Archive for conservatory

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 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

In Door Ants

Posted in jazz trumpet music with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 5, 2009 by pogo56

I get a number of emails inquiring about how I was able to build my chops up. So instead of answering each one individually, I thought that I’d speak a little on how I got to where I am in this blog. As I get older I realize in order to do what I have to do day in and day out, taking care of business, working, home duties, etc, I often find myself unable to answer all of the emails that I get daily. If I haven’t gotten back to you, please forgive me as it’s not done purposefully, I’m just too busy oftentimes to remember to respond and when I do respond, I’m usually long-winded. So I’ll try to make this short and to the point.

I’ll start by talking a little about my history of playing the trumpet. I started off playing in the 6th grade. I passed the “ear test” in 5th grade so I signed up for band going into the 6th grade because at the time it was the cool thing to do. My first choice was the saxophone, but because my last name ended with a “P” and saxophone was everyone first choice, I got stuck with my 2nd choice, the trumpet. My mom then went out and bought me a cornet, thinking it was a trumpet, so there I was.

In my band class throughout middle school (grades 6-8, in NC), the band classes were 60+ students, about 15 of which were trumpet players. We had monthly playing tests to see who would sit in the 1st chair. I was consistently the last chair all of 6th and 7th grade. After my 7th grade year going into the 8th I decided that summer to learn more about this piece of metal. I wanted to be able to actually play songs that I heard on the radio. So I spent that summer trying to learn the popular R&B songs that were playing on the radio. I quickly learned that the songs on the radio had different sounds and shapes to them (which I later found out to be keys) and that each song, in order to be played as it sounded on the radio, had to be played with a specific set of valve combinations. By the end of that summer, I had learned all of my major, dorian minor, and chromatic scales by ear. 8th grade year rolls around and I think to myself that I’m ready to make some music.

In my eighth grade year of band 2 significant things happened to me. First I made first chair of the all-city band in High Point, NC. It was a concert band of winds and percussion that consisted of the best students attending middle school in High Point. High Point’s a fairly big city so when this happened it was a boost to my confidence with the trumpet. The second thing that happened to me was towards the end of the school year a gentleman by the name of Mr. Morton visited our school to tell us about a music camp that was taking place in the summer. Mr. Morton turned out to be a great patron of jazz music and the local musicians that were on the scene in NC. The camp that he spoke about was a jazz camp that was named after saxophonist John Coltrane (who grew up in High Point as a kid). I attended that camp that year and that was my first introduction to jazz music. Two years would pass before I would being to study jazz music on my own.

Fast forward to my 9th and 10th grade years in high school. I was considered a quiet nerd who played the horn, and also had a deadly jumpshot. I was one of the best point guards in my region at the time and I was really starting to get into basketball. My high school won the state while I was there and I also played AAU. In the fall season I played trumpet in the marching band. Now that consisted of a lot of dancing and playing trumpet really LOUD. The result of those years of hard overblowing left me with a calloused lip (which I still have to this day).

My junior and senior years of high school found me more involved with music than with basketball. I eventually started attending the Greensboro Music Academy about 3 nights a week. There I was about to take private trumpet lessons, theory, and I also participated in a small jazz combo with a rhythm section and another trumpet player. I consider myself very fortunate to have started out playing with a small group that featured another trumpeter because now I’m really into that, where as there are not many trumpet players on the scene now that are. You see small groups with two saxophones, two trombones, but rarely two trumpets. Maybe that’ll change.

So I ended up being awarded a scholarship to New England Conservatory in 1997 to major in jazz trumpet performance. I was really excited to be in a big city, studying this music with peers who were just as enthusiastic as me to learn to play. So I go into my first lesson with my trumpet teacher and he asks me to play a C scale two octaves. So I play it and he notices some issues with my embouchure and suggests that I deal with them with his guidance. I essentially put all my trust and faith in him and I learned how to play the trumpet from scratch in the span of a year.

It was John McNeil who first introduced me to the Carmine Caruso technique in 1997. I’ve been doing it every day ever since. What was great about John’s teaching method was that he gave me exercises that catered to where I was chop wise at the time. He really took the time to monitor and document my progress from week to week. What was even more remarkable about my lessons with him was that he was able to deal with these issues in the lessons as well as issues in music. We spent a ton of time working on repertoire, dealing with playing with good time, playing a capella, dealing with substitute chord changes, analyzing transcriptions, intervallic modes, etc. I’ll always treasure my time with him and I consider him to be one of the premier trumpet instructors in jazz alive today.

The Carmine Caruso Techinique was the deal breaker for me. When I started to really get into this method I noticed a sudden ease in the effort it took for me to execute my musical ideas in a live situation for an extended period of time. This method assisted me in getting my muscles in sync involuntarily in order to play the trumpet with the least amount of effort. As soon as the results from doing these exercises everyday and really paying attention to the timing (and not the sound) of them started to kick in, all of my embouchure issues started to dissipate. The only issues that I noticed that were hindering my playing then were insufficient breathing and posture. I found those issues to be easier to deal with than the embouchure.

For me the Caruso Technique, coupled with hours of personal practice time, hitting up as many jam sessions, and playing with as many cats on the scene as I possibly could allowed me the opportunity to build and maintain my IN DOOR ANTS…..

Keep Swingin,

Jason Palmer

Stories Behind the Song

Posted in Composition with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 21, 2009 by pogo56

We all know that songs take on a deeper meaning to the listener if they know what inspired the tune to be written or just in the name of the tune itself. I’ve written a lot of tunes that have weird names and I play at a club which is frequented by rowdy patrons, so I don’t usually get a chance to talk about the tunes and what inspired me to write them. I thought that I might take this time and blogspace to clue you in to a few (I’ve to date written a little over 200 compositions that I consider complete and record-ready) of the titles and where they came from.

Velvet Hammer– Last summer I did a mini-tour of the beautiful country of Kyrgystan with bassist Curtis Lundy. We were on a 3 or 4 hour bus ride out of Bishkek to some other city to perform, when I decided to strike up a conversation with Curtis about the business side of the music. So we were talking about networking and he tells me how it should be done. He said that you have to be persistent, whether it’s by email, letter, or phone (preferably by phone). He mentioned that it’s best to let clients know who you are and let the music be the last thing that hits them. And when the music hits them, it’s like a VELVET HAMMER.

Takes Courage to be Happy– I wrote this song for the beautiful, human nightingale, Abbey Lincoln. I was a student at NEC when I heard her live for the first time. I love the albums she did with Max Roach, Kenny Dorham, Booker Little, Coleman Hawkins, etc. She is also a wonderful actress, starring in Nothing but a Man and For Love of Ivy (alongside Sidney Poitier). She’s probably most known on screen for her appearance in Spike Lee’s Mo Betta Blues, where she plays Bleek Gilliam’s (Denzel Washington) mother.

After one of her Valentine’s Day concerts in Boston, I was able to meet her backstage for an autograph and to chat a little. She gave me her number and asked me to call her sometime to talk music, etc. It took me about a year to gather up the courage to call her but I finally did. In the course of this conversation, Abbey suddenly says to me, “You know Jason, It Takes Courage to be Happy”. A song was born.
Be Aware- I was inspired to write this tune after reading the liner notes of Wayne Shorter’s album Night Dreamer. In the notes when describing the song Oriental Folk Song, Nat Hentoff and Wayne explain that:

“In this, as in all the numbers, there are various repetitive devices which serve to accentuate the overall theme of the set. “There an attempt,” Wayne explains, “to keep telling the listener that ‘Judgment is Coming’. The word, however, is not ‘beware’ but rather it’s ‘Be Aware’!”

This tune was also an attempt to write in a harmonic style that mirrored Wayne’s style, but not any one of his songs in particular.

It’s a Brand New Day– I wrote this song for brother Paul Poindexter. Paul is a manager at the club I play at, Wally’s Jazz Café in Boston. At the end of most nights in an effort to clear out the place, Paul has several phrases that he likes to use. One of those is, “From the table to the bar, from the bar to the floor, from the floor to the door…it’s time to suck em down, pack it, stack it….It’s a Brand New Day in the neighborhood….

Black Beauty – This 8-bar waltz has a rubuato intro which is also used as an outro. I composed the melody and all of the ideas in the intro only using the black notes on the piano, and upon hearing it I thought that it came out quite beautifully, hence the name Black Beauty…

Crash– I wrote this tune after the melody came into my mind when I was watching the Academy Awards ceremony several years ago. It’s named after the movie that won “Best Picture”, which I didn’t think should’ve won.

3rd Shift– I wrote this tune for my mom. For over 20 years, my mom worked the 3rd Shift in the textile industry. This tune is a waltz that’s a contrafact (a tune that’s based on the chord changes of another tune) of Wayne Shorter’s tune entitled Night Dreamer. But my mom isn’t someone to be sleeping on the job!!

Blue Grotto Parts I and II– I was inspired to writes these two tunes after visiting the Blue Grottoes of Malta while I was on tour with Greg Osby’s band a while back. We were taken in small sailboat into these gorgeous caverns which I found to be stunning and serene. These tunes came pretty fast to me after this experience.

It Only Takes One– This tune in 5/4 time is a concept piece. The premise is pretty simple. I just took one note (a concert D) and changed the underlying harmony beneath to fit the note of the melody. When we perform this tune, the players playing the melody are encouraged to play the concert D in any rhythmic configuration or duration. We usually play off of each other when we play the melody. The solo sections to this tune are split into three parts, with each soloist cueing for the next soloist to begin at the next section. The complete name of this tune is It Only Takes One Note to Make a Song…

Six to Three– This ditty is also a concept piece of mine written about 3 years ago. The idea for this one is that I took two intervals, and major sixth and a minor third and used those as the distances of the notes in the melody. It gives the melodic lines a diminished quality. The song’s in a major key so when you combine the melody with the harmonic function of the piece you get a really quirky piece. This song somehow reminds me of one of my earlier compositions Hoop-ti-Du.

That’s Just Lovely– I wrote this tune while I was on my honeymoon in 2008. It’s a ballad that I composed with the help of any instrument at my disposal (I actually write tunes in this manner quite frequently). When I wrote it I had a pretty clear idea of what it would sound like when the band played it. When we played it, the song sounded just as such, and that happens half of the time. The other half of the time I have to do some tweaking of the feel from the rhythm section to get things to settle in.

Sway– I also wrote this tune on my honeymoon last year. This tune is very tricky and we’ve only played it a handful of times thus far. The tricky thing about this tune is that is in 13/8. There is a melody, a counter melody (made up of 13 eighth notes, which keep the song together because they’re played throughout the song), a bassline, and harmony. The title comes from the movement that took place in my body when I tried to feel the rhythm of what I was hearing. What’s funny about this is that when I had the rhythm in my head I thought that it was in 15/8 time, but when I wrote it out it ended up being in 13/8, which doesn’t make it any easier, but it a fun, groovy tune nonetheless.

Sudoku Suite- Now my Sudoku suite is a series of 12 songs that each have their own titles. Those titles together form this phrase: Beauty n Numbers; Obsessive, Compulsive, Disorder, Is, Now, Under, Control, Thanks, (To The), Guidance, (Of Fun and Games) .I wrote this piece at a time in my life when I was dealing with a serious OCD issue involving numbers. I was obviously obsessed with doing Sudoku games but in addition to that I had a compulsion for adding up the numbers on a license plate in my head as I walked down a street. When I would ride on the subway, I would add up number in all of the ads on the trains (usually involved phone numbers). So writing this suite out somehow caused this serious disorder to subside to the point now in my life that it’s not an issue.

If any of you readers out here would like to hear some of these tunes in their entirety send me an email to requesting the sound files and I’ll gladly send you some live tracks.

Keep swingin,

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
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