February 14, 2015: Paul Jayasinha

Many thanks to excellent trumpeter Paul Jayasinha for a fun session in which we covered:

Memories of Tomorrow” by Keith Jarrett
“Aldeia de Ogum” by Joyce

Starting with “Memories of Tomorrow” a.k.a. The Koln Concert, part IIc, the group had a play through after which Paul went through the tune determining approaches aid improvisation. One thing noted was that the tune was fundamentally diatonic to C/Am so any improvisation based on those scales would just about work. We also played through arpeggiating each chord to get the harmony a bit more under our fingers. A few tricky sections were looped and each member had a go at tackling them, before the whole tune was played through again.

After the break we had a bit of rhythm training involving sitting, creating a pulse by alternately tapping our feet on the ground and then tapping our knees with our hands twice as often as the background stomping. With that in place, Paul got us to generate interesting rhythms by slapping our knees slightly harder on the given beats of the bar. Harder than it seems.

Finally “Aldeia de Ogum” which sets up an interesting groove over which to have a bit of a blow. Paul brought lots of parts to set up an authentic sounding arrangment of the tune. Great fun.

Thanks again to Paul for an interesting and fun session.

February 7, 2015: Carl Orr

Many thanks to the amazing guitarist Carl Orr for an enjoyable session in which we covered:

Birk’s Works” by Dizzy Gillespie
Maiden Voyage” by Herbie Hancock

“Birk’s Works” is a minor blues in F and Carl encouraged us not to overthink it and use the F blues scale liberally.

Once the deceptively tricky backing rhythm to “Maiden Voyage” was learned Carl discussed changing the backing groove in order to create a bit more interest. At one point the backing changed to double-time, much to the chagrin of the soloist that had the rug pulled from beneath them.

Many thanks to Carl.

January 31, 2015: Roger Beaujolais

In a packed sessions under the tutelage of ace vibe-ist Roger Beaujolais we covered:

Rhythm-a-ning” by Thelonious Monk
Moose the Mooche” by Charlie Parker
Oleo” by Sonny Rollins

A fun session in which the co-op was tested using a number of contrafacts on (I got) rhythm changes at various tempos and with various complexity of the heads; Moose the Mooche being quite challenging on both fronts.

Many thanks to Roger.

December 20, 2014: Sam Bullard

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

Bernie’s Tune” by Bernie Miller
Reunion” by Gerry Mulligan

Bernie’s Tune” was taught to us by ear before sheets were handed out. We were also taught a phrase to play over the first two chords that highlighted the transition between the D- and Bb7#11 in the first two chords, using the F melodic minor for the latter.

Reunion” is a contrafact on “There will never be another you“, the melody to which is almost exclusively diatonic to Eb major. Sam made us all improvise solos using only Eb major which forces you to be more melodic rather than you might otherwise be.

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Many thanks to Sam for and enjoyable session as always.

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.

November 29, 2014: Nic France

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

Recordame” by Joe Henderson
Boogie Stop Shuffle” by Charlie Mingus
A Night in Tunisia” by Dizzy Gillespie and Frank Paparelli

A lot of playing got done in this session, with Nic marshalling the troops to great effect providing us with appropriate bass lines, intros and the like to a great selection of tunes.

Many thanks to Nic for an enjoyable session.

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November 15, 2014: Alex Hutton

Many thanks to the excellent pianist Alex Hutton who hosted a fun session covering some great Horace Silver compositions:

Sister Sadie” by Horace Silver
Gregory is Here” by Horace Silver
Song for My Father” by Horace Silver

For each of the compositions, Alex went through some possible devices to used in the improvisations. For example “Sister Sadie” consists of long sections of dominant seven chords; convert it into a ii-V to create extra interest, or just consider it as the ii. After playing through the composition and the members soloing over the complete form as will as fours, we focussed on the trickier middle section for a while.

Other tools mentioned to investigate were the use of targetting notes with decorations and enclosures and a few bebop licks.

The composition “Gregory is Here” was written for Horace Silver’s son has an interesting first section alternating between two bars of B7+4 and two bars of Cm7 a couple of times before relaxing into familiar ii-V-i territory. I’d not heard this composition before, but it was quite challenging but enjoyable at the same time. We had a practice on the first section to get used to the unusual chords before doing a complete performance.

Finally a blast through “Song for My Father” completed the sessions.

Lots of playing and some good tips to investigate add up to a great session.

Thanks again to Alex Hutton.

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