May 23, 2015: Sam Leak

Many thanks to Sam Leak for coming an interesting session in which we covered:

C Jam Blues” by Duke Ellington
Pennies from Heaven” by Arthur Johnston

To start the session, we played through “C Jam Blues” and had a chorus or two of improvisations each so that Sam could gauge our ability. In order to determine whether we improvised with our voices in a similar fashion to that with our instruments a few brave volunteers stepped forward to do a bit of scat; apparently there was a good correlation. Certainly for me as I didn’t sing at all.

One of the main topics of the session was ear-training. Sam handed out some paper and then after informing us that the key was C, played Pennies from Heaven from a recording and asked us to notate the chords. I’m not sure how many of us managed that, but it certainly showed me that I need to do some work in the ears department.

Continuing from there, Sam played each note of the C major scale and indicates the image he has of it, e.g. F is “proud”. With that in mind, he played some short phrases to each of the co-op members in turn to repeat back. Ramping up the difficulty, he played a track with some long tones diatonic to C major and got us all to play the note only once we were sure what it was. Well, that’s certainly a skill worth honing.

A discussion on the structure of standards followed with a chord sequence being generated using standard rules of form and ii-V progressions taken from a list of ii-V-I/i’s generated from the harmonised C major scale, e.g Dm G7 Cmaj, Em A7 Dm, Fm Bb7 Em etc. Using a standard form (ABAC) and suggestions from the members we ended up with a chord sequence that had many non-diatonic chords in it, but because they were all essentially ii-V’s resolving to a diatonic harmonised chord, the whole tune could be considered to be in C still and improvisations could get away with being diatonic too.

With that in mind, another attempt at transcribing the chord sequence for Pennies for Heaven was undertaken.

Many thanks to Sam for an educational session.