How High the Moon

Our next jam is Sunday, February 7th. That's right, Super Bowl Sunday. We've competed against the football game the last 5 years and have done well, no noticeable drop off at all.

If football's not your thing you won't be disappointed at the jam. We have a powerhouse lineup scheduled: Ken Hoffman, a terrific tenor sax player; Johannes Wallmann, director of UW's jazz program on keys; one of Madison busiest bassists, John Christensen; and a great drummer and educator, Rodrigo Villanueva.  As always, musicians and fans alike are welcome!

The featured 1st set tune is, "How High the Moon." This is a must-know jazz song. At one point it was the most recorded jazz tune, and several songs, including Charlie Parker's "Ornithology," have been written using its chord structure.  The form is ABAB1. The A section is a series of 2-5-1 progressions descending by a whole step. We saw this structure in last month's, "Solar," and in the next 2 months we'll see it again in, "Tune-Up," and "Afternoon in Paris." The B sections are primarily repeating 2-5 cadences back to the home key.

A song like this is ideal for practicing 2-5 ideas. Turn on your metronome and play 2-5 licks while thinking of the chords and keeping your place in the song. When that's solid you might want to try playing with a backing track.

Below are several youtube recordings useful for learning the melody and copping solo ideas. The Ella Fitzgerald version has incredible scatting and throat singing.

Jazz Residency Reviewed

Glen Stevens Elementary School Jazz Residency

With Jazz Musician, Laurie Lang and Music Teacher, Regina Haugen

October 2 – 9, 2015

Last week, 500 kids felt the vibrations of the bass violin “up close and personal,” as each student had the “hands on” opportunity to play the magical Super Hooper, while he was visiting Stevens with Ms. Lang during this elementary jazz residency sponsored by the Greater Madison Jazz Consortium. They learned about how jazz swings, by moving and grooving their bodies. They sang the blues and wrote some blues to get out their sad feelings. They improvised notes and words, scatting over the rhythm changes song form. They learned about and learned to sing several jazz standard songs: C Jam Blues (Ellington), I Got Rhythm (Gershwin), My Favorite Things (Rodgers & Hammerstein, jazz version: Coltrane), Over the Rainbow (Arlen & Harburg). They experienced how the music swings in varying time signatures, 4/4, 3/4, and 5/4. The whole week ended in an all school concert where various grade levels performed by singing and playing string instruments and with a 5-piece professional jazz band; lead by Ms. Lang on bass, and including Jan Wheaton, vocals; Jon Vriesacker, violin; Jim Erickson, piano; Chris Sandoval, drums.

The music teacher, Ms. Haugen and jazz musician Ms. Lang began their planning in the spring before the previous school year ended. Ms. Lang visited the classroom to observe and interact with Ms. Haugen in her classroom environment. They created a plan for the beginning of the new school year, to kick off the year with lessons leading up to the jazz residency. Ms. Haugen incorporated jazz listening, learning jazz songs and jazz vocabulary into her normal lesson plans for September. Lang and Haugen tighten up the plans in early September to make the residency successful in reaching the children with more than just a one time exposure to jazz but to really experience it from several dimensions having language to embrace the improvisational concepts.

When Ms. Lang arrived for the week of jazz, the children were able participate with singing the blues and improvising scat singing with the jazz musicians. While all the children participated in “call and response” types of jazz improvisation as a group, several were able to voluntarily come to the front of the class and work freely with Diva Jan, Jazzy Jim and Ms. Laurie, demonstrating trading measures of improvisation both vocally and some even on the piano. There was lots of large motor moving to the music and stories about famous jazz musicians and jazz music. One brave 2nd grade student even volunteered to help read a picture book with many challenging jazzy words.

In the concert, the jazz quintet and whole school performed the jazz standards together, while the 2nd – 5th grade classes were each featured by coming to the front to perform from their song from the risers with Ms. Haugen conducting. Beginning 5th grade string musicians got to play their instruments on C –Jam blues and the jazz quintet demonstrated improvised solos on every tune. The whole event was fun, crazy, improvised and well planned to make a great jazz experience for everyone.


Blues in Hoss Flat

One of the attractions of a jazz jam is it's unpredictability. You never know who is going to show up, what tunes will be played, or how well everything will sync. On Sunday, the trio of Paul Muench, Devin Drobka, and John Mesoloras were playing together for the 1st time and you would never have guessed. These guys were locked in and the result was snappy and crisply swinging, or as Devin said, "the music had bounce."

It was also fun catching up with bassist Nick Anderson. Nick was the house bassist for the jam for the 1st 6 months or so until he moved out of town. He lives in Philadelphia now and was in Madison visiting relatives. Nick said this is the 1st time he's played jazz since he left. Right now he's busy developing a pilot for a children's musical television show. Wow.

We also had another out-of-towner. Connor stopped in to play melodica and keyboard and I believe he said he lives in Fort Atkinson, Iowa. Connor must have had a good time because he plans to be back next time!

Next time is January 17th and the band is Darren Sterud - trombone, Ben Ferris - bass, Michael Brenneis - drums, and Paul Muench again on keyboard. The featured tune is Count Basie's smokin', "Blues in Hoss Flat." I was turned on to this tune a few years ago when it was played at the jam. It was a big hit and if you don't know it, listen to the video below and you'll hear why.

Sheet music will probably be hard to find, but it's a simple repeating riff so should be easy to figure out and remember. We'll play the main theme and if you learn some of the background fills you get extra credit! Here's a video of "Blues in Hoss Flat", and just for fun, a classic video of Jerry Lewis lip-synching to the same tune.