June 13, 2015: Tommaso Starace

Many thanks to saxophonist Tommaso Starace for tutoring the session in which we covered:

“Killer Joe” by Benny Golson
“Whisper Not” by Benny Golson

Looping on the first part C7-Bb7 vamp of Killer Joe, Tommaso suggested a few approaches we might use. The one he particularly wanted to used was triad pairs, alternating between C and Bb triads and their inversions – these could be played over either of the vamp chords. We all had a go at this, but (for me) it is definitely something for the woodshed. Tommaso also suggested playing out by alternating the consonant triads with up a semitone triads to good effect.

Other suggestions were the use of the pentatonic scale (C minor) and playing a digital pattern 1-3-5, 2-4-6, 3-5-7 over the changes.

The bridge section was then tackled and we all had a blow over the changes. In a fit of sadism, Tommaso got us to perform a complete chorus with only drums. this is very telling, and shows up (as Tommaso pointed out) any lack of knowledge of the arpeggios.

After the break we played through Whisper Not.

Many thanks to Tommaso for an enlightening session.

October 4, 2014: Tommaso Starace

Many thanks to Tommaso for an educational session in which we covered the following tunes:

“Anthropology” by Charlie Parker
“Lullaby of Birdland” by George Shearing

Much of the session was investigating “Anthropology” by Charlie Parker which is a contrafact of Gershwin’s “I Got Rhythm”. We spent some time covering the tricky head, ramping up the speed to a reasonable level.

Improvisation was discussed with particular emphasis on learning the chord tones, to which end we all played through using just the triads from the root, and then 7th chords from the root.

The bridge can be tackled in a similar fashion, but Tommaso introduced us to using the whole-tone scale, in particular creating patterns by alternating the augmented triads found within it. Another approach was to use a diminished scale, considering the original dominant chords a 7b9. Of course, these tools sounded great when in the hands of our tutor and showed that correct resolution is always required when using this sort of tool.

After the break “Lullaby of Birdland” was played through. Tommaso showed the importance of taking a head and making it your own using, delay, anticipation, leading/grace notes and improvisational fills. Several of the members were singled out to do similar with some very nice performances before everyone had a go at improvising over the form.

We returned to “Anthropology” and attempted to learn it by heart, phrase by phrase so that at the end most if not all of the members could play it by heart without reference to the sheet music.

Many thank to Tommaso for a great 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 .