Thursday, December 24, 2009

Happy Holidays!

A "happy holiday of your choice" to all. There will be no jazz workshop on 12/26/09. The next workshop will be on 1/2/10.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

'Twas the week (just about) before Christmas and just for a lark
All the jazzers were jamming down at McRae Park.

OK, I was going to do a whole rewrite of Clement Moore's classic Christmas poem but it got to be too hard to get the rhymes and the meter going well. Too much like actual work...

Today we had the last Jazz Workshop of 2009 and some might (inaccurately) even say the last one of the decade. To see the year out, we had a nice turnout of twelve people: Ira (alto sax), Bob (guitar), Owen (accordion), Kevin (guitar), Gene (drums), Candy (viola- a first for the Jazz Workshop), Toria (vocals), Wes (tenor sax), Annie (vocals), Thaddeus (bari sax), Paul (piano) and Tim (guitar).

Kicking off with the "instrumental hour," we played "Blue Bossa," "Milano," "Minority," "My Romance," "Bluesette." With the vocalists, we then essayed our way through "A Child I Born," "Like Someone in Love," "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas," "East of the Sun," "Satin Doll," "Corcovado," "What Is This Thing Called Love," "Sannta Blues," ""Embraceable You," "Yardbird Suite," "Misty," "One Note Samba," "Pick Yourself Up," "How High the Moon," "Jingle Jam," "It's All Right With Me," "It's Only a Paper Moon," "Dream," and "The Christmas Song" (a.k.a., "Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire").

Next week, on 12/26/09, there will be no workshop. Have a happy holiday of your choice! We'll be back in action on 1/2/10 (is anybody else having a hard time believing that it's almost 2010 already?).

In three days the days start getting longer! W00t!

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Santa Baby

Today was the "Santa Breakfast" at McRae Park, for which the Workshop provided a couple hours of music. I was too busy to take pictures and not smart enough to give my camera to someone else. D'oh!

Present for the gig were Annie, Dick and Reno (vocals), Gene and Ken (drums), Owen (accordion), Kevin and Tim (guitar), Peter (bari sax), Ira (alto sax), Wes (tenor sax).

We covered some of the tunes listed from last Saturday plus a few more ("Rudolph," etc.).

Update for the workshop schedule: regular workshop on 12/19/09 (instrumentals 12:00-1:00, with the vocalists 1:00-3:45), no workshop on 12/26/09, and then resuming the weekly regular workshop schedule on 1/2/10.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

The Christmas gig is here

Every year there is a "Santa breakfast" at McRae Park and they ask the Workshop to provide music. This week at the Workshop we found out that the Santa Breakfast would be next week. Well, that's short notice! So we spent the time today setting up songs for next week.

Today we had four (four!) new vocalists turn up for the workshop. Three of them seemed to come together and the fourth came on her own. Unfortunately since we were feverishly working on the songs for next week we did not have space for these folks to have a chance to participate. Hopefully they will come back some time! Had I known this would be the case, I would have put mention of it in the Craigslist ad. Unfortunately Annie found out about this from the Park District on Friday, so it was too late by then. I feel bad about that.

Today we had Annie (vocals), Toria (vocals), Ken (drums), Ira (alto sax), Wes (tenor sax), Owen (accordion), Jeff (bass), Norman (piano), Luis (bass), Reno, (vocals) and Tim (guitar). I think that's everyone.

The songs today were predominantly holiday music- "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas," "Feliz Navidad," "What Are You Doing New Year's Eve," "My Favorite Things," "Sleigh Ride," "Santa Baby," "You'd Be So Nice To Come Home To," etc.

Next week we will play from 10:00-12:00 at the Santa Breakfast at McRae Park and we won't have a regular Workshop session that day. Tentatively we will have a Workshop on 12/19/09, not on 12/26/09 or 1/2/10 and will resume our usual schedule on 1/9/10.

In the photos: on top, that's Annie, Toria, Reno and Ira. We were having fun. Really. In the middle photo is Norman. The bottom photo is Owen's hand and accordion keyboard.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Jazz in Absentia, 11/21/09

Since I was out of town this weekend, I missed the Jazz Workshop. However, Kevin and Ken teamed up to provide a list of the folks who were there and the songs they played. Thanks, guys! Looks like it was another great turnout and a lot of fun once again. Sorry I missed it!

Kevin , guitar
Owen, accordion
Peter, bari sax
Wes, tenor sax
Gene, drums
Craig, drums (first time)
Ken, drums
Dan, bass (first time)
Margo, bass
Annie, vocals

Set list:
Fly Me to the Moon (both 3/4 and 4/4 arrangements)
Fools Rush In
These Foolish Things Remind Me of You
Black Orpheus
Got My Mojo Workin
Stella by Starlight
St. Thomas
My Funny Valentine
Satin Doll
In Walked Bud
The Nearness of You
On The Sunny Side of the Street
Lullaby of Birdland
How High The Moon
Cousin Mary
God Bless The Child

Next Saturday I have been told the park building will be closed for the Thanksgiving holiday, so there wil be no workshop. May you all have a safe and happy Thanksgiving with the opportunity to appreciate the things you have and the will to help others have the things they need to live a dignified and productive life.

The photos: Pete's baritone sax and a chart up top; Jeff (bass) who wasn't there but it's a good photo.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

The Ides of November

Well, a day after the Ides anyway. You've maybe heard of the Ides of March (as in the soothsayer telling Caesar to beware thereof, and also the pop band of the 60s) but every month had an Ides which fell on the 15th in months with 31 days and the 13th in other months. OK, that's enough obscure stuff for one week, eh (I've just finished one of Steven Saylor's Roma Sub Rosa books)?

November 14th saw the Jazz Workshop getting together again at McRae Park in South Minneapolis. We had a great turnout with three first-timers (John on bass, Ann on vocals and Kevin on guitar) joining the usual suspects (Sheila on vocals, Steve on trumpet, Owen on accordion, Ken on drums, Norman on piano, Margo on bass and Tim on guitar). We met in the small room at the park which makes it easier to hear.

The set list today included "Blue Bossa," "Naima," "Satin Doll," "Scrapple From the Apple," "I'm Old Fashioned," "E.S.P.," ""It Could Happen To You," "Laura," "You Stepped Out of a Dream," "Lullaby of Birdland," "God Bless the Child," "Out of Nowhere," "Imagination," "Doxy," "Just in Time," "Sunny Side of the Street," "Song for My Father" and "How High the Moon."

Next week (11/21/09) the Jazz Workshop will meet without Tim, so hopefully someone will take notes about who shows up and what happens. Looking ahead to Thanksgiving weekend, there will be no Workshop on 11/28/09 as the park building will be closed.

The photos: On top we have Norman, Margo, Sheila and Ann; in the middle are Ken and John (with the cubist bass and matching cubist hat); and at the bottom are Steve, Owen and Kevin.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Saturday Afternoon Jazz

A few days ago when I was writing the weekly ad for Craigslist about the workshop, I was reflecting that we "play" music rather than "work" music, and that maybe the Jazz Workshop should be the Jazz Playshop. Well, that's maybe just a little too precious but maybe it makes the point- this is fun!

Today it was a lovely, atypically beautiful November Saturday. 64 degrees, sunny, deep blue sky. We all had a choice to make: play outside or play jazz. Maybe we should have played jazz outside! We had a good turnout anyway: Gene and Ken on drums, Jack on trumpet and also drums for a couple of tunes, Ira on alto sax, Wes on tenor sax, Pete on bari sax, Rob and Tim on guitar, Owen on accordion, and on vocals we had Dick, Toria and Sheila (and also Jack on one tune). One such a beautiful day, ten musicians was a great turnout.

The Workshop kicked off shortly after 1:00 with the "instrumental hour." Songs played included "I Remember You," "In Walked Bud," "When You're Away" (an original by Tim), "I Thought About You," "It's Only a Paper Moon." The second part of the workshops with the vocalists swung into gear with "It Could Happen to You," "Days of Wine and Roses," "I Cover the Waterfront," "The Very Thought of You," "I'll Remember April," "Lover Man," "Dancing On The Ceiling," "The Midnight Sun," "What Is This Thing Called Love," "How Deep Is The Ocean," "Four," "The Song Is You," "Again," and "Embraceable You." 19 songs in four hours.

Upcoming workshop schedule: next week (11/14/09) Norman will be playing piano. The week after that, which is the Saturday after Thanksgiving (11/21/09), we are not sure whether the park building will be open so watch this space for news about that. We also had some preliminary discussion about looking for some occasional gigs out in the community. Nothing concrete yet, but a few possibilities were identified.

In the photos: that's Jack (trumpet/drums/vocal) up in the first photo and Tim (guitar and nothin' else) in the middle photo and Toria (vocals) in the bottom photo.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

The "Swingin' on a Pumpkin Blues"

Hallowe'en 2009 at McRae Park: Swing and Latin and Bossas, oh my! Despite the holiday festivities pending tonight, 14 of us got together to play some jazz while the frost settled on the pumpkins, the hay got into the barns and the little ones got ready for tricks and treats. Hanging out at the workshop today were Annie and Toria (vocals), Wes and Ira (tenor sax), Peter (bari sax), Owen (high tech accordian with built-in synth controller), Jack and Steve (trumpets), Jeff and Margo (bass), Ken and Gene (drums), Norman (piano) and Tim (guitar). Since we had doubles of drums and basses, the drummers and bassists switched back and forth as the songs went by.

For anybody wondering how the workshop operates, what will happen is that someone will call a song to be played. They also call the style (swing, latin, bossa, etc.) and set the tempo. If the song is called by a singer, they will sing the tune through, then the instrumentalist (s) will solo (usually one chorus, possibly two and for longer forms the one chorus might be split between two soloists). If the song is an instrumental, then whoever called it plays the first solo and then the rest of the players take a solo in turn. The purpose of the workshop is for people to learn to play jazz which means learning songs, tempos, styles and how to improvise. Jazz is a unique art form in that it is a group improvisation- while one player is soloing, the accompanists are also improvising on the accompaniment rather than playing a strict rote form. As the soloist plays, the accompanists shift their playing in anticipation of where the solo is going; and the shifts in the accompaniment may influence where the soloist is going. It's a conversation when it goes well. Jazz is a fluid art and jazz musicians must learn to float and flow with the changes. Most of this is a learning-by-doing experience- you can learn the various theories but you still have to hear it and feel it to get good at it. The Jazz Workshop has existed for more than 30 years to provide exactly that kind of learning experience in a supportive environment.

We didn't play any of Linus's pumpkin carols nor did the Great Pumpkin rise out of the pumpkin patch. Songs we did play included "Little Sunflower," "Smoke Rings," "I Should Care," "Sometime Ago," "Blue Monk," "What Is This Thing Called Love," "Strange Fruit," "It's Been a Long, Long Time," "Sugar," "All Of Me," "Soon It's Gonna Rain," "My Foolish Heart," "Don't Go To Strangers," "Out of Nowhere," "I Thought About You," "Make Someone Happy," "How Deep Is the Ocean," and "Let's Cool One."

Tim took a few photos from the guitar chair and Margo roamed around with the camera to find unique perspectives of the players. From top to bottom we have Annie, the Workshop's coordinator; Ken's hands and drums, and Peter, Ira and Steve from left to right.

"See, all we have to do is transpose from one flat to one sharp and play a whole step up from the melody... on a tune we've never played before. Should be easy."

Saturday, October 24, 2009

"Time After Time" we have fun!

For the first time in what seems like months, we had a bit of sunshine this morning in the Twin Cities. Our cold, rainy, unseasonably nasty weather continues and appears to be set to carry on for yet another week which will put us over a month of amazingly unpleasant autumnality. Sigh. It almost makes one wish for an invasion of alien reptiles from outer space just to break up the monotony. Wait, that's on TV this week with Morena Baccarin as spokeslizard. Who's in charge of the weather, anyway? Is it Paul Douglas? Do we get to blame him for our premature misery? Isn't it bad enough that November is coming- did we really have to have two Novembers this year?

However, music can put a smile on your face in spite of the weather and pending lizard domination and it did again today for the folks to came out to the Jazz Workshop at McRae Park. An even dozen of us got together to work on our chops, learn some songs and have a great time. We started out with a bit more than an hour of instrumentals with Ira (alto sax), Wes (tenor sax), Steve (trumpet and flugelhorn as well as today's photographer), Ken and Gene on drums (with two complete kits set up today), Jeff and Margo on bass, and Tim and Bob on guitar. Our vocalists included Annie (who is the workshop coordinator), Dick, Toria and Sheila. Once again we had a ball today!

Today's set list included "Equinox," "Jordu," "Yardbird Suite," "Au Privave," "Autumn In New York," "Autumn Leaves," "Impressions," "Time After Time," "Strange Fruit," "What Is this Thing Called Love," "I've Never Been In Love Before," "Shadow of Your Smile," "What More Can I Say" (an original by Dick), "Groovin' High," "Early Autumn," "Falling In Love With Love," "B├ęsame Mucho," "Georgia On My Mind," "Nature Boy" and a couple of others I forgot to write down. Suddenly it was ten to four and time to pack up and go.

So there you have it- another fun Saturday afternoon playing jazz. We have some returning old hands most weeks and some new folks most weeks. Maybe you can be one of them sometime! We'll be back at it next week, 10/31/09. Drummers, trumpets and singers, oh my!

In the photos, that's Gene playing drums, Margo playing bass with Jeff behind her, and Ira playing alto sax with Toria and Dick behind him. As noted in a post a week or ten days ago (see below), Ira's Jazz Quartet is playing at the Coffee Grounds in St. Paul tonight.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

But it gets really good 'round noon.

According to the news, the first two weeks of October 2009 were the coldest on record, as well as the snowiest. It's been a reminder of the fact that we live in Minnesota. According to my wife's Scandinavian family, this is what keeps the riffraff out of state. While the temperatures are supposed to go up over the next few days to something approximating seasonal, the Jazz Workshop decided not to wait and heated things up at McRae Park this afternoon. We had a few new attendees today, Ron and Patrick both on guitar, as well as the usual suspects: Dick, Toria and Sheila (vocals), Steve on (trumpet/flugelhorn), Gene and Ken (drums), Owen (accordian), Pete (bari sax), Ira (alto sax), Wes (tenor sax), Tim (guitar) and ________ on trumpet. I've got to do a better job of remembering names.

We played about 22 songs over the course of four hours: "All of Me," "All of You," "Autumn Leaves," "Recordame," "I Should Care," "I'm Back" (an original by Steve), "Recycling Day" (an original by Tim), "What Is This Thing Called Love," "Ornithology," "How High The Moon," "Tune Up," "The Very Thought of You," "'Round Midnight," "I Remember You," "Lullaby of Birdland," "In a Mellow Tone," "Nica's Dream," "Flintstones," "Gone With The Wind," "I could Write a Book," "Stolen Moments," and "Georgia On My Mind" for the closer. I think that's the complete set list. If I might add an unsolicited editorial comment, "'Round Midnight" is- in my opinion, anyway- the pinnacle of jazz composition and it was a thrill to play it today. Chuck Wayne said the same thing about it, so at least I've got company.

Let's see, we need one more photo to close things out. By the way, the top photo is Ken playing drums and the middle photo is the sax lineup of Ira, Pete and Wes from closest to farthest, along with Patrick's left hand and guitar neck. The bottom photo is Owen and Rob.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Upcoming Jazz Gig- Ira's Jazz Quartet

Our regular alto saxophonist's group, Ira's Jazz Quartet, will be playing a gig at The Coffee Grounds in Falcon Heights on Saturday October 24 from 8:00-10:00 PM. No cover.

The Coffee Grounds
1579 Hamline Ave
Falcon Heights MN

The location is on Hamline Avenue south of Larpenteur and north of Como Park. The Coffee Grounds has been a supporter of jazz over the years, having hosted a Monday evening Real Book open jam session for a long time (I don't think that's still on the calendar any more).

If you can, get out to hear Ira's group and support live jazz in the Twin Cities!

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Swingin' in a Winter Wonderland

This morning Minneapolis and St. Paul woke up to snow on the ground, a bit early in the season even here. But that didn't cool things down at the Jazz Workshop! The usual suspects got together- Annie (vocals), Sam (trumpet, bass and trumpet synthesizer), Wes (tenor sax), Toria (vocals), Gene (drums), Dick (vocals), Tim (guitar), Ken (drums) and Steve (trumpet and flugelhorn)- to play some jazz and were joined by Owen (our first accordionist), Chip (bass and a former workshop regular) and Ed (piano and vocals). I managed to take one photo, which was of Owen and I'll get it uploaded to the blog in a little while (Edit 10/17/09: And here he is!)

The set list started with the "instrumental hour" including "All Blues," "Sunny Side of the Street," "Little Sunflower," "St. Thomas," and then segueing into the workshop with the vocalists we covered "I Can't Get Started," "Never Been in Love Before," "Yesterdays," "Watch What Happens," "Here's That Rainy Day," "Green Dolphin Street," "Moon Alley," "Gee Baby Ain't I Good to You," "Day By Day," "As the Night Flies," "Ornithology," "At Last," "I Don't Know Why," "Jeannine," "But Beautiful," "Dancing on the Ceiling," and "A Foggy Day."

We had a great time- lots of laughs, some good music and the occasional train wreck. All part of having a jazz workshop. Hope that you can join us next time, which will be Saturday October 17 from 12:00-1:00PM for instrumentals and then 1:00-3:45PM with the vocalists.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Fun in the... clouds?

It was a grey and chilly day in the city on the edge of the plains, rainy cold weather that hung on for a week like Gorilla Glue in nose hair (don't ask, that was a bad day)...

Wait a minute. Jazz blog. Oh yeah.

We had ten intrepid jazzers turn out for the Workshop today. Vocal duties were covered by Annie, Toria and Dick as usual. We also had a new guy- yes, another new guy whose name has escaped me (turns out his name is Ed)- who played piano and sang and original song (called "As The Night Flies"). On drums we had Ken and Gene with Tim on guitar rounding out the rhythm section but, today, no bassist. On the various horns we had Wes (tenor sax), Pete (bari sax) and John (trumpet). This was John's first time with us and Pete and Ken's second times.

We had an awful lot of fun again today. Pete and Ken were both in a groove on the drums, which really helped make up for the lack of a bassist. After a slow start due to chatting while setting up, we got down to playing some songs. That's what it's all about, right? We played "Again," "What Is This Thing Called Love," "Forest Flower," "Recycling Day," "East of the Sun," "This Can't Be Love," Here's That Rainy Day," "This Masquerade," "Nature Boy," "Out of Nowhere," "Nancy," "The More I See You," "I Can't Get Started," "The Night Has a Thousand Eyes" (wasn't that a horror movie? No, that was "The Hills Have Eyes," I guess), and "Work Song." There were several others which I can't remember.

Well, that wraps up the report from La Ville des Lacs for this week. We had a great time and hope that you'll be here next week (10/10/09 from noon to 3:45 or so).

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Early Autumn in the Park

Today was the first jazz workshop of autumn, astronomically speaking. Despite the almost-seasonal weather outside today, it was hot in the McRae Park building today. Not the temperature, the music. We had a great turnout of 14 musicians that just "clicked" today and the music was great. We started out with four guitarists (!), two of them first-timers (Kevin and Dave), one returning from his first visit last week (Chris) and an old hand (Tim). There were two drummers, too- Gene and Ken (who was here for his first time). On saxes we had Ira (alto), Wes (tenor) and Peter on bari sax. On bass and trumpet we had Sam and on upright bass we had Margo. Vocalism was handled by Annie, Toria and Dick.

To break in the new folks gently we started out the instrumental hour with "'Round Midnight" before getting to the advanced stuff. I'm kidding. We started with "Blue Bossa" but we did do a Monk tune later on at the instigation of Ira. Other songs included "A Foggy Day," "Early Autumn," Autumn Leaves," "Autumn in New York," "'Tis Autumn," "September Song-" there was obviously a seasonal theme- "I Thought About You," "Let's Cool One," "I Should Care," "I Could Write a Book," "Peri's Scope," and "St. Thomas." There might have been a few others. Kevin took notes of the songs we played and e-mailed me the list he kept. Thanks!

Every so often in life you get to have so much fun that your face is kind of sore from smiling afterwards. I felt like that today! Next week (October 3rd) we'll have fun all over again. Hope you can be there!

Saturday, September 19, 2009

So Little Time, Too Many Things

Due to a schedule conflict I wasn't able to go to the workshop on 9/19/09 and have no real idea what happened. Sam was also planning to not be there, Chris the guitarist was hoping to be there. Hiroto the sax player left a comment about wanting to come to the workshop, too. If anyone was there and wants to send in a report, that'd be great!

Addendum- It was mentioned to me that Christian (piano), Chris (guitar), Hiroto (sax), Gene (drums), Annie (vocals) and Toria (vocals) at least were there and maybe a couple other folks too.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Early Autumn

Today was the first Saturday Jazz Workshop of the fall season. We started out the the instrumental hour with Gene (drums), Ira (alto sax) and Tim (guitar). Ira had to leave early, about the same time that the workshoppers had to move to a different room due to a scheduling conflict at the park building. Once we got set up in the other room, we also got together with the vocalists (Annie, Toria, Dick and Sheila) and reinforcements arrived in the form of Steve (trumpet and cornet) and Norman (piano).

Songs played today included "Day by Day," "Early Autumn," "Triste," "Meditation," "At Last," "Try A Little Tenderness," "I Cover the Waterfront," "So What," "The More I See You," "Where Are You," "It's Only a Paper Moon," "If You Never Come To Me" and "Recycling Day," an original by Tim. There were some other songs, too, but the titles escape me.

So, the Jazz Workshop is back in the Saturday groove!

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

First Saturday Workshop of the Season

On 9/12/09 the Jazz Workshop will start meeting on Saturdays. We meet from 12:00-1:00PM to concentrate on instrumentals and from 1:00-3:45 with the vocalists in the mix.

The Jazz Workshop in the Park at McRae Park in South Minneapolis has been helping people develop the ability to play jazz for three decades. We meet every Saturday (from 12:00-3:45PM) between Labor Day and Memorial Day. The Jazz Workshop has been happening since about 1978, giving aspiring jazz musicians an opportunity to hone their chops and learn the craft of playing fine music. Musicians of all ages are welcome and there is no cost. We mostly play songs from the Real Book(s) and other Great American Song Book standards (and we'll try to play almost whatever jazz charts you bring). The basic skills you need are some facility in playing in all 12 keys, knowing some scales (major, minor and pentatonic are helpful), and being able to read a lead sheet reasonably well (perfect sight reading not required). It's a workshop, so we figure it's likely that you'll need to develop your skills rather than coming in with smoking chops ready to take the jazz world by storm. Instruction is informal- this is mainly learning by doing. If you have questions, ask!

If you play piano, we have an upright provided by the park (but the tuning is unreliable as the weather changes); we also have a small drum kit (bring your own sticks and brushes, and you might want to bring your cymbals in case you don't like ours). If you're a singer and you want something in a different key than the various "Real Books" provide, please bring at least a half-dozen copies of charts in the key you desire; transposed charts for Bb and Eb instruments are really appreciated.

Hope to see you there!

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Jazz Workshop in the Minnesota Guitar Society newsletter

A month or so ago Tim met with Paul Hintz, professional jazz guitarist and teacher, to discuss the Jazz Workshop. Paul edits the Minnesota Guitar Society newsletter and asked for an article on the Workshop. It appears in the September/October newsletter. Thanks to Paul and the Minnesota Guitar Society for thinking of us!

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

The last Monday Jazz Workshop for 2009

The Jazz Workshop had its last Monday evening session for the year on 8/31. It was a slightly strange evening as a number of the regulars were also involved in the Minneapolis Community and Technical College jazz ensemble class which started on Monday evenings a couple weeks ago; those folks arrived late to the Workshop (but troupers they were- playing from 5:00-7:00 at MCTC and then joining us for the last 90 minutes). We started out with a drums-guitar duet with Gene and Tim, playing "When Sunny Gets Blue" and "All Blues" to get started. John arrived about 6:30 and sang several tunes, including "Night and Day" and "'Round Midnight," followed by Norman arriving and getting out the piano to round things out. We even took a stab at Frank Zappa's "Blessed Relief," a jazz waltz recorded on the "Grand Wazoo" album about 40 years ago. Vicki came shortly after this and sang some songs, with Wes (tenor sax) and then Sam (bass and trumpet) arriving after the MCTC ensemble ended. It ended up being a very relaxed and enjoyable evening, if a bit nontraditional in terms of instrumentation at times. Other songs included "Ornithology," "The Nearness of You," "A Foggy Day" and about a dozen others which slip my aging mind.

After Labor Day we will switch back to the Saturday schedule, with instrumentals from 12:00-1:00PM and then with the vocalists from 1:00-4:00PM. We won't meet the weekend of Labor Day and the next Jazz Workshop will be on Saturday 9/12/09. These longer sessions allow us to get through a lot of songs and really help with the development of jazz musicianship. Hope to see you there!

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Stormy Monday

Or not so stormy, since it was really Tuesday morning that involved the rain. Turnout this week was very sparse. Tim (guitar) had a prior commitment and wasn't there, Sam (trumpet) had a conflict and wasn't there. Ira (alto sax), Wes (tenor sax) and Gene (drums) turned up and waited around a while and then Ira had to split. Sam turned up when his conflicting commitment was over and played bass while Annie and Vicki handled vocals. Just like "you dance with the one what brung you," you play jazz with those who are on hand!

Next week (8/31/09) is the last Monday workshop. Starting 9/12/09, the workshop will meet at McRae Park on Saturdays, from 12:00-1:00 with instrumentals and from 1:00-4:00 with vocalists. There will be no workshop on Labor Day or that weekend. Tim is planning on being there, Sam will not be.

Monday, August 17, 2009

"Summertime" slowly drawing to a close

And it seemed like we barely had a summer this year, meteorologically speaking. But we had some hot jazz!

The Jazz Workshop met at McRae Park for the third-to-the-last Monday evening jazz workshop of this year. The sun was down before we were done tonight. Sigh. We'll meet again on 8/24 and 8/31, but Labor Day is coming quickly and the Workshop will switch back to Saturdays from 12:00-4:00 starting September 12.

Tonight we had a fairly compact turnout with Sam (bass and trumpet), Annie (vocals), Margo (bass), Trent (the first-ever jazz bassoonist at the Workshop), Wes (tenor sax), Dick (vocals), Ira (alto sax), John (vocals), Tim (guitar), Gene (drums) and Matt (flute). That's still 11 people, though! We ended up with different instrumentation than usual which has the effect of making people play differently, always an interesting experiment.

We started with about an hour of instrumentals and then the vocalists joined us until the end. We covered various tunes including "Summertime," "A Night in Tunisia" (which elicited an inadvertent Jerry Garcia tribute from the guitarist) "From Here to Eternity," "I Thought About You," "Jeannine," "St. Thomas," "Just Friends," "Four" and several others which I cannot now recall.

Anyway, that was tonight. We'll be back next week on 8/24 and again on 8/31, and then that'll be a wrap for the Workshop on Monday evenings.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

All basses covered

At the 8/10/09 edition of the Jazz Workshop, we had an unusual situation: four bassists (three of them new)! One of the bassists, Sam Fiske, opted to play trumpet so we had three bassists taking turns with the songs. We had a couple of other new participants including a young violinist (and Jean Luc Ponty fan, apparently) and a new guitarist. Unfortunately I didn't catch most of their names but Sam caught several of them. I heard Margo play with the Capri Big Band at the Freedom Jazz Festival where she swung the band along very nicely.

By head count we had 15 musicians: Sam (trumpet), Ira (alto sax), Craig (guitar), Christian (piano), Annie (vocals), Gene (drums), Margo (bass), Jeff (bass), Gonzalez (bass, visiting from Oklahoma), John (vocals), Tim (guitar), Wes (tenor sax), Dick (vocals), ???? (violin) and ???? (guitar). This was a great turnout of very friendly musicians and a lot of fun.

Songs included "Yardbird Suite," "Bye Bye Blackbird," "Down Home Blues," "I Got It Bad," "Guess I'll Hang My Tears Out to Dry," and a bunch of others (I should not wait three days to post this stuff because I forget the tunes we played).

Next week (8/17) we'll do it again! After Labor Day we will be switching back to Saturdays from 12:00-4:00, probably starting 9/12/09.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Back into the Swing of things

From special correspondent Sam Fiske:

"Turnout was light as several players took a break after the Very Successful performance at the Freedom Jazz Festival Saturday. We received several comments for a job well done.

David Mehoves from St Cloud stopped by to say thanks on behalf of his son, David Mehoves, a former attendee at the Jazz Workshop. David went on to attend some good Music schools and now has his own band on a cruise ship. Cruise ship bands are sometimes called the contemporary extension of the "Big Bands" of a previous area. Congratulations David, and the workshop folks who helped him on his way, Gene Adams, Sam Favors and others.

Attendees this week included Gene Egan, Sam Fiske, Matt Riley, Wes Simmons, Annie Favors, Toria Hart and W John Carter.

Tunes explored include Cheese Cake, Lush Life, Try A Little Tenderness and a few others."

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Freedom in the Park

The Workshoppers were pleased to play a set at the Freedom Jazz Festival on August 1 at Minnehaha Falls Park in Minneapolis. The FJF was founded by Sam Favors, who also founded the Workshop, top bring jazz to the people in a free setting in the park, friendly for families (unlike nightclubs) and bringing together a cross-section of the local jazz scene. Sam's vision has been carried on by Lamarr Scott, Reona Berry, Jeff Keys and Andrea Keys. This year the FJF lineup included Public NewSense, a group of young high school age jazzers, and the Capri Big Band, Cornbread Harris, Dean Brewington Quartet, McKissick's Drum Troupe, Urban Cadence and Debbie Duncan with the Morris Wilson Quartet.

Representing the Workshop were Annie Favors (vocals), Sam Fiske (trumpet), Toria Hart (vocals), Matt Riley (flute), Martin Stovall (percussion and drums), Dick Jacques (vocals), Wes Simmons (tenor sax), Christian Lamot (piano), Ira Adelman (alto sax), Tim Stevens (bass), Gene Eagen (drums and percussion) and Tim McNamara (guitar)

The set list included "Four Brothers" (instrumental), "I'll Remember April" (sung by Toria Hart), "Feeling Good" (sung by Annie Favors), "Have You Met Miss Jones?" (sung by Dick Jacques), "In Memory of Elizabeth Reed" (instrumental) and "Centerpiece" (sung by Annie Favors and Dick Jacques). The tunes came out OK- indeed, most sounded better than they had in rehearsal- despite a few nerves on the part of some of the "new hands" in the group.

The FJF is the biggest gig of the year for the Workshop and it is an honor to be able to play on the same stage with so many wonderful musicians, as well as to honor the legacy and vision of the Workshop's founder, Sam Favors. The workshop would like to thank FJF Inc. and the planning committee (Lamarr, Reona, Jeff and Andrea) as well as all the other folks that helped out for their dedication and the hundreds of hours of work that go into putting on this fine event- and of course also the fine musicians with whom we were privileged to share the stage.

Lost in concentration, or just lost?

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Final Dress Rehearsal

Well, this was it- the last chance to polish up our songs before the Freedom Jazz Festival performance on August 1.

The band lineup will include Annie Favors, Toria Hart and Dick Jacques (vocals); Sam Fiske (trumpet); Wes Simmons (tenor sax); Matt Riley (flute); Ira Adleman (alto sax); Todd (trumpet); Tim Stevens (bass); Gene Eagen (drums and percussion); Martin Stovall (percussion and drums); Craig Thorpe (guitar); Christian Lamot (piano) and Tim McNamara (guitar). Maybe we should call ourselves the "McRae Park Medium Band."

The FJF schedule has us on stage from 1:50-2:20 PM. The set list is:

Introduction of the Workshop and the band by Annie Favors

"Four Brothers" arranged by Christian Lamot (instrumental)

"I'll Remember April" sung by Toria Hart

"Feelin' Good" sung by Annie Favors

"Have You Met Miss Jones" sung by Dick Jacques

"In Memory of Elizabeth Reed" arranged by Tim McNamara (instrumental)

"Centerpiece" sung by Annie Favors and Dick Jacques

So there it is (or more accurately, there it will be): the result of a couple of months of hard work developing and honing the songs and arrangements. We hope that people enjoy it!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Good Times

Or good timing, anyway. Tonight we played through the set list for the Freedom Jazz Festival performance on 8/1/09 and timed the songs to make sure they'd fit within our 30 minute slot. We settled on six songs for our set: "Four Brothers," "Feeling Good," "Have You Met Miss Jones?" "I'll Remember April," "Centerpiece," and "In Memory of Elizabeth Reed." "St. Thomas" remains an option if we need another song.

Tonight we had lots of folks at the workshop: 17! The lineup included Gene (drums), Martin (percussion), Tim (bass), Annie (vocals), Ira (tenor sax instead of his usual alto), Craig (guitar), Matt (flute), Romney (baritone sax), Mary (trumpet) and her sister Sarah (trumpet, too), Dick (vocals), Christian (piano), Vicki (vocals), Norman (piano and drums), Steve (trumpet and flugelhorn), Sam (trumpet) and another Tim (guitar).

On 8/1/09 the Workshop will be playing at the Freedom Jazz Festival (link over on the right) at Minnehaha Falls in Minneapolis. The schedule has us playing from 1:50-2:20 PM. Please come on out and hear us!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Same time, same place!

Monday July 13 saw us inching inexorably closer to the August 1 performance at the Freedom Jazz Festival. Boatloads of us turned up: Sam and Todd (trumpets), Ira (alto sax), Wes (tenor sax), Jeff (cello), Roger (bass- first time at the workshop), Matt (flute), Gene (drums) and Tim (guitar). Christian (piano) was out ill. We worked our way through "In Memory of Elizabeth Reed," "Four Brothers" and "St. Thomas" for instrumentals, all three tunes sounding better than ever. Annie, Vicki and Dick joined us for vocals and we covered "Feeling Good," "East of the Sun," "Have You Met Miss Jones," "Centerpiece," "I'll Remember April," "What Is This Thing Called Love" and a few others.

Annie talked about the schedule for the FJF, which includes the Workshop playing from 1:00-1:30. The roster of musicians for the performance is complete and it's time to get into the home stretch.

Next week we will time the songs to make sure that we can get the set done within the 30 minutes allotted to each performance at the Freedom Jazz Festival. The set list seems to be shaping up to be "Feeling Good," "Centerpiece," "Have You Met Miss Jones?" "What Is This Thing Called Love?" "Four Brothers" and possible "In Memory of Elizabeth Reed" or "St. Thomas."

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Independence Jazz

The first Monday jazz workshop in July was a hot one- lots of people, small room, limited ventilation... and the music too. The first hour was attended by Sam and Todd (trumpets), Romney (bari sax), Wes (tenor sax), Ira (alto sax), Paul and Tim and Craig (guitars), the other Tim (bass), Gene (drums) and Christian (piano). We also had a first time experience of having a cellist (Jeff) in the mix! Annie and Vicki (vocals) rounded out the bunch.

The song selection was again focused on the August 1 performance at the Freedom Jazz Festival: "Four Brothers," "In Memory of Elizabeth Reed," "St. Thomas," as instrumentals and "Feeling Good," "I'll Remember April," "Blue Room," "What Is This Thing Called Love?" "Since I Fell For You" and "East of the Sun" being played. We also trooped through "Blue Monk" and "Black Orpheus" for fun.

Next week, same time, same place!

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Cool evening, hot music

It was unseasonably cool today, only 72F for a high. We had a great turnout at the McRae Park building for the Monday evening jazz workshop. Regulars Sam (trumpet), Wes (tenor sax), Gene (drums), Christian (piano), Tim (guitar) and Ira (alto sax) were joined for the instrumental hour by the another Tim on bass, his daughter Romney on baritone sax and Todd on trumpet. Joining us later were Annie and Vicki (vocals) and Scott (guitar) and Jim (baritone sax). The main focus was again on songs to be played at the Freedom Jazz Festival on 8/1/09 (see the link over on the right).

This week I actually remembered to write down the tunes and the attendees! For the first hour we focused on instrumentals including "Four Brothers" (arranged by Christian), "In Memory of Elizabeth Reed," "Yardbird Suite" and "St. Thomas" (played at a gentle, tropical, almost Jimmy Buffet tempo). The vocalists joined in and we played "I'll Remember April," "What Is This Thing Called Love," "East of the Sun" sung by Vicki and "Feeling Good," ""The Masquerade Is Over," and "Don't Go To Strangers" sung by Annie. Jim sang "Tangerine." We also played "Straight, No Chaser" as an instrumental in the middle of all the vocals.

The cool thing was that the new participants- Tim, Romney and Todd- fit in well and sounded good. Scott, a professional jazz guitarist and former workshop regular who stopped in spontaneously, added interesting ornaments and passing chords to the half-dozen tunes he sat in on. Several of the songs got their best airing ever, including "Four Brothers," "Elizabeth Reed," and "Feeling Good" in particular.

All in all a good and fun evening. Hope to see you next week! Maybe I'll eventually manage to remember a camera and to write things down...

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

"Hot" jazz on 6/22/09

It was a hot Minnesota day and I had to miss the jazz workshop due to a prior commitment. From our special correspondent, Sam Fiske, on the scene at McRae Park on 6/22/09:

"Attendees: Christian Lamot, Gene Egan, Ira Adelman, Matt Riley, Wes Simmons, Vicki Earhart, Sam Fiske and Annie Favors. Plus Susan a vocalist and a trumpet/guitar guy stopped by to check us out. Hope to see them again.

Worked during the instrumental hour on expected tunes for the Freedom Jazz Fest: Four Brothers, Elizabeth Reed and St Thomas.

The gals sang several great tunes including: Since I Fell For You, Hello Young Lovers, Soon It's Gonna Rain."

A note to the readers of the blog- we could really use a steady bassist, that's been one important instrument missing from the lineup. Sam plays bass sometimes but prefers trumpet and Don has graciously filled in as needed, but we really need a steady player to make the commitment for coming each week. If you play bass or know someone who does, let them know of our need!

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

The Half-way Point

June 15th is the halfway point of the year, to my way of thinking, and with the solstice only a week away it's the astronomical halfway point as well. Given that summer hasn't even really started, that's a depressing thought. So enough of that!

The workshop met again on Monday 6/15/09. For the first hour the instrumentalists had a space to work on tunes for the Freedom Jazz Festival. Attendees included Wes (tenor sax), Gene (drums), Paul (guitar) and Tim (guitar). Later Craig (guitar) also joined us. We played several tunes but not very diligently, "Ornithology" being the best of the bunch. We also looked at the A section of "In Memory of Elizabeth Reed" to check out the harmony part I wrote for Wes; the end result of that it that it goes back into the hopper for further development as the harmony was technically correct but sounded wrong.

Vicki (vocals) and Annie (vocals) then joined us and a little later Norman (piano) also arrived. Vicki tried out several new-for-her songs ("I Remember You" and "The Man I Love" being two of them). Annie sang "Invitation" and several others (I really should write these thigns down). We also played "Blue Bossa."

All right, that's the report for halfway through 2009. Next workshop is 6/22/09 from 6:00-8:45.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Budget Cuts

Paul e-mailed me to say that on 6/8/09 he went to McRae Park for the Monday evening workshop only to find the building locks and dark, with a notice up that for "budgetary reasons" the building was closed 6/9-10/09. My advice would be to call the park (612-370-4909) in advance of going to workshops to make sure the building will be open. Their Web site does not seem to list events like this.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

The news at 11

I missed putting up a post about the first Monday evening workshop on 6/1/09. This was the last night to rehearse songs for the gig on Saturday 6/6/09 (more on that below). In attendance were Annie and Vicki (vocals), Sam (trumpet), Christian (piano), Don (bass), Jim (baritone sax), Wes (tenor sax), Gene (drums), Martin (percussion), Matt (flute) and Tim (guitar). We did run-throughs of "Four Brothers" featuring four part harmony arranged by Christian, "St. Thomas," "In Memory of Elizabeth Reed" in about its 10th iteration arranged by Tim (someday he'll get it right), "Feeling Good," "At Last," "I'll Remember April," and several others that, five days later, I can't recall.

On Saturday 6/6/09 the workshop played at the McRae Park Fun Day from 12:30PM-2:00PM. This is usually an outdoor event, but due to the cold temperatures and rain things were moved indoors. This was good as cold wet weather makes if hard to play an instrument with any facility, and for the bassist and guitarist, holding an electrified instrument while getting rained on and standing in water leaves much to be desired. Musicians playing at the gig were all of the above plus Dick (vocals). We played "Four Brothers," "Yardbird Suite," "Feeling Good," "Corcovado," "At Last," "Day by Day," "I'll Remember April," "Centerpiece," "St. Thomas," "Gentle Rain," and probably a half dozen other songs that aren't coming back to me as I type this. The gig was fun and went pretty well.

The workshop will now be meeting on Monday evenings from 6:00PM-8:45PM throughout the summer. The next one is 6/8/09. If you're interested in playing jazz, come on down and give it a whirl.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

How Many of You Are There in the Quartet?

An Excerpt from the Unfinished Memoirs of Paul Desmond, Recounting His Years With the Dave Brubeck Quartet- which has nothing to do with the Workshop but which I found uproariously funny. So here it is (I think this was published as liner notes for an album):

Dawn. A station wagon pulls up to the office of an obscure motel in New Jersey. Three men enter - pasty-faced, grim-eyed, silent (for those are their names). Perfect opening shot, before credits, for a really lousy bank-robbery movie? Wrong. The Dave Brubeck Quartet, some years ago, starting our day's work.

Today we have a contract (an offer we should have refused) for two concerts at the Orange County State Fair in Middletown . 2 p.m.. and 8 p.m. Brubeck likes to get to the job early.

So we pull up behind this hay truck around noon, finally locating the guy who had signed the contract. Stout, red-necked, gruff and harried (from the old New Jersey law firm of the same name), and clearly more comfortable judging cattle than booking jazz groups, he peers into the station wagon, which contains four musicians, bass, drums, and assorted baggage, and for the first and only time in our seventeen years of wandering around the world, we get this question: "Where's the piano?"

So, leaving Brubeck to cope with the situation, we head into town for sandwiches and browsing. Since the sandwiches take more time than the browsing, I pick up a copy of the Middletown Record and things become a bit more clear. "Teenager's Day at the Orange County State Fair", says the headline across the two center pages (heavy move, in that the paper only has four pages). Those poor folk, especially the cattle-judge type (who has probably lumbered into heading the entertainment committee), thought we were this red-hot teenage attraction, which, Lord knows we've never been. Our basic audience begins with creaking elderly types of twenty-three and above.

Nevertheless, here we are, splashed all over this ad, along with the other attractions of the day- judo exhibition, fire-fighting demonstration, Wild West show, and Animaloraa (which may have been merely misspelled). And right at the top, first two columns on the left, is the this picture of Brubeck's teeth and much of his face, along with the following text, which I'm paraphrasing only slightly. "Hear the music teenagers everywhere thrill to", it began. "Hear the music that rocked Newport Rhode Island (an unfortunate reference in that only a few weeks earlier the Newport Jazz Festival had undergone its first riot). "Hear Dave Brubeck sing and play his famous hits, including 'Jazz Goes to College', 'Jazz in Europe ', and 'Tangerine'.

So, now realizing - in Brubeck's piquant ranch phrase - which way the hole slopes, we head back to the fairgrounds where the scene is roughly as follows: there is a smallish, almost transistorized, oval race track. (I'm not exactly sure how long a furlong is, but it seems not too many of them are actually present.) On one side of the oval is the grandstand, built to accommodate 2,000 or so, occupied at the moment by eight or nine elderly folk who clearly paid their money to sit in the shade and fan themselves, as opposed to any burning desire to hear the music their teenage grandchildren everywhere thrill to.

Directly across the track from them is our bandstand - a wooden platform, about ten feet high and immense. Evidently no piano has been located in Orange County , since the only props on stage are a vintage electric organ and one mike. Behind us is a fair-sized tent containing about two hundred people, in which a horse show for young teenagers is currently in progress - scheduled, we soon discover, to continue throughout our concert. This is hazardous mainly because their sound system is vastly superior to ours.

So we begin our desperation opener, "St. Louis Blues." Brubeck, who has never spent more than ten minutes of his life at an electric organ, much less the one he is now at, is producing sounds like an early Atwater-Kent Synthesizer. (Later he makes a few major breakthroughs, like locating the volume control pedal and figuring out how to wiggle his right hand, achieving a tremolo effect similar to Jimmy Smith with a terminal hangover, but doesn't help much.) Eugene Wright, our noble bass player, and me take turns schlepping the mike back and forth between us and playing grouchy, doomed choruses, but the only sound we can hear comes from our friendly neighborhood horse show.


As always in difficult situations such as these, we turn to our main man, primo virtuoso of the group, the Maria Callas of the drums, Joe Morello, who has rescued us from disaster from Grand Forks to Rajkot , India .

"You got it," we said, "stretch out," which ordinarily is like issuing an air travel card to a hijacker. And, to his external credit, Morello outdoes himself. All cymbals sizzling, all feet working. (Morello has several. Not many people know this.) Now he's into triplets around the tom-toms, which has shifted foundations from the Odeon Hammersmith to Free Trade Hall and turned Buddy Rich greener than usual with envy.

The horse show is suddenly silent. Fanning in the stands has subsided slightly.

Suddenly a figure emerges from the horse tent, hurtles to the side of the stage, and yells at Brubeck, "For Chrissakes, could you tell the drummer not to play so loud? He's terrifying the horses."

Never a group to accept defeat gracelessly, we play a sort of Muzak for a suitable period and split.

When we return at eight, all is different. A piano has been found, the stands are packed with our geriatric following of twenty-five and above, and we play a fairly respectable concert.

Even so, we're upstaged by the grand finale of the fair - the fire-fighting demonstration. A group of local residents has been bandaged and made up to appear as if they've just leapt from the Hindenburg and their last rites are imminent. But instead of remaining discreetly behind the scenes until their big moment, they mingle casually with friends and neighbors in the audience during the evening, sipping beer, munching popcorn, casting an eerie, Fellini-like quality over the gathering, and considerably diminishing the impact of their ultimate appearance.

After their pageant come the main events of the fair, which have clearly been planned for months: a flaming auto wreck, followed by a flaming plane wreck, each to be dealt with instantly and efficiently by the Middletown Fire Dept. At one end of the oval is a precariously balanced car; a the other end, a truly impressive skeletal mock-up of a single-engine plane, tail up. Midway, at ground zero, is the Middletown Fire Truck, bristling with ladders and hoses and overflowing volunteers.

A hush falls over the stands. At a signal given by the fire chief, the car is ignited. The truck reaches it in two or three seconds, by which time the fire is roughly equivalent to that created by dropping a cigarette on the backseat for two or three seconds. It is extinguished by many men with several hoses.

A murmur falls over the stands. The fire chief, painfully aware that his moment of the year is at hand, signals for the plane to be ignited, also instructing the truck to take it easy, so that the fire should be blazing briskly when it arrives. The truck starts, at about the pace of a cab looking for a fare. The plane goes WHOOSH!, like a flashbulb, and by the time the leisurely truck arrives, has shrunk to a lovely camp-fire, just large enough for roasting marshmallows.

Later, four pasty-faced, grim-eyed men pile into a station wagon and drive away. It may not be bank robbery, but it's a living.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Happy Memorial Day

There was no workshop today due to the Memorial Day holiday. The next workshop meeting is Monday 6/1/09 from 6:00PM to 8:45 PM.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

From our special correspondent

I wasn't at the first Monday evening jazz workshop on 5/18 but pianist Christian was and he files the following brief report:

"We had viki, annie, sheila on vocals... myself, wes, and matt (flute) and gene on drums...

we sounded pretty good, we played day by day, I love paris (sheila sang the hell outta that one), angel eyes, at last (etta james), i'll remember april, willow weep for me, and a few others I can't remember."

Christian has arranged "Four Brothers" in multi-part harmony for the horns. I haven't had a chance to hear it yet but am looking forward to it. I've been arranging "In Memory of Elizabeth Reed" for the horns and will have that ready by the next Monday jazz workshop (6/1) and will probably discover that I don't know what I'm doing arranging horns!

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Last call for Saturday workshops

Today was the last Saturday workshop until after Labor Day, the McRae Park building being closed on weekends during the summer. We'll be meeting on Monday evenings at 6:00 PM throughout the summer. The first Monday evening jazz workshop will be in a few days on Monday 5/18. Then on Memorial Day (5/25) there will be no workshop, and then on 6/1 the workshop will resume each Monday evening. Usually the workshop will run until 8:45.

Today we worked on songs for the upcoming gigs on 6/6 (McRae Park Fun Day) and 8/1 (Freedom Jazz Festival). Those included "Four Brothers," "Yardbird Suite," "St. Thomas," "Ornithology," "Corcovado," "I Thought About You," "Feeling Good," "Centerpiece," and a bunch of others. The usual suspects (Annie, Vicki, Dick, Sam, Tim, Craig, Sheila, Paul, Wes, Ira, Jim, Gene) were joined by a couple of trombonists (both of whose names escape me at the moment) and Evan on drums and percussion.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

The Penultimate Saturday Workshop

After today there is only one more Saturday jazz workshop before we switch to Monday evenings. We'll meet at noon on 5/16/09 for the last Saturday workshop until the fall, and then we'll start on Monday evenings- on 5/18 from 6:00-7:45, off on 5/25/ for Memorial Day and then weekly from 6:00-8:45 on Mondays starting 6/1/09. Got that?

The focus today was on getting tunes together for upcoming gigs at the McRae Park Fun Day on 6/6/09 and the Freedom Jazz Festival on 8/1/09 from 12:00-12:30 PM. Despite the nice weather and beckoning yard work, 10 jazzers turned up today: Annie, Dick and Vicki (all vocals), Jim (baritone sax), Wes (tenor sax), Paul (guitar), Craig (guitar), Matt (flute), Christian (piano), Charles (tuba) and Tim (guitar)

Songs played during the "instrumental hour" included "Blus Bossa," "People Will Say We're In Love," "Tenor Madness," "Yardbird Suite" and a preliminary look at 'In Memory of Elizabeth Reed" which Tim hopes to arrange for the horns. With "September Song" we transitioned into the regular workshop at 1:00, with Annie taking the vocals. Other songs included an uptempo workup of "Feeling Good," "Day By Day," "Corcovado," "Cousin Mary," "I Get Along Without You Very Well," "East of the Sun," "You've Changed," "Out of Nowhere," "Flintstones," "Georgia On My Mind," "Do You Know What It Means To Miss New Orleans," "I Thought About You" and with "Ornithology" for the closer.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

The Jazz Workshop News for 5/2/09

On another fine Saturday 13 devotees of jazz music got together to celebrate this wonderful music. OK, that's a bit sappy, even though it's true. Sam (trumpet and bass), Christian (piano), Annie (vocals), Ira (alto sax), Vicki (vocals), Jim (baritone sax and clarinet), Dick (vocals), Craig (guitar), Sheila (vocals), Wes (tenor sax), Tim (guitar) and another guitarist whose name has eluded me as I type this. Very supportive, forgetting the name of the first-timer.

Annie made several announcements about the future of the Jazz Workshop. First, the last Saturday workshop for the summer will be 5/16/09. Second, the first Monday evening workshop will be 5/18/09 from 6:00-7:45 PM. There will be no Monday evening workshop on 5/25/09 (Memorial Day) and then the Monday workshops will pick up in earnest on 6/1/09 from 6:00-8:45 PM. The jazz workshop will be performing at the McRae Park Fun Day on 6/6/09, times to be determined. We will also be performing at the Freedom Jazz Festival on 8/1/09 from 12:00-12:30 PM.

The focus of today's workshop was on working up songs for the upcoming public performances. We will probably have four vocalists, each doing one or two songs, and several instrumentals. This will be the primary focus for the upcoming workshops for the next several weeks.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

'Round Noon

The Jazz Workshop started around noon- again- with an hour of instrumental music. Well, an intended hour of instrumental music, but with setup and everything it was more like 45 minutes. Several tunes were played, with some stoppage to work out difficult sections. We started out with Gene (drums), Bob (drums), Wes (tenor sax), Craig (guitar), Tim (guitar) and Sam (trumpet and bass). Ira (alto sax) joined us and then Sheila, Annie and Vicki joined us on vocals and Jim on piano. Jeff from the Freedom Jazz Festival (piano and horn, although he just played piano) was there for a bit, too. So we had a total of 12 musicians- pretty good for a nice Saturday in April.

Song include "Four," "Day By Day," "Jeannine," "Forest Flower," "St. Thomas" (yes, we play that nearly every week), "Tune Up," "Do Nothing 'Till You Hear From Me," "The Duke," "Dear Old Stockholm," and probably at least five other tunes that have slipped my mind.

Annie noted that the Jazz Workshop has two summer gigs this year: June 6 at McRae Park for the summer party and August 1 from 12:00-12:30 at the Freedom Jazz Festival. The Workshop plays at several events at the park each year- the Bunny Breakfast in the spring, the summer celebration in early June and the holiday party in the winter. We are pleased to be able to be part of the neighborhood's events in this way and hope that people enjoy the music.

The Freedom Jazz Festival was started by Sam Favors, one of the founders of the Jazz Workshop. Sam believed in jazz and in helping people understand the deep ties between jazz and the African-American community and the broad range of the African-American experience. The FJF is a showcase for the music and honors that history, and the Jazz Workshop is honored to be invited to play a set. We will be working closely on the songs that will be played at these events throughout much of the summer.

Annie also spoke to the Saturday workshop going on its annual summer hiatus due to the closing of the park building on weekends between Memorial and Labor Day. The workshop will happen on Monday evenings through the summer in the McRae Park building, probably 6:00 or 6:30-8:45. The Saturday workshop will return after Labor Day, probably 9/12/09. If you want to come to the Saturday Workshop before the hiatus, don't delay! Otherwise we will see you on Monday evenings or in the Fall!

By the way- photos courtesy and copyright of Don Lehnhoff, who took these on 4/18/09. I was too busy playing today to take photos and am very grateful to Don's generosity.

Saturday, April 18, 2009


And the jamming is easy!
Trombone is swooping and the sax blowing high.
The singers croon, walking bass underpinning,
and the trumpet, guitars and piano [something that rhymes; I'm a lousy songwriter].

Sheila- this may have been "Take the 'A' Train."

The Jazz Workshop today started at noon, including Don (trombone), Christian (piano), Ken (upright bass), Jimmy (electric fretless bass), Paul (guitar), Sam (trumpet), Wes (tenor sax), Craig (guitar), Gene (drums) and Tim (guitar). At 1:00 we were joined by vocalists Annie, Vicki, Dick and Sheila. Ken, Jimmy and Paul were fresh faces at the Workshop. Let's see that's 14 folks! Don took 55 photos today; here are a few of them.

Ken, upright bass.

Songs played today included "Ornithology," "St. Thomas," "Pent Up House," "Black Orpheus," "Out of Nowhere," "East of the Sun," "Summertime," "Watch What Happens," "Take the 'A' Train," and about 20 more (like an infomercial- "but wait, there's more"). As always, in several cases it was the first time some of us had seen some of the songs.

Paul (guitar) and Tim (guitar)

Annie started the conversation about summer plans. The park building is closed on Saturdays after Memorial Day until Labor Day, so the last Saturday workshop for the summer will be either 5/16/09 or 5/23/09. We may meet on a weeknight from 6:00-9:00 PM during the summer, if there are enough people willing to commit to being there, and then resume meeting on Saturdays the first weekend after Labor Day. If you're coming to the workshop regularly, give some thought to whether you want to continue over the summer and, if so, what evenings work for you.

Jimmy (fretless electric bass)

Next week (4/25/09) we will again start at noon for an hour of instrumentals and then from 1:00-3:45PM for the regular workshop.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Easy Living

On Saturday April 11 the Jazz Workshop met yet again, this time with three new faces: Bob (drums), Ira (alto sax) and arrrrgh! on trombone and ummmmm on trumpet. Sorry , guys, my forgettery is getting better than my memory. We also had Craig (guitar), Gene (drums), Jim (piano this week), Annie (vocals), Toria (vocals), Dick (vocals), Wes (tenor sax) and Tim (guitar). We met about noon for the "instrumental hour" although this was a bit loosey-goosey this week and we really only played for about half an hour without Sam to get us counted off and going. The vocalists came about 1:00 and the normal workshop started, running to 3:45 or so. Tunes today included "Ornithology," "Flintstones Theme," "Yardbird Suite," "Take The 'A' Train," "Summertime," "Have You Met Miss Jones," and there were more (see above re: my memory functioning). We were busy enough playing that I didn't take any photos! So here's one from a couple of weeks ago of Wes:

Next week we'll meet again at noon for an hour of instrumentals and then the regular workshop will run from 1-3:45. Looking ahead, the last Saturday workshop for the summer will be on May 23. The McRae Park building is not open on Saturdays during the summer. If there is enough interest and commitment, we may meet at McRae on a weeknight throughout the summer. We'll talk about this in May at the last couple of Saturday workshops. The Saturday workshop will resume after Labor Day, probably on September 12, when the park building is again open on Saturdays.

The Bunny Hop

The Jazz Workshop ensemble played the McRae Park "Bunny Breakfast" on Saturday April 4. This is a community event with breakfast, an egg hunt, games, etc. I was out of town and so I don't have a report about the event nor any photos. Maybe someone who was there will write something up.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Gigging at the "Bunny Brunch"

This Saturday (4/4/09) the Jazz Workshop Ensemble will be performing at "The Bunny Brunch" at McRae Park from 9:00AM-noon. We won't be holding the regular workshop as a result of this. Come on out and hear us play!

The Workshop will resume its regular schedule next week 4/11/09, with the "instrumental hour" at noon and then the regular workshop beginning at 1:00 and going to 3:45. Hope to see you there!

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Lessons of history- past, present and future

The Jazz Workshop was started by Sam Favors as the "Musicians Creative Guild." This was long enough ago- at least 30 years- that the exact timeline has been lost. The workshop has taken place in several Minneapolis parks over the years, for a while even being funded by the Park District. Some of Sam's words remain with us, however:

The Musicians’ Creative Guild (MCG) is a community-based group, organized to develop activities and projects aimed toward increasing jazz music performance arts, business and artistic acumen. MCG hosts a weekly jazz workshop for musicians to practice their craft. The group also sponsors seminars and performs throughout the Twin Cities.

MCG projects included the Jazz Workshop, instrument-specific workshops, jazz history and listening sessions and the Freedom Jazz Festival. Sam Favors was one of the founders of the FJF, the first one happening in 1999 at Minnehaha Falls Park. He was held in high esteem by his fellow musicians. Sam has passed away but the FJF continues and has created the "Samuel F. Favors Award," presented annually to an African-American musician "representing the creativity, dedication, energy and spirit of Jazz in Minnesota and beyond."

This year the FJF will be August 1, 2009 at Minnehaha Falls Park. Festivals like this are important to the continuation of the legacy of jazz in the community- a legacy founded in the African-American experience in this nation. Sam had hoped that the MCG and the FJF would further an understanding of that legacy, enhance the Twin Cities jazz culture, bring this wonderful music to a new generation, bring jazz musicians and jazz fans together and enhance the community and family experience.

The goals of the Jazz Workshop are connected to these goals and to the purpose of the MCG: to help people develop the craft of playing jazz music, to expand artistry and improve the ability to make a living. There are many supporters of jazz music in the Twin Cities (some of them are listed over to the right side of this page). For jazz to continue we need musicians and an educated audience able to hear and understand what is being played. We hope that that the Jazz Workshop helps move the Twin Cities jazz scene just a little further along.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

I'll Remember April...

Hmm, no, I'm anticipating April. But there aren't any jazz songs about March. Probably because it is March, not April, that is the cruelest month- at least in Minnesota.

Seventeen jazz musicians braved sunny skies and gentle north winds to come to the workshop today. I think that was our biggest turnout in a long time. The Craigslist ad remains the most effective publication tool we've used, even bringing in people who used to come to the workshop 15 years ago at a different park!

Today as had an "instrumental hour" from noon to 1:00 and then the usual workshop from 1:00-3:45, when it was time to pack up. We covered songs that will be played at the "Bunny Breakfast" next Saturday- "Easter Parade," "East of the Sun," "Corcovado," "Gentle Rain," "The Bunny Hop," St. Thomas," "I'll Remember April," "I Love You," and a few others. We also played "Four," "All of Me," "Flintstone's Theme," "Ornithology," "Fools Rush In" and there were some others besides that. Four hours of jazz fun!

Next Saturday, on April 4, the regular workshop will not happen. The ensemble will be playing at the "Bunny Breakfast" from 9:00AM to noon. Hope you can drop in and hear us!

On April 11, we'll again meet at noon for the "instrumental hour" and then the regular workshop will run from 1:00-3:45.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

View from the guitar chair

Sam and Vicki, above.

Once again the Jazz Workshop met in the classroom at McRae Park. The focus today was on working up songs for the April 4th "Bunny Breakfast" gig; performing at park events is part of how the Workshop pays for the use of the facilities. Today we had some new faces and some returning ones- Luis (electric bass), Tony (upright bass for the first hour or so), Christian (piano), Wes (tenor sax), Jim (tenor sax, clarinet, piano and vocals), Jarret (alto sax), a trumpeter whose name I have managed to forget (but his picture will be posted below to make up for that), Sam (trumpet), Craig (guitar), Gene (drums), Norman (drums and piano), Annie (vocals), Vicki (vocals) and Tim (guitar). That's a baker's dozen!

The horns

For the first time, at Sam's suggestion, we met at noon for an "instrumental hour" and then the vocalists joined in at the usual time. This was well-liked as it allowed the instrumentalists time to stretch out on solos that isn't available when working out songs with vocals. As an interesting side effect, the group played much more cohesively when backing up the singers, too.

Christian and Luis

Songs played included "Yardbird Suite," "Meditation," "Do You Know What It Means to Miss New Orleans," "Four," "Nature Boy," "I'll Remember April," "Blue Bossa," "St. Thomas," "I Love You," "Easter Parade," "East of the Sun" and probably a bunch of others that I have forgotten.

Next week- 3/28/09- we will again start at noon for an hour of instrumentals before the start of the Workshop at 1:00PM. Be there if you can!

Sunday, March 15, 2009

It Might As Well Be Spring!

The birds were singing, the sun was shining, and due to there being three birthday parties at various times in the main room at McRae Park we met in the small classroom. We jammed three drummers, two bassists (one of them also playing trumpet), a sax player, a trumpeter, a saxophonist, a pianist (also playing clarinet), two guitarists, a percussionist and three vocalists into the room. There were a couple other folks who dropped in to listen, too.

We covered a bunch of tunes, including "Corcovado/Quiet Nights," "The Bunny Hop," "St. Thomas," "I'll Remember April," "Fools Rush In," "Gentle Rain," "What Is This Thing Called Love?" and probably half-a-dozen other tunes that my aging brain has forgotten.

Annie Favors announced that on April 4, the Workshop will be performing for the "Bunny Brunch" from 9:00AM-12:00PM. This is an annual event at the park and the Workshop usually provides the music, emphasizing "springy" tunes. The workshop will not happen at the usual time on April 4. The set list will be finalized next Saturday. Only regular attendees will play on April 4 (bringing in somebody new at the last minute before a performance tends to create problems).

Sam Fiske announced that next week there will be an "instrumental hour" between noon and 1:00 PM, and then the workshop will start at 1:00 and run to 4:00 as usual.

I was so busy playing that I forgot to take any pictures!

Sunday, March 8, 2009

A couple more photos

I always feel bad that we only get some of the musicians in the photos, so here are a couple more from 3/7/09. This is Vicki (vocals), Pete (bass), the other Pete (drums), Ken (guitar, right) and Tim (guitar, left):

And this is Sam and Mary (trumpets); we seem to have lost Dan, another trumpeter, somewhere along the line: