Archive for the Jazz Ethics Category

All Keys Considered

Posted in Jazz Ethics, Performance, Stories in Music with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 2, 2011 by pogo56

This story takes place during my years in high school in North Carolina. In my junior year of high school I spent three nights a week studying at the Greensboro Music Academy. On one particular class we had the honor of having trombonist Fred Wesley at the school to present a clinic.

Sometime during the clinic Fred asked any of the students if they would like to play a tune with him and the rhythm section. I raised my hand and he called me up. I go up to the bandstand and Fred asked me what I would like to play and I told him that I would like to play Freddie Hubbard’s Red Clay. This was partly because I had just learned the tune from the record.

Fred agreed to play the tune and he pulls out a fake book. We start the tune up and all of a sudden I find myself sounding wayyyy sharp on the tune. I ended up pulling my tuning slide almost all the way out to match up with Fred’s intonation as well as the band’s. It was soo embarrassing for me at the time.

So we wrap the tune up and Fred mentions to the audience how out of tune I was. He then asked me to play the melody with him a capella so we could match up. So we play and find that we’re actually playing a ½ away from each other!! This was because the fakebook had the tune written in C minor and I had learned the tune in Db minor! That was my first introduction to the importance of learning tunes in all or as many keys as possible. Up until that point I, like many young students, have no concept of the idea of playing the same song in multiple keys. That became something that I had to consider in my practice….


2010 Musical Year in Review

Posted in Jazz Ethics, Performance, Stories in Music with tags , , , on December 26, 2010 by pogo56

This year has been good to me musically speaking. I’ve had the great fortune to play with some great players as well as travel to some wonderful lands abroad. I’d like to catch you all up on where the music took me this past 2010.

In addition to performing at Wally’s Café regularly this past year with my great 5tet, I got the year started of on an interesting note at the end of January in NYC at the Stone. My dear colleague altoist/composer/bandleader/visionary Matana Roberts included me in her curation to the Stone for the month. For that performance I brought down my 5tet (Me-trumpet, Michael Thomas-alto, Greg Duncan-guitar, Lim Yang-bass, and Lee Fish-drums) to premier my project on the music of Minnie Riperton . That was a quite fun project to arrange, rehearse, and present. For the project I chose tunes by Minnie such as Come Inside my Love, Memory Lane, Lovin You, Take a Little Trip, and I’m a Woman. I hope to record that project independently in the next 5-10 years.

The month of February also brought some great experiences for me as well. I was called to perform for a week with Wynton Marsalis and the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra, performing the music of Count Basie . It was an audition of sorts for an exiting member of the trumpet section. It was my first time playing/subbing in the group. I wasn’t selected for the permanent position because I’m not a lead player by any means and I hadn’t been subbing as long as the player that was chosen, and in this environment where there are so few jobs for trumpeters, Skain said it wouldn’t have been fair to give me the gig. I dug it!!! It was an awesome, unforgettable experience meeting the cats in the band and playing alongside them.

Later in February I also celebrated my 31st birthday by recording my 2nd album as a leader. My album Nothing to Hide is my debut on the Steeplechase label and it’s the first album that I highlight my working Boston-based 5tet on. The album was released in September of this year.

In the month of March, I presented a great series of concerts in London at Pizza Express with a wonderful European 4tet. I presented my compositions with Michael Janisch on bass, Juilan Siegel on tenor, and the great Jeff Ballad on drums. Those four sets of music were simply magical!! Check out the review here. While I was in London, I also taught some private trumpet lessons to the students at the Royal Academy of Music. It was great to share with some strong British talent.

In April I had a ball recording in Baltimore for one of Warren Wolf’s projects. If you don’t know who Warren, check him out at his site. He’s one of the most talented musicians that I’ve ever known. For the session there were many great players/friends including Orrin Evans-piano, Vicente Archer-bass, John Lamkin-drums, Plume-alto, Darent Polk-trombone, Delandria Mills-flute, and Todd Marcus-bass clarinet. I don’t know about a release date on that project.

Then end of April marks Jazz Week in Boston. During that week there are scores of events and performances pertaining to jazz in greater Boston and the surrounding areas in New England. One of these events was the Boston premier of the movie that I starred in entitled Guy and Madeline on a Park Bench..

In the month of May, I made my debut with the wonderful Aardvark Jazz Orchestra at Boston College. The concert featured the music of the great Mary Lou Williams and Geri Allen was the special guest for the night.

June was a warm-up to a hot summer of performances around the world with Grace Kelly and her 5tet. I always have a ball playing in that band. It’s a pleasure to be a part of a great band of inspiring players and to hear Grace’s growth and development first-hand (ear) is indeed a treat. We started the month off with a short trip Stockholm, Sweden for a set at the Jazz Festival. That was a really nice experience and I’ll never forget staying up past midnight with the sun still visible in the sky. The following week, I went to Grand Rapids to serve on the faculty at the Aquinas College Jazz Camp. I think that this may have been my 6th consecutive year at the camp! I missed one day of this week-long camp to go to Rochester NY for performance with Grace Kelly at their International Jazz Festival. We played 2 sets there to a packed venue. It was waaay too small to hold all of the people who wanted to go to the show. The line outside was around the corner and down the street. From what I was told, many people had to be turned away. I hope the festival and many other festivals get it right next time we roll through to play for you.

After the festival performance in Rochester I returned to Grand Rapids to complete the camp. From there I met Grace’s band for a performance in Lansing Mi. From there it was on to Chicago to hold court at the Jazz Showcase for 4 nights. It was my first time performing in or around Chicago since I was a student at Ravinia. It was a nice run at the club and meeting Joe Segal was a gas. He’s an interesting person….
From Chicago we (the GK5) went north to the beautiful country of Canada for a performance at the Trane Studio as a part of the Toronto Jazz Festival. It was nice to be in Toronto again for a minute, but our stay there was short. I believe one of the sets was recorded for live broadcast at a later date. After Toronto we traveled east to Montreal for the Montreal Jazz Festival. That was also a cool gig from my recollection. The space was too small for the crowd there too. One of the highlights in Montreal for me was getting to see the We Want Miles exhibit at the museum. What a treat it was to see a dozen or so of Miles’s trumpets, Trane’s tenor, Tony’s drumset, Miles’s clothes, Wayne’s handwritten leadsheets, Gil Evans’s scores, and some never-before-seen footage of Miles at home!! It was sooo awesome. I ended up receiving the coffee-table book of the exhibit from my wife as a gift!!!

The start of July saw our tour continuing across the pond in Estroil, Portugal. We performed at a casino as a part of a double bill with Wallace Roney’s group. After that performance I jumped on an EasyJet to Paris to meet up with my wife Colleen for a couple of days of R &R with a dear friend Julien Augier(insert picture), a great Parisian drummer and his wife. I ended up landing in the afternoon and playing a gig later that night with Julien and a few friends. After Paris, Colleen and I took a train to Regensberg, Germany to meet back up with the GK5. There we had a residency to perform a series of 2 concerts. That city is such a beautiful city, probably my favorite German city to date. It’s one of the few cities in Germany that wasn’t bombed to hell during the war, so a lot of the original architecture is still intact. We traveled from Germany to Denmark following our performance in Regensberg for a performance at the Aarhus Jazz Festival. After the performance there, we went to Copenhagen for a few days of vacation. I took some of that time to complete the mixing of my Steeplechase record that I record back in February. From Copenhagen we completed our tour of Europe at a wonderful festival in Warsaw, Poland.

August began with a strong performance at the Newport Jazz Festival in RI with the GK5 . We opened for the Jamie Cullum band. I got to meet George Wein shortly after the performance. He told me that I have my s@$# together on the horn. He’s a sweet guy and it was nice to perform at the festival once again since playing there with Kendrick Oliver’s New Life Jazz Orchestra several years ago. We completed that month with more domestic performances at local jazz festivals in Cape Cod, Salem, and Newburyport.

September also saw some more exciting performances with the GK5 in Massachusetts (Beantown Jazz Festival), Maryland (Easton), Missouri (Kansas City), and NY (at Birdland). The end of the month brought me a special opportunity to perform in the Berklee Performance Center with Lewis Nash. I hadn’t played with Lewis since I was an undergrad at NEC, so it was really nice to connect with him again on the bandstand. Also on the gig was Billy Pierce on tenor, Allan Chase on alto, Ron Mahdi on bass, and Consuela Candelaria on piano.

October of 2010 saw me again in Europe with the GK5. This time we made stops in Germany, France, and Austria. We were hoping around the place for this trip. It was nice however to have a few days off in Toulousse, France before our performance at their jazz festival. During our evenings off I was able to see Craig Taborn’s trio in action as well as an amazing performance by Wayne Shorter and his quartet featuring Danilo Perez on piano, Brian Blade on drums, and Jahn Pattituci on bass. That performance will forever hold a dear place in my heart because it was the first I’ve experienced an artist perform four encores. After the final song of the planned set, Wayne came out and took a bow with the band in a manner that gave the intention that he was done for the night. But with the crowd’s egging on, he decided to do one more and that one more became four more.

The end of the October I traveled to Philly and Wilmington, Delaware for a special concert in honor of Clifford Brown’s 80th birthday . It was indeed a special occasion for me because I was fortunate enough to perform two selections off of Clifford’s string album with a chamber group. It was my first time performing with a string section in that type of format. I also worked the day before with students at the University of the Arts. That clinic exposed me to some exceptional young musicians.

In November, I had my 3rd annual residency at the JazzUv Festival in Xalapa, Veracruz, Mexico. This festival is a really nice occasion filled with concerts, masterclasses, and exhibitions, showcasing artists such as McCoy Tyner, Jane Bunnett, Ray Drummond, Grace Kelly, Francisco Mela, and the great Jack Dejohnette on drums. I had the honor of playing a concert with Jack and that was one of the highlights of my year (and my career frankly). I also played with him during his masterclass. It was nice to hang with him off the bandstand too. He’s a deep, philosophical cat.

In the first week of December, I brought my quintet down to New York for a special engagement at the Jazz Gallery. Throughout the year I was working on a project spotlighting the music of Janelle Monae. I arranged six songs off of her album entitled Archandroid for my quintet. I presented them throughout my two sets at the Gallery. I think that the tunes came off quite nicely considering the limited amount of rehearsal time I had with the band prior to the gig.

In the middle of the month of December, I had the great fortune of recording my 2nd release for Steeplechase Records. For this record I was lucky enough to roundup Mark Turner on tenor, Nir Felder on guitar, Edward Perez on bass, and Kendrick Scott on drums!! As of now I am still figuring out the name of the record as well as the artwork, etc. I’ll be sure to keep you all posted and involved in the progress so stayed tuned!!

I’m excited about all that’s happened with me musically this year in addition to the exposure that I’ve gotten from my performance in the critically acclaimed Guy and Madeline on a Park Bench. I’ve also taken on more of a teaching load this year via my new position as an Assistant Professor in the Ensemble Department at the Berklee College of Music in Boston. Some of you may be thinking that with all of this work, I must be making a pretty good living at this. Life is good and I’m VERY thankful for the work, but rest assured that despite my frugality, I am barely making ends meet…

Thanks, more to come!


Birdland Blues

Posted in Jazz Ethics, Performance, Stories in Music with tags , , , , , , , , , on October 8, 2010 by pogo56

I played an early show at Birdland in NYC several weeks ago. It was a decent crowd at the show considering how early the gig was and it was kind of a last minute deal. We were opening for Joe Lovano, who was performing a special tribute to Trane with an all-star trio backing him. I really wanted to see the show but I had to run to another gig in Brooklyn that same night after the gig. I knew that some of the players in the band that I was playing with at Birdland were planning on staying so I knew that perhaps I’d get a report on the show when I saw them the next time.

So I saw my friend and asked him how the show was and he told me that they didn’t stay for the show. He said that they were going to be charged 40.00 to stay for that show. He also said that when that show started there were plenty of empty tables where they could have sat. I think that there’s something seriously wrong with this picture. Not saying that artists who perform at venues should be let in for free to additional shows on their given night (actually I think that they should, but in this economical environment maybe it’s not the most ideal case) but I do think that there could have been a little wiggle room for the cover charge. Even if musicians/guests aren’t going to pay full price, perhaps those that are admitted at a reduced rate will patronize the establishment during the show, which is income for Birdland as opposed to none due to musicians walking out over an outrageous cover.

I’ve never understood this business practice. I’ve seen it in many places and it makes me realize that there is a reason many are saying that the club scene in jazz is hurting…
I did blog about this issue a long time ago here

Jason Palmer

If you Hear Something, Say Something

Posted in Jazz Ethics, Performance, Stories in Music with tags , , , , , , , on December 1, 2009 by pogo56

I’m sure many of you that read this blog are familiar with the Miles album My Funny Valentine Plus Four and More, the live one at Lincoln Center. On the track Stella by Starlight, during the top of one of Miles’ solo choruses he plays and F# on the E half-diminished chord and there’s a person in the crowd that screams yeah. Now I don’t about you, but to me that was a feel-good moment. That record was one of the first Miles records that I owned (thanks BMG, R.I.P.) when I was in high school. At the time I didn’t think that it was okay to voice sounds of approval at intimate concerts like this one. This one person made it okay to feel like it was okay. I remember rewinding that one particular moment and wondering what it was that Miles played which cause this person to call out. I just think that that note really resonated with him, causing him to speak uncontrollably. So my question is how many of us have experienced this? How many of us have experienced this but have held back in fear of disturbing the experience for others? Let me be the first to say that it’s not cool to ruin another audience members listening experience, but I think that it’s okay to aver a sound of joy to a performer if you hear something that touches you right at that moment.

If you know me as a concertgoer, you know that I can become quite vocal when I hear something that touches me. Throughout my years of doing this I don’t ever remember receiving any snide looks from anyone, so I think that it’s okay. I consider it to be a transfer of energy from the audience to the band. Bands, especially today, really need this. For me as a performer it’s a good feeling to hear these sounds every once in a while and I gain more inspiration to play my best at all times when I experience this. I don’t think that it’s an ego-stroke per se, but more of a subtle approval from someone that you are well on your way towards “speaking” in this music, as opposed to only playing the changes, etc.

So my plea to all of you is to speak up if you hear something that you like from a performer in real time. You don’t have to wait until their solo is over to do so. They’re probably going to take 30 more choruses after that special moment anyway, lol!!

Swing it out!


Jam Session Ethics Insight #3: A Slight Diversion

Posted in Jazz Ethics on October 22, 2009 by pogo56

Alright I’d like to tell you a story of a very interesting situation that I experienced at my session at Wally’s about 8 or 9 years ago on a hot July day.

So the session is going along quite smoothly. The front door is open to get some air circulation in and out of the club. A lady walks in who seemed to be my age or few years older than me. She approaches the bartender as I’m soloing. When I’m done with my solo the bartender tells me that this lady would like to perform a spoken word piece. I said that this was cool because every once in a while we’ll have some decent spoken word artists perform with us at the session. So I invited her to the stage after we were done with the tune we were playing. She told me that before she was to begin she would need us to close the door and that there was to be complete silence. I found this to be a rather odd request but we went along with it anyway. By this time, all eyes are on her because I’ve introduced her and she asked for these things on stage in front of the audience and the musicians.

So now it’s time to begin the piece. I asked her if she would like any backing from the rhythm section and she said that she would do a solo piece. So I said cool and stepped to the side and gave her the stage. She closed her eyes, put her head down, and started to scream at the top of her lungs!! It was the loudest scream that I’ve ever experienced in person. I, along with everyone else in the club was completely stunned for the next 30-45 seconds. The screaming went on and on and I didn’t know whether to interrupt her or let it go on. Before I even had a chance to act, the bartender had already come from the back of the bar and grabbed the lady and escorted her out of the club and told her not to come back.

This was one of those instances where I felt totally helpless in a situation that I was supposed to be in charge of. It was definitely a learning experience for me. From that moment on, I made it a point to emphasize the fact that it’s called a jam session for a reason…we are supposed to play with each other…

Keep Swingin,

Jason Palmer

Ethics at Jam Session Insight #2

Posted in Jazz Ethics with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on October 22, 2009 by pogo56

Alright this issue is for the players that lead the jam sessions. I am certainly not casting the first stone on this one because I have been guilty of this in the past, but I realized these faults and I’ve done my best to avoid them.

If you are regulating the session please be proactive. Communicate (vocally) with the audience and the musicians who have come to share to let them know what’s going on. If you are going to play a few songs out front before you open the bandstand up for players to sit in, let them know. If a very special guest shows up at the beginning of the session and you would like them to join the house band before you open it up, let everyone know. If you don’t use a sign-up list, be mindful of who arrives and in what order they arrive in, just in case drummers show up and you don’t know who entitled to sit in first.

When it’s time to open the session up, do your best to be cordial and stick around to check out your fellow musicians. Everyone that plays/ed in my band was first heard at the jam session at Wally’s…EVERYONE. When I get calls for recommendations for other gigs I recommend players that I have heard at the jam session (and sometimes from school). I went to a late night session in NY not too long ago and experienced the leader, after playing a long set out front, proceed to put on headphones and partake in some billiards, and didn’t come back until the session was over. I would not have known whom the leader was if I wasn’t there in the beginning. I know that some folks need to get away, but I think there are other ways and other times for this….

Keep Swinging,


Ethics of the Jazz Jam Session…

Posted in Jazz Ethics, Performance with tags , , , , , , on October 21, 2009 by pogo56

I am contemplating writing about the ethics of running and participating in a jam session. I’ve been running one every week here in Boston for about 10 years and I’ve pretty much seen and heard it all. Here’s the first tip:

It’s considered kosher to not play (blow) on a tune if you don’t know the melody to that tune. If you walk into a session and the band is playing a tune, it’s not polite to just pull out your horn and get in line to start an epic solo (unless the leader asks you sit join in). Wait until the next tune. When I experience a cat coming up to solo after we’ve already played the melody, 7 times out of 10 the cat is playing by ear, “skating” over the chord changes. This is rarely done successfully. When I was coming up I made it a point not to blow on a tune if I wasn’t there to play the melody with the band when they started….

Keep swingin!!



Posted in Jazz Ethics with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 21, 2009 by pogo56

I’d like to talk about an issue that I’ve seen come up a few times over the years that I think every musician who is ever endeavoring to travel and work abroad might experience. Let’s take a musician and we’ll name him John Smith. Now John Smith lives in Ny and has been called to do a festival in London for a week. Now John’s going to be there for a week for only 1 gig. That leaves for a lot of downtime. John has plenty of musician friends in Europe, one of them being a pianist that lives in Paris who happens to be a real aggressive hustler for gigs and he’s successful at it. John calls the pianist (let called him Jacques for now) and lets him know that he’ll be in London for a week for a festival and that he has a few days free. Jacques has some good paying gigs lined up already in Paris and would like to have John on those.

Now here’s where it’s gets tricky. John agrees to do these gigs. The festival organizers in London have already spent 900+ dollars to fly John over the Atlantic to the gig. So now all Jacques needs to do is buy a round trip ticket for John from London to Paris, which is relatively inexpensive (certainly cheaper than footing the bill from NY to London and back). This is called piggybacking on the behalf of Jacques. Now Jacques is ethically obligated to compensate the organizers of the London gig for the initial flight from NY.
Over the years, festival organizers have really started to crack down on this. Most agents work in a network and they all talk to each other so they know who’s playing where. If two agencies are presenting the same act during the same tour for that act, they’ll share the cost of airfare, especially for the U.S. based bands playing abroad (the cost to bring over a quartet or quintet is very expensive and it’s killed every prospect of me bringing my band abroad anytime soon, so I gave up trying to find work for my band abroad). Most acts that perform abroad from the U.S. have to have an “anchor” gig(s) (a gig(s) that covers for the plane tickets) to have any chance of making a profit on the tour.

So for all musicians looking to work abroad, when you do find work please be honest if you are playing elsewhere during your stay if you are questioned about it. Our reputations rely on this…

Until next time,

Jason Palmer

J the Plumber

Posted in Jazz Ethics on July 13, 2009 by pogo56

So I was playing at a club in NY not too long ago which shall remain nameless (you’ll probably recognize it through further description though). From what I hear, one of the attractions is the MC for the shows in the evening. This person shall also remain nameless also (but you may know this person by now if you can put two and two together).

I arrived at the club early to look over some music with the band and one of the managers comes up to me and asks me what I’m doing here so early. I told her what I was there for and she took my name down for the MC later that night. About an hour later the MC shows up with the list. He asks me how to pronounce my name and I tell him and we’re cool.

So the show is about to start, the MC gets on stage and gets into his thing. This guy was pretty animated and from what I hear, he’s always like this. I feel like I’m being announced in the starting lineup to the NBA All-Star game. He announced each player in the band to the stage one by one and when he got to me he pronounced my name perfectly. We play the first set and everything is cool.

During the first break, I find myself standing in the front of the club near the bandstand, talking to a lot of folks that I haven’t seen in a while. This lasted for the full break. Towards the start of the break, the MC comes up to me and tells me to go and stand further away from the stage so he could announce everyone back to the stage individually. So I start to wrap up my conversations with my friends and move to the back of the club, but I obviously wasn’t moving fast enough for the MC. What ensued after that was hilarious…..

The MC announced everyone to the stage in his usual character. When he got to me he pronounced my name as “Jason Plumber”. The audience claps and those that actually know me begin to laugh. So of the band members go as far as to call me “Jason the Plumber” (in reference to Joe the Plumber). I don’t know if the MC made an honest mistake or if it was intentional, but it was funny. This situation reminds me of the stories that I use to hear about the Pee Wee Marquette, wee person who MCed at Birdland for years. If he didn’t like you, or if you didn’t share your smack with him, he’d mispronounce your name to the audience.


After All, Everyone Needs Healthcare….Thanks CareFusion!!

Posted in Jazz Ethics on July 8, 2009 by pogo56

All I can really say is wow!! Here’s some good news concerning the JVC Jazz Festival in NYC!! I think that this is great news for us musicians and I hope that they stick to the notion of presenting a majority of “real” jazz acts at the festivals that they sponsor. Thanks to Ben Ratliff for bringing us this great news via the NYT:

A Major Summer Jazz Festival Will Return to New York
By Ben Ratliff

Ruby Washington/The New York Times

George Wein has a new sponsor for two jazz festivals, including one in New York next summer.Times have been grim lately in what could oxymoronically be called the jazz business. Last month, Jazz Times magazine announced it was suspending publication; this summer saw the disappearance of the JVC Jazz Festival, New York’s biggest jazz event, after its corporate sponsor, JVC, pulled out. Now there is a positive surprise. George Wein, the longtime producer of the New York festival, announced today that he has a new sponsor for two jazz festivals, including a major one in New York next summer.

The sponsor is CareFusion, a medical technology company based in San Diego. It is a wholly owned subsidiary of Cardinal Health, one of the largest pharmaceutical wholesalers in the United States, and has developed products geared toward patient safety.

“It’s a miracle,” said Mr. Wein. “These people walked in the door. They decided they wanted to go with jazz and they got around to me.”

CareFusion’s one-year contract with Mr. Wein includes next month’s jazz festival at Fort Adams State Park in Newport, R.I., to be called George Wein’s CareFusion Jazz Festival 55, and the first CareFusion New York Jazz Festival, scheduled for June 2010. The company, today, is also announcing sponsorships of jazz events produced by others, including festivals later this year in Chicago, Australia and Paris and a stage within the Monterey Jazz Festival in September.

Unlike, say, audio equipment made by JVC, CareFusion’s products are not over-the-counter merchandise, or even anything a customer can knowingly choose. But the company is looking to brand itself among hospital clinicians, and found through market research that they care deeply about jazz.

“The research indicated that second to travel, music and the arts were the number two areas of interest for practitioners in health care,” said David Schlotterbeck, the chief executive of CareFusion. “At the same time, there has been a demonstrated link between music and healing, and jazz has been used as a metaphor for generating a harmony that is necessary in a group of practitioners.”

Jim Mazzola, the senior vice president of marketing for CareFusion, said that the sponsorship is essentially a “direct campaign to the decision-makers” — health care executives who like jazz. But he also saw a possibility for bringing jazz closer to the health care business, such as making programs from the jazz festivals available to hospital patients over closed-circuit networks.

“They’re putting no constraint on what we’re going to do,” Mr. Wein said. (He said that JVC’s multi-festival sponsorship ran to about $1.5 million per year, and that CareFusion’s contribution is close to that amount.) He added that he wanted to present festivals that were as “pure jazz” as possible, with only a few larger pop-oriented concerts in large halls.

Keep swinging,