Archive for stories

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

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