Things Aint What They Used to Be, and Beatrice

Our next jam isn't until August 6th, that gives you 3 weeks to practice our featured tunes: Things Aint What They Used To Be, and Beatrice. Our aim is to feature an easier and more advanced tune at each jam, and remember, you don't have to play these tunes - you can prepare and perform any jazz tune.

Things Aint What They Used To Be is a 1942 jazz standard written by Mercer Ellington and performed by the Duke Ellington Orchestra. It is a 12 bar blues. Big band arrangements typically play the original version with a new melody for the 2nd chorus. Small groups often omit the second chorus and just repeat the 1st 12 bars again. It's nice to know the 2nd chorus melody but we'll likely omit it. That makes it easy to memorize. Please listen to recorded versions as the real book melody isn't accurate. The song is performed in many different keys, we will do it in F. Learn Jazz Standards has chord sheets and playalongs.

Saxophonist Sam Rivers wrote Beatrice for his wife in 1964.  I discovered this song recently and have been playing it a lot. I love the beautiful melody and the fresh modern sounding harmony.  It uses many b2major - one cadences and I love this sound. Learn Jazz Standards has chord sheets and a playalong. It is in one of the real books, too. Here is Chet Baker's version.  I prefer his treatment of the melody.

July 16 Jam

Hi all,

The jam returns on Sunday, July 16 with a distinguished house band featuring Ken Hoffman (tenor sax), Paul Muench (piano), John Schaffer (bass), and John Lombardo (drums). We can learn a lot from these guys. It's a rare day when Ken Hoffman doesn't bring smiles to listeners' faces. Meanwhile Paul Muench and John Schaffer demonstrate the telepathic connection that comes from years of playing together at Lilliana's and elsewhere. And when he's not playing at the jam, John Lombardo can be heard with his trio, Swingtime Music. John also books our house bands, and we thank him for helping make the jam a success!

The band will back jammers on rewarding tunes by two mid-century masters. First we'll play Thelonious Monk's "Let's Cool One," a mid-tempo number with a distinctive quarter note melody. The lead sheet is in Real Book II, and the song appears on Monk's album, Misterioso (1958). Check the version of "Let's Cool One" on Monk's Complete Riverside Recordings, Vol. IV for a "straighter" reading of the melody. The second featured tune is John Coltrane's "Moment's Notice" from the Blue Train album (1957). You can find the lead sheet in Real Book I. This one is harmonically and structurally challenging, with a 38 bar form that begins with a 22 bar intro.

We look forward seeing old friends and meeting new ones at the next jam on the 16th. See you there!

July 2nd jam

We have a jam tomorrow, yes we do! The rhythm section for our band has played together for many years and always sounds tight. They are Paul Muench, keyboard; John Schaffer, bass; and Rand Moore on percussion. Paul Dietrich on trumpet completes the quartet and I'll be the emcee.

The featured songs are Gravy Waltz, composed by Ray Brown with lyrics by Steve Allen, and  What's New composed by Bob Haggart in 1938 with lyrics added by Johnny Burke in 1939. What's New is a beautiful standard usually played as a ballad. A playalong and various versions by well known jazz artists are available on Learn Jazz Standards. My favorite is by Dexter Gordon.

I'll be honest and admit I never heard of Gravy Waltz until it was recommended for this jam. Wikipedia reports it won a Grammy award in 1961. Written music can be found from any of the sources listed in the Fake Book Index. The original version from YouTube is below. Usually we feature songs that are commonly played at jam sessions, or are especially good vehicles for learning a concept. Sometimes we just want to introduce a great song that has passed under the radar. We'll talk with the band tomorrow and learn more.

One more thing: the schedule for the next 3 months is almost done and will be posted on the schedule page shortly.