Palmetto’s Blues for Trombone Choir

A while back someone emailed me to ask about my composition Palmetto’s Blues, a trombone choir piece I wrote for Palmetto Posaunen.  Jim Martin, at PDF Jazz Music, has published it now and so it’s available for a downloadable purchase here.  You can also listen to a demo recording I made of it with me playing all 7 trombone parts.

Palmetto Posaunen is a trombone choir made up of amateur and professional trombonists based in Greenville, SC.  It’s a fun group to play with, since everyone takes it seriously and there some of the best trombone players in the region all drive from four different states to play.  Dr. Mark Britt, trombone professor at Furman University, is the director.

A Tubist’s Embouchure: A Case Study

I put together the above video to show an unusual embouchure I happened to document for my embouchure research.  This case is particularly interesting for a couple of features.  First, since it’s more challenging to get clear video footage of embouchure characteristics on a smaller mouthpiece, the tuba embouchure makes i very easy to see examples of certain embouchure characteristics.  Secondly, this tubist plays very well, in spite of some embouchure idiosyncrasies that make for noticeable flaws in his technique.

First, a little background about the subject.  At the time I recorded this video he was a college music student, actually majoring in piano.  He had played tuba for quite a while, though, and was continuing to perform and study tuba as a secondary instrument.  While a fine player, this subject complained of some difficulties playing in tune at a couple of points while taking this video footage.  He had some difficulties with his high range and at a particular point in his range chipped a lot of notes. Continue reading A Tubist’s Embouchure: A Case Study

Armed Forces Medley for Big Band

Back in 2006 I was commissioned to write an arrangement of all the U.S. armed forces themes into a medley for the San Luis Valley Big Band.  I always enjoy doing things like this, taking non-jazz tunes and putting them into a jazz context.  I had also done this with the Adams State College alma mater back when I taught music there (2000-2003).  ASC is located in the San Luis Valley, which is my connection with this group.

Watch the above YouTube video to hear the San Luis Valley Big Band play through my arrangement.  The SLV Big Band started up after I moved from the area, so I never was personally involved with them.  If you’ve never been to this part of southern Colorado, it’s a beautiful part of the country, but pretty rural and towns are relatively far away from each other.  I’m very impressed that the SLV Big Band has gotten 17 jazz musicians in the area to commit to getting together frequently enough to put together a big band like this.  Kudos to the SLV Big Band!

I’ve gotten a couple of inquiries from band leaders looking for an arrangement like this and wondering how they can get it.  While I’m always willing to do business personally, what I need to do is get a high quality recording done of this arrangement so I can get it published.

Michael Brecker’s solo on Some Skunk Funk played on recorder by Benoît Sauvé

Benoît Sauvé is one bad recorder player!  Watch that video to see and hear him play along with Michael Brecker’s solo improvisation on Some Skunk Funk note for note.  I’m sure that was an extremely challenging solo to transcribe and to learn to play on recorder.

Here’s what that Sauvé has to say about transcribing:

“Although studying the various scales and chords,and the relations between them,is essential in learning to improve, putting these theoretical notions into practise can be very laborious.

This is why making transcriptions of actual solos can be so useful for training aural perception and instrumental technique, as well as allowing us to analyse the styles of great jazzmen, enrich our musical vocabulary, and thus help develop our own musical ideas.”

I see he has several other videos up, so I’m going to go check out his YouTube channel.

You See What You Look For

The above video by magician, author, and blogger Richard Wiseman demonstrates a principle of human nature that I try to keep in mind when teaching and practicing.  Our expectations have a profound effect on our perceptions.  We tend to see or hear what we expect (whether or not they are there) and often miss what should be obvious.

Many of you already know of my personal interest in brass embouchures.  My experience studying brass embouchures gives me an insight that many other brass teachers don’t have, and often I spot things in players that other teachers completely miss.  This is a double edged sword, however.  My interest in embouchures sometimes leads me to look for an embouchure problem with a student and miss the problem with the student’s tonguing or breathing.  I have to constantly remind myself to look at the whole picture and make sure I don’t miss the proverbial forest for the trees.

I see this principle at work in similar ways all the time with other teachers.   Continue reading You See What You Look For

Exploring Black Music

Exploring Black Music is a podcast by the Center For Black Music Research at Columbia College in Chicago, IL.  The first five podcasts were written and hosted by Donald James.  Beginning with Episode 6, on Charles Mingus, my friend and former colleague Dr. Horace Maxile hosts.  Horace is the chair of the Center For Black Music Research.

While I’m a big fan of some podcasts, I tend to not listen to music podcasts that often.  I figure that if I’m in the mood for music I’ll just listen to music, not to someone talking about music.  However, lately I’ve been making an effort to explore some music podcasts and Exploring Black Music is now one of my favorites.

This podcast explores black music ranging from “classical” music through jazz, gospel, and pop styles like hip-hop and funk.  I’ve discovered a lot of new music in the few that I’ve already listened to.  You can use podcatching software like iTunes to subscribe to Exploring Black Music.

Taxes For Working Musicians

Just in case you’re procrastinating and haven’t yet filed your taxes yet, here’s a link to an article with advice for working musicians doing their taxes.  Be warned, this is a year old, so some of the tax laws may be different for this year.

Speaking of working musicians, I recommend the web site that published the above article, MusicianWages.com.  It has many interesting and informative articles ranging from booking band tours, conducting a show from the piano, and putting together contracts.

The Trouble With Easy Listening

Steve Almond writes about the devaluation of the music listening experience here.

“See, back when I was a kid in the ’70s, the way I listened to music was pretty simple. I put an LP on the turntable, dropped the needle, then sat on the living room rug and listened to every single note. If I liked the record a lot, I would listen to it two or three times in a row, usually with the album cover on my lap, so I could study the lyrics and artwork.

In other words, I considered listening to an album an activity in and of itself. It was not something I did while working on homework, let alone while checking e-mail or thumbing out text messages.”

This is something I’ve been musing about for a while myself.  Sometimes when I’m giving a lecture to a new class I’ll ask the students to consider the last time they listened to an album all the way through while all their attention was focused purely on the music.  While I’m frequently surprised by how many students actually have (or claim to have) spent time listening to music and doing nothing else, it’s typically only a handful of the entire class.  It’s something that I’ve noticed that I do less and less these days too. Continue reading The Trouble With Easy Listening