Saturday, December 26, 2020

December 26, 2020

Writing today on the Feast of Stephen, the first martyr (as Good King Wenceslas reminds us, "He was stoned, dude"), and thus a day dear to your scribe. It's Boxing Day in what remains of the British Empire. For many, it's simply the day after Christmas, and here's hoping it finds you all well.

It's been far too long since there has been an installment of the Workshop Blog, and it would be surprising if anyone checks it now. It would be surprising if anyone checked it while we were up and running. Still, yours truly misses our Saturday play-along, in terms of both the music and camaraderie. With the coming vaccines, there is light at the end of the tunnel, and not just the light shining on a sign that says, "You've reached the end of the tunnel. Please proceed quietly back the way you came." So maybe in six months we can be back to our gatherings.

It's been a year since the passing of Irv Williams, and now, almost exactly a year later, the Twin Cities jazz world mourns the loss of the great Debbie Duncan. A tough way to end a tough 2020. Musicians, however, are a resilient batch, and this writer is looking forward to a burst of beautiful sound come the anniversary of our first lockdowns.

Merry Christmas, and may your New Year be an excellent one.


Saturday, April 25, 2020

April 25, 2020 (Hiatus Fun)

Due to COVID-19, we remain on hiatus until...well, who knows right now.

In the meantime, your scribe has put out a call to keep connected during our time of sheltering-in-place. 

I've asked everyone to share with others their Top Ten Lists: top songs to improvise on; top single recordings; top albums; top tunes from the big band era, top vocal performances; top musicals or music-related movies--things like that.

To date, no one has contributed. Now, I know why I haven't contributed: I have been very busy trying to convert my college courses to online courses in a hurry. It finally occurred to me that other people might also be very busy trying to suddenly work online. So,  I'll take the lead here and put up a few top ten lists. Actually, it turns out to be very hard to make my lists exactly ten, so I'm abandoning the particular number and just asking for people's favorites, the ones they love to return to.

As for this writer, I play both alto and soprano saxophones, and the tunes I like to play on them are not identical. So, to get things started here are my favorites for alto, for soprano, and for either one.

Steve H's favorite songs for improvisation

Afternoon in Paris (John Lewis)
All the Things You Are (Jerome Kern)
Angel Eyes (Matt Denis)
Autumn in New York (Vernon Duke)
Body and Soul (Johnny Green)
Cherokee (Ray Noble)
I’m Old Fashioned (Jerome Kern)
If You Could See Me Now (Tadd Dameron)
Lady Bird (Tadd Dameron)
My Funny Valentine (Richard Rodgers)
The Nearness of You (Hoagy Carmichael)
On the Street Where You Live (Frederick Loewe)
Polka Dots and Moonbeams (Jimmy van Heusen)
Whisper Not (Benny Golson)

Favorites for soprano
Alice in Wonderland (Sammy Fain)
Indiana (James Hanley)
It’s De-Lovely (Cole Porter)
On A Slow Boat to China (Frank Loesser)
Pennies from Heaven (Arthur Johnston)
Tangerine (Victor Schertzinger)

Favorites that cross over to either horn well
Bluesette (Toots Thielemans)
Georgia on My Mind (Hoagy Carmichael)
Here’s That Rainy Day (Jimmy van Heusen)
Perdido (Duke Ellington/Juan Tizol)
Secret Love (Sammy Fain)
Skylark (Hoagy Carmishael)
Softly As In Morning Sunrise (Sigmund Romberg)
Up Jumped Spring (Freddie Hubbard)
The Way You Look Tonight (Jerome Kern)

I hope to hear from other past and present members of the Workshop with their favorite jazz songs in whatever category they wish. Let's give each other some new things to listen to and play while we wait this thing out. 


Sunday, March 8, 2020

March 7, 2020

Due to ongoing health concerns re: COVID-19, we will not be holding the Workshop for a few weeks. Stay tuned for a notice of when we will resume.

Not an overload of people this week, but we put together enough to make it all quite fun: Steve H (soprano, piano), John (trombone, piano), Raphael (bass), and Serdar (guitar), with the piano players back on their first instruments for their own picks.

We began with the choice of the guy who got there first, your scribe, who chose Easy To Love (I-128). John ventured the next choice, an easy-going version of How High The Moon (I-180). Raphael took the next one, Up Jumped Spring (I-425). Yours truly went to the calming Polka Dots And Moonbeams (II-318). John found the venerable Moonglow (II-275). Raphael decided to stick to the classics with It's Only A Paper Moon (II-209). Your scribe chose to stick with the preceding page, calling It's All Right With Me (II-208). Serdar was setting up his gear when John asked for Manteca ((II-259). Raphael took matters in hand with Bohemia After Dark (II-63). Serdar finally got in the conversation, opting for Coming Home Baby (II-89).

Back to the top, yours truly pulled out Thou Swell (I-407). John stayed in the vicinity, choosing There Will Never Be Another You (I-407). Raphael found a lesser-known Porter tune, So In Love (III-362). Serdar pulled out the great Nancy With The Laughing Face (III-298). Your scribe opted for a bit of Frank action, Come Fly With Me (III-80). Raphael really reached back for Steppin' Out With My Baby (III-381). We finished up one a Serdar pick, St. Thomas (II-339).


Tuesday, March 3, 2020

February 29, 2020

Next Time: Sat., 3/11, 11am-3pm, TowerLight (3601 Woodale, St. Louis Park)

Special request out of respect for the residents of TowerLight.
TowerLight is a residence for the elderly and, in some cases, the ill. Given that this is not only the cold and flu season, but also a time of special watchfulness for COVID-19 (coronavirus), your scribe has two requests: 1) If you have a respiratory ailment, please stay home and take care of it. 2) If you play a horn, please do not drain your spit onto the floors and rugs of TowerLight. Bring something to drain them on, like a small towel. (We should do that anyhow, but it is especially important now.)

Special Leap Day Edition

Actually, not that special. Here's the quick version again.

The People
Raphael (bass)
Sam (trumpet and valve trombone)
Jack K (trumpet)
Arthur (drums)
Steve H (piano and alto)
Serdar (guitar)
Matt (vocals)

The Songs
Blue Bird (III-53) Sam
The Breeze and I (I-59) Jack K
Thou Swell (I-491) Steve H
Journey To Recife (I-228) Raphael
Softly As In A Morning Sunrise (II-352) Arthur
My Little Suede Shoes (II-282) Sam
Everything Happens To Me (III-114) Jack K
Perdido (II-311) Steve H
Morning Dance (II-278) Raphael
Billie's Bounce (II-44) Serdar
Sugar (I-387) Arthur
Angel Eyes (I-28) Matt
Polka Dots And Moonbeams (II-xxx) Matt
There's A Small Hotel (II-391) Sam
Little Sunflower (II-244) Raphael
The Frim Fram Sauce (II-163) Matt
Do You Know What It Means To Miss New Orleans (II-108) Serdar
Gee, Baby, Ain't I Good To You (I-153) Matt

Friday, February 28, 2020

February 22, 2020

Next Time: Sat., 2/29, 11am-3pm, TowerLight (3601 Wooddale, St. Louis Park)

Sam's Add-A-Tune: Blue Bird (III-53)

Here is the quick version:

Sam (trumpet and valve trombone), John (trombone), Bill (vocals), Elena (vocals),  Jack K (trumpet and drums), Steve C (piano, drums), Raphael (bass), Steve H (alto and drums), and Serdar (guitar).

Shine (Sam)
Tenderly (II-389) John
Satin Doll (I-349) Jack K
Lady Bird (I-235) Steve C
Iris (I-218) Raphael
How High The Moon (I-180) Steve H
Fly Me To The Moon (II-135) Elena
I Love Paris (I-159) Bill
Just Friends (IV-xxx) Serdar
Nica's Dream (I-299) Sam
Dream A Little Dream (I-124) Elena
All The Way (III-17) Bill
Two Degrees East, Three Degrees West (II-408) Carl
Whisper Not (II-422) Steve C
Time Remembered (I-413) Raphael
Autumn Leaves (I-39) Bill
Taking A Chance On Love (IV-44) Elena


Wednesday, February 19, 2020

February 15, 2020

Next Time: Sat., 2/22, 11am-3pm, TowerLight (3601 Wooddale, St. Louis Park)

Sam's Add-A-Tune: Shine (II-347).

Your scribe has gotten notes from the ever diligent Raphael, and here is what we know of the most recent Workshop.

People present
John (trombone [and piano?]), Bill (vocals), Elena (vocals), Annie (vocals), Carl (trombone), Jack K (trumpet), Raphael (bass), Sam (trumpet, trombone).

Songs played, and who called them
The Lady Is A Tramp (III-xxx) Bill
Blues March (II-62) Sam
There Will Never Be Another You (I-407) Jack K
Agua De Beber (I-14) John
I Can't Give You Anything But Love (I-185) Raphael
In A Mellow Tone (I-206) Carl
I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel To Be Free (I-195) Annie
Hello Young Lovers (I-176) Elena
Minor Swing (IV-284) Sam
Groovin' High (I-166)
It's A Lovely Day Today (III-210) Raphael
My Funny Valentine (I-287) Carl
Midnight Sun (III-276) Annie
Stardust (II-367) Bill
Here I Go Again (IV-xxx) Elena
St. Thomas (II-339) Sam


Monday, February 10, 2020

February 8, 2020

Next Time:

Sam's Add-A-Tune:

We found some new talent in old faces: Steve H (soprano, piano, percussion), Raphael (bass), John (trombone, piano), Elena (vocals), Bill (vocals), and Ari (trumpet, flugelhorn).

We got underway with your scribe following a suggestion of John, who was noodling on the piano, Ain't Misbehavin' (III-13) He stayed on piano for a few tunes, then switched with the scribe every so often on the keys. John called the next one, All Of Me (I-20), which our vocalists also joined in on. Raphael opted for the ballad Lament (I-239). Elena found one from her repertoire that we could do, Taking A Chance On Love (IV-415). Bill chose All The Way (III-17). We made some adjustments to try to get our playing to match up with the charts they were used to playing.

Back to yours truly, who called Come Fly With Me (III-80). Ari took his first and went with The Days Of Wine And Roses (IV-99). Vocal Time was upon us, so we turned to Elena, who sang Misty (I-277). Bill followed with another classic (and timely) ballad, My Funny Valentine (I-287). John chose Nica's Dream (I-299) for the instrumental, though he had to skip out before it ended. Elena turned to Fly Me To The Moon (II-135). At that point, your other piano player had to leave, so the group adjourned until next time.