Monday, March 29, 2010

Coda- Herb Ellis

Jazz guitar great Herb Ellis passed away this morning at the age of 88, following a long struggle with Alzheimer's disease. Herb grew up near Dallas TX and was inspired to play guitar after hearing the great George Barnes on the radio. He joined the Casa Loma Orchestra and then the Jimmy Dorsey Band. In 1947 Herb formed the Soft Winds Trio with Lou Carter and Johnny Frigo; in 1952 he replaced Barney Kessel in the Oscar Peterson Trio with Ray Brown. Oscar Peterson said that in Herb he found his truest musical peer. Herb played with many jazz greats over the decades including Ben Webster, Stan Getz, Dizzy Gillespie, Roy Eldridge, Jimmy Giuffre, Sweets Edison, Buddy Rich, Ella Fitzgerald, Louis Armstrong, Red Mitchell, Chuck Israels, Joe Pass and many others. Later in his career, Herb formed the Great Guitars with Barney Kessel and Charlie Byrd (with Tal Farlow replacing Kessel after the latter's stroke).

Rest in peace, Herb. You can find many performances by Herb on YouTube.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Hoppin' At The Park

The Jazz Workshop plays at several park functions over the course of the year, including the "Bunny Breakfast" in the spring. And so it was today. Gene, Sam, Ira, Wes, Bronco and Tim along with vocalists Annie, Toria and Dick turned out to entertain the kids and their families. The McRae Park staff served sausage, eggs, pancakes and oranges to all and sundry; they were also fundraising to renovate the kitchen at the park.

The set list included "Easter Parade" and "The Bunny Hop" for the seasonal note, and also "Black Orpheus," "Sunny," "Embraceable You," "What Is This Thing Called Love," "Let's Fall In Love," "Blue Bossa," "I'll Remember April," "Centerpiece," "Darn That Dream," "Yardbird Suite," "Bye, Bye, Blackbird," "East of the Sun," "Out Of Nowhere," and "I Thought About You."

The photos were taken by Toria and are both shots of the band missing one or two people in each but getting them all- except for any of the singers- between the two of them.

Friday, March 26, 2010

No Workshop 3/27/10

We are performing at the McRae Park "Bunny Breakfast" from 10:00-noon in lieu of the usual workshop. We'll be back to our usual schedule next week on 4/3/10.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

So Long Winter Blues!

The Jazz Workshop got together on the last day of winter to celebrate jazz and, indirectly, the end of Winter and the start of Spring. Usually the change of the seasons here is a calendar event rather than something you'd notice outside, but this year it really noticeable. Temperatures in the 50s and 60s, buds coming out on the trees, bird song, the scent of thawing dog poop. Spring!

The workshop was a mix of old and new today, with Mark joining for the first time on vocals and Max returning for the third time on bass. The regulars included Annie (vocals and workshop coordinator), Steve (trumpet and flugelhorn), Sam (trumpet), Ira (alto sax), Bronco (alto sax), Vicki (vocals), Ken (drums), Wes (tenor sax), Jack (trumpet), Dick (vocals), Gene (drums), Owen (accordion) and Tim (guitar).

Songs of the day included "All Blues," "Impressions," "Peri's Scope," "Hot 'Lanta," "Cousin Mary," "You'd Be So Nice To Come Home To," "I Remember You," "Nature Boy," "Easter Parade," "Let's Fall In Love," "Darn That Dream," "Tenderly," "Black Orpheus," "All of You," "All of Me," "I Thought About You," "Bunny Hop," ""I Love You," "What Is This Thing Called Love," "Embraceable You," "Out of Nowhere," "Always on My Mind."

I was too busy playing guitar to take photos today, but Don Lenhoff provided a lot of photos a couple of weeks ago and here are some of those. At the top right is Toria; below and to the left is Steve and you can see a bit of Owen and his accordion, too; below and to the right are Bronco, Tim and Sam from left to right; and at the bottom left is Bronco again.

Next week there will be no workshop at the usual time. We will be performing at the "Bunny Breakfast" at McRae Park from 10:00 AM - 12:00 noon. The next regular workshop will be on 4/3/10 at the usual time: noon to 3:45. Hope to see you there!

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Up Jumped Spring

Last Saturday we had snow. Today it's almost all gone. It is starting to seem that spring has sprung. On top of that, in a few hours the clocks are set forward an hour adding to the daylight time after work. Woo-hoo!

Today we had many of the usual suspects at the workshop, including Sam (trumpet and bass), Wes (tenor sax), Ira (also sax), Todd (trumpet), Steve (trumpet and flugelhorn), Jack (trumpet), Gene (drums), Tim (guitar), Annie (vocals), Tria (vocals), Dick (vocals); returning on bass was Max and joining us for the first time on trumpet was John.

The set list today included "Freddie the Freeloader," "Ceora," "Dear Old Stockholm," "West Coast Blues," "Meditation," "Easter Parade," "Day By Day," "Follow the Rainbow," "It's Been A Long, Long Time," "April in Paris," "Autumn In New York," Peri's Scope," "My Little Suede Shoes," "Sunny," "I'll Remember April," "Black Orpheus," "The Late, Late Show," "What Is This Thing Called Love," "I Could Write a Book," "Blue Trane," "Ornithology," Lazy Afternoon," "Let's Fall In Love."

We also talked about the "Bunny Breakfast" at which the Jazz Workshop will perform on 3/27/10, developing the set list. And we also talked about the song list for the workshop with the long term goal of developing a collection of arrangements of songs for weekly use.

Today's photos are by Don Lehnhoff, actually taken last week. At the top is a tenor sax; in the middle a flugelhorn and at the bottom an archtop guitar.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

The Weekly Workshop Report

I think I used "It Might As Well Be Spring" this time last year, so I didn't want to repeat myself. Every week I write this note about the jazz workshop and I find myself saying something like "the Jazz Workshop met again at McRae Park" which is kind of silly. The Jazz Workshop has been meeting weekly for over 30 years! Of course we met again and we're going to do it again next week, too.

OK, so that's out of my system. The Jazz Workshop met again at McRae Park... aaarrrggghhh! But we did. So there. In attendance today were Sam (trumpet synthesizer), Steve (trumpet and flugelhorn), Todd (trumpet), Bronco (tenor sax) Wes (tenor sax), Don ('bone and camera- these are his photos today. You can tell by how they aren't fuzzy), Gene (drums), Max (bass), Bob (guitar), Tim (guitar), Craig (guitar), Owen (accordion), Annie, Vicki and Dick (all vocals). Jeez, that's fifteen people. Attendance at the workshop has varied over the years, for a while being sometimes just two or three people, but for the past year or so we have had 10-15 people most weeks. This really brings up the energy of the thing and makes it a lot of fun.

Now you might remember last week's post in which I talked about having some challenges getting through some songs. I had talked with several workshop members during the week and one thing we wondered about was the sound of the room. The room is pretty big and there's a lot of reverb, so we tried pulling out the room partitions which cut the room to about 1/3 of the size- cozy but much easier to hear and as a result we seemed to play much better. We're going to try that again.

We also talked about creating a core list of songs. Todd had counted back through the blog posts for the past four months or so and found we'd played something like 180 songs, most of them once and none as often as ten times. If we have a list of maybe 100 songs for which we know we have charts for all the instruments, we might find it more productive. The lists would focus on standards in particular- they are called "standards" for a reason.

Having said all that, the song list for today included: "Blue Bossa," "Ornithology," "How Insensitive," "Always On My Mind," "I've Got a Crush On You," "Easter Parade," "East of the Sun," "Corcovado (Quiet Nights)," "A Night In Tunisia," "All the Things You Aren't" (a song Tim wrote 25 years ago and which is still not ready for performance)," "Betcha By Golly Wow" (not your usual jazz tune), "What Is This Thing Called Love," ""I Cover The Waterfront," "Makin' Whoopee," "I Love You," "The Very Thought of You," "Well You Needn't," and "The More I See You."

As I mentioned earlier, the photos were taken by Don who has some actual photography skills and a camera that is much better than mine. Between those two things, the photos are clear, sharp and much better composed than usual. At the top we have Bronco and Wes both on tenor sax; next we have Todd and Steve (trumpets), Dick (vocals) and Tim (guitar); then we have Sam (trumpet synth) and Max (playing bass); the next photo is Annie (vocals and workshop coordinator); Owen (accordion) and Bob (guitar) are next; followed by serious-looking Gene (drums)

Monday, March 1, 2010

The late news

A hectic weekend and start to the work week has delayed the post about the last jazz workshop in February. I think I have had occasion to mention that the workshop has a broad section of participants, from people just beginning their journeys in jazz to people who have been playing for decades. As a result, sometimes songs work well and sometimes they don't- especially if songs that are too complex are called. We had a bit of both this time at the workshop, not even getting through a few tunes once and having some come off quite well. That's the way it goes some weeks.

This week we had two new participants, Paul on acoustic guitar and Rick on piano. We also had some of the regular suspects: Ira (alto sax), Annie (vocals), Dick (vocals), Gene (drums), Wes (tenor sax), Todd (trumpet), Owen (accordion), Craig (guitar) and Tim (guitar). No photos this week as I was too busy playing. Sorry! I'll look through the archives for some photos I haven't yet used.

The song list included "Telemodal" (an original by Tim which turned out to need refinement, no surprise for its first time out), "East of the Sun," "Indiana," "The Nearness of You," "Brown Baby," "Amazing Grace," "Phase Dance," "It Don't Mean A Thing," "Satin Doll," "Blue Bossa," "Like Someone In Love," "Always On My Mind," "Save The Best For Last," "Nancy," "Black Orpheus," "Don't Blame Me," and "There Will Never Be Another You."

I think that I mentioned last week that Todd had done some analysis of the set lists over a four month period and found that we had played something like 180 songs, most of them once or twice and some of them six or seven times. There seemed to be some thought that it might not be a bad idea to put together a core song list from which to choose, so that we have a body of songs with which the participants can become familiar. Ira sent me a list of songs that his quartet uses and I have a similar list from Sam. This would be worth exploring further and will be up for discussion at future workshops.