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NJO Bootleg: The Grinning King

Every once in a while, it can be pretty fun to indulge in a bit of nostalgia and look through some of my old files . . . and look what popped up:

This is a live recording from my SHAPE International Band days of a NATO Jazz Orchestra concert, featuring yours truly on trombone solo. I don’t remember where or when it was. This recording, being live, and sounding like a feed off a sound board, is of course chock full of warts, made worse by the sound engineer obviously using our first tune to set sound levels (you can hear him adjusting as the tune progresses) . . . but we had a pretty darn good band, and in my humble opinion the composition turned out pretty well. This was originally written for Jim Finlayson, a trombonist and friend I knew before I joined the military back in the 2000s.

 

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Upcoming (some day!) Intonation Exercises: Four Part Chorales In Just Intonation book by yours truly

I’ve had the opportunity to work on this little pet project of mine lately, and I think it would be nice to put up a “teaser” showing a glimpse of the materials to be contained within:

Intonation Exercises Preview

The idea is to help train proper intonation by precisely notating every deviation in pitch through the course of these chorales, and breaking things down to easily digestible building blocks of these intonation tools. Note that this is just a couple of pages picked from different sections of the book; I hope that some of you find these useful enough to generate interest in the (not yet) finished product. The first chorale in this excerpt is very straight-forward; the second is obviously more advanced. The chorales in this book will consist of exercises like these, and of arrangements of traditional and original songs which reinforce the exercises. I also want them to eventually cover advanced harmony through complex jazz chords and beyond, dealing with harmonies based on higher harmonics. I’ll probably release it as a couple of volumes.

For more information on Sagittal notation, see:

Sagittal microtonal notation

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Sam Most: New Jazz Standards

Last week, I taught at the Great Basin Jazz Camp and our trumpet guru Carl Saunders brought in this newly released album featuring the recently deceased jazz flutist Sam Most that he helped to produce. Carl’s a great writer, and the album is nothing but his tunes. We faculty sat around one night after data-dumping jazz into kids all day and listened to it front to back, and not just I, but Carl (who had already listened to it many, many, many times), Scott Whitfield, and the rest of the faculty (minus two who had gigs in Boise) were entranced. Sam has bebop chops, and had a unique ability to play clear, recognizable, and unique melodies through virtually any kind of harmonic progression.

Carl observed that part of his standard recording technique in solos is to stop once he hits a clam and backtrack to his last breath, and re-record, and play the lick again. He has a fantastic musical memory which is evident in his playing. He said that when he was recording Sam, Sam was playing fantastic lick after fantastic lick, and would occasionally hit a clam, and the first time Carl stopped recording to go back and fix it, Sam replied something like “I’m not used to doing it that way.” But, back he went, and unlike Carl, never played the same thing twice yet maintained a constant stream of well-crafted original lines. Scott, no stranger to playing well-constructed lines, summed up the end result thus: “Jesus!”

I gotta agree. Sam performed one of the best jazz quartet albums I’ve heard in years, and it being his last makes it more special. Carl and Sam were good friends for years.

Oh, and the scat solo is [awesome overflow error].

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Articles on New World Brass website

I have written some articles for New World Brass, based on some of what I’ve included on my blog here. New World Brass is a young but ambitious website resource for brass musicians. Check it out here:

New World Brass

and my first article published there:

Introduction to Intonation

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Music Review: Mystic Canyon

Bill Alves is what you might call an experimental composer. Some of what he experiments with falls into my area of interest: just intonation. But, as an experimenter, he writes some very beautiful, approachable stuff. This album, Mystic Canyon, consists of two of his compositions, written for solo violin and gamelan orchestra.

What is a gamelan orchestra, you might ask?

In simplest terms, it is an Indonesian pitched percussion ensemble. Unlike with American ensembles which tend to be built around sets of standardized instruments, gamelan ensembles consist of sets of instruments designed specifically to be played together. Every gamelan orchestra is unique. Thus, this music is written for a specific gamelan orchestra: the HMC American Gamelan. That means that unless you happen to live in southern California, probably the only way you’ll get to hear them is indirectly, through recordings like this one.

So, the music:

Susan Jensen and her violin complement the orchestra very well. The best word I have to describe the sonic experience is “warm.” It’s all very beautiful stuff, and well-recorded so that the richness of Susan’s tone and the various resonating percussion instruments generate some very intense and varied tone colors throughout the spectrum of human hearing. It’s rhythmically intense, too. Some sections of the movement drive forward relentlessly with strong beats; other sections are almost like puzzles with very well-executed polyrhythms. Some of the approach reminds me of American minimalism, while maintaining a fairly rapid phrasing pace, avoiding the stretching of time perception that the well-known extreme minimalism strives for.

I prefer to listen to this album intensely, with very minimum background noise, although it also works very well for passive listening, too. Like all music, it’s not for everyone, but for what it is, on it’s own terms, it’s extremely good quality.

You can listen to sound samples here, thanks to Bill and his website:

Mystic Canyon

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More Sagittal-specific tools

I’ve gone through and copied my musical essays and the like to a separate page list on this blog – go look under “musical tools” to see. Mainly, this is to make it a bit easier to navigate to the different things I’ve written, rather than scrolling down this main page.

I’ve also added a list of chords, all notated in Sagittal notation. I figured that it would save me a lot of time writing music if I had a reference like this written out, and I make an appeal to crowd-sourcing to help check for errors. First, I’ve added just the list of pure-Sagittal chords, and it’s not really a complete list (as if any list really can be) but it’s pretty good for now. I’ll be adding a Mixed Sagittal version of the same chart soon.

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Planning For The Future

I often have heard that it’s wise to choose goals to reach for in the future – usually something on the order of a 1-year goal and a 10-year goal (with some minor variation on the time scales) to organize my plans into near-future goals and far-future goals. I have recently realized that I have been a bit foolish about how I do this. I would choose what are essentially career-type goals: attain mastery of orchestra writing, hike in the Rocky Mountains for two weeks, find a great wife and start a family, and other things like this. While this kind of thinking can be useful, it can ignore a basic fact of human psychology, that we are really short-term reward creatures. These goals really should be thought of as short-term rewards that I want to be receiving in 1 year or 10 years, an that boils down to not career goals, but what do I want a typical day to be like? Would it be similar to my typical days right now, or different? How?

I don’t really know. It seems important.

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