May 18, 2013: Sam Bullard

Many thanks to Sam Bullard for a testing session in which we covered:

“Rhythm-a-ning” by Thelonious Monk
“Evidence” by Thelonious Monk

Sam started by teaching us “Rhythm-a-ning” by ear before handing out the rhythm changes on which this tune is based.

“Evidence” was played after the break, though mercifully we were given the lead sheets for this.

Throughout the session the emphasis was on rhythm and several exercises involving note placement were performed. To start with, single note stabs were played over the A section of Rhythm-a-ning with the first note being on the first beat of the bar, the second note on the second beat of the bar and so on until the fourth. We then took a simple phrase through the same thing. Finally, we repeated the process but with the three note phrase from the end of bar 4 to start bar 5 Rhythm-a-ning but this time moving a half beat and noting how the character of the phrase.

Thanks again to Sam for an interesting session.


May 11, 2013: Andrea Vicari

Many thanks to Andrea Vicari for an interesting session in which we performed:

“Resolution” by John Coltrane
“Get Busy Living” by Andrea Vicari

To start the session we listened to “Resolution” as performed on the “A Love Supreme” recording. We then discussed a few of the approaches used in the improvisations of McCoy Tyner and John Coltrane and attempted to apply a few of them in our solos. In particular both rhythmic and melodic motifs were explored. This is a particularly tricky composition to improvise on because of the high amount of band interaction required, but I think that most people enjoyed it.

Andrea made notes during our initial attempts and gave us a bit of critique and encouragement afterwards which was insightful.

After the break we played one of Andrea’s own compositions “Get Busy Living” which is a much lighter affair played over a New Orleans beat. This is a fun tune based on dominant seventh chords and so was a great place to get some bluesy feel going.

Thanks again to Andrea for a great session.


May 4, 2013: Nick Page

Many thanks to Nick Page for a thoughtful session in which we played:

“Now’s the Time” by Charlie Parker
“Blue Train” by John Coltrane
“Solar” stolen by Miles Davis

We warmed up with a couple of choruses of “Now’s the Time” a blues in F. John Coltrane’s composition was taken as a minor blues in Bb and used to examine a particular technique to handling the minor ii-V-i  Cm7b5 – F7 – Bbm7 towards the end of the composition which by considering it to be Gb7b9 – F7b9 – Bbm7. Using this substitution, the half whole diminished scale can be used over both dominant chords dropping a semitone for the second. Nick heard this on “One for Daddy-O” as performed by Cannonball Adderley on “Somethin’ Else”.

For the second part of the session we performed “Solar” as written by “Churck Wayne” and subsequently appropriated by Miles Davies. This was used as a vehicle to show a practise technique to generate lines over ii-V-I’s in which we take the 3rd of the ii (F say) as the start and then consider the 3rd of the I (E) and observe that the original note has dropped by a semitone; by use of the altered scale over the remaining V chord you can create logical phrases with a nice descending feel as well as getting your ear used to targetting particular chord tones. A similar technique can be used for the other chord tones of the ii.

Many thanks to Nick for an instructive session.


April 27, 2013: Tommaso Starace

Many thanks to Tommaso Starace for a challenging session in which we played:

“Beatrice” by Sam Rivers
“The Way You Look Tonight” by Jerome Kern

We started with the ballad “Beatrice”  which the group managed to play through without too man problems at a slow tempo. Tommaso then suggested that we learn it by heart as performance is always better than when reading from the sheet music. To this end we took the tune in four bar sections and played through the arpeggios as a group followed by a few of us taking solos on the just memorised sequence. We did the remaining bars of the tune in the same fashion. I found this all particularly useful because even listening to the other solos while thinking about the chords gave the solos more sense.

In the second part of the session we worked through “The Way You Look Tonight” at a very brisk tempo; this caused an issue for most everyone at some point or another. One tip was that although the backing was going nineteen to the dozen, the soloing doesn’t have to follow suit.

Thanks again, Tommaso .


April 20, 2013: Robert Mitchell

Many thanks to Robert Mitchell for an interesting session in which we covered the following compositions:

“Inchworm” by Frank Loesser
“All Blues” by Miles Davis

We warmed up with a bit of trading where one player would provide a simple phrase and then the rest of the group would play it. We finally ended with a G7 phrase which we took through all the keys and which ultimately segued into a performance of Inchworm taken through the keys.

After the break we played All Blues with each member taking a key and soloing a couple of choruses in turn.

Thanks again to Robert for a challenging session.


April 13, 2013: James Brady

Many thanks to James Brady for a fun session in which we covered:

“Autumn Leaves” by Joseph Kosma
“Take the A Train” by Billy Strayhorn

An arrangement of “Autumn Leaves” supplied by James was performed as an example of how to bring life to an old war horse. We then tried different ways of interpreting the tune and brainstormed ways of arranging the tune on the fly. These techniques were then applied to “Take the A Train” where the coop was divided into two groups each of which would take turns in performing their arrangement to the other.

Thanks again to James for an original session.

April 6, 2013: Mick Foster

Many thanks to Mick Foster for an educational session in which we covered:

“Reunion” by Gerry Mulligan

Although only “Reunion” (a contrafact to “There will Never be Another You”) was covered, it was studied in great depth by looping and practicing over its major and minor ii V I’s and strategic sections. Various soloing strategies were tried such as using only diatonic scale tones (the overall key being Eb) and avoiding licks and cliches.

Thanks again to Mick Foster for a thoughtful and inclusive lesson.

March 30, 2013: Roland Perrin

This Saturday we had Roland Perrin tutoring us in enjoyable session were we covered:

“Celebration Song”
“Child’s Play” by Roland Perrin
“Pare Cochero” by Marcelino Guerra

Roland’s intention was to pretend we had a gig for which we had five pieces of new music to rehearse; in the end we only managed the three above.

We opened with “Celebration Song”.

“Pare Cochero” was an enjoyable salsa for which parts were provided.

“Child’s Play” was penned by Roland himself and had a township groove with a couple of simple repeating chord sequences.

All the above some provided us with challenges of slightly unusual chord sequences or rhythms or forms hence us only being able to get through three of the fives songs for the imaginary gig.

Thanks again to Roland for an entertaining session.

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March 23, 2013: Matt Ridley

Many thanks to star bassist Matt Ridley for braving the snow and providing us with a challenging session where we attempted the following compositions:

“Slam” by Jim Hall
“One Near Miss” by Matt Ridley

The first composition “Slam” didn’t have any chords to it, although it had a bluesy type feel and consisted of 36 bars in 4/4 through which short phrases were interspersed. The co-op played these sometimes abstract phrases whilst each member soloed filling up the gaps in a type of call and response.

The second composition provided a much sterner challenge to reading skills and also to improvisation over some tricky changes. “One Near Miss Once” was penned by Matt and is a contrafact to the Kenny Wheeler composition “Onmo” from the album “Angel Song” and consists of two 16 bar sections in 4/4; the first section had five note groupings involving triplets giving a sort of 12/8 feel; the second section contained the same notes but presented in quavers. Matt spent quite some time teaching each of the co-op members the melody individually; even so, I think that most people struggled. Luckily out youngest member (Jonah) showed us how it was done through his excellent reading skills! I think that everyone found the soloing challenging too with Kenny Wheeler’s hatred of standard chord sequences and liberal usage of slash chords.

Thanks again to Matt for a challenging session.


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.