Archive for college

So Funny, I had to Repost!!

Posted in Stories in Music with tags , , , , on January 11, 2011 by pogo56

A friend of mine sent me a link to this site which contained these quotes from college students, reflecting on the jazz history class that they were enrolled in. Some of my friends think that this tread is fabricated, but I think that it’s too random to be. What do you all think? Here’s the thread:

These are quotes from students in a college jazz history class. They are extracted from the essay topic, “What I learned over this semester in jazz history.” These are all genuine responses, completely unaltered. They are all 18+ year old students; not high school or middle school age kids. None of them are music students; they all took this class as a gen. ed. credit and a hopeful “easy A”.

1. “Free Jazz is an era that I wished I had never learned about.?

2. “Free Jazz. Wow; what a sound it makes. An awful, horrible sound. I don’t see how that can actually be called a sound. My 5 year old nephew could pound on the piano and make the same sound! He may even make a better sound. To be honest, that sound is one big mess”.

3. “With swing, it’s kind of up in the air for me. I must say I tried like hell to keep up with it.”

4. “My favorite jazz has a bluesy, Mexican feel to it.”

5. “Though Jazz started in New Orleans, it traveled all around the world picking up and dropping off things along the way.”

6. “One thing that confused me was Jelly Roll Morton. Did he play with the Red Hot Chili Peppers? I didn’t think that they were around back then.?

7. “Jelly Roll (Morton) bridged the gap between piano and ragtime.

8. “My grandpa likes it, but I think scat stinks.”

9. “Chick Corea, Dizzie Gillespie, Bix Biderbeck, and the monk created the first cool group.”

10. “I wished Don Cherry would put his trumpet back in his pocket.”

11. “There is not enough space in my head to fit all that I learned.”

12. “This class taught me about a lot of things that I never knew about.”

13. “Some of the big jazz musicians we learned about were: Lous Armstrong, Duke, Charlie Parker, Dizzy Cillespic, T. Mark, Ken Barns, Buddy Baldwin, Jellyroll Mortin, Sydney Bichai, Fats Waller, Earl Hines, and many many more.”

14. “Coming into class on the first day, I assumed there would be a boring professor standing in front of the class droning on and on about jazz. Here’s where it started; this is who played it; and here we are today; blah, blah, blah. I now realize that my assumption wasn’t all that wrong.”

15. “I assumed that jazz had started in the African-American community only because it fulfilled a multi-cultural course that I was required to take.”

16. “Jim Crow, in a way, was the first jazz musician.”

17. “Jazz was put into effect by Jim Crow”s Law.”

18. “I really enjoyed hearing the big band, Frank Foster’s Arrangement”.

19. “I learned in this class that, contrary to my mom’s opinion, Kenny G is a joke. A really non-funny one.”

20. “I fell in love with that tune, “Stablemates”. It really hits home.?

21. “Jazz musicians don’t play for women any more.”

22. “I learned that going to jazz concerts gets me in good with the girlfriend.”

23. “I learned a lot about Be Bop, Swing, Drugs, and Fusion.”

24. “I found new respect for Miles Davis. He was adamant about not using drugs when everyone else was trying to get him to try some.”

25. “I liked hearing the Original Dixieland (Jazz) Band, and how they were the original Dixieland band.”

26. “You might want to mention to future classes that jazz brings true romance to a scene.”

27. “I’m glad I took this class, because I feel more comfortable to talk about jazz in its awesomeness.”

28. “Drugs caused many artists their careers in many ways.”

29. “Jazz is a style of music that is almost very sober.”

30. “I figured jazz started in the 1960s, but to my surprise, it started back in the late 18th century.”

31. “Smooth jazz now just plain old angers me.”

32. “A lot of the things that I learned were facts that I never new about, not only in jazz, but in life as well.”

33. “I got really excited by the tenor sax, soprano sax, baritone sax, but not so much the alto sax.”

34. “I can’t believe that blacks had time to invent jazz if they were hanging out in the whorehouses with Jelly Roll Morton.”

35. “A lot of black jazz musicians were very talented, which probably came from them not having anything else to do.”

36. “When blacks and whites finally decided to get together to make jazz, it was a big hit.”

37. “Lennie Tristano and Lee Konitz were two guys who would sit down and enjoy cool jazz.”

38. “Going to the club gave me jazz sensations.”

39. “I hear the hard-bop jazz influence on bands today such as Matchbox Twenty and Dave Matthews Band”.

40. “I’m now going to start this essay on jazz.”

41. “James Crow worked to bring the slaves together with the creoles.”

42. “Learning jazz has helped me beat my mom at Jeopardy. She had no idea who a blind pianist from Toledo, OH was for $800.”

43. “I learned the definition of supreme technical virtuosity is to play like Louie Armstrong.”

44. “Charlie Parker was a famous jazz musician who played saxophonists.”

45. “Getting 81% (on a test) is all well and good until you see that dumb guy next to you who picks his nose getting 91%. I then started studying and coming to class”.

46. “I asked the drummer what the names of the names and styles of the tunes that he played but he didn’t seem to know”.

47. “TV has become more jazzy to me now.”

48. “Studying jazz has been a coming out party for me.”

49. “I loved the vibrational solos of Clifford Brown.”

50. “When I think of tradition and instruments, I think of Fiddler of the Roof”.

51. “I learned a lot from the different guest speakers in class, whether they were an experienced piano player, a director of music at a major motel, or a guitar player with an oddly placed handkerchief in his pocket.”

52. “Jazz has the technique of classical music, the feeling of blues, and the hope of children everywhere.”

53. “I know what troubles musicians now when I watch and listen to them play.”

54. “My ties to jazz were through Bleeding Gums Murphy, a character on a TV show called the Simpsons. It comes on at 8pm on Sunday nights.”

55. “I was surprised to find out about the different styles of jazz like hard, be, and post bops.”

56. “I thought that jazz was a certain amount of instruments that you played and was composed for you(,) not believing that it was their improvisation and the jazz musicians who made up the music on the spot doing what they wanted to do with the tunes. I know this is hard to explain but it is true.”

57. “When I try to play jazz, I mess around with the instruments pounding out random notes that were just me making nonsense up and it sounding like a big pile of crap.”

58. “Jazz is more profound when it doesn’t help pay the bills.”

59. “The first thing I learned in jazz history that happy birthday is the most played jazz classic. You want to hear happy birthday in swing BAM! You got it You want to hear happy birthday in classic jazz BAM! You got it. You want to hear happy birthday in be bop BAM! You go(t) it. It’s great The second thing I learned is free jazz is where its at. I think that I could be a free jazz musician cause it all sounds like a drunk 7 year old jamming down on some notes and making the sweet sweet music fly. Free jazz was defiantly the best part of the class but unfortunately you didn’t play free jazz enough. My one suggestion for your next class is that you start out every class with a 5 minute free jazz intro. Over all and all, I defiantly learned a lot in jazz history class.”

60. “Hip hop and pop are fine, going out for fame and bling bling. Jazz has been around for a while, is out of style, but can really sing.”

61. “Jazz musicians sing and play music because they can’t contain their passions. Their music starts in the soul radiates out in every direction.”

62. “Jazz is a very dynamic kind of music. Loud and Soft.

63. “Swing makes you want to get up and dance and free jazz just makes you want to get up.”

64. “If any kind of music can calm a hectic day, its cool jazz. If you feel like going out and dancing, however there is ragtime.”

65. “In conclusion, jazz is music.”

66. “Jazz has come from the fields of New Orleans to my 2pm class, and beyond.”

67. “Unlike other forms of music, jazz is listened to by old people as well as us.”

68. “I learned what intros and outros were in this class. Now I look for them when I go searching for good music.”

69. “I went to do my (jazz) listening report at the house of blues.”

70. “Jazz has taught me a lot about the Civil War, World War I, and World War II.”

71. “I thought of jazz as a thing of the past, something old African American men listened to on old record players while sitting on their front porches smoking cigars.”

72. “Steve Turre has taught me that sea shells should be left on the ground instead of his mouth.”

73. “Over the course of the semester my knowledge of jazz has gone from nothing to practically nothing.”

74. “Even though I probably won’t listen to jazz after this semester, it has given me a greater appreciation of movies.”

75. “My favorite person to study was Sonny Rollins. He knew that he had to throw his saxophone off the bridge when he heard how good Charlie Parker was.”

76. “Jazz to me was the ‘shoo opps’ from groups in streets downtown in the olden, golden days.”

77. “Happy birthday That song is just amazing to me.”

78. “My all-time favorite jazz artist to listen to was Buddy Baldwin, AKA “the jazz king”. I think I’m going to go out and buy a couple of his CDs?

79. “I was surprised to find musicians with such odd names such as Vilage Von Guard.”

80. “Jazz is not as popular with all of the adolescence going around.”

81. “I like jazz more in books than on cds.”

82. “I remember coming into class with no facts but a whole plate of bullshit to dish out.”?

83. “I found myself learning about Blues, Early Jazz, Dixieland, Swing, Be Bop, Brazilian, Afro-Cuban, Cool Jazz, Hard Bop, Free Jazz, Third Stream, Japanese, Post Bop, Fusion, Smooth, Modern Jazz, and the list goes on.”

84. ” ‘Call and Respond’ is where one musician plays and the other one tries too hard to figure out what he’s doing.”

85. “The people in Dixie Land originated jazz music.”

86. “Jazz is now a part of me from 2pm-3:15pm every Tuesday and Thursday.”

87. “Jazz started in the fields where they used hand-me-down instruments and wore hand-me-down clothes.”

88. “If Wynton Marsalis said jazz was dead in the 1970’s, what was he playing at the time”.

89. “Weather Report was the final big band back in the day.”

90. “My girlfriend and I both agreed the next morning that jazz-club food was something we could’ve done without.”

91. “Jazz agitates me.”

92. “I like jazz, but I need something else besides rhythm, melody, and harmony.”

93. “I had no clue that so many (musicians) used drugs. Thinking about that, there is no doubt that they are living the life I dream of. They are spending money on things that they don’t really need or even want.”

94. “I noticed that there weren’t many jazz women in our textbook until I looked to see that the author was a guy. All guys are sexist, women bashers, who don’t ever give us our credit.”

95. “The part I most enjoyed was studying and appreciating slavery.’

96. “Its hard to imagine where Winton Marsalis gets his ideas from.”

97. “I’d like to see midgets getting bribed in every jazz club. Not just with Birdland. I’m of course talking about the jazz club, not Charlie Parker.”

98. “We’ve had our share of good times and bad times over the semester. By bad times, I mean my tests.”

99. “Count Bassie WAS the swing era”.

100. “This class increased my intelligence with aptitude.”

101. “Duke Ellington had the ability to turn jazz compositions into pure magic.”

102. “Swing died in World War II when the soloists took over.”

103. “I could go on and on about jazz, but I won’t.?

104. “Tony Williams was my favorite drummer because his group, Lifetime, is the same name as my favorite channel that I watch.”

105. “How do the musicians know what to play when their eyes were closed the whole time? And what was with the piano player talking while he played his solos. His musician friends must have been thought he was crazy.”

106. “I technically wasn’t in your class but I was happy to be along for the ride.”

107. “I was in jazz band in high school but we didn’t play jazz music.”

108. “Dizzie Gillespie was the one who jammed on the drums.”

109. “I thought doing our listening report would be a painful sort of torture.”

110. “I was bummed out at the beginning of the semester because I thought Louis Armstrong was going to be one of the guest lecturers.”

Famoudou Don Moye
Sun Percussion
Rhythm and Melody in Motion

New Teaching News!

Posted in Improvisation with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 6, 2010 by pogo56

Hello Everyone,

I would like to let you all know that tomorrow I’ll be starting my first day of instruction at the Berklee College of Music in Boston. I’ll be coaching advanced ensembles all day tomorrow in place of an injured faculty member so I don’t know how long I’ll be working there, but I’m going to really enjoy working with these talented musicians for the duration of my residency! I’m considering this oppurtunity as a foot in the door because I’ve been applying to that school as well as other colleges for a teaching gig for many years now. I’m really passionate about teaching so you can only imagine how excited I am. So right now I’m currently teaching music in an elementary/middle school, in a pre-college program for talented middle and high school students (at NEC), and now I’ll be at Berklee College of Music. So I’m pretty much teaching all levels and I don’t know how many musicians that can say that!!



Posted in Composition, Improvisation, Musical Influences, Performance with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 2, 2010 by pogo56

This blog is in response to the questions I have received in the past about learning tunes. Throughout my time in college I was encouraged by my mentors (especially trumpeters Jeremy Pelt and Darren Barrett) to learn as many tunes as possible. They both possessed huge repertoires which really gave them the luxury to play really diverse sets whenever I had the priviledge to hear them live in Boston. I was also inspired to learn as many tunes as I could in order to combat the monotness of hearing and playing the same tunes at jam sessions around town. That’s still prevalent but I always do my best to encourage young cats that come down to my session at Wally’s on Sunday afternoons to learn as many tunes and not to come down week after week to call and play the same tune. When I started to go down to the jam sessions at Wally’s when I moved to Boston, I was advised to learn the tunes that were called that I didn’t know. So I learned those tunes and called them the next week or the week after (especially if they weren’t played when they were called initially). So to learn these tunes I either had to go out and buy the record or check it out of the library at NEC. I was fortunate to live in Boston where there were a handful of great record stores at the time (Tower Records in Boston and Cambridge, Looney Tunes in Boston and Cambridge, Newbury Comics, Mojo Records, Planet Records, and my favorite Stereo Jacks in Porter Square!).

When I got into the habit of checking out records in order to learn tunes, naturally my record collection grew. I developed this habit of buying a record in order to learn a tune but in the end I learned all of the tunes on the record. Imagine wanting to learn 10 tunes in a month, going out to get the records, and learning all the tunes on the record! That’s easily 100 or so tunes in that period. I am a pretty fast transcriber (because I have absolute pitch) and it was fun for me at the time still is. I always made sure to learn tunes that I really dug so there are obviously tunes that really didn’t touch me and I never got around to learning them. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve committed thousands of songs to memory that I’ll never get to play outside of my practice room, but there are hundreds of thousands of tunes that I don’t know that I should know. I consider myself to be a constant work in progress in that respect.

In my opinion, there are several useful ways to learn tunes, but I don’t think that there’s a magic bullet that will get anyone from start to finish any faster than the next person. Everyone has to put the time in to really hone their ear skills and once our hearing becomes more acute, learning tunes becomes much easier and fun.

Here’s one method that’s geared towards memorizing chord changes that was given to me by trumpeter John McNeil. This involves playing the piano.

1. Play the first chord to the song on the piano in time (maybe using a metronome or tapping your foot).
2. While playing the first chord of the song, say the 2nd chord out loud.
3. Play the 2nd chord in time.
4. Say the 3rd chord out loud, etc.

I’m sure that you all see the pattern that’s taking place now. This exercise is designed to allow you to “think ahead” when improvising. This way you are more equipped to anticipate the chord changes instead of playing in a reactionary mode (not saying that that is bad, you just add another asset to your playing with this).

When I begin transcribing a song, I start by lifting the melody. I try my best to absorb all of the inflections that the player on the record displays. I try to inhale when they inhale, exhale when they do, etc. Once I’m done transcribing the melody I move on to the bass line/part. Depending on the fidelity of the recording and the playing of the bassist on the record, this process can be daunting at times. I’ve found that there are times when the bass is either drowned out in the mix or the bass is out of tune or being played poorly. One thing that I do to remedy this is to listen to what’s happening at the same part of the form throughout the duration of the tune because what the bassist plays in the 2nd chorus may be a clearer than what is played in the 1st chorus.

In many cases once you have the melody(s) and the bass line transcribed, the harmony of the song becomes more obvious. If it’s not apparent then you can transcribe the playing of the chordal instrument on the record. If it’s tough to play back what’s being played at the time, then try singing the notes in question. In most if not all cases, if it sounds right to your ears then you are probably correct. You can also transcribe the solos to figure out the correct progression to the tune. If there’s a G chord in a particular tune and you’re having trouble figuring out if the chord is major, minor, or suspended, then check out the solos. If a B is played most of the time during in that measure during the solos then it’s probably going to be G major.

More to come!!

Jason Palmer

Voicing a Question of Voices

Posted in Jazz Ethics with tags , , , , , , , , , , on June 7, 2009 by pogo56

Today I spent time thinking about the idea of having your own “voice”. There’s scores of players that I can “identify from a few notes or one musical idea”, but there’s something that goes beyond this notion of readily identification. It has to be developed and nurtured. I, as well as many of my friends can identify a players playing because we spent time really checking them out and in many cases that identification comes via association to the sound/concept of other players. This process of internalizing styles and sounds in this music ultimately shapes us into the musicians that we hope to be. In the long run we want to be remembered for having our own “thing”. I’ve heard some say that the age of obtaining a personal unique style of improvising in jazz is gone. I don’t really agree with that assessment but that notion didn’t occupy my thoughts today. This is what was on my mind:

I frequently read album reviews of artists that are in my generation (25-35). Many of the writers proclaim that the artist doesn’t quite have their own “voice” or that the artist is still in the process of finding his/her own “voice”. Whenever I read a statement like this I can’t help but wonder if the writer were to put the record on repeat and listen to it all day, day in and day out (no one I know has time for this, but you know what I mean), would that artist then have their own “voice” in the view of the writer’s mind’s ear? This repetitive listening process allows a listener to recognize Miles’s sound in one or two notes.

So I guess what I’m ultimately saying is that the thought of having your own “voice” is more subjective than I thought it was. But on the same token is Trane’s individuality an absolute? I would say absolutely, but there are some that would say that he didn’t live long enough to develop his own thing. Same can be said of Brownie, considering his untimely death in ’56. So my advice to review reader is if the writer says that the player hasn’t fully blossomed into his/her own, don’t take it as an absolute, and question how much the writer has really checked out the music. Having your own voice is in the ear of the behearer……

Keep swingin,


How Some Things Have Happened for/to Me

Posted in jazz trumpet music with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 24, 2009 by pogo56

I field a lot of interesting questions from young musicians, but one of the questions that I get the most is, “How did you get the gig with_______________”. I’d like to talk about the process that helped me get to where I am right now.

While I was a student at New England Conservatory of Music in Boston, I would make it a point to attend as many masterclasses, student recitals, club dates, and concerts as I could. One of most memorable shows for me was hearing the New Life Jazz Orchestra at the Berklee Performance Center. The featured soloists for this show were Nicholas Payton, Roy Hargrove, Jeremy Pelt, and RaShawn Ross. That show and the clinic they gave earlier that day changed my life. From that point on I knew that I wanted to give people the same feeling I recieved from that show after I left.

During my formative years in Boston I did the whole networking thing the best that I could which lead to many gigs and playing relationships that I am very thankful for to this day. Many of the inspiring shows that I went to left me with the dream of playing with players of that caliber in venues big and small. So I ended up studying, listening, practicing, jamming, etc. all my waking hours to the detriment of a healthy social life. I didn’t really participate in any activities that weren’t music-related and most if not all of my friend were/are musicians. I met many of these musicians while playing at Wally’s Jazz Café in Boston. Many of you already know about this club and the importance it has to the scene in Boston and the development of jazz musicians young and old. Wally’s has been a “school away from school” for me ever since I moved to Boston in 1997 and it’s the place where I learned how to connect with people who aren’t familiar with jazz. That experience I could never have gained in music school.

I didn’t grow up with computers at home so I didn’t really get into emailing, websites, and the whole world of technology until my 2nd year at NEC. I began to discover that many of my favorite musicians had websites and email addresses that I could actually contact them through (this was before the age of myspace, facebook, and other networking sites, btw). So around the year 2001 I decided to contact every prominent musician that I dreamt of playing with. This turned out to be a massive email campaign where I ended up contacting about 500 musicians that I was interested in playing with. Of those that I contacted I think I received responses from about 20+ of them. Of those 20 or so responses 2 or 3 of them were positive. One of the emails that I sent out was to saxophonist Greg Osby. At the time he was scheduled to perform at Harvard University and I asked him if it was okay for me to sit in with his band. He had never heard of me so I wasn’t surprised when he said no. I thought to myself that there must be a way to get some of my playing into his ear and the rest of the musicians that I wished to play with. I decided to look into online sites that I could host mp3s of my playing for all to hear. I then came across a music-hosting site, Soundclick, and posted some clips of my playing for all to hear. Mind you this is about a 1 ½ to 2 years after the initial mass email. So I decided to send out another mass email to musicians I dreamt of working with. Of the up to 1,000 emails I sent out this time which included a link to my soundclick page, I must have received about 30 responses. All of the musicians had great words of encouragement for me, but only one musician considered me as a sideman: Greg Osby.

Greg Osby to me is one of the most forward-thinking, history embracing, knowledge-sharing artists around right now. He and Steve Coleman were the founders of M-BASE(Macro – Basic Array of Structured Extemporizations), great collective of thinkers in the music He’s one of the few players of his generation who’s demonstrated a keen interest on younger musicians, a modern-day Art Blakey. Many great players have worked in his band and gone on to have very productive careers, i.e. Jason Moran, Matt Brewer, Eric McPherson, Rodney Green, Damion Reid, etc. I think that this form of apprenticeship is one of the most important experiences any young jazz musician must have in order to become an effective leader.

Greg was impressed with the playing on my clips and offered me the gig with him in support of his current cd at the time which was St. Louis Shoes. I already had that cd and I knew a lot of his music from his previous cds from the time I spent transcribing as a student, so joining this group was definitely a blessing for me. At that time the members of the band were Tommy Crane (drums), Matt Brewer (bass), Megumi Yonezawa (piano) and later James Gordon Williams (piano), Greg on alto, and me on trumpet. We never recorded in the studio, but I recording every gig we did and Greg, Matt, and Tommy played on my debut cd Songbook along with Leo Genovese (piano, Rhodes), Ravi Coltrane (tenor), and Warren Wolf (vibes).

When I was on the road with Osby I learned soo much from him, from dealing with promoters and directors, to getting the best sound out of a soundcheck. It was the first form of on-the-job tutelage that I had ever received and I am forever grateful because it has helped me become a better musician/bandleader/person. He hipped me too a lot of alternative marketing techniques (which I have yet to implement though) and taught me a lot about the business side of the music; all things that I never learned as a student in Boston. The things that I learned on stage will have to be a blog in itself!!

Also a big kudos to my wife Colleen because she has been a source of inspiration to me ever since we first met 7+ years ago. She kept me on the right track when I thought of giving up on the whole musice thing. I don’t know where I would be if it wasn’t for her guidance!!

More to come,

Jason Palmer
mymyspace page
my UTube page