That was a fun jam today. The music was really happening and the mood festive. Holiday tunes were sprinkled in, we had a Christmas tree, and Paul appeared enamored with the large plastic Santa next to his keyboard. :)

Ultimately, it's the music that matters and having a few pros join us in the second set really kept the energy up.  "Recordame" was the highlight for me and one audience member told me it was worth coming just for that.

Our next jam is January 3rd and we have another great lineup: Paul Dietrich - trumpet, Paul Muench - keys, Devin Drobka - drums, and John Mesoloras - bass. The featured song is "Solar."

Over the next four months we alternate bluesy songs with songs containing a series of descending whole step modulations.  "Solar," "How High The Moon," "Tune-Up," and "Afternoon in Paris" will be featured. The idea is to really hone our skills playing over this common chord progression.

"Solar" is interesting because it is written over a 12 bar blues type form but doesn't sound at all like a blues. In addition, rather than resolving at the end of the form it turns around to resolve at the beginning.  Maybe this cyclical feeling gave rise to it's name? Improvising on this song can feel like riding a merry-go-round that never stops. It is worth thinking about and practicing how to end your solo. As always, your best guides are recordings.

"Solar" is most closely associated with Miles Davis and he is usually credited as the composer, but that is probably not accurate. Miles' version is below. Recordings by other artists, a playalong, and chord changes are all available on Learn Jazz Standards.


Our next jam is December 20 and the featured tune is "Perdido." You can find a playalong track and chord changes at Learn Jazz Standards.

This is a relatively simple riff based tune over changes similar to "I've Got Rhythm." Riff based tunes are fun to play and easy to memorize. Perdido is usually played at a faster tempo and that is where the challenge can be. One strategy is to simplify the changes and think of the 1st 4 bars as simply a 2-5-1 or even simpler, as just Bb major. Another strategy is to create excitement and tension by focusing more on rhythms or riffs rather than harmony. In the video below Ben Webster uses both of these strategies in his solo.

Pay attention to the phrase that ends the song, too. This is a stock ending often referred to an Ellington ending or A Train ending. It's worth memorizing as it is commonly used to end tunes at jams and pick up gigs.