Spring overview: Marquis Hill, John Thulin and Christian Howes groups

Marquis Hill 5 croppedMarquis Hill (trumpet) CHRIS McBRIDE (alto sax)JUSTIN THOMAS (vibes)JOSHUA RAMOS (bass)MAKAYA McCRAVEN (drums)
These young men are so energetic, bright and generous with their musical gifts. This group was pure pleasure to work with. They shared things about their music which was so basic yet profound. They did GREAT job of showing musical examples that the audience at every level of understanding was hanging with them. The fluidity and connection of Chris and Marquis was remarkably intuitive. During the session we spoke about that and they modeled several examples and then asked audience members to give it a try. The whole band was smart.. from the way they dressed to their posture, from using solid technique to pushing the limits.
john thulin
John Thulin (piano), JEFF HAMANN (bass), BRIAN RITTER (drums)
This trio was grooving, conversational and delightfully harmonic. The essence of this trio was all about longtime musical relationships and listening. These talented and experineced musicians are generous and downright unassuming. We talked about what makes their ensemble special and John really could not articulate it because it was so much an extension of his own playing he could not seperate it out. John is an amazing accompanist to the other musicians solos, which is very rare in a piano lead trio. great session with lots of audience interaction.
Christian Howes (violin)Vijay Tellis-Nayak (keyboard) Rich Stitzel (drums) Christian could be a 1 man show and sometime in the future i would love to hear him do a solo show, few artists are able to pull that off but he could. Christian has mastered the use of his looper and creates some compositions that balance on the loop he creates. Christian performed with Vijay Tellis-Nayak on keyboard and Rich Stitzel on drums who are high level great musicians but the group needed more rehearsal. They played together very well and would have been much more cohesive toward the end of a month tour together. Rich and Christian spoke intelligently about the ensemble and what it takes to make Howes music special. Rich a very colorful and melodic drummer has some gems he shared and showed us. The high point of the workshop was when there were 5 violinists on stage and Christian lead them in a song building the groove and accompaniment together with each violinist taking a solo. It was clear that Christian is an amazing educator by the way he lead that piece making sure everyone on stage was comfortable, confident and successful.

Next jam May 4, 2014

We had a cozy jam session on Sunday. Many high school students were out of town on spring break, two jazz concerts overlapped with the jam (jazz violinist Chris Howes at the Brink, The Darren Sterud Orchestra at the Cardinal), and we were not at our usual 3rd Sunday of the month. For those that were there it was great: the band was fantastic and we all got to play a lot!

Everything should be back to normal on May 3rd. The band is Eric Koppa - sax/educator, Dave Stoler - piano, Nick Moran - bass, and Michael Brenneis - drums. The tune-of-the-week is Cherokee. This tune is usually called at a very rapid tempo and involves many key changes. It is a great tune to work on fundamentals and fast tempos. Educational notes from  Michael B-B are below. You may also want to check out articles about playing fast tempos - see here and here. Greg Fishman also has a nice article about playing Cherokee.

Learning to play Cherokee is a long term project. If you haven't worked on it before it's good to start now, but don't be afraid to come to the jam with a different tune in mind. Previous and future tunes-of-the-week are good alternatives. Previous tunes are listed here, and future tunes are on the schedule page which we just updated.

Jazz Violinist: Christian Howes Trio with Hamilton Hardin and Cedric Easton This Sunday, April 13

This will be a treat for string players of all types. Please come to hear the MMC sponsored concert but more importantly bring your instrument willingness to learn and interact with this GREAT band as they share the stage with you for the IMW this month.

Christian Howes
christian howes
with Hamilton Hardin (keyboards) and Cedric Easton (drums)
Sunday, April 13
Concert: 3-5 pm
Improvisational Music Workshop: 6-7 pm
@ The Brink Lounge
701 E. Washington Ave. Madison, WI

Jazz violinist, educator, and producer Christian Howes grew up in Columbus, Ohio, where he studied classically from the age of five, performing as a soloist with the Columbus Symphony Orchestra at age 16 and later receiving his bachelor’s degree in Philosophy from the Ohio State University.
At age twenty, a “cultural intervention” occurred when Christian had the opportunity to perform at regular gospel church services. “Playing in the gospel church services influenced me to change musical directions. The experience was so different from the classical music world; it felt fresh and inspiring. It became my mission to become a violinist with a strong voice in jazz.” Since his shift 21 years ago, he has gained great notoriety from critics and players alike as one of the world’s most respected jazz violinists. Christian was a favorite of the late Les Paul, with whom he worked for 11 years. Says Christian of his mentor, “Les defied categorization in terms of age or genre. His character, approach to life, and musicianship taught me many valuable lessons.” From 2001-2010 Howes become an in-demand violinist on the New York scene, collaborating with a bevy of top shelf jazz artists, including Greg Osby, D.D. Jackson, Frank Vignola, Joel Harrison, Dafnis Prieto, Dave Samuels, Spyro Gyra, and a 4-year chair in Bill Evans’ “Soulgrass” band.
In 2013, he was voted among the top three violinists in JazzTimes’ “2012 Expanded Critics Poll“. In August 2011, Christian was ranked as the #1 “Rising Star” violinist in the Downbeat Critics Poll. He was a nominee for the Jazz Journalists Association’s “Violinist Of The Year” in 2011. In 2012, he received the Residency Partnership from Chamber Music America for his work in outreach with orchestral education programs. He regularly tours throughout Asia, Europe, and the U.S. as a leader of his own groups and a soloist with orchestras. Says All About Jazz, ”as a jazz violinist he has no peer.” The Minneapolis Tribune called Christian “arguably the most intriguing young violinist in jazz.” According to the Chicago Reader, “Not since Jean Luc Ponty has a violinist ranged from pure classical to fuzz-tone rock to convincing jazz with such authority.”
After releasing a string of independently released CDs as a leader, he signed with Resonance Records in 2008 and released two critically acclaimed CDs. The first, “Heartfelt,” featuring pianist Roger Kellaway, features ballads and lyrical works. “Out of the Blue” released in 2010 features guitarist Robben Ford, and demonstrates a wide range of modern and traditional sensibilities, steeped in the blues.
Rich was trained in drums & percussion at the prestigious University of
North Texas from 1990 to 1995 where he studied with Ed Soph, Mike
Drake, and Rich MacDonald. While in Texas Rich found himself in live
and studio situations with many world class artists including Andy
Timmons (Olivia Newton John), Keith Carlock (Sting, Steely Dan),
Aden Bubeck (Miranda Lambert), Bill Ham (Cher), Lou Carfa (Maynard
Furgeson), and many, many others.
Rich has given master classes, clinics, and taught music camps all
over the country. He is the author of a four-way independence book
“Directions In Drumming”, and has put out two solo cdʼs of original
compositions. Rich is also a teaching artist for Raviniaʼs “reach, teach,
and play” outreach program where he visits the Chicago Public
Elementary Schools and teaches jazz & classical music to K-3 grade.
Rich has always kept a very busy performing, recording, and touring
career. He has toured throughout the United States, as well as
internationally including Mexico, Canada, Spain, Italy, Greece, Turkey,
Egypt, and Sinai. He has worked with many artists in all genres
including legendary soulstress Mary Wilson of the Supremes 2002, the
Grammy nominated rocker Cathy Richardson (Jefferson Starship)
2004-2009, guitar genius Joel Hoekstra (Night Ranger) 2004-2009,
Platinum selling & Grammy winning country superstar Miranda
Lambert 2007, jazz violin whiz Christian Howes (Les Paul Trio, Bill
Evans) 2001, superstar saxman Cornelius Bumpus (Steely Dan,
Doobie Brothers) 2001, world music songstress/blues diva Anne Harris
(Otis Taylor, Jefferson Starship) 2004-present, transcendent folk/
country artist Ernie Hendrickson (2008 – present), as well as a plethora
of equally amazing artists from all over the country, and countless
world class musicians for recording & live work.
Vijay's began playing piano at the age of five. His musical
acclaim began early, winning local piano competitions. Starting at
ten years old, he won the Eastern Illinois University Young
Composers Contest three years in a row, garnering national
attention for his orchestral compositions. He continued studying
music and began performing professionally in high school on
piano and guitar. He attended Northwestern University on
scholarship from the Oak Park Arts Alliance and received a
bachelors degree in Music Technology in 1997. During that time,
he studied recording arts as well as jazz and classical piano,
composition, music theory and communication studies. In 1999
Vijay received his masters degree from Northwestern University's
Communication Studies department. During undergraduate
studies, Vijay began performing with Chris Clemente and Chris
Siebold in what would become "Kick the Cat".
In addition to currently being a member of Kick the Cat, Ernie
Denov's "Bad Dog U", Nicholas Barron Hyperactive, Band of
Joes, Frank Catalano Group, and Louis Stockwell Organ
Quartet, Vijay has performed with Fareed Haque Group, Orbert
Davis, Bill Quateman, Street Dancer, Luis Ewerling's Acor do
Brasil, the national tours of The Lion King and Wicked, Sumo,
Kalyan Pathak's Jayho Jazzmata, Tributosaurus, Brother
Brother, Mike Ferro's Townsound, Funk House, Ross Bon and
too many others to name.
In addition to performing, Vijay also is one of the owners of the
celebrated Chicago recording studio Curried Bagel Recording

Next jam on April 13th

We had a nice jam yesterday. Not as many jammers (which meant everyone got to play more), but a larger audience with new faces, including a couple from Viroqua and another table from Northern Illinois. We pass out feedback survey forms to new audience members and it is always very positive.  Here are some responses received yesterday to the question, "What did you like most about today's program?"

  • mentorship and encouragement
  • variety of player's experience
  • young artists performing
  • they play great together and individually

Those four comments encapsulate much of the jam experience. We'll have more of the same at our next jam this Sunday, April 13th. We'll also have another all-star band: Johannes Wallmann on piano, John Christensen on bass, Joey Banks on drums, and Dave Cooper on trumpet and as our educator.  By the way, this group is playing at 8 pm Saturday at the Fountain. Check em out!

The tune of the week for April 13th is "Alone Together." Look below in the Tunes section for Michael B-B's helpful notes, and see Learn Jazz Standards for videos and chord sheets.

Alone Together

Alone Together, by Howard Dietz and Arthur Schwartz, is a prime example of their American Songbook writing which often featured non-standard phrase lengths and alternation between the major and minor modes on the same root.

So, I approach this tune a bit differently. Trading “fours” is not very practical, due to the fact that the phrases are not in four-bar chunks. I focus on the harmony, and let the form flow on its own.

The Big Item here is the wide variety of II-V-I changes in this single song. We get them in D min, G min, A Maj and F Maj. In addition, we get min II-V to a Major chord as well! So, how to negotiate this thicket of chords? Start at the beginning, of course!

Each chord has a scale that goes with it, we are all aware of that, RIGHT? Right. But, the use of that scale is controlled by rhythm, not just harmony. Here is a method for putting the chord tones ON the beat, guaranteed, every time. Once you can do this mechanically or intellectually, it will become your standard way of hearing things. THAT is one of the biggest goals in training the Mind's Ear for improvisation.

The best starting point, for ANY tune, to get that harmony in your Mind's Ear, and aligned properly is to find the first 5 notes of the scale that fits the FIRST chord of each measure. Ignore the second chord for now, if there is one. That comes later, when you can play 16th notes on the changes. Play them from the root of the chord, in 1/8 notes, stopping at the fifth of the chord. Simple. Run this pattern of material through the entire piece. Perhaps you will find it a simple matter, maybe you will find that it is not so easy. If it is not so easy, you now know what to practice!

Practicing jazz is, in many ways, harder than actually playing it. It's like preparing a canvas for the picture. Without preparation, the picture can sag, the canvas might not last, and the image you want to project will not be in proportion, that sort of thing.

The first five notes for each chord, which, for you pianists out there, is nothing more than a five-finger position, are the best starting point. Some examples for the music at hand:

Dm = D-E-F-G-A.
Em7b5 = E-F-G-A-Bb.
A7b9 = A-Bb-C#-D-E.
Am7b5 = A-Bb-C-D-Eb.
D7b9 = D-Eb-F#-G-A.
Gm and Gm7 = G-A-Bb-C-D.
Bm7 = B-C-D-E-F#. (Treatment of Bm7 as a III chord here.)
E7 = E-F#-G#-A-B.
D Maj7 = D-E-F#-G-A.

There is a wide range of five-note patterns here in this diverse group of chords and keys. Lots of use of the harmonic minor scale, where all those lowered ninths come from. Not easy, but also not insurmountable when you have the key to unlock the harmony, and let a line flow through those various key centers.

A few edits here in the changes:Michael BB photo and bio

  • Meas. 7-8 are usually played as Gm7- C7
  • Meas. 11 usually has Fmaj7 to Bb Maj7 in it, rather than F to F7
  • On the bridge, meas. 7 of the bridge should have the same F Maj7- Bb Maj7 movement as the corresponding place in the chorus.

We have 14 bars in the chorus, but the bridge is of a regular 4 and 4 structure. Keep your balance through these two levels, sort of like walking with one foot on the sidewalk, and one foot off the curb!

Remember, a plain minor chord is NOT like a minor 7th chord. It gets the same first five notes, but the similarity ends there. A plain minor chord is a tonic chord, and gets the melodic minor. A min 7th chord moves to a Dom 7th and gets the Dorian mode most often.

If this approach seems easy and flows well, move on to the next level, which is to arpeggiate ALL the chords, in 1/8 notes, from the root up, through the song.

Enjoy working through this well-known but unusual song. See you at the jam!