Jazz Improvisation - June 24, 2005

Jazz improvisation recordings, 2005

recordingThis page contains my jazz improvisation recordings from 2005. As you'll hear below, these jazz recordings feature such highlights as cracked notes, poor note choice, unsteady rhythm, and meandering phrases! And that's why recording myself is so important. It's the best way to evaluate my playing and to chart my progress over time. I don't expect that I'll ever become a great jazz trumpet player, but I am anxious to hear how much better I can get with practice. As always, I welcome your comments and suggestions.

All of my jazz improvisation recordings: 2004 - 2005 - 2006 - 2007 - 2008 - 2009 - 2010 - 2011 - 2012 - 2014 - 2015 - 2016

DECEMBER 16, 2005

iwasdoingallright - audio clip - Aebersold #104, Bass Piece

This clip is from the Kenny Werner - Free Play play-a-long. I purchased it recently thanks to a suggestion from Dan Jacobs. It's basically a collection of tracks with unconventional rhythms, instrumentation, and harmonies. I really like this collection so far, as it's already pushed me to try some new directions in my playing.

I had only played with this "Bass Piece" track once prior to recording this clip. That first session was about three or four weeks ago, so enough time had passed for me to forget everything except for the fact that it speeds up. There aren't any chord changes, nor is there really any structure to the bass track. My goal with this clip was to make it sound as though the bass and I were actually interacting...

SEPTEMBER 28, 2005

iwasdoingallright - audio clip - Aebersold #12, Take The 'A' Train by Billy Strayhorn

This is the last clip I recorded tonight. My chops were worn out and I probably should have put my horn down, but I just had to play one more tune. While soloing, I had this image in my head of a boisterous (and somewhat inebriated) saxophone player belting out a loud sloppy solo. I think that image comes across in my clip...

Since it's the end of the 3rd quarter, I figure I should add in a couple other clips from tonight's recording session, even though they're short.

iwasdoingallright - audio clip - Clip #1 - Aebersold #99, Super Jet by Tadd Dameron

As you might guess, clip #1 is the beginning of my solo. I continued soloing after the clip ends, but I got tongue-tied and my solo sort of fell apart. After resting for a chorus or two, I started up again and recorded the following:

iwasdoingallright - audio clip - Clip #2

SEPTEMBER 13, 2005

iwasdoingallright - audio clip - Freeform improvisation

Here's a short clip of freeform improvisation. I just picked up my horn, noodled around a bit, and then recorded this clip.

Playing without an accompaniment helps ensure that your note choice, use of motifs, sense of motion, and rhythm are good enough to stand on their own. If/when they aren't, there's nowhere to hide...

AUGUST 25, 2005

iwasdoingallright - audio clip - Aebersold #34, Green Dolphin Street by Kaper & Washington

My chops were pretty much shot during this clip. I had to use one of my old tricks to get the notes out: pressure (didn't I just write about that?) I know, I know... I'm setting a lousy example. At least, it's clear in this clip that pressure isn't a cure-all. I totally missed the high note in a fast little run near the beginning.

I like the long descending run towards the end of the solo. Basic notes and rhythms, nothing fancy, but I think it worked out pretty well. Another element that I liked was the fact that I start and end the solo with simple-song fragments. I think this is the first time I've done that.

AUGUST 10, 2005

iwasdoingallright - audio clip - Aebersold #100, Margie

This track is from the "St. Louis Blues" Dixieland play-a-long. This was my first time playing with this track. I'd guess this clip was recorded after 4 or 5 warm-up choruses.

While recording, I had to break for a phone call. I continued playing after the call, but I forgot to start the recorder. I hate it when I do that! So, this clip is the best of the lot. There are a few cracked notes, but I think it's still worth sharing.

JUNE 24, 2005

iwasdoingallright - audio clip - Aebersold #108, A Shade Of Jade by Joe Henderson

I was listening to the version on Joe Henderson's "Mode For Joe" this afternoon and couldn't help but pick up my horn. Since we're nearing the end of the second quarter, I also figured I should try to get in another recording. I recorded with this track back in 2004, however I definitely prefer today's clip.

JUNE 2, 2005

iwasdoingallright - audio clip - Aebersold #56, "In Walked Bud" by Thelonious Monk

I hesitated putting this track on due to several obvious mistakes, but really I had to put something new online because I'm embarassed by how bad I sound in the 2 tracks below (especially "I Let A Song..."). I didn't think they sounded so bad at first, but after some repeated listening... yikes!

In this recording, I nearly missed the first note (D) entirely but pressed on anyway. And of course, I totally missed the high C that I was shooting for near the end. I did manage to play a high C a few minutes earlier, but wouldn't you know it, I wasn't recording at the time.

MAY 24, 2005

This is my first attempt to play along with the following tracks. I didn't look at the changes, nor did I spend more than a single chorus noodling around before making these recordings. I approached "I Let A Song..." with the intention of creating a new melody for the tune, while my "Catalonian" solo is comprised mostly of short rhythmic phrases.

While they're not great solos, I think they're pretty decent (for me) considering my unfamiliarity with both tunes.

iwasdoingallright - audio clip - Aebersold #12, "I Let A Song Go Out Of My Heart" by Duke Ellington

iwasdoingallright - audio clip - Aebersold #82, "Catalonian Nights" by Dexter Gordon

As you work on your ear training, you should also try to figure out tunes entirely by ear. If you have access to the written changes, take a look at them afterwards to see how you did. It would also be a good idea to record yourself so you can better identify problem spots.

APRIL 25, 2005

iwasdoingallright - audio clip - Aebersold #38, "This I Dig Of You" by Hank Mobley

This solo is played over the first two choruses of the tune, where you'd typically play the head.

I didn't get a chance to practice this past weekend so my chops were pretty fresh today. I took advantage of this fact and played a bit more in the upper register than usual. Before I started recording, I actually managed to play a pretty decent E above high C!

MARCH 19, 2005

iwasdoingallright - audio clip - Aebersold #86, "Tokyo Blues" by Horace Silver

Instead of using a bunch of notes, I experiment with short melodies and phrases, using syncopated rhythms to create interest in the solo. The rhythmic aspect is best heard in the beginning of the second chorus. Nothing special, but at least it isn't as note-heavy as some of my recent clips...

MARCH 3, 2005

iwasdoingallright - audio clip - Aebersold #86, "Mary Lou" by Horace Silver

I bought this play-a-long at the same time that I bought #17 & #18 (see below). I haven't had a chance to try it out, though, until recently. It's definitely one of the better Aebersold's, due to the energetic rhythm section. I recommend it highly.

There isn't much to say about my solo. Mostly, I just wanted to get something online since I missed February altogether.

JANUARY 7, 2005

iwasdoingallright - audio clip - Aebersold #17, "Nutville" by Horace Silver

I really like the recording of this tune on Horace Silver's "The Cape Verdean Blues" especially Woody Shaw's playing. I like the tune so much, that I recently bought this play-a-long specifically so I'd have this track. I played a few choruses to get my bearings and then recorded this clip. There are some weak spots, but I think I did a fairly good job of keeping up with the challenging tempo.

iwasdoingallright - audio clip - Aebersold #18, "Nica's Dream" by Horace Silver

Now that I've finally got my flugelhorn valves working (read the note in my equipment information page. Updated 3/3/05: Um...), I thought it was time to use it in another recording. Things were going pretty well until I goofed and basically totally derailed my solo. The goof occurs right after the fade out at the end. Clever editing, eh?

Yo man -- this is good stuff and you're playing two of my favorite songs. The Nutville solo rivals your solo on Granted in my book. Are you gonna venture out and play some jam sessions in 2005? To my ears you are more than ready. I hear cats who are "professionals" who are not playing the vocabulary that you are using right now.

My only "bad" comment would be with regards to your flugelhorn sound. It sounds a lot like your trumpet sound. I'm guessing it might be the way you record? This in no way takes anything away from the content of the solo (which again is excellent).

Keep on blowing man! You're doing great!

Wow. You sound great. I wish I was good at trumpet. I'm still in high school and I use too much pressure, but I can't break that habit. I have no range or endurance because of it. Oh well, maybe I'll get better. Keep up the great work!

Comment by Rick

Thanks for the feedback, guys!

ERIC:

There are a couple of new jazz clubs here in Atlanta. Both have a jam session night, so who knows. Maybe I'll get up the nerve. Honestly though, I don't think I'm ready yet. I'm pleased with my progress, but I'm still not as consitent as I'd like to be. If/when I do play out, I want to be totally confident in my playing.

I also noticed that my flugelhorn sounds like my trumpet in the recordings. In person, it does sound more like you'd expect.

You should definitely get the Horace Silver play-a-longs. I recently bought #86 too. So many great tunes...

CHARLES:

Well, at least you know what you're doing wrong ;-). If you haven't already, you should check out: http://www.trumpetherald.com/forum/

There are lots of posts (maybe too many!) regarding pressure, embouchure, etc.

I continue to struggle with the pressure issue, but I'm making progress. Check out the "My Playing History" entries in the ABOUT ME section of this site to read more about my experiences.

Comment by pete

listened to your recordings. I liked "This I Dig Of You" best. You make nice sounds which sound thoughtful and are quite catchy, musical.

on these recordings you sound to me like someone who has a really nice feel for the music i mean i could be fooled into thinking you are a pro but your chops (mainly tone) maybe arent quite on a pro level thats all. well thats my opinion you might find someone out there who loves your tone.

in any case i don't think its necessary to have amazing chops in order to make good music. if anything this can be bad as it can lead to displays of technical mastery which have little emotional or musical content or thought.

like eric says your vocab is very nice. what would you say are the things you have done to develop this part of your playing?

if i were you i would get out there and start playing in jam sessions etc. i mean are the guys who play in these jam sessions a lot better than you or something? i would pay to listen to you.

have you asked a teacher or someone what they think of your playing or are you just assuming you're not good enough because that's your own judgement?

another thing is do you really think you need all this ear training stuff? to me your improv blends nicely harmonically and rythmically with the heads.

one last comment can you fade your trumpet and the backing track to center its really annoying when listening to this stuff on headphones. i have not heard any music that is recorded like this with instruments faded right over to one side. if you think about it even someone is playing a trumpet to your left, your right ear is still going to hear some of that even if it's not as loud as the sound in your left ear.

Comment by Rick

Peter - Thanks for the comments and compliments. I've attempted to address each point below…

EARTRAINING:

You mentioned that you think my playing blends in nicely harmonically with the head. Well, for several of my recordings, including "This I Dig Of You," I've NEVER looked at the chord changes. It's all by ear. Until I can play EVERYTHING effortlessly by ear, I'll always work on ear training. Every great jazz player can do this; I'm trying to catch up…

VOCABULARY:

I play a variety of music while I work, however jazz dominates. In a typical week, I probably listen to at least 30 hours of jazz. Since I'm working, I'm not always paying that much attention to the music, but I definitely do pick up some ideas. When I practice improvisation, I usually start out by playing along with jazz recordings. I try to play the tune by ear, and then I try to pick out phrases from solos and play those by ear. Playing along with solos is probably the best way to pick up new ideas.

JAM SESSIONS:

I think I've got (at least) a couple more years of ear training and general practice before I attempt to play in public. I'm not nearly as consistent as I want to be. I still have too many days/sessions where I'm not happy with my playing. Also, for me it's not really about how well I compare with other players, but rather how I compare to my own performance goals and standards. I'm just not where I want to be yet… but I'm getting closer!

RECORDING:

I've yet to record anything that sounds nearly as good as my original live performance. By the time I mix down from the original recording to an mp3, it sounds lousy. I've tried all sorts of things, and have recently started leaving the left and right tracks separated. I thought it sounded better that way, but apparently I'm mistaken ;-) I've done a bit of research on the subject of home recording, so I know there are better approaches out there. I just haven't had the time or money to implement any of them (yet).

Again, thanks for the comments.

-Rick

Comment by pete

i think it's cool that you never looked at the chord changes. i also think this is best. i guess you might want to in some cases, but most of the time it's better to rely on what you can hear.

i often find myself using the melody as a guide when improvising. i've been told that with chordal improvisation you cant follow the melody and have to think in terms of chords but i disagree. i think there are a lot of people are being misled by this sort of idea and end up reading chord charts for everything. just because you can't hear charlie parker following the tune doesent mean he isnt.

i like your way of getting vocabulary. it's so obvious and simple isn't it? i mean if you want to be good at jazz you have to copy other musicians. no need to know a ton of theory and scales (although this is useful i guess). i asked on the jazztrumpetsolos.com forum about learning ideas and solos from recordings and got this advice:

"there are ways you can avoid just memorizing fingerings and play the idea or similar ones organically. try inventing your own lick using the harmony or whatever it is you liked from the original lick. a great exercise that i like to do is to distill the lick into all eighth notes (get rid of the triplets) and start the lick on beat one and do it in all keys. then move it over so it starts on the + of one and do it in all keys that way. then keep moving it over to beat 2 then the + of 2 and so forth. then once you've done it on every beat in every key try turning the entire lick into eighth note triplets and doing it that way...moving it over to each note of the triplet. doing this makes you very familiar with the lick. you aren't stuck playing it where you know it fits. you've played it in every possible way (on all beats and triplets and in all keys) and it'll come out in your playing in a very organic way. also, if it is a bird lick or something very familiar and common in the vocabulary it'll retain that quality while not sounding like a quote. lee konitz and warne marsh used to do this exercise and probably got it from tristano. you can hear it in their playing...especially warne to my ears."

i think that to get a better trumpet sound you could try using a omnidirectional mike, placed in the same room. you need one that like picks up all the reverb and other acoustic features of the room. you could use just this one mike to record the trumpet and the backing track played through your speakers, it might sound more natural that way. bear in mind that to record in stereo you need two mikes so there is no point in messing about with right and left channel if you only have one mike. stereo does not mean that you put one instrument in the left and one in the right, etc it means you make it sound to the listener that there is a spacial element to the sound they are hearing by using the difference between two channels, as far as i understand it.

have you thought about jamming with other musicians round your town? it would be fun and motivate you to practice more. it doesent have to be with an audience. i practice a lot more than i play with other people and it can get frustrating sometimes. right now i'm looking for places to play and found a couple, even if it isnt improvised music.

keep practicing, you can only get better and you sound good.

Hey Rick. I read your post above about not being ready for a few years. YEARS?? I totally disagree man. I think you're ready now. I read this essay by Eddie Lewis and it changed how I gauged being ready or not.

http://www.eddielewis.com/jazz/essays/whenready.htm

I've played concerts with a master class and solos at church several times. I have yet to have a performance that I thought was good. I still think I "suck" as a player but I'm forcing myself to get out there and learn what I need to improve upon. You can't really do that completely if you just practice in the "basement."

I understand your love and respect for the music. You want to come correct. At same time -- getting out there and playing with others is part of the process.

Comment by Rick

CHORDS VS. EAR

I really believe people need to do whatever works best for them. So, I wouldn't suggest that somebody ignore chords if they are playing well while looking at them, or vice versa. But, if somebody's struggling to play a good jazz solo and they can't play simple melodies by ear, I'd definitely push ear training over theory... at least until they can play fairly well by ear. I'll write more about this later, but for now I'd like to make clear that I'm NOT in any way opposed to theory. The mastery of theory is a wonderful asset to a jazz musician. I'm simply opposed to the idea that most books and educators push theory on aspiring jazz players while barely mentioning ear training (or not mentioning it at all).

PLAYING OUT

Bear in mind that during college I played in a couple jazz combos, rehearsing and/or gigging a few times each week. That went on for about 2 years. Additionally, I've played in dozens (maybe hundreds) of rehearsals and concerts with a variety of bands, including orchestra, brass band, big band, rock, and funk groups. I've done it enough to know that I really wouldn't benefit much from attending a jam session right now, nor would playing in public just for the sake of doing so really add anything. I appreciate the encouragement, but in this aspect, I believe I actually do know what I'm doing... for a change ;-)

Eventually, I hope to find a jazz combo to play with on a regular basis. I'm just not ready yet -- believe me!

MONO VS. STEREO

The reason I've got left and right separated is because that is how they sounds are actually recorded. I've got the jazz track fed into one side and the trumpet mic into the other. So, it's not an artificial thing that I'm doing after the fact. I just thought it sounded better if I left it as-is for the final mix down. I'll definitely try some new methods when time and money are on my side.

Hey man, you sound great for as much experience as you say you've got. Personally, I like your tone, at least in the range you've recorded it. Also, it shows that you've listened to some quality players as it shows up in your playing.

Of course, we can all improve, (I'm a trumpet player) and as Bobby Shew told me once, "I'm humbled by the trumpet every day." The key is to get to the point where you can maintain some level of comfort with your playing no matter what. It's never going to be perfect, so just don't worry about it. Play every day and do the best you can. Never become too harsh a critic of yourself. That note that you play today is the best one you can produce . . . today! All great players try to sound like themselves (as in the old Miles quote) and all you have to do is realize that you sound uniquely like yourself right now! It will change as you develop.

Get out there NOW! Play with live players, you'll see your strengths and weak points faster than any forum will provide. Then come back and let everyone see how you've improved!!!

Dan Jacobs, trumpet

Email: jazzstandardtime@aol.com

Website: www.jazzstandardtime.com and/or www.danjacobsmusic.com

(I have a bunch of clips that you can listen to on both sites, some from my albums)

Keep it up, you're doing GREAT in my opinion)

Comment by Rick

Hi Dan!

I often wonder what a professional player must think if they read my articles and listen to my clips. Thanks for taking it easy on me ;-)

I added your site to the TRUMPET PLAYER JOURNALS section of my LINKS page. I enjoyed reading your articles and listening to your clips. I wish more pro's would share their knowledge like that...

Your encouragement and advice is greatly appreciated. Thanks for stopping by!

-Rick

Rick,

Thanks for adding me to the links page. Every bit helps. I also just released a new album, one that I produced and played on featuring this great singer. Check it out at: cdbaby.com/cd/eileensongs

If that doesn't work, try www.eyesongmusic.com

Keep playing my friend, you're on the inside track as you get the joy of figuring out how to play the trumpet in addition to giving something back to the people.

Dan Jacobs

Comment by Tony

That's hot...you should just go and do some jam sessions. Despite what you say, you're ready. :D

Sounds plenty good enough to me. All you need to do now is get out there and play live. Do it as much as you can. There are a whole set of other factors that enter into improvising with live musicians (good and bad). You will make giant steps (no pun intended) by forcing yourself to sit in at some jam sessions.

Good work, continue.

I also listened to GDS (Green Dolphin St) and it sounded good too!

Dan

Comment by Chris

I really like the way you played on "Margie" the solo sounds really good. You split a few notes here and there but hey... who cares? Miles Davis made a career out of splitting notes and it sounded good! Keep it up and if you ever find yourself in a rutt don't just look for new ideas dig up some of your old ones and throw them in here and there for a bit of spice. Keep it up!

Chris

Comment by Alison

I love this site, always learn a lot while here, thanks! Question for y'all: how do you play your horn in an urban environment? Currently living in a not-too-soundproof apartment and had a request from the neighbors to keep it down, though I thought my cup mute was sufficient to muffle. Any and all suggestions welcome!

Comment by Rick

Hi Alison. When I lived in Chicago, I lived in an apartment building with many neighbors. Whenever I practiced at home, I'd use a harmon mute with a sock on the end of it. Frankly, I hated having to play like that, but it was the only way I could get away with practicing at home. I now live in a single-family home, so noise isn't an issue.

You might try the Yamaha silent brass mute thing. I've never used one, but I know some people like it (then again, some don't). In any case, it's probably better than using a mute with a sock over it...

I LOVED IT! I'm impressed! And it did sound like you and the bass player were making it happen at the same time, together. It is an acquired skill to make that happen. Very nice and very creative indeed. You should do more, it will make your other improv work more interesting and new.

Lately I've been concentrating on the Monk CD from Aebersold, but now you've inspired me to return to the "Free" CD as it's just so much fun and opens new avenues for expression.

There are two new cuts on my website that I recorded live on a gig with a jazz group in March 05. They might be of interest to you or others as I was called as a sub on that gig and I had been practicing the "Free" CD for about two week before that time. It shows up in my soloing quite obviously.

My solo on "Stella" has turned out to be one of my favorites. "Honeysuckle Rose" is with a different group but recorded around the same time with the same "Free" influences.

Both of them are a real-life application of the "Free" study I had been doing, and was a lot of fun. Check it out and let me know what you think.

Dan Jacobs

danjacobsmusic.com

Comment by Rick

Dan,

I just listened to the two clips you mentioned and have to agree that your solo on Stella is among your best (that I've heard). It's a shame the audience was so loud... they missed some great playing!

Thanks for the encouragement regarding my "Bass Piece" clip. I actually prefer playing free stuff like that and played quite a bit of it when I lived in Chicago. Back then, though, I couldn't play very well by ear so the results were VERY spotty. Now that my ability to play by ear has improved, it's exciting to hear how much better I can jump into unpredictable changes/harmonies.

-Rick

Hey Rick,

I came across your site just because I was looking for some solos people play on Nica's dream, I have to say I dig your playing it's good.

a critique I have on your nica's dream solo is that you don't outline the minor(major7) chords enough. this may be a personal thing - but I feel those are the chords that really make the song. Other than that though it's great stuff.

For that tune I'd like to lead you to a book by Dave Pozzi called An Approach to Jazz Improvisation. Dave Pozzi takes old tunes and gives them new heads, and solos on them - gives the transcription and analyzes it. As well as gives some great ideas for improvising over certain chords and phrases. His play over Nica's Dream is amazing.

Something that I think my sax teacher hounds me on alot but I think I'd pass on to you is to outline chords more. It's not necesarrily about playing patterns (but that will help you get through the chord changes) but just playing strong chord tones more often may help bring more shape to your solos.

Anyways, thanks for putting your stuff up for everyone to listen to... I dig your stuff (I didn't mean to be mean if it sounds that way - but I hope some of the comments helped).

--Ben Byrne

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Jazz Improvisation

I practice and hone my skills with the goal of becoming a better (dare I say "good") jazz improviser. In this section, you can read about the methods I use to improve and you can listen to recordings of my playing. The recordings will help you determine if any of the stuff I'm doing actually works ;-)

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