonio Carlos Jobim
“Tasty Pudding” by Al Cohn

Paul started by teaching the co-op a song (which turned out to be ” Vivo Sonhando”) by ear, starting with the melody taken phrase by phrase, finishing with the chords. This was an interesting exercise which everyone present managed to achieve, and we gave a nice relaxed performance of the song. Paul mentioned that rather than learn tunes as a sequence of chords, he learns them relative to the starting chord so that they are then easy to transpose. To prove the point, we tried relearning the tune in Bb, which again most of the members managed to achieve.

In the second part of the session, Paul took pity on us and gave us an actual lead sheet for “Tasty Pudding”.¬† This was a fun swing tune with a middle section reminiscent of Rhythm changes. For this, the middle section was always taken as swing, bracketed with either Bossa or Cha-cha-cha rhythm.

As usual, Paul brought some authentic percussion along to accompany us when he isn’t playing some fantastic trumpet; this time it was some sort of idiophone made out of a very large dried fruit/gourd.

Thanks again to Paul for an interesting session.

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February 16, 2013: Derek Nash

Many thanks to Derek Nash for coming to the Jazz Co-op despite his car suffering a flat tyre on the way. Whilst Derek was sorting that out, we got ourselves warmed up with:

“Yardbird Suite” by Charlie Parker
“Triste” by Antonio Carlos Jobim

As we were getting to the end of “Triste”, Derek arrived and took the last chorus with a barn storming solo. We then covered the following tunes:

“This Here”, sometimes known as “Dis Here” by Bobby Timmons
“Draggin’ on the Ground” by Derek Nash

The first tune is a 3/4 Blues-ish composition with a tricky-ish dominant 7 descending chromatic section in it. Derek pointed out that we should be able to play anything in any key, especially if you intend to accompany singers and gave us an example of his warm up routine where he takes a phrase and plays it in every key, dropping a semi-tone every time.

The importance of stagecraft was raised and we were reminded that in the end, our aim should be to engage and entertain an audience. This this end, we replayed “This Here” with only the rhythm section providing a grove, gradually getting louder, building excitement and then stopping abruptly to allow the opening phrase to be played by the horn section before rejoining for the rest of the tune.

“Draggin’ on the Ground” is a funky, Derek Nash original for which we were supplied with parts for each instrument – even the trombone. Impressive. Everyone had a great time playing over this and it made a nice change to have a bit of funk going on.

February 9, 2013: Carl Orr

Many thanks to Carl Orr for one again providing an entertaining session in which we covered the following tunes:

“Afro Blue” by Mongo Santamar√≠a
“Beautiful Love” by Victor Young

In a well attended session containing a few new faces, we started with a rendition of “Afro Blue”; Carl chose this piece because the 6/8 time signature tends to force the player to come up with fresh ideas rather than relying on tried and tested licks. In this composition, the soloing takes place either over a static F- or as in this case a minor blues in F.

Carl talked about the importance of rhythm and we clapped and played through a few exercises that should help improve our appreciation of it. In one exercise, each member clapped a short rhythm and then made a short improvisation over an Fm utilizing the same rhythm. In another exercise, Carl clapped a rhythm and got us to repeat it whilst tapping our feet; initially the rhythm started on the first beat (the one) of the bar, but then it moved to the two, three and four before changing to the “and” of the one, two, three and four.

To end the session we performed “Beautiful Love” as a Bossa Nova. In this style Carl suggests that the guitarists should consider themselves part of the rhythm section and provide straightforward simple backing to the soloists.

February 2, 2013: Laurence Cottle

Many thanks to Laurence Cottle for a great session in which we covered the following tunes:

“Blues in F”
“Caravan” by Juan Tizol
“All Blues” by Miles Davis

In a very well attended session with plenty of new faces, Laurence got us warmed up with a “Blues in F”. The main part of the session was taken up exploring “Caravan” with Laurence teaching a great bass figure to the bassists to play through the A section. Most of the members got to solo through this before a 5/4 time change was introduced every other bar in the A section to ramp up the difficulty for the remainder of the members!

Laurence suggested using the triads found in the C7b9 half whole diminished scale (C, Eb, F#, A) together with the rhythms found in the bass groove as improvisation ideas.

The session was wound down with a relaxing play through “All Blues”

January 26, 2013: Nick Page

Many thanks to Nick Page for an interesting session that included the following songs:

“West Coast Blues” by Wes Montgomery
“Road Song” by Wes Montgomery

Nick is passionate about effective use of practise time and opined that any practise session should have a goal be it small or large so that by its end you have learnt something new that can then be applied to your playing.

In this co-op session he considered taking a simple digital pattern and applying it to each chord of a song in turn, for example “3, 4, 5, 7”, “5, 3, Root” or “#9, b9, #9”. Different rhythms can be employed to create more interest.

January 19, 2013: Eric Alexander/Vincent Herring Quintet feat Harold Mabern

The Vincent Herring (alto sax), Eric Alexander (tenor sax) Quintet featuring Harold Mabern (piano) with Milan Nikolic (bass) and Joris Dudli (drums) visited us to give a master class.

Harold Mabern
Eric Alexander, Vincent Herring

Proceedings started with the quintet giving us a fantastic performance of Benny Golson’s “Stablemates”.

With Vincent Herring taking the lead, it was suggested that the attendees should form groups each of which could take it in turn performing tunes for some constructive criticism from the esteemed visitors.

We managed to rustle up three groups of six or seven players, the first of which performed “All The Things You Are”, the second “Autumn Leaves” and the last “Tenor Madness”. Kudos to the many members who got up and played without preparation or even a lead-sheet to fall back on.

Among the topics discussed by the visitors were Tone Production on the alto sax, the use of Motifs to create interest and structure in a solo, the use of diminished scales and the importance of being able to comp.

Eric Alexander talked about knowing your stuff:

Harold impressed on us the importance of really listening to the masters that have come before such as Tommy Flanagan for masterful comping and Kenny Burrell.

Finally the visiting quintet took the floor to perform “Tenor Madness”.

The Cambridge Jazz co-op would like to thank Eric, Vincent, Harold, Milan and Joris for coming to visit us and giving us a truly memorable day.