March 7, 2015: James Brady

Many thanks to trumpet master and educator James Brady for an enjoyable session in which we covered:

“Up Jumped Spring” by Freddie Hubbard
“From Gagarin’s Point of View” by Esborn Svensson

Starting with a bit of a warm up using some scalar patterns, James showed how even those could be made to sound more interesting by varying the rhythms and even just by starting the phrase from a different point in the bar.

A run through “Up Jumped Spring” (a waltz) turns out to be quite a challenging composition. A particular sequence of alternating 3/4 bars of Dm to Ebm was looped for further investigation. Focusing phrases heavily on the 3rd and b7th of the two chords was a particularly successful approach. Ignoring the Ebm and continuing to play Dm was a bit more of a challenging listen, but if you glared at the audience whilst doing it, you could get away with it. Or you were Michael Brecker.

This brought us on to guide tones where James presented us with an interesting analysis of the tune on two staves, one with the guide tones and the other with the notes that changed between the chords. That was particularly interesting as blank bars showed that nothing changes whereas dense bars showed a lot of change. The co-op had another go at the tune, this time focussing on the guide tones which in general/theory results in a more coherent improvisation.

“From Gagarin’s Point of View” is a sparse composition which because of the lack of harmonic motion is suitable to have other harmonic ideas superimposed on it. In particular dissonance to create a lot of tension by playing ideas a semitone away from where you might expect them to be. James discussed a few ideas, and the groups had a go too. Great ideas in small portions, but I couldn’t eat a whole one.

Thanks again to James for an interesting session.

James Brady at the Cambridge Jazz Co-op
James Brady at the Cambridge Jazz Co-op

November 8, 2014: James Brady

Thanks to James Brady for a philosophical session in which we covered

Bye Bye Blackbird” by Ray Henderson
Effortless Mastery” by Kenny Werner
Don’t Stop the Carnival” by Sonny Rollins

After a brief group discussion on why we play jazz and improvise we played through “Bye Bye Blackbird”, but instead of improvising we just gave a good a rendition of the head as possible. The point of this was to show that it is not necessary to play lots of notes to maintain interest (and that probably we should all play less).

The book “Effortless Mastery” was discussed at some length. Key insights: “if you mess up an improvisation, no-one dies”, “great improvisers make it look easy, because it is easy (to them)” and “only play stuff you have mastered” rather than that new lick that you haven’t and will mess up.

We were given some work-sheets on enclosures and other decorations and this was discussed and examples given:
Cambridge Jazz Co-op 8 11 14 – Full Score Bb
Cambridge Jazz Co-op 8 11 14 – Full Score CONCERT
Cambridge Jazz Co-op 8 11 14 – Full Score Eb

At the end of the session, we speed learned “Don’t Stop the Carnival” and had a quick blast on that.

I think that we would probably have liked to have played a bit more, but it was a thought provoking session. Also, a reminder of how important enclosures are is always a good thing.

Many thanks to James Brady.

P.S. Below is a great Youtube video by Mike Titlebaum that shows how the embellishments can be applied to create complex bebop lines:

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.