November 1, 2014: Mick Foster

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

(Won’t You Come Home) Bill Bailey” by Hughie Cannon.

Mick first taught us a chord sequence which was later identified as the “Bill Bailey,” which we were then given the lead sheet for.

The importance of being able to take head and interpret it and embellish it was discussed by use various techniques such as grace notes, delay, anticipation, changing note values, fills and enclosures  especially with reference to how a traditional jazz band might treat it.

The co-op members had a chance to try out a bit of interpretation before the roles of the instrumentation of a traditional jazz band was discussed. Particularly the role of the clarinet that would tend to take the role of obbligato tending to provide support melody/arpeggios for the main instrument.

The co-op group was split into smaller groups of three or four each of which took it in turn to give a performance of Bill Bailey in a traditional jazz style.

After the break, free group improvisation was discussed and various games were used to facilitate it. The first game was that everyone would play the shortest note possible on their instrument with the idea that you would play that note when there was space. This created an interesting interaction between everyone where a groove was trying to force its way through but couldn’t quite make it.

A second game was to play a single longest note possible, again playing it when you thought it was appropriate.

A third game was that only three people could play simultaneously using single short or long notes.

Finally, the co-op was split into trios or quartets, each of which performed a piece of free improvisation using any of the rules above. Each group had quite a different feel to them.


Many thanks to Mick for a different kind of session.

February 15, 2014: Mick Foster

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

“The Saga of Harrison Crabfeathers” by Steve Kuhn
“Jumping at the Woodside” by Count Basie

The first part of the session was taken with an investigation of the Steve Kuhn composition “The Saga of Harrison Crabfeathers.” In this we were shown the various modes used in the piece. Mick kindly supplied some worksheets for further study here:

Chords and Modes used in Saga Of Harrison Crabfeathers Bb

Chords and Modes used in Saga Of Harrison Crabfeathers Eb

Chords and Modes used in Saga Of Harrison Crabfeathers

For the second part of the session, Mick whipped out his Bass Sax (if it’s possible to do so with such a beast) and took us through “Jumping at the Woodside” making us improvise rythmically with only restricted chord tones: Root and 5th, triads and then chord tones to the 7th. He pointed out how restricting to the chord tones can make the improvisations sound less modern.


Many thanks again to Mick for coming to visit us.

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.