Some words from the Tao Teh Ching

I have a copy of the Tao Teh Ching sitting in my office/studio/practice room that I randomly open up from time to time. It is the edition published by Shambhala and translated by Dr. John C. H. Wu. Today I opened it up to Chapter 63 and read the following:

Do the non-ado.
Strive for the effortless.
Savour the savourless.
Exalt the low.
Multiply the few.
Requite injury with kindness.

Nip troubles in the bud.
Sow the great in the small.

Difficult things of the world
Can only be tackled when they are easy.
Big things of the world
Can only be achieved by attending to their small beginnings.
Thus, the Sage never has to grapple with big things,
Yet he alone is capable of achieving them!

He who promises lightly must be lacking in faith.
He who thinks everything easy will end by finding everything difficult.
Therefore, the Sage, who regards everything as difficult,
Meets no difficulties in the end.

The part of this that really resonated with me was the 3rd stanza, particularly Big things of the world can only be achieved by attending to their small beginnings.

It’s really easy to forgot how many small, yet fundamental things we try to bring together anytime we play music. Recently, I’ve been making an effort to attend to some of the smallest and simplest ideas and make an attempt to achieve a real sense of mastery over them. I hope that by doing this, I can take down some roadblocks that I hit when I’m playing and that I can be a stronger musician as I work toward more challenging endeavors.

Reading this today helped me feel that I’m on a good path with my practice. I hope that you find a little inspiration, as I did, with this passage.

Transcribed: Bill Evans – Oleo

I’ve decided to move on from Hank Mobley for the moment and change strategies. One of the main things I’m working on right is learning tunes. I’ve been working on a couple of rhythm changes heads over the last couple weeks and thought it would be good to transcribe a solo with those changes to tie things together.

This particular solo is taken from the 1958 album, “Everybody Digs Bill Evans.” The trio on this recording is Bill Evans with Sam Jones on bass and Philly Joe Jones on drums. This solo shows Bill Evans using several melodic fragments/shapes and moving them around. This occurs sometimes in the form of a sequence (bars 41-44, 2nd A section of the 2nd chorus), but more often this movement is done chromatically and moves in and out of the changes. It really shows that a strong melodic line can stand on its own, regardless of its relationship to the chord changes.

Rhythmically, parts of this solo were difficult to notate, particularly the 3rd chorus. There is a 3/8 figure (an eighth-note triplet followed by an eighth note) that is played and repeated over the 4/4 meter. This creates a few awkward divisions of the beat, but I think that looking at the transcription while listening to the solo will help anyone make more sense of what’s going on there. It looks more complicated than it really is.

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From the gig: On being wallpaper…

Last night, I played a jazz trio gig for a corporate reception at the MGM Grand Conference Center. My friends, Cocho Arbe and Joel Richman, were playing keys and drums, respectively, and I was playing tenor. As we’re finishing our set-up, the event coordinator comes up to us and tells us that the client is worried about our volume. She then goes on to say that the client wants people at the mixer to do a lot of networking and that we should play softly enough that people don’t realize that there’s a live band playing.

All of this, of course, happened before we had played a single note, much less a sound check.

Musicians get put in situations like this all the time. I think this is the result of a couple of factors. Firstly, having live music can lend an air of sophistication and class to an event. With that said, I think a lot of times when clients are considering this, they think with their eyes and don’t necessarily have a concept of how they would like it to sound. Going back to my gig last night, when the client saw a 5-piece drum kit, microphones for the drums and my saxophone, and monitors for each musician, I think she got a little freaked out. To her, it probably looked loud.

This leads me to my second point, we are professionals and we know what we’re doing. We were playing background music for a reception and were not the featured entertainment (there was none). We were also in a 5,000 square-foot room with 30 foot ceilings. We would have had to really blow it out to be too loud. Our sound guy was also a professional drummer for many years and knew the room and set up the sound for us appropriately.

At the end of the day, none of this really mattered. We played the same as we normally would and no one complained. In fact, many people came up to us during, and after, the gig sharing their appreciation. We weren’t trying to be noticed, but it was nice that a few people did.

Transcribed: Hank Mobley – Cattin’

Here is Hank Mobley’s solo from Cattin’ from The Jazz Message of Hank Mobley, Vol. 1. Cattin’ is a 12-bar blues in Bb. On Hank Mobley’s and Donald Byrd’s solos, there is a 16-bar tag added at the end. It’s 14 bars of a G pedal (F concert) It lands on C (Bb concert) on bar 15 and sets up the break for the next soloist to begin. There is also a measure and a half solo break before the beginning of the first chorus.

I really enjoyed learning this solo. There were a lot of little twists and turns that were revealed in the process. Hank Mobley superimposes some other chords over what the rhythm section is playing in a number of spots. For example, measures 9 and 10 of the first chorus could be interpreted as | Dmin7 / Eb7 / | Abmin7 / Db7 / | played over Dmin7 – G7. There are also cases of tritone substitution in bars 8 and 10 of the second chorus. There are a couple of other things in there too, but I won’t ramble on and risk being too pedantic.

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2010 Adolphe Sax International Competition

At one time in my life, I was a pretty dedicated classical saxophonist. I still geek out about this stuff every now and then and this is one of those times. The 5th Adolphe Sax Competition started on November 1st and continues through the 13th. The competition is held every 4 years in Dinant, Belgium – Adolphe Sax’s birthplace. The competition is completely focused on classical saxophone

There is a live stream available where you can watch the competition. Belgium is in the Central European time zone and is 5 hours ahead of the US east coast, 8 hours ahead of the west coast.

Click here to connect to the live stream.

Read This!: A Jazz Life by John Klopotowski

John Klopotowski’s “A Jazz Life” is a memoir written about master saxophonist Warne Marsh. Klopotowski, a guitarist, was a private student of Marsh’s in 80’s and this book is a chronicle of that time, written in two sections. Part I tells the story of how John ended up studying with Marsh and describes the time they spent together. Part II describes Warne Marsh’s teaching method and has examples of some of the exercises he gave to students.

I read this about a year ago and was amazed at just how deep Warne Marsh’s concept was and how committed he was to his personal development as a musician. I think it’s a great read for any musician.