December 6, 2014: Martin Hathaway

Many thanks to Martin Hathaway for an engaging session in which we covered:

Tokyo Blues” by Horace Silver

The first step taken was to put away our music stands and to learn “Tokyo Blues” by ear, first singing it and then playing on our instruments. It’s a relatively simple tune but it is a bit tricky with sections being similar, but everyone got it.

Once that was in place we determined/were given the chords to play the head through. Strategies for improvising against the chords (Db7#11, Cm) were discussed with a few members playing through using solely the Pentatonic/Blues scale.

This mostly worked, but more colour was introduced with the scale we sang by ear against the Db7#11 chord that turned out to be Lydian Dominant (the melodic minor based on the 5th of the Db7). Of course I could be wrong. Some of us were singing whole tone scales.

Martin also gave us a phrase to play over the turn around if we needed it.

The point here was to find a coping strategy (Pentatonic/Blues scale) to get us through the tune and then provide extra interest using the other scale with the use of the lick to allow navigation of the trickier turn around so we can start the tune prepared.

Anyway, we played the head again and we each had a turn at improvising as many choruses as we felt we needed before passing it on.

Throughout the session Martin was stressing the importance of not using real books or ireal-b type applications which take the focus away from the music and the rest of the group and so compromises the ability to communicate successfully with them. Also, through learning by ear you hear the subtle inflections and emphasis and other performance points that you would not get from the real book.

Well, lots to think about. Many thanks to Martin for his enthusiasm in trying to get us to the next level of performance.