The 4th Law of Practicing

 

A few months ago, I wrote a post called The 3 Laws of Practicing. After reading a great book recently, Deep Work by Cal Newport, I’ve decided that there’s another “Practice Law” that can have a real impact on the quality of the work that happens in the practice room.

4. No multitasking.

No Facebook. No Instagram. No Twitter. No Snapchat. No email. No texting. No web surfing.

While each of the above examples serves a purpose in our digital toolbox, none of them are useful during a practice session. The truth of the matter is that the messages and notifications we receive from social media et al. rarely require immediate action on our part. As such, there’s no real need to attend to our digital lives when we’re in the shed.

The real problem with multitasking is that it takes us away from the work we are trying and wanting to do. When indulged while we’re working, the distractions presented by our digital lives prevent us from achieving the level of depth necessary to make meaningful progress in our practice. Ultimately that translates to us maybe doing the work, but not work at the level we are truly capable of doing.

When I apply this “law” in my own practice sessions, that means putting my phone on silent and closing the web browser on my computer. If I’m really intent on avoiding the kinds of interruptions that give way to multitasking, I’ll shut my phone completely down and turn the wi-fi off on my computer. I would shut my computer down as well, but I use a couple of apps in my practice (Transcribe! and Metronomics). These are all things I did before I read Deep Work, but that book really hammered home their importance.

You can find Deep Work here:
Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World

Transcribed: The Go! Album (Part 6 of 6) Dexter Gordon – Three O’Clock In the Morning

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It’s time to wrap this series up and put a bow on it. Rounding out Dexter Gordon’s GO! album is “Three O’Clock In The Morning.” The song was written by Spanish-Argentinian composer Julián Robledo in 1919 and was popularized in the United States by Paul Whiteman in 1922. The song has been recorded numerous times by artists ranging from Harry James to Lou Rawls (my 2nd favorite version next to Dexter’s).  Although the song was originally written as a waltz in three-four time, nowadays it’s typically played in four-four.

In Dexter’s recording, it begins with the piano quoting the chimes of London’s Big Ben clock. Many listeners, myself included, would think this is a nod to the intro of “If I Were A Bell” from Miles Davis’ Relaxin’ With The Miles Davis Quintet album (recorded 1956, released 1958). Both recordings use the Big Ben motif, but the 1922 Paul Whiteman recording also does.

When Dexter enters with the melody, the rhythm section is playing in two. On the second half of the tune, the rhythm section switches to playing in four and they stay there through until Dexter restates the second half of the melody at the end.

I don’t have a lot to say about Dexter’s solo. It is a textbook example of his playing. There are musical quotes, strong bebop vocabulary, he’s playing behind the beat, and most of the notes are tongued.

I hope you have enjoyed this series on Dexter Gordon’s GO! album. I learned and then wrote out these solos a few years ago. It’s been nice to revisit them and to share them with you.

Currently, I am learning John Coltrane’s solo on “Tenor Madness.” I’m in the early stages of that and it will be a while before I write it down.

In other news, a new EP titled shä brē el by Las Vegas artist Sabriel (The title is her name spelled phonetically.) is set for release next week. I played tenor saxophone on it and wrote the horn arrangement for the song “Garden.” It’s definitely worth a listen (or many!).

Transcribed: The GO! Album (Part 5 of 6) Dexter Gordon – Where Are You?

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That sound! From the first note, Dexter pulls you in with that big, beautiful sound.  This is romantic jazz tenor ballad playing at its finest.

The tune, Where Are You? was written in 1937 by Jimmy McHugh and Harold Adamson for the film, “Top of the Town.” Dexter Gordon recorded this version in August 1962. It’s worth noting that Sonny Rollins also recorded this tune in February of that year for his “The Bridge” album.

One more solo to go on the Go! album. Coming up soon with be Part 6 of 6 – “Three O’Clock In The Morning.”

Transcribed: The Go! Album (Part 4 of 6) Dexter Gordon – Love For Sale

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Head and 1st Solo

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2nd Solo, Head, and Vamp

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Here’s a transcription of Love For Sale from Dexter Gordon’s Go! album. It starts off with a 2+3 clave in the drums that’s reminiscent of the beginning of Soy Califa from Dexter’s A Swingin’ Affair album. That feel continues through the “A” sections of the melody and changes to a swing feel in the bridge. When the rhythm section comes back in after Dexter’s solo break, it’s swing all the way.

Toward the end of the 1st solo (m. 197), there’s a tremolo that alternates between G and Bb. That is played by using the fingering below the asterisk and using the tongue to change the voicing of the note as you play it. I think of it as alternating between the syllables “ah” and “ee”. Another way to think of it might be to think of repeating the syllable “yah”. Dexter uses this device frequently as does Cannonball Adderley.

After the piano solo, Dexter comes back for a 2nd solo. Following that, there’s a return to the last “A” section of the melody and a return to the Latin feel from the beginning. After stating the melody, Dexter plays over a vamp and the recording fades out.

I’ll be back soon with Part 5 of this series, the beautiful ballad, “Where Are You?”

Transcribed: The Go! Album (Part 3 of 6) Dexter Gordon – Second Balcony Jump

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Second Balcony Jump is a Rhythm Changes tune by Dexter Gordon. It stands out to me because it has two different melodies. The last two measures of each “A” section is the same, but the rest of the two melodies are completely different.

While revisiting this material, I remembered an interesting fact about this album. Aside from the two ballads on the album, “Guess I’ll Hang My Tears Up To Dry” and “Where Are You?”, Dexter Gordon plays 2 solos on every tune. The general form of the tunes is: melody, tenor solo, piano solo, tenor solo #2, melody.

I’ll be back soon with Part 4 of this series, “Love For Sale”.

Transcribed: The Go! Album (Part 2 of 6) Dexter Gordon – I Guess I’ll Hang My Tears Out To Dry

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Here is the second song from Dexter Gordon’s Go! album, I Guess I’ll Hang My Tears Out To Dry. This is a beautiful ballad written by Jule Styne and Sammy Cahn. When I was learning this solo I checked out some vocal versions of this song. Frank Sinatra, of course, has a great version. The real surprise (at least to me) was a version by Linda Ronstadt with the Nelson Riddle Orchestra. It is incredible!

That’s it for now. I’ll be back with the next installment in this series, Second Balcony Jump, in the next couple days.

Transcribed: The Go! Album (Part 1 of 6) Dexter Gordon – Cheese Cake

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This is a top to bottom transcription of Dexter Gordon on his tune Cheese Cake from the 1962 Go! album. It has the melody, Dexter’s solo, and the final melody with an 8-bar tag. A couple of years ago I decided to transcribe Dexter’s playing on the entire album. I’ll be sharing those transcriptions in upcoming posts.

Transcribed: Joe Henderson – Recordame

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I’ve decided to open up the vaults and share some transcriptions I’ve never posted. This one is Joe Henderson’s solo on Recordame from his 1963 album, Page One.

Transcribed: Joe Henderson – Inner Urge

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I did this transcription several months ago as an assignment for my lessons with Garry Dial. It was the most difficult solo I’d learned to that point and the experience was both rewarding and empowering. It felt really good to know that I was capable of doing that.

Anyway, a couple of notes on the solo. Joe Henderson was a master of rhythm. This rhythmic sophistication is, to me, one of the most intriguing aspects of his playing, but it also presents the greatest challenge when writing out the transcription. In some cases, I just tried to make all of the notes fit within the space in which they were played. I’m sure there are a few different ways to notate some of the more complex phrases.

Notes for a couple of specific spots:

In measure 14, there’s an altissimo D in that measure. To me, it sounds like Joe Hen played the F# (with the front F/fork key) on beat 3 and it cracked, resulting in the altissimo D.

In measure 79 (4th chorus), the “and” of 1 is a harmonic/false fingering. You could finger F# or G while holding down the palm D key. It could be F# or G depending on the intonation of your horn. F# works better for me.

Measure 110 (5th chorus) on beat 4, the A is another harmonic/false fingering. You would finger D while playing that note. If you’re unable to do it, experiment with the voicing (tongue placement). The tongue should be in a slightly higher position. If that doesn’t work, play the fingering for D without the G key (LH3).

At the beginning of the 6th chorus (measure 121), the notes alternate between palm key D and palm D with the fingering for G added.

Hope you enjoy the transcription.

Here’s a recording of me playing along with the solo (warts and all):

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