Archive for freddie

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….


Nothing to Hide Liner Notes

Posted in Improvisation, jazz trumpet music, Musical Influences, Performance with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 4, 2010 by pogo56

Hello all,

Since many folks that I know are checking out Nothing to Hide in the digital only format, I thought that I’d copy a sketch of the liner notes that I wrote for the album here. Digital formats have a big drawback where you only get the music, not the story behind the concept and the players. It’s sad to see. Most of the history I obtained about this music came from liner notes and books. This will probably assist in informing you on where each song’s concept came from as well as information about the player’s on the record. Here are the notes:

The concept for Nothing to Hide stems from the idea that I am an open book when it comes to paying homage to the trumpeters and musicians that influenced my styles of playing, composing, and arranging.

Fly Little Bird Fly: I developed a love for this Donald Byrd composition after hearing Darren Barrett, one of my musical mentors, perform it with his band on several occasions. Donald takes this tune at a breakneck tempo on the original Blue Note recording. I decided to arrange it in 5/4 time and play at slower pace. The staggered entrances and exits for this track was an idea of mine that was inspired by Wayne Shorter’s composition entitled Unity. I like to call this method the “Unity” method.

Nothing to Hide: I drew inspiration in composing this tune from a Kurt Rosenwinkel composition entitled Undercover. In 2008 I became the first trumpet player to be hired by the iconic guitarist. When performed live, Nothing to Hide, played in 13/4 time, features everyone in the band. It’s an epic tune that tends to cover many moods throughout the course of the performance. We usually open or close a set by playing this tune.

LaRue: My intention for this arrangement was to showcase one of my favorite Clifford Brown compositions (LaRue) and add a dash of another (Delilah), which occurs at the end of this track. The original recording of LaRue featured Kenny Dorham’s great hornwork, so I wanted to pay homage to him on this recording as well by documenting this tune. In arranging this song I decided to speed the tempo a bit and incorporate the bass figure from one of my original compositions entitled Laid Up, which appears on my previous release Songbook.

The Gigolo: This is one the more risky arrangements that I chose to present on this recording. I arranged this Lee Morgan original in 9/4 time using a bass line from an excerpt from my Sudoku Suite entitled Guidance that has a coda section which features Lee Fish. This rendition of The Gigolo is taken at a brisker pace as compared to the original version recording on Morgan’s record of the same name.

Strength and Sanity: Booker Little is one of the most underrated, unrecognized trumpeters in the history of this music. His untimely death in 1961 at the age of 23 was a huge blow to the continuum of jazz trumpeters, especially considering the death of Clifford Brown 5 years earlier. The first time I heard this composition, I was instantly wrapped up in its serenity. Booker’s body of compositions taught me not only to disregard my fear of dissonance, but to actually embrace it in my style of writing and arranging. I didn’t stray too far away from the properties of the original recording on the track.

Here and Now: The complete working title for this tune is: Where is the Place and Time for Everything that Everyone’s Been Talking About? Here and Now. It’s enlightening to perform this waltz because I enjoy the exchange with Michael Thomas, while at the same time we also share the responsibility of playing the 4 bars of the melody while the other improvises. To me, it’s a fun, simple, musical challenge. This particular version also features Greg’s great guitar work.

Luana: This tune and the original record that it’s on have a special place in my heart. Freddie Hubbard’s Hub Cap was one of the first albums that I owned of Freddie as a leader. The first time I heard Luana I knew I had to transcribe it and perform it with my band at the time. I then had the great fortune of meeting Freddie Hubbard in Boston and was fortunate enough to talk shop and have his signature on the cover of Hub Cap. For the version on this album I reigned in the tempo a bit and combined Freddie’s melody and harmonic progression with a tune of mine entitled Preservation of the Lower 9th Ward (aka Lower 9th Ward). Maybe you’ll hear that tune on a later release or at a live performance because we perform it quite often.

Half Nelson: This Miles Davis original was arranged in 9/4 time by Lee Fish. Lee brought in this arrangement around the time when we started rehearsing these songs. As soon as we played it, I thought that it would be a great fit to the set. The intro to this song also serves as the outro, where Lee is featured.

I’m extremely excited to present to you the members of my working band. We perform weekly (Friday and Saturday evenings, as well as Sunday afternoon) at Wally’s Café in Boston’s historic South End. I’ve been presenting quintets and trios there every weekend since 2000. I may be the only musician of my generation that’s held a residency at the same club for this amount of time. This is something that I’m proud of because I enjoy bringing the music to the people in such an intimate setting as Wally’s Café. Over the course of my residency there, I’ve had the great fortune of having some of the most creative, young minds in this music on the stage and this is the latest batch:

Michael Thomas: Michael joined the working band in 2009. Hearing him in his element always makes me wonder if there’s anything that he can hear that he can’t play. He is one of those players that give you the impression that nothing comes between what he hears in his musical imagination and his instrument. If I played alto, I know that I would be checking out Michael’s style for reference. A recent graduate of Berklee College of Music and the New England Conservatory, Michael’s talents have already taken him to stages big and small in the U.S. and abroad to countries such as Latvia and Panama.

Greg Duncan: I have had the distinct pleasure of having Greg in the band for the past four years. His instrumental versatility and instincts go far beyond what he plays in his own solos. I’ve found him to be one of the more inventive accompanists that I’ve gotten to play with thus far. One word that comes to mind when I hear Greg improvise in this particular context is fluid. When he plays, the thoughtful ear is informed of how much extensive homework Greg has done on his instrument to get to where he is now.

Lim Yang: Lim’s a solid bassist who joined the outfit almost two years ago. Originally from South Korea, Lim made the move to Boston to study music. I was very lucky to become acquainted with Lim’s playing when I did because it happened to be around the time when the bassist in my band was making the move to NYC. Lim stepped in and made an immediate positive impression which led me to believe that her contribution to the band would be invaluable. She’s proven me right.

Lee Fish: Of all the members of the band, Lee’s been a member the longest. Lee’s got big ears, great instincts, and has an extremely balanced sound on the drum set, which is paramount in a recording situation. Lee’s also a talented composer and arranger.


My New Record is Available Now!!

Posted in Improvisation, jazz trumpet music, Performance with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 13, 2010 by pogo56

I’m proud to announce that my newest cd entitled Nothing to Hide is now available by clicking here. If you live in Boston, you can also purchase them from me at my weekly gig at Wally’s Jazz Cafe on Friday and Saturday nights as well as Sunday afternoons. I’ll probably always have some on me so if you see me playing somewhere else you can also grab a copy then too.

Onward and upward!


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