Nov 14, 2015: Martin Hathaway

In this session we covered:

“Woody’n You” by Dizzy Gillespie

Martin was encouraged by the co-op to give us something with some harmonic challenge, to which he came up with “Woody’n You” which he states doesn’t come up much because “it’s too hard”.

The tune was learnt by ear until we could perform the head comfortably.

We discussed strategies to improvisation over this composition, the first of which was to use the melody. A few brave members volunteered to show this in action.

Martin had given us some worksheets earlier in the week and we discussed some aspects on that, in particular some guide tone lines that could be used in the A section. Again some volunteers were found to try this out.

We also tried playing all the guide tone lines simultaneously creating something akin to a big-band backing.

Many thanks to Martin for an enjoyable session.

May 16, 2015: Martin Hathaway

Many thanks to Martin Hathaway for a session in which we covered

“Three to Get Ready” by Dave Brubeck

Martin is amongst the many tutors that emphasise the importance of not having your head in a lead sheet or squinting at your mobile phone when playing a tune so we put away our music stands and listened to Dave Brubeck bashing out “Three to Get Ready” followed by a chorus or two of Paul Desmond’s improvisation to get the feel for the tune.

It’s a tricky tune with the melody firstly being stated in 3/4 and then restated in sequences two bars of 3/4 followed by two bars 4/4. Following the “if you can’t sing it, you can’t play it” maxim, we learnt to sing the tune. Then having been taught the chord sequence, we tried playing it with our instruments. We all managed to do that fairly well.

The co-op members were then let go on some improvisation; the tune is largely diatonic so we could get away with just sticking to the C Major scale if you had to.

Martin discussed the importance feeling the “rhythmic key” of the piece, i.e. the “clave” and then using that as a cornerstone of the improvisations; feeling the rhythmic key” is much more useful than desperately trying to count through the piece

Using the “rhythmic key” idea and playing simply but with the use of the underlying rhythm in certain sections of the improvisations, they became a lot more coherent and grounded in the piece when the co-op members had another go.

The co-op members paired up for duets (with backing) improvising on alternate sections of the tune.

Thanks again to the always entertaining Martin Hathaway for a rhythmic session.


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.