Historical Spotlight - Art Tatum

Born in 1909 in Toldeo, Ohio, Arthur Tatum Jr. is known for his incredible technical dexterity and his near blindness. His formal training came from the Toledo School of Music (where he learned to read sheet music in Braille), but he was primarily self taught by ear. By the age of 19, Art Tatum was playing with Jon Hendricks at Toledo jazz clubs and attracting the attention of national greats such as Armstrong, Ellington, and Basie. He began touring in 1932, modeling his jazz trio after Nat “King” Cole’s.


Tatum’s technical prowess is undeniable, but his uniquely ornate style has led to controversy on whether or not he can be called an “official” jazz musician. Nevertheless, Tatum was an extremely influential idol for many bebop players (Charlie Parker and Bud Powell, to name some well-known Tatum followers).

Unfortunately, Tatum (like many other iconic jazz musicians) suffered from drug-induced health complications. In his case, his excessive drinking finally took its toll in the form of euremia, and he died in 1956 at the age of 47.

Laura E. Brandt is a home-schooled part-time student at UW-Madison.


Eddie Gomez joins Rodrigo Villanueva, April 5th at the Brink

Eddie Gomez posterWe have amazing musicians in our house band pool. Rodrigo Villanueva, one of our drummers,  is currently on tour with multi-Grammy winner and jazz legend Eddie Gomez.  Best known for his 11 years with the legendary Bill Evans Trio, Eddie Gomez has also performed with jazz giants Dizzy Gillespie, Gerry Mulligan, Benny Goodman, and Miles Davis.
Eddie and his pianist Stefan Karlsson have worked together for over 20 years and Rodrigo is joining them for their Midwest tour. They'll be at the Brink Lounge on April 5th. The show starts 8 pm. Advance tickets are available via the Brink Lounge website.


April 6 and 13, 2014

Daffodil painting
Buds by Jan Walczak

Our upcoming jams in April are the 6th and 13th. It is exceedingly rare that we deviate from our routine schedule of 1st and 3rd Sundays of the month, but the 3rd Sunday is Easter so we moved it up.

Our April 6th jam is special because Mark Davis is joining us for the first time on piano. Mark is the Chair of the jazz program at the Wisconsin Conservatory of Music in Milwaukee. You can read more about him in this recent profile by OnMilwaukee.com. The rest of the band will be great as always: Nick Moran on bass, Rand Moore on drums, and Eric Koppa on sax and as our educator. The tune of the week is St Thomas and you can read more about that in the "Tunes" section. See you there!


St Thomas

St Thomas album coverSonny Rollins wrote St Thomas and released it on his Saxophone Colossus album. He has said it is based on a song sung to him by his mother (who had Caribbean origins) in his childhood.

St Thomas has an  infectious lilting melody. The chord progression is fairly simple but the chords move by fast. In my experience I sound better on this song if I worry less about the chords and generalize over C major for the A section. If you listen to Sonny much of his solo is based on developing and extending motifs. Rhythmic figures also work well. The chords move slower over the B section so ideas that outline the chords work better here.

You can find chord charts and videos here. It's a relatively easy tune, a fan favorite, and fun to play.




Corcovado March 16th

The tune-of-the-week for our jam on March 16th is Corcovado. Also known as Quiet Nights of Quiet Stars, it is a bossa nova song written by Antonio Carlos Jobim in 1960.

Most people play the real book version of this song and we will too. The original version, however, gives insight into Jobim's intentions, and is helpful for analysis of the chord progression. A pdf of the original is available here. Chord charts and videos are also available at Learn Jazz Standards.

The progressions of Corcovado may seem intimidating at first. Rather than worry about all the theory just keep in mind the essence of many Jobim songs is chord change by descending (chromatic) voices. Focus on making the half step changes between chords and you'll be off to a good start.

Listen to Gilberto, Jobim, and other bossa nova originators and you'll hear simple, beautiful melodies. Use your ears and try to play your own beautiful melodies. You'll likely have more success with this approach than worrying about what scale to play over each chord.

If you crave harmonic analysis here is a quick outline of one way to think about Corcovado (Jobim's songs often yield to different harmonic interpretations):

The form is ABAC and the A sections are in F, and the B and C sections are in C. On a macro level it is about 4 moving to 1. First the 4 key (F) is established in A and then it moves down to the tonic (C) in B and C.  In B it never makes it to the tonic because the turnaround leads back to the 6 chord, a false cadence. In the C section it takes an additional 4 bars (12 rather than 8) but this time makes it all the way to the 1 chord of C.