Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Coda: Dr. Billy Taylor

JJazz pianist, composer, educator and broadcaster Dr. Billy Taylor passed away on December 28, 2010 at the age of 89. He died from heart failure after several months of heart problems. Dr. Taylor's recording career covered more than six decades; he composed more than 350 songs and for theatre, dance and symphony orchestras. He began his professional career with Ben Webster's Quartet on 52nd Street ad was the house pianist at Birdland, the legendary jazz club where he performed with such celebrated masters as Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie and Miles Davis. Dr. Taylor earned his Masters and Doctorate in Music Education from the University of Massachusetts and held a Duke Ellington Fellowship at Yale University. He was granted 23 honorary doctoral degrees and was the recipient of two Peabody Awards, an Emmy, a Grammy, the National Medal of Arts, the Tiffany Award, a Lifetime Achievement Award from Downbeat Magazine and was elected to the Hall of Fame for the International Association for Jazz Education. Dr. Taylor was one of only three jazz musicians appointed to the National Council of the Arts. He was the Artistic Advisor for Jazz at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. He is survived by his wife Theodora and by his daughter Kim Taylor-Thompson; his son Duane predeceased him.

2010 was a year in which many icons of jazz passed away. We are diminished by their loss and enriched by the legacy of jazz music they have bequeathed to us. Each jazz musician and listener carries that legacy with them.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

The Last Jazz Workshop of 2010

Due to the holidays, 12/18/10 was the last jazz workshop of 2010. I wasn't there but roving reporter Peter kept the notes and did us up proud for the last jam. Thanks, Peter!

In attendance: Gene (drums), Wes (tenor sax), Russ (trombone), Peter (bari sax), Bill (ukulele), Adam (guitar- 1st timer), Jeff (guitar- another 1st timer), and Vicki, Matt, Annie (vocals).

The set list included Body & Soul, Have You Met Miss Jones, Stella by Starlight, Blue Bossa, Invitation, The Christmas Song, I Should Care, Merry Christmas, Baby, What Is This Thing Called Love?, All the Things You Are (twice - once instrumental, once vocal), Tennessee Waltz, I Thought About You
The Night Before Christmas (recited with Up On The Housetop played in the background), Moonlight Serenade, The Very Thought of You, The Folks Who Live on the Hill, Spanish Eyes, Take the "A" Train, Dream, How About You?, Touch of Your Lips, Blue Christmas, Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.

There it is, the last Jazz Workshop of 2010 which brings to a close 34 years of Workshop history. The 35th year is 2011 and the first Workshop session will be on 1/8/10! May everyone have a happy holiday, whichever holiday you celebrate. Be safe, be warm, be with your loved ones if you can.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Catch Me (Up)

I've missed posting the past few Jazz Workshop reports; life has been very busy at our house between the holidays and other things. So here's the catch up note.

The Saturday after Thanksgiving (if the day after Thanksgiving is Black Friday then the day after that must be Blue Saturday) saw eleven folks come out to the park to play jazz. This included Russ (trombone), Rich (trumpet), Sam (trumpet- actually a Morrison trumpet synth controller), Wes (tenor sax), Max (bass), Gene (drums), Bill (tenor ukulele), Tim (guitar) and vocalists Annie, Cheryl and Matt.

The set list included "Four," "A Foggy Day," "Along Came Betty," "Turnaround," "The Jody Grind," "The Night Has A Thousand Eyes," ""Have a Holly Jolly Christmas," "Christmastime Is Here," "Sleigh Ride," "Santa Claus Is Coming to Town," "I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus," "Blue Christmas," "Here Comes Santa Claus," "Midnight Sun," "C'est Si Bon," "I Get Along Without You Very Well," "Don't Explain," and "The Grinch." Most of these were in preparation for the Santa Breakfast on 12/11/10.

OK, the next Saturday was 12/4/10, at which the usual suspects included Gene (drums), Russ ('bone), Peter (bari sax), Wes (tenor sax), Ira (alto sax), Bill (uke), Tim (guitar), Paul (piano) and vocalists Matt, Vicki, Cheryl and Annie. The intensive focus was on preparing for the Santa Breakfast including working out the arrangements. The song list was much shorter as a result; the instrumental portion of the workshop got through "Beautiful Love," "Milano," "Minority" and "Peri's Scope." With the vocalists we played "Sleigh Ride," "Christmastime Is Here," "The Night Before Christmas," "Jingle Bells," "Frosty The Snowman," "The Grinch," "You'd Be So Nice To Come Home To," "I've Got My Love To Keep Me Warm," "Linus and Lucy," "The Christmas Song," "Mele Kalimaka," "Santa Claus Is Coming To Town," and maybe one or two others.

The Santa Breakfast is a non-denominational holiday celebration at McRae Park held a couple of weeks before Christmas. This year the weather threw a monkey wrench into things by having a blizzard on that day and the park proactively cancelled the event.

The next scheduled jazz workshop is on Saturday 12/18/10; there will be no workshops on 12/25/10 and 1/1/11.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Oh, the weather outside is frightful

but jazz is so delightful. However, only four of us braved the snow (and what one usual participant described as "bumper cars") to come to the workshop. This was about the smallest turnout in the past two years, but easily the worst weather conditions as well. And to think that one week ago it was sparklingly beautiful. So, today, Bill (tenor ukulele), Tim (guitar) and Annie and Matt (vocals) turned up. The focus was on holiday music in preparation for the annual "Santa Breakfast" at McRae Park.

Hopefully the weather will be more cooperative next Saturday (11/20/10). The odds are good the park building will be closed the Saturday after Thanksgiving (11/27/10) but if you want to hear some jazz that evening, you can. Several workshop regulars and "occasionals" have formed Optimum Trajectory and will be playing at the Gingko Coffee House in St. Paul (Snelling and Minnehaha) from 8:30-10:00 PM.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

The Night Has a Thousand Eyes

Or at least it seems like that during deer season if you're driving on rural roads.

It was another week of spectacular, unseasonable weather- underscored by the afternoons being relatively long due to Daylight Savings Time. But that ended hours after the end of the Jazz Workshop of 11/6/10. To celebrate the end of DST and a return to early sunsets, a baker's dozen musicians got together to play jazz in the afternoon: Josh and Tim on guitars, Bill on ukulele, Max on bass, Gene on drums, Peter on bari sax, Wes on tenor sax, Ahmed on trumpet, Paul on piano and vocalists Annie, Toria, Matt and Cheryl.

The music of the day included "Footprints," "Along Came Betty," "Dindi," "Birdland," "East of the Sun," "When Sunny Gets Blue," "Anything Goes," "I've Got It Bad," "My Favorite Things," "Witchcraft," "C'est Si Bon," "Out of Nowhere," "How High The Moon," "The Night Has A Thousand Eyes," "Change Partners," "Bewitched." And that was a wrap!

Photos to come, I did manage to remember my camera this time.

Monday, November 1, 2010


The beautiful fall weather continued nto the last weekend of October, perhaps creating some competition for the Jazz Workshop. Despite that, a dozen folks came out to McRae Park to sing and play jazz. We had trumpeters Todd, Steve and Sam; bari sax player Peter and tenor sax player Wes; drummer Gene; ukelelist Bill; vocalists Toria, Matt and Annie; and guitarists Craig, Bob and Tim. I couldn't find my camera before leaving to get to the park, so no photos from today.

The set list included "Nostalgia in Times Square," "Dear Old Stockholm," "In the Wee Small Hours," "Girl From Ipanema," "Close Your Eyes," "Till There Was You," ""Every Time We Say Goodbye," "Put Your Dreams Away," "Satin Doll," "Canteloupe Island," "No Moon At All," "Somewhere My Love," "Easy Living," "Embreaceable You," "Moon River," "Watch What Happens," "Along Came Betty," "Day By Day," "I'll Be Around" and "We'll Be Together Again." In that order.

Next week: the last Jazz Workshop in Daylight Savings Time for the year. We are heading into the cooler and darker part of the Endless Summer but fear not, the days will start getting longer in only 7 1/2 weeks!

Monday, October 25, 2010

The Roving Reporter Reports

Having missed the Jazz Workshop on 10/23/10 due to scheduling conflicts, we turn to the report of Sam Fiske, roving jazz reporter, for a report on events at McRae Park. According to Sam, the attendees included Bill (ukulele), Owen (accordion), Paul (piano), Gene (drums), Wes (tenor sax), Craig (guitar), Sam (trumpet synth), and vocalists Annie, Matt and Cheryl.

Most of the songs of the day: "Jump Monk," "My Funny Valentine," "Petite Fleure," "C'est Si Bon," "Alfie," "Ornithology," "Down Home Blues," "Cheek to Cheek," "Bewitched," "Work Song," "I Could Have Danced All Night," "From Russia With Love," "East of the Sun."

Thanks, Sam, for the report!

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Timing is everything.

OK, this report is over a week late. Jeez. I'll make up for it with an embarrassing photo in which I appear to be impersonating the latter-day Jerry Garcia. Jeez. Don't get me wrong, I love Jerry's playing and the Grateful Dead along with the Allman Brothers were my introduction to improvisational music. But I don't particularly want to share morbid obesity with him. That's me on the right with Jeff (bass) on the left. In my defense, my wife says I'm not as fat as it appears.

This is the Jazz Workshop report for 10/16/10. Yes, eight days ago. This is not the report for the Jazz Workshop which happened yesterday because I missed that one.

On 10/16/10, the attendees included Bill (uke)- who I have been mis-naming as "Dan" week after week after week, Josh (banjo), Jeff (bass), Gene (drums), Paul (keys), Wes (tenor sax), Tim (guitar) and vocalists Annie, Matt and Cheryl.

In the photo to the left, you will find two jazz musicians even though it looks more like a bluegrass jam at first glance. That's Josh on the banjo and Bill (not "Dan") on the ukulele.

The tunes de jour included "Misty," "Girl From Ipanema," "Autumn Leaves," "Freedom," "Bop Shop," "We'll Be Together Again," "East Of The Sun," "Tune Up," "Imagination," "Late, Late Show," "Angel Eyes," "Close Your Eyes," "Dream A Little Dream Of Me," "Summer's End," "Call Me Irresponsible," "Let's Fall In Love," "Touch Of Your Lips," "Miss Otis Regrets," "Basin Street Blues," "Do You Know What It Means To Miss New Orleans," "I'll Be Around," "Here's That Rainy Day" and "Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered."

And here we've got (from the left) Matt, Wes, Annie and Paul. Annie is the Jazz Workshop coordinator; it was her husband Sam Favors who started the Workshop about 1978.

OK, that's it for last week. Hopefully some more responsible participant (than me, anyway) at the Jazz Workshop this week took notes. My apologies for my inattentiveness.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Another Late Report

Sometimes in jazz you play behind the beat, but this is ridiculous. Here's the report for last week's Jazz Workshop, typed up before I go to this week's Jazz Workshop!

On 10/9/10 we had another full house of seasoned and aspiring jazz musicians including:

Gene (drums), Max (bass), Bob (guitar), Tim (guitar), Josh (banjo), Dan (ukulele), Sam (trumpet), Paul (piano and Keytar), Peter (bari sax), Wes (tenor sax), Dick (guitar), Kevin (drums), Toria (vocals), Anie (vocals).

The set list was comprised of "Tune Up," "Peace," "Ladybird," "Three Flowers," "Always On My Mind," "I've Never Been In Love Before," "Take The 'A' Train," "I Should Care," "Softly As A Morning Sunrise," "Down Home Blues," "Close Your Eyes," "Summer's End," "Cousin Mary," "We'll Be Together Again," "Once In A While," "Well You Needn't," "'Round Midnight," "I May Be Wrong" and "Forest Flower." There may have been a couple of others I forgot to write down.

No photos this week, I forgot my camera again. I'll look through the archives for photos of some of the attendees.

Monday, October 4, 2010

The Not-Late Report

Thanks to roving reporter Same Fiske, who was at the Workshop while your editor was out of town for a wedding, we have an on-time report about the Jazz Workshop of 10/2/10:

"A good time was had by all.

Trumpets: Steve and Sam
Reeds: Peter
Piano: Paul
Drums: Gene
Bass: John and Max
Guitar: Bob
Ukelele: Dan
And Vocals: Annie, Vickie, Dick, Matt

Tunes played: Blue Moon, Caravan, Up A Lazy River, Cantelope Island, Lets Fall In Love, Lullaby Of The Leaves, Autumn Leaves, Dream, Moonglow, Day By Day, Am I Blue, Blues In The Night, Flying Home, I Cover The Waterfront, Down Home Blues, From Russia With Love, What More Can I Say, Waltz For Debbie, Don't Explain, Somewhere My Love."

Thanks, Sam, for the info!

Friday, October 1, 2010

The Late-But-Not-Missing Report

Jeez, you'd think spending five minutes updating a blog was difficult or something- from the way I procrastinate, anyway. On 9/25/10 we had massive turnout at the Jazz Workshop. We had a couple of Jazz Workshops-worth turn up: 15!

In attendance were Annie, Toria and Dina on vocals; the "guitar orchestra" of Tim, Bob, John and Pat (Pat and John were, I think, newbies at the workshop); Josh on banjo and Dan on ukelele; Max on bass; Gene and Scott on drums; Paul on piano; and the horn section was Sam (trumpet), Ira (also sax), Wes (tenor sax). That's a full house.

Songs du jour included "Summer's End," "Lady Bird," "I Mean You," "Body and Soul," "Ain't Misbehavin'," I'll Remember April," "Easy Living," "When I Fall In Love," "The Nearness of You," "Work Song," "One Note Samba," "All Of You," "How Deep Is The Ocean," "Save Your Love for Me," "Lady Be Good," "It Never Entered My Mind," "It Don't Mean A Thing," "You Are The Sunshine Of My Life" and about a half dozen other songs for which I was out of the room.

In the photos, which were taken by Don Lehnhoff a couple of weeks ago, are: Dan with his ukelele; Max with his self-made six string bass (including winding his own pickups); and Annie and Toria looking more like parliamentarians than jazz singers at that particular moment. Thanks again to Don for taking providing so many photos for the blog!

OK, that's it for this week. The next Jazz Workshop is 10/2/10 at McRae Park-hope you can join us there!

The Missing Report (Now The Found Report)

The Jazz Workshop happened on 9/18/10 but I wasn't there. A report by an independent witness is pending.

10/16/10: Thanks to roving reporter Josh, we have the report for the Jazz Workshop of 9/18/10! Present and accounted for were Wes (tenor sax), Peter (bari sax), Todd (trumpet), Owen (accordion), Paul (piano), Ross (piano), Gene (drums), Max (bass), Josh (guitar), Eric (guitar), Dan (I'm not sure I am getting his name right, I think I've now used about three different names for this poor guy- ukulele) and vocalists Toria, Dick, Dena and Cheryl.

Songs du jour included "On The Sunny Side of the Street," "Four Brothers," "Autumn Leaves," "Bye Bye Blackbird," "There Will Never Be Another You," "It Don't Mean A Thing," "Satin Doll," "September Song," "Bright Size Life," "Here's That Rainy Day," "One Note Samba," "When I Fall In Love," "Dream A Little Dream of Me," "I Cover The Watehrfront," "Lover Man," "Save Your Love For Me," "Bewitched," "Yesterday" (Or "Yesterdays"?), "When Sunny Gets Blue," "East Of The Sun," "The Song Is You," "Makin' Whoopee."

Thanks for the update, Josh!

Friday, September 17, 2010

The Late Update

The late update
for our last jazz date
when we kicked out some jams
but not like some hams
We had fifteen jazz hounds
so music did go down
and you should be there with us!

There's a reason I play jazz instead of hip-hop, I guess.

The Jazz Workshop got off to a fresh start on Saturdays at McRae Park on 9/11/10. We did have a head count fifteen including Max (six string electric bass), John (five string upright bass), Gene (drums), Owen (accordion), Peter (bari sax), Wes (tenor sax), Don (slide trombone and camera), Dan (ukelele), and this week's guitar orchestra included Josh, Bob and Tim. Our vocalists this week were Matt (who also bought baked goods), Toria, Annie and Cheryl. There were instrumentals from 12:00-1:00 and then the vocalists joined in from 1:00-3:45.

The set list included "All of Me," "Body and Soul," "Tune Up," "How Insensitive," "A Night In Tunisia," "But Beautiful," "What Is This Thing Called Love," "Angel Eyes," "Blue Monk," "Sunny," "Embraceable You," "I'm Just a Lucky So and So," "Let's Fall In Love," "From Russia With Love," "Come Rain or Come Shine," "My Funny Valentine," "Early Autumn" and "How About You."

Don brought his camera and took something like 56 photos. Here are a few of them. At the top we have Josh and Dan; Josh uses an unusual tuning on his guitar as he is also a banjoist and Dan is the first ukelelist we've had at the workshop. Next is Matt with Cheryl in the background. The third photo is Owen (accordion) and John (five string upright bass). Let's see, there should be one more.... OK, the last photo is John again, with Gene (drums) and Max (six string electric bass- which he built himself along with a four string. He plans to build a 9 string at some point).

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Saturday Jazz Workshops Are Back!

The Jazz Workshop resumes its Saturday schedule beginning 9/11/10. We'll meet at McRae Park in South Minneapolis (near Chicago and 47th St.) at noon for an hour of instrumentals and then from 1:00-3:45 with the vocalists.

Hope to see you there!

Friday, August 20, 2010

Last Set

Thursday the 19th of August saw the last Thursday evening Jazz Workshop for the summer. The next sessions will be on Saturdays from 12:00-1:00 (instrumentals) and then 1:00-3:45 with the singers.

For the last Thursday set, we had Wes (tenor sax), Ira (tenor sax instead of his usual alto), Sam (trumpet synth), Gene and Scott (drums), Bob/Tim/The Other Tim (guitars) and Matt/Toria/Dick (vocals).

The set list included "Wendy," "Our Love Is Here To Stay," "Miles Ahead," "Lady Be Good," ""I Remember You," "The Very Thought Of You," "But Beautiful," "Embraceable You,""Look To The Sky," "That Old Feeling," "The Nearness of You," ""I'm In The Mood For Love," and Dick's original "What More Can I Say."

I brought my camera but forgot to commemorate the event in pixels!

OK, no more Thursday evening workshops for the rest of the summer. We swing back into the Saturday Schedule starting 9/11/10. See you then!

Sunday, August 15, 2010

I missed another one (updated)

Thursday evenings have proven very hard to get to this summer (between the horrific traffic on I-94 and I-35W, versus the equally awful alternative of using side streets and spending 15 minutes trying to get across Hiawatha Avenue and the LRT line- making a 15 minute drive take 45 minutes) and I will be glad after the last one is over and we go back to Saturdays. OK enough grousing about things I cannot change.

I'll e-mail around to the likely suspects and see if anyone can give a report about what happened. And from Matt Ash:

"It was a brutally hot Jazz Workshop the Thursday before last. There was Wes, Annie, Gene,Tori, the other Tim, myself, and a new ukulele guy

I am not sure about other folks, but I sang How 'bout you, I'm in the mood for love, Hello Dolly, and possibly one other that eludes me."

Jazz ukulele. I'm sorry I missed that.

In the meantime, I'll remind you that there is only one Thursday evening workshop this summer, which is this Thursday. The park building will be closed for budget-cutting the following two Thursdays and then Labor Day, so we will resume the Saturday Jazz Workshop schedule on 9/11/10.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

The Not-So-Late Report

Thursday August 5th found us together again at McRae Park kicking out the jams. Well, trying to play jazz, anyway. I even remembered to bring my camera and take photos!

Turning out on a warm, lovely summer evening were Josh, tim and the other Tim (guitars), Gene and Ron (drums), Ira (alto sax), Wes (tenor sax), Luke (flute and bass clarinet) and Dick and Toria (vocals).

The set list included "Tune-Up," "Road Song," "Groovin' High," "Invitation," "Out Of Nowhere," "Could It Be You," "Day By Day," "Just Friends," "Here's That Rainy Day," "I Should Care," "Look Too The Sky," "Corcovado," "Good Morning Heartache," "In A mellow Tone.

In the photos: at the top we have Josh and his lovely new Heritage 575; next is Ron on drums; in the third picture is Luke with his bass clarinet, Wes (tenor sax) and Gene taking a break from drum duties; and finally long-time Jazz Workshop vocalist Dick Jacques.

That's it and we hope that you can join us sometime soon. Remember that there will be no Jazz Workshop the last Thursday in August and the first Thursday in September due to the park being closed those days. After Labor Day weekend we will go back to meeting Saturdays with instrumentals from noon-1:00 PM and with vocalists from 1:00-3:45PM.

The Way-Late Report

OK, here's the report for Thursday July 29, 2010 which I didn't get around to posting for about ten days. Sorry about that!. As sometimes happens in the summer, turnout was a bit light at eight people. No matter, we had lots of fun anyway. In attendance were Toria and Matt (vocals), Wes (tenor sax), Kurt (trumpet), Gene (drums), Tim and Josh and the other Tim (guitars).

Songs of the day included "But Beautiful," "Killer Joe," "Black Orpheus," "Like Someone In Love," "Moonlight in Vermont," "That Old Feeling," "Take Five," "Beyond The Sea," "Every Time We Say Goodbye," "Fly Me To The Moon," "Let's Get Lost," "I'm Beginning To See The Light."

In the photos are Toria and Gene (vocals and drums, respectively); "the other Tim" on guitar, playing what looks like a Dmin9 chord; and the always-cool Wes on tenor sax.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Another Thursday In the Park

The 22nd of July found us together again playing jazz- 13 of us, to be exact. It's pretty amazing that 13 people will come out on a beautiful summer's evening to play this wonderful music- although if the alternative is mowing the lawn yet again, maybe it's not so amazing.

There were first-time participants tonight, both drummers: Scott and Ron. We were also rejoined by Elmer on tenor sax who'd been here before a while ago. Other musicians included Neill (bass), Max (bass), Gene (drums), Josh (guitar), Tim-the-blog-maintainer (guitar), the-other-Tim (guitar), Peter (bari sax), Sam (trumpet synth) and vocalists Toria and Dick.

The set list included "Stolen Moments," "Stompin' at the Savoy," "Hot 'Lanta," "You'd Be So Nice To Come Home To," "Don't Get Around Much Any More," "Corcovado," "I Thought About You," "What Is This Thing Called Love," "Now's The Time," "I Should Care," "Besame Mucho," "Nature Boy," "Footprints," "Have You Met Miss Jones." After this some of us started packing up, but Toria, the-other-Tim, Ron and maybe Peter played one more song. I can't remember the name of the song but it sounded nice and spare compared to the full-on roar of eight instruments on every tune.

I left my camera at home so no photos this week, sorry!

Next week we will be at it again, starting about 5:30 and running until 8:00 or so. According to Toria, Annie will be back with us next week.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Park Building Closures

There was some discussion about whether the McRae Park building would be open this week. According to the MPRB web site, the building should be open this week but will be closed the last Thursday in August and the first Thursday in September. I thought I'd post this in hopes that I won't forget when the time comes...

Going to Summer (Jazz) Camp

I mentioned in yesterday's post that I had attended the Tritone Fantasy Jazz Camp near Bailey's Harbor WI. This was an excellent experience in learning about jazz with a top-notch group of instructors and a wonderful student body. I wrote up a description of the week.

As I also mentioned yesterday, while at Tritone I found out that the Jazz Workshop here at McRae Park is a pretty unique thing. The Workshop offers an opportunity to learn to play jazz by playing jazz. Come on out and give it a try!

Saturday, July 17, 2010

No news is no news

I missed last Thursday's workshop because I was out of town at the week-long Tritone Jazz Camp in Door County WI, so I have no report about the Thursday session. Hopefully someone who was there will be able to mention what happened.

In other news:

While I was at Tritone, Sam Fiske called on the morning on Thursday to talk about the schedule for the Freedom Jazz Festival, our time slots and to begin roughing out a set list. Then about fifteen hours later he forwarded the announcement that the FJF was cancelled for this year. Unfortunately funding and person-power concerns resulted in the organizers not being able to go forward with the festival. This is quite a loss for the local jazz community because the FJF features local jazz musicians. The Jazz Workshop and the FJF are closely related, both having been started by Sam Favors; Sam's wife, Annie, carries on his legacy with the Jazz Workshop and a dedicated core of people carry on the FJF. Here's hoping that funding can be secured for 2011!

Speaking of Annie, we're hoping that she is back on her feet and up to full speed soon!

The Jazz Workshop is a unique opportunity for people of all ages to develop their jazz abilities. This was brought home to me this week at Tritone, studying with 40+ other jazz musicians of varying ability and experience and a crackerjack faculty. A lot of my fellow campers have little or no opportunity to play jazz except at things like jazz camps- there are few community resources for exploring this music in most cities. Thanks to the vision of Sam Favors, here in the Twin Cities we can play jazz every week with like-minded folks. After talking with a number of the campers about this, there may be jazz workshops springing up around the country based on Sam's idea.

Friday, July 9, 2010

The Back Of The Flash

In early June the Jazz Workshop played at the McRae Park Family Fun Day. Since it rained pretty much the entire day, "Family Rain Day" would have been a better name. Vocalist Matt Ash braved the rain to get out and take some pictures of the band, as well as serving as our ears for checking the PA balance. Here are some of his photos:

This is the stage setup which is on a semi-trailer with the sound system built in and a roof over the performers. It works pretty well. I think this is owned by either the City of Minneapolis or by the Minneapolis Parks Department. You can see the trailer at a lot of events in Minneapolis. This is the whole band- since Matt in in the photo, it must have been taken by his intrepid wife. In the front row is the horn section- from left to right Wes, Luke, Sam, Ira and Peter. Then there are three of the vocalists: Annie, Toria and Dick. Behind them are the rhythm section instruments plus Matt, who can be seen in between Wes and Luke. You can't see guitarist Craig, who is sitting next to Matt, nor Gene the drummer. You can barely see keyboardist Paul and you can see guitarists Tim and Bob.

The foundation of jazz is the rhythm section- the interaction between the bass and the drums. Here are Max (bass), Gene (drums) and Craig (guitar).

The other chordal instruments at the gig: Paul (keyboards), Tim (guitar) and Bob (guitar).

Here's a band's eye view. You can't see the rain falling down but that's why there aren't any of the usual games and events going on in the field. Almost everyone was huddled under the eaves of the building or inside.

Well, there you have it. Thanks to Matt for the photos!

Summertime Samba

There was another session of the Jazz Workshop on 7/8/10, which should come as no surprise to anyone since it happens almost every week throughout the year. It was a nice warm day and thankfully free of rain (we've had nearly 8 inches of rain at my house since June 1st. I found moss growing behind my left ear a few days ago).

Eleven people got together this week: Max (bass), Gene (drums), Sam (trumpet), Bronco (tenor sax), Wes (tenor sax), Josh/Tim 1/Tim 2 (guitars) and vocalists Matt, Dick and Toria.

The set list included "Take Five," "Ornithology," "Mood Indigo," "I Should Care," "Embraceable You," "Wave," "Cheek to Cheek," "Besame Mucho," "Dream," "Summer Samba," "Change Partners," "Moonlight In Vermont," "Don't Blame Me," "Well You Needn't."

We'll be back at it next week. I say "we" but it won't be "me" as I will be out of town to the Tritone Jazz Camp in Door County WI for the week. But there will be jazzers there, so you should come on over and play with us. It is possible that the park building will be closed on 7/22/10 and thus no workshop on that date; we need to check into that.

In the photos: That's Wes on top with his tenor sax (Wes took up the sax after retiring and has been playing about 3-4 years). In the middle photo are Max (bass) and Josh (guitar). Max built both of the basses in the picture, a four string and a six string. For the six string he even wound his own pickups! Josh was playing with us for the second time. The bottom photo is Bronco (tenor sax) and Sam (trumpet). Sam is a long-time member of the workshop and plays in many bands, including Papa John Kolstad and the Hot Club of East Lake- check 'em out on Saturday evenings and Merlin's Rest.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

On time and still a dollar short

Well, I missed the workshop tonight due to work. Maybe someone will tell me what happened and I can pass it along in another post.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

100th post- a day late and a dollar short

Wow, this is the 100th post for the Jazz Workshop and is actually six days late, since it's about the 6/24/10 workshop.

We had another good turnout for the workshop with Vicki and Dick on vocals, Ira (alto sax), Bronco and Wes (tenor saxes), Luke (soprano sax, flute and cello), Gene (drums), Max and Neil (basses), Tim and Tim and Craig (guitars). We also had a couple of folks stop in to listen but did not bring their instruments; I only remember Josh's name, unfortunately.

Songs for the evening included "Groovin' High," "There Will Never Be Anotehr You," "West Coast Blues," "All Of Me," "When Sunny Gets Blue," "I Thought About You," "I Should Care," "Maybe September," "I Could Write A Book," "Crystal Silence" and "Have You Met Miss Jones?"

The next workshop will be 7/1/10- tomorrow, in fact. Hope to see you there!

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Start of the Summer Sessions

Two days before Juneteenth The Jazz Workshop met at McRae Park for the start of the run of summer sessions. These will be on Thursday evenings from 5:30-7:45 through the Labor Day weekend, then the Workshop will revert back to the Saturday schedule. I think I've probably put that in enough posts now!

Often during the summer the turnout is a bit smaller and for this session we had eight musicians: Max (bass), Gene (drums), Annie (vocals), Wes (tenor sax), Luke (flute and soprano sax) and Tim (guitar). Also joining us for the first time were Neil (bass) and Tom (drums).

Songs covered included "Look To The Sky," "Always On My Mind," "Stardust," "Perdido," "I Remember You," "Like a Lover," "Dindi," "The Nearness of You" and "Sunny." A short set list but the Thursday evening sessions are only about two hours of playing time.

I forgot my camera so these photos are from 5/22/10, courtesy of vocalist Matt Ash. At the top is Peter playing baritone sax; next is Gene playing drums- usually he's smiling when he's playing; and at the bottom is Luke on soprano sax.

Monday, June 7, 2010

You Must Remember This...

No Jazz Workshop on thursday 6/10/10. The next session will be 6/17/10.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Gig at McRae Park (Sambas In The Rain)

About three times a year the Jazz Workshop plays gigs at McRae Park for their various seasonal events. We do one around the end of the year (the Santa Breakfast), in the spring (the Bunny Brunch) and at the start of summer (the Family Fun Day). The latter was today (6/5/10) and we did it again. This year we were the only entertainment for the day and, again, this year it rained. The options seem to be either rain or scorching sun for this gig. Fortunately for us, the City of Minneapolis has a portable stage that they bring to this which includes a sound system and shelter from the elements. Unfortunately, it doesn't protect the audience. An amazing number of people braved the rain for the first hour or so, but as the rain intensified the audience slowly went inside or went home. Much to our surprise, though, the folks inside the McRae Park building could hear us quite well.

Representing the Jazz Workshop today were Annie, Toria, Dick and Matt (all vocals); the horn section was Ira (alto sax), Peter (bari sax), Wes (tenor sax), Luke (soprano sax and flute) and Sam (trumpet); the rhythm section was Gene (drums), Max (bass), Paul (keyboard), Bob (guitar), Craig (guitar) and Tim (guitar). If I have counted right, that's 14 people.

I'm usually pretty critical, but I have to say that we sounded pretty good today. Being able to mike the horns and run most of the rhythm section through the PA made a big difference in balance and being able to hear. Matt walked around the grounds on the first few songs to help set levels for each of the instruments. We played for about two hours and had a whole lot of fun!

The set list included (but due to not having time to write them down, this is incomplete): the "Flintstones" theme, "Now's The Time," "Take the 'A' Train," "What Is This Thing Called Love," "Watermelon Man," "Blue Moon," "Corcovado," "Bye Bye Blackbird," "Fever," "The Girl From Ipanema" and "Sentimental Journey."

We had a great time playing and we hope that- despite the inclement weather- so did the audience!

First Thursday Evening Workshop

In the summer the Jazz Workshop schedule changes because the McRae Park building isn't open on Saturdays from Memorial Day to Labor Day. This summer we have switched to Thursday evenings from 5:30-7:45. Our first Tuesday session was on 6/3/10 and was the final rehearsal for our gig on 6/5/10 (that'll be another post). We ran through the tines we intended to do (although it is a Workshop tradition to practice a bunch of songs, do some basic arrangements, and then play a bunch of other songs at the gig instead).

Turning out for the session were Max (bass), Gene (drums), Peter (baritone sax), Luke (soprano sax and flute), Sam (trumpet), guitarists Bob + Craig + Tim and vocalists Annie + Dick + Matt + Toria.

Because of the specific focus and the shorter time frame, the set list was shorter than is usually the case on Saturdays. Songs include the "Flintstone Theme," "Summertime," "What Is This Thing Called Love," "Watermelon Man," "Hello Dolly," "Corcovado," "Ornithology," "Take the 'A' Train," "I'll Remember April," "The Girl From Ipanema" (a lovely song that has been heard in far too many elevators), "Come Rain or Come Shine," and "Hit 'Lanta."

The photos are from Matt, who took them on 5/22/10 but they were so good I thought I would use them for this post. At the top we have Annie and Dick singing "Centerpiece;" next are Tim (your not-so-humble author on guitar) and Ira (alto sax); in the lower middle of the post is Peter on baritone sax; and last is a drummer's eye-view of (left to right) Annie, Toria and Paul.

That's it!

Saturday, May 29, 2010


The Saturday Jazz Workshops are done until fall. They will resume 9/1/10 from 12:00-3:45 PM on that date.

We will be meeting Thursday evenings from 5:30-7:45 PM starting 6/3/10 (but there's a blip: no session on 6/10/10).

Sunday, May 23, 2010

3, 2, 1... done for the summer

We had a great turnout for the last Saturday Jazz Workshop until fall. This was the second of three rehearsals for the McRae Park Family Fun Day on 6/5/10. We had fourteen people in attendance and actually sounded pretty good to my ears.

Turning out for the session were Peter (bari sax), Ira (alto sax), Luke (soprano sax and flute), Steve (trumpet and flugelhorn), Evan (bass), Sam (trumpet), Gene (drums), Paul (keyboards), Owen (accordion), Tim (guitar) and vocalists Annie, Toria, Dick and Matt.

Tunes played today included "Blue Monk," "Ornithology," "Goodbye Porkpie Hat," "Stella By Starlight," "Summertime," "What Is This Thing Called Love," "Girl From Ipanema," ""Corcovado," "One Note Samba," "Don't Go To Strangers," "Nature Boy," "Moonlight In Vermont," "Nearness of You," "Centerpiece,""East of the Sun," "Fever," "Route 66," "Let's Fall In Love," "I'll Remember April."

Due to the park building being closed on weekends from Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day, we can't meet for Saturday workshops during the summer. We will be instead meeting on Thursday evenings from 5:30-7:45 starting on 6/3/10 (but the park building will be closed 6/10/10 so no session that night). The first Thursday night session will be the final rehearsal for the gig at the McRae Park Fun Day on 6/5/10.

In the photos: first up is Ira, Peter, Dick (with the red hat looking down) and Toria; second is Luke, Steve and Matt; third is Paul and Owen; and fourth is Annie and Dick.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010


Hank Jones (1918-2010) passed away on May 16. One of the enduring legends of jazz music, Jones was still gigging nearly to the end of his life. An impeccable pianist, Jones played and recorded with so many fine jazz musicians including Carlie Parker, Miles Davis, Artie Shaw, Benny Goodman, Billy Eckstine, Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday, Lester Young, Milt Jackson, Julian "Cannonball" Adderley, Roy Eldridge, Coleman Hawkins, Joe Lovano, Charlie Haden, Brad Mehldau and many many others. There must have been something in the Jones family genetics as his brothers Elvin (drums) and Thad (trumpet) were innovative musicians, too.

Time marches on and we all reach then end some day. May we all do so with the grace and quiet brilliance shown by people like Hank Jones.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Penultimate Saturday Session

The Saturday Jazz Workshops run from just after Labor Day to just before Memorial Day, so the last session will be 5/22/10; Saturday sessions will resume again on 9/11/10. During the summer, the Jazz Workshop will be meeting on Thursday evenings from 5:30-7:45 at McRae Park because enough people were interested in this. Thursday sessions will start on 6/3/10 (final rehearsal for the Family Fun Day gig, see below) and will continue until the Thursday before Labor Day. The park will be closed on 6/10/10 and 8/26/10, so no sessions those weeks. The calendar (see link in the upper right box of text) has been updated.

The Jazz Workshop will be performing at the McRae Park Family Fun Day on 6/5/10. We still don't know what time we'll be going on yet. Upcoming rehearsals will be 5/22/10 and 6/3/10. We'll probably be performing for about an hour.

Sixteen people got together on the 15th to work on developing their skills at jazz. Joining us at McRae Park were first-timers Lisa (piano) and Kristin (piano/vocals), plus old hands Ken (drums), Peter (baritone sax), Owen (accordion), Brian (guitar), Bob (guitar), Tim (guitar), Craig (guitar), Annie (vocals), Max (bass), Toria (vocals), Matt (vocals), Margo (bass), Wes (tenor sax) and Dick (vocals).

The set list included "Embraceable You," "Up A Lazy River," "Cool Blues," "Forest Flowers," "Summertime," "Embraceable You," "What Is This thing Called Love," "Night And Day," "Late, Late Show," "Moonlight In Vermont," "Maybe September," "Ornithology," "Don't Go To Strangers," "More," "Like Someone In Love," "On The Sunny Side Of The Street," "Four On Six," "Always On My Mind" and "Fever."

I forgot my camera again this week. D'oh!

Monday, May 10, 2010


Lena Horne, 1917-2009.

Ms. Horne, the voice of "Stormy Weather," has passed away at the age of 92. She began singing at the famed Cotton Club at the age of 16 and her career spanned six decades, including night clubs, recordings and film. Racist attitudes limited her film career quite severely despite her beauty and talent. During the "Red Scare" Ms. Horne found herself blacklisted in Hollywood, due to her progressive political attitude, and returned to nightclubs. She participated in the Civil Rights movement from the early 1940s and participated in the March On Washington in 1963. Her last great triumph was a one-woman show on Broadway, "Lena Horne: TheLady And Her Music," which started in 1981 and ran for over 300 performances. Ms. Horne performed into the 1990s. Her last albums, Seasons of a Life, was released in 2006.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Quick notes on 5/8/10 workshop

Short entry today due to time constraints (and having forgotten my camera yet again, I suppose because I was too excited about my new-to-me amp). Today we had a great turnout, Peter (bari sax), Ken (drums), Gene (drums), Sam (bass, trumpet and trumpet synth), Max (bass), Evan (bass), Owen (accordion), Wes (tenor sax), Annie (vocals), Toria (vocals), Matt (vocals), Rick (piano), Craig (guitar) and Tim (guitar). 14 people!

Songs of the day included "Killer Joe," "Ornithology," "In Walked Bud," "Georgia," "I've Never Been In Love Before," "Take The 'A' Train," "I Don't Know Why," "Sentimental Journey," "Flintstones," "Dindi," "Summertime," "Nature Boy," "Fly Me To The Moon," "The Late, Late Show," "Every Time We Say Goodbye," "Girl From Ipanema," "All The Things You Are," "St. Louis Blues," and "Don't Explain."

Please see the note below about the changes in the summer schedule for the Jazz Workshop and the upcoming performance(s). I've also updated the online calendar (there's a link in the info box at the top right of the page) to include the summer schedule, gig(s), and the fall schedule. Thanks!

Summer Jazz Workshop Schedule and a few other things

Here are the announcements from Annie Favors, the Workshop Coordinator, about the schedule for the rest of the year.

A Section:
The Saturday Jazz Workshops run from just after Labor Day to just before Memorial Day. The McRae Park building is closed on Saturdays during the summer. No, I don't understand that either. So there are only two Saturday workshops left before summer and then will resume again on 9/11/10. The Jazz Workshop will be meeting on Thursday evenings from 5:30-7:45 at McRae Park. This will start on 6/3/10 and will continue until the Thursday before Labor Day. For "budgetary reasons," the park will be closed on 6/10/10 and 8/26/10, so no sessions those weeks.

B Section:
The Jazz Workshop will be performing at the McRae Park Family Fun Day on 6/5/10. We don't know what time we'll be going on yet. Rehearsals for this event will be 5/15/10, 5/22/10 and 6/3/10. We'll be performing for probably about an hour.

The Freedom Jazz Festival may be happening again this year, pending getting funding, on 8/7/10 at Minnehaha Falls. The Jazz Workshop, being founded by Sam Favors who also founded the Festival, usually has a slot. Same Fiske is coordinating this with the FJF team and further information will be pending about this.

If you want to get occasional e-mails from us and you aren't already getting them (one went out today with the above information), please send me an e-mail and I will add you to the mailing list.

As always, the check the Jazz Workshop blog for the latest information!

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Summertime and the schedule is changing...

The Saturday Jazz Workshops are winding down for the summer. The last session will be 5/22/10 and will resume 9/11/10. Over the summer we will have a shorter workshop on a weekday evening- tentatively Thursdays from 6:00-8:45. I will hopefully be able to confirm this in the next blog entry.

On June 5th the Jazz workshop will be performing at the McRae Park Family Fun Day.

On Saturday 5/1/10 there was a great turnout with a baker's dozen plus one playing jazz in the park. Attendees included Wes, Ira, Bronco (all on tenor sax), Sam (trumpet and bass), Jack (trumpet and drums), Gene (drums), Owen (accordion), Max (bass), Brian, Craig, Tim (all on guitars) and vocalists Annie, Toria and Dick.

Songs for the day included "Freddie the Freeloader," "Moanin'," "Ornithology," "Georgia," "There Will Never Be Another You," "Take the 'A' Train," "Good Morning Heartache," "Tune Up," "A Foggy Day," "Just Friends," "Guess I'll Hang My Tears Out To Dry," "Summertime," "What Is This Thing Called Love," "Have You Met Miss Jones," "On The Sunny Side Of The Street," "Easy Living," "Here's That Rainy Day," "I Cover The waterfront," "Fly Me To The Moon," and "Jeannine."

I completely forgot to bring a camera so I've got no photos of the session. I have a lot of photos from previous sessions taken by Don Lehnhoff; I'll get some of those posted.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Here's That Rainy Day

A cold, breezy and drizzly Saturday is a great day to play jazz. Well, every day is a great day to play jazz but cold, breezy drizzly days reduce the chance of competing interests.

Here's a quick reminder about the Jazz Workshop schedule. The McRae Park building will be closed on Saturdays beginning Memorial Day weekend so the last Saturday workshop will be 5/22/10. We will resume Saturday workshops after Labor Day. Annie will be looking into the availability of a week night slot at the park building and I will update the blog as soon as we know something about this. Last summer we met on Monday evenings and the year before that on Tuesdays.

On June 5th the Jazz Workshop will be performing at the McRae Park Fun Day. This is an annual event. When the schedule is finalized, I'll post that to the blog. On August 7th is the Freedom Jazz Festival at Minnehaha Falls Park in South Minneapolis. This is an annual event started by Sam Favors, the founder of the Jazz Workshop. We hope to have a set at the FJF again this year and we're already working up some songs. Stay tuned for more information.

This week at McRae Park we had two new participants, Will (guitar) and Brett (guitar). Both of them are high school students interested in guitar and jazz. They joined Evan (bass) who's also in high school and has been to a few workshops now with his upright bass. Also returning to the workshop for an hour or so was Peter (baritone sax) joining the usual suspects: Sam (trumpet and trumpet synth) Wes (tenor sax), Gene (drums), Craig (guitar), Owen (accordion), Annie (vocals), Tim (guitar) and Toria (vocals). It is wonderful to have young folks turning up because they are the future of jazz.

The song list for today included "Blue Bossa," "Doxy," "The Nearness of You," "On The Sunny Side of the Street," "Ornithology," "Am I Blue," "There Will Never Be Another You," "Day By Day," "Now's the Time," "Autumn Leaves," "Take the 'A' Train," "Here's That Rainy Day," "Someone To Watch Over Me," "What Is This Thing Called Love," "Bye Bye Blackbird," "Inchworm," "Georgia On My Mind," "Dream," "Summertime," "East of the Sun," "Four On Six," and "Jordu."

That's it for this week. We'll be back at McRae Park next Saturday (5/1/10) at noon. Only four weeks of Saturday workshop sessions left unti fall- hope to see you there!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Reminder: Ira's Jazz Quartet

Ira's Jazz Quartet will be playing at the Coffee Grounds in St. Paul this Saturday evening at 8:00 PM. Workshop regular Ira is the bandleader (hence the name). The Quartet is a sax-piano-drums-bass group but as an added attraction they will be joined by Workshop regular Steve on trumpet and flugelhorn. There's no cover charge.

The Coffee Grounds
1579 Hamline Avenue North
St Paul, MN 55108-2107
(651) 644-9959

Warning! Warning!

OK, it's not that dire. I just wanted to point out that the Saturday Jazz Workshops will be on hiatus starting the Saturday before Memorial Day and will start again on the Saturday after Labor Day. This is because the McRae Park building is not open on weekends in the summer (I am not sure why that is, it seems odd to me but there it is).

Most summers we switch to meeting on a week night because the park building is open until 9:00 PM, assuming there are people who have interest in this. Typically we meet from about 6:00 PM to 8:45, giving us 15 minutes to pack up and be out by 9:00. The schedule for the summer workshop has not yet been set for this year and no doubt will be a topic of conversation in the coming weeks.

I just wanted to put out a heads-up about this. When the summer schedule is settled, I'll post that too.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Nontraditional jazz combo

One of the things about the Jazz Workshop is that you never know who's going to show up or what the instrumentation is going to be. Today we had a "nontraditional" combo of alto sax, three guitars, accordion, drums and vocalists. And the alto sax had to leave after about an hour, changing things to three guitars, accordion, drums and vocalists. Despite that we still played jazz and some of it sounded pretty good, too.

At the Workshop today were Ira (alto sax), Owen (accordion), Gene (drums) and guitarists Bob, Craig and Tim. Vocalists were Annie, Toria and Matt.

The set list included "Crystal Tears," "The More I See You," "Peri's Scope," "Someday My Prince Will Come," "There Will Never Be Another You," "You Took Advantage of Me," "Harlem Nocturne" (with each of the vocalists taking a stab at it), "Blue Room," "East of the Sun," "Lover Man," "Ain't Misbehavin'," ""Cheek to Cheek," "Day by Day," "Flintstones," "Satin Doll," "Moonlight In Vermont," "How Deep Is The Ocean," "Don't Go To Strangers," "As Time Goes By," "That Old Feeling," "Am I Blue" and "Makin' Whoopee."

The Jazz Workshop will be back next Saturday 4/24/10, at noon with the instrumentalists and from 1:00-3:45 with vocalists. The Saturday Workshops will be ending for the summer in May because the park building is not open on weekends from Memorial Day to Labor Day. We may be continuing on a weeknight from 6:00-9:00 during the summer, depending on interest and the availability of a room at the park. So, if you want to come out to one of the Saturday sessions, don't delay!

In the photos: at the top we have Annie (vocals and Jazz Workshop Coordinator) and Matt; next we have Bob with his beautiful flame-top Les Paul; below that are Craig and a former workshop attendee who dropped in for a visit (unfortunately I didn't catch his name); at at the bottom are Owen on accordion and Gene on drums.

Don't forget that Ira's Jazz Quartet with guest Steve Hillson will be playing on 4/24/10 at the Coffee Grounds in St. Paul. See the links below.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Workshop regulars play at Barbette for Minnesota Literacy Council

Trumpeter and workshop regular Steve Hillson and his band, Parallel Text, played a benefit at Barbette on April 13th. The gig was great. Says Steve, "We raised over $900 for the Minnesota Literacy Council, the venue was terrific, and the crowd was enthusiastic. Special thanks to Rachel Wandrei at Barbette for hosting this event." The band includes Norman Andersen (keyboard), Chip Minor (bass), Steven Dwyer (drums) and Peter Skjervold (sax and flute). Check out their website at

Norman and Chip have also been regulars at the Jazz Workshop over the years

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Gig alerts

On Tuesday 4/13/10, Steve Hillson's band Parallel Text will be playing 7:00-9:00 PM at a benefit for the Minnesota Literacy Council. The gig will be at Barbette on Lake Street a few blocks west of Hennepin Avenue.

On April 4/24/10, Ira's Jazz Quartet will be playing at The Coffee Grounds in St.Paul at 8:00 PM. Ira is a regular at the Jazz Workshop, playing alto sax usually and tenor sax sometimes. Steve Hillson (trumpet and flugelhorn) will be guest soloist.

Please come out and support good causes and good music, not to mention the fine establishments willing to support jazz music in the Twin Cities.

A Sunny Day In Minneapolis Town

Jeez, hasn't the weather been astonishingly, unseasonably warm and sunny and mild? It's like we are four to six weeks ahead of the normal patterns. I'm sure there's a downside to it (drought, for example) but in the short term it sure is pleasant. Despite this, jazzers keep spending part of their Saturdays with us at McRae Park rather than raking, mowing, gardening, painting, etc. Today we had twelve people at the workshop, including Matt (vocals) returning for his second workshop and Evan (bass) joining us for his first. After the workshop, Evan remarked "where else can you get this kind of experience?" He's right, the Jazz Workshop is a unique tradition in Twin Cities jazz- a place where people can come and learn to play jazz by playing jazz. The rest of the group today included Annie, Dick and Toria (vocals), Max (bass), Gene (drums), Ira (alto sax), Steve (trumpet and flugelhorn), Wes (tenor sax), Craig (guitar), Owen (accordion) and Tim (guitar).

The set list for the day included "Moanin'" and "It Could Happen To You," neither of which came off well. So then we tried "Blue Monk" which was a much better "starter tune" with which to get warmed up. From there we went on to play "Hot 'Lanta," "How Insensitive" (instrumental), "Blue Room," "I Could Have Danced All Night," "I'm Old Fashioned," "How Insensitive" (vocal), "Let's Get Lost," "Nature Boy," "Moanin'" (a second try which went somewhat better), "Centerpiece," "Mood Indigo," "How Deep Is The Ocean," "Why Aren't You My Love" (an original by Dick Jacques), "Willow Weep For Me," "Don't Get Around Much Anymore," "Here's That Rainy Day," "Again," "Lullaby of Birdland." That's 21 songs in about 3 1/2 hours.

I didn't bring my camera today so the photos are courtesy of Don Lehnhoff (bass and trombone) who took these a few weeks ago and sent them to me. Thanks, Don! At the top we have Wes on tenor sax; Wes has been a regular at the Jazz Workshop for a couple of years and is a self-taught sax player. In the next photo is Steve, on trumpet and flugelhorn, who has been coming to the Jazz Workshop for quite a few years and has been one of the people responsible for keeping it going through some times of sparse attendance. Continuing further down today's blog post we have Tim (guitar) and Max (bass); Tim has been coming for a bit over two years and writes the weekly blog and the Craigslist ads and otherwise tries to shirk responsibility for everything else. Max is new to playing jazz and has been coming regularly for a couple of months, making great srides in getting comfortable with the music. A few weeks ago he'd be looking somewhat baffled at the charts and now just plays through the changes. The last picture is Annie, who is the workshop coordinator. Her husband, the late Sam Favors, was the founder of the Jazz Workshop over 30 years ago with the vision of providing an opportunity for people to learn to appreciate and play jazz music. Over the decades many of the Twin Cities jazz musicians learned to play jazz at the Workshop under Sam's tutelage. Sam also founded the Freedom Jazz Festival, now being carried on by a dedicated group of former Workshop members.

The Workshop will meet again next Saturday at McRae Park from noon to 3:45. If you're interested in playing jazz, come on out and give it a try! As Evan said after the session, there is just nowhere else in the Twin Cities- and few places in the entire country- where someone can so easily get this experience. Thanks to the vision of Sam Favors and the dedication of Annie and others, we still have this wonderful resource. We need you to help keep it alive!

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Sunny Saturday Jazz

On the Saturday before Easter there was a bit of a miscommunication and it took a while to get into the park building, so the workshop didn't get started until almost 12:30. Horrors! But get started we did and ten of us spent a pleasant few hours playing jazz.

Joining us today for the first time was Matt, a vocalist, who needed just a little cajoling to sing and sounded fine. There is a whole set of skills for jazz singers besides knowing the words and the melody- there is also an element of directing the band on the fly and communicating one's intentions. It's interesting, as an accompanist, to watch singers develop those abilities. Also at the workshop today were vocalists Annie, Toria and Dick and Gene (drums), Max (bass), Bob (guitar), Tim (guitar), Wes (tenor sax), Jack (trumpet and drums) and Bronco (tenor sax). Getting eleven people to come out for the afternoon on a beautiful Saturday in the spring is a compliment to the music.

The set list today included "Blue Bossa," "Quizas, Quizas, Quizas," ""Pretend," "Don't Blame Me," "L-O-V-E," "My Romance," "The Very Thought Of You," "I Don't Know Why," "Makin' Whoopee," "Ornithology," "Day By Day," "Honeysuckle Rose," "I'm Beginning To See The Light," "What Is This Thing Called Love," "If You Never Come To Me," "Don't Explain," "On The Street Where You Live," "Dream," "What More Can I Say" (an original written by Dick), "Freddie The Freeloader," "Down Home Blues," "Sentimental Journey," and "I Remember You."

The photos today were taken hurriedly towards the end during "Sentimental Journey." At the top is Bob on his Les Paul guitar. In the middle is Matt, the new vocalist. And at the bottom are Dick, Wes and Bronco from left to right.