Thank You!

The Coordinating Committee for Madison Jazz Jam wants to thank everyone who contributed with a gift or by spreading the word during our fundraising effort this past weekend.  We needed a minimum of $1000 to support our grant to the John and Carolyn Peterson Charitable Foundation and we raised $2470! Thank you everyone!

Even though we won't know the status of the grant until sometime in August, we are going ahead with plans for twice monthly jam sessions. We'll have more details soon.

Tunes for June 12th

Yesterday's jam was a blast, one of the best yet! We'll talk more about that soon but first let's focus on the tunes for the 1st set next time. We've done a blues every month since September so we'll take a break and work on Song For My Father, and Take The A Train. Now you have a whole month to work on them.

Some tunes we may play in the 2nd set because they were on the sign-up sheet but we never got to them: Pent-Up House, Margie, and Scrapple From The Apple.

So far everyone seems okay with the tunes we've selected, but we don't want this to be overly managed. This is your jam session and we'd love to hear from you, especially if you don't like the choices. What can you do? Pick a different tune from one of the lists on the site. What if the tune you want to play isn't listed? In that case we might not know it well enough to play. For example, even though St Louis Blues is famous it isn't a common jam tune so we had to scramble to find music for it at this last jam. How can you help? Bring in sheet music (concert key at least) or contact us ahead of time with your tune choice - use the contact form or make a comment in the suggestion box.

An audience member's perspective

We appreciate the many thanks received from audience members, parents, and musicians. Jan Walczak attended the jam for the first time yesterday and afterwards was so effusive in her praise that I suggested she jot down a few of her impressions. Jan took this seriously; she wrote a beautiful note that deserves its own post. Here's Jan: 

Attending the Madison Jazz Jam May 15 I heard some exceptional and truly enjoyable music. With professional sax, keyboard, drums and bass musicians, were high school music students from the area who came with their parents to Lilianna’s restaurant in Fitchburg for an afternoon of participation, inspiration, motivation, applause and affirmation. 

It is said that “it takes a village to raise a child.” Those in attendance at Lilianna’s embodied that village. There was Perry, the owner of Lilianna’s, who video and photographed the event. There was Dan, a music educator who offered instruction to the students and jazz lovers in the audience. There were the parents who encouraged and sat with their on-deck students, later applauding, smiling, beaming. There were the professional musicians who by virtue of their disciplined practice and ongoing labor of love, inspired all of us with their sheer accomplishment of soul-stirring music: St. Louis Blues, Solar, Have you met Miss Jones, Black Orpheus, The A Train. There were the musician’s spouses, my daughter among them, who are so proud of their mates. There was myself, a retired educator, who watched the student’s faces, initially earnest and eventually smiling as their confidence built. There was the idea that this Sunday afternoon opportunity, an alternative to other possible peer pressure behavior, could propel a student into the practice necessary to become a better musician and human being. 

One mother shared that there is no place her son would rather be than at this event. There is the idea that these soon to become adults may be the future Jazz Jam developers for the next generation of students. 

One particular moment that I wish I could have been close enough to photograph was the sight of a curly headed student drummer looking up at a tall professional bass player who was presumably mentoring him. By the end of the last set, the drummer showed considerable percussionist spunk, the applause quickened and prolonged to the point that the young drummer raised both of his drumsticks and smiled. 

I cannot remember a recent Sunday that afforded such heart warming hope for us as a village.

Details for upcoming jam, and creating roadmaps

Our next jam is coming up soon, Sunday May 15th 4-7 pm at Liliana's. It will be another good one. This month we have an especially strong band with bassist John Christensen  joining us (Alison Margaret Quartet, Madison Mellophonium Jazz Orchestra), Michael BB returning on keys, and Rand back on drums. Of course, Dan will be playing sax and dispensing his usual instructional pearls.

Tenor Madness and Four are the suggested tunes to prepare for the first set.  Both tunes are often taken uptempo but we'll take them at a comfortable midtempo. If you've been working on these since they were announced as the tunes for this month you should have the melodies close to memorized.

Here are Sun Prairie Band Director Steve Sveum's notes on Tenor Madness:

  • Tenor Madness – Sonny Rollins – “Tenor Madness” – REB I
  • 12 bar blues in Bb with bebop melody and a ii-V7 – I the last four bars
  • more advanced blues – melody anticipates the 3-b7 voiceleading in the first 8 measures
  • 2 blues scales apply
  • can introduce bebop scale 1 7 b7 6 5 4 3 2 1
  • work on ii-V vocabulary

I highly recommend attending Patrick Breiner's transcription class this Sunday May 8th, 2:30-4pm. The class will be going through parts of a solo from Sonny Rollins' Tenor Madness. The Blues by Five transcription class was very helpful. More info is available on his blog.

Four is harmonically more complex than the other tunes we've worked on so far. Knowing the melody and hearing it internally is very important for soloing off the melody. To improvise off the underlying chord sequence it helps to understand what's going on in the harmony. I highly recommend Jerry Coker's book, "Hearing the Changes."  Applying the concepts taught in this book will help you to recognize and hear common chord progressions.

In the appendix he talks about using numerals for chords to create a roadmap outline of a chord progression. For example, a common blues starts on the 1 chord, moves to the 4 chord in the 5th bar, back to the 1 chord, and so forth. Most improvising musicians think and talk about chord progressions this way. I create a roadmap for every new tune I learn. Below is my roadmap for Four. On the left is the progression and on the right are notes to help me remember and think about what's going on. Each cell of the progression represents 2 beats (up to the black line is 4 bars). Some cells have 2 entries to indicate a common substitute chord.

My roadmap will probably be different from yours or some other people. There are multiple ways to think about and notate what's going on; the main thing is to develop a system that works for you. Ask your teacher about this or check out Jerry's book for more.