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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….




Posted in Composition, Musical Influences, Performance with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 26, 2010 by pogo56

Hello All,

I know it’s been a while since my last post. Life’s been really busy for me lately and I believe that to be a good thing. I recently played my first gig with Wynton Marsalis and the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra in a program entitled Basie and the Blues. It was a blast! I’ve also been busy prepping for a short series of concerts that I’ll be giving in London at the storied Pizza Express. On March 15th and 16th I’ll be presenting some original music with a special quartet that will feature:

Julian Siegel-tenor saxophone
Michael Janisch-bass, compositions
Jeff Ballard-drums

While I’m there I’ll also be working with students at the Royal Academy of Music in London.

I wanted to let you all know that I’ll be taking my working band into the studio for the first time this weekend. On Sunday Feb. 28 we’ll be recording at Knoop Studios in New Jersey for my debut release on Steeplechase Records. I’m really psyched and grateful to be be an artist on this label because much of my musical development is directly attributed to absorbing recordings from this label. Many of my favorite players recorded for this label, including Dexter Gordon, Kenny Dorham, Louis Smith, Chet Baker, Nat Adderley, my teacher John McNeil, and the lists goes on and on.

The premise of the project is that I took a handful of songs composed by trumpeters who have influenced me over the years and arranged them for my working quintet. On the docket I have tunes composed and played by Lee Morgan, Clifford Brown, Kenny Dorham, Freddie Hubbard, and Donald Byrd. I wish I had time to arrange more songs by various trumpeters but you know how life is. I’ll incorporate more on a future date perhaps. There will also be a few select originals on the record and we may record a very nice arrangement of Half Nelson penned by our drummer Lee Fish. The personel on the album will be:

Michael Thomas-alto saxophone
Greg Duncan-guitar
Lim Yang-bass
Lee Fish-drums

I haven’t come up with a title for the record, liners, design, etc. but I hope to have that done by the end of March.

To keep up with where I’ll be playing (maybe I’ll be performing in a city near you!), please don’t don’t forget to check my myspace page periodically. I think I’m one of the few that’s still active on that site.

All the best,