Jazz Improvisation - August 30, 2015

Jazz improvisation recordings, 2015

recordingThis page contains my jazz improvisation recordings from 2015. 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

AUGUST 30, 2015

I've been traveling a lot lately, so I haven't had much time to record myself. Now that I'm home, I decided to fire up Garageband and see if I could record anything worth sharing. I like bits and pieces of these solos, but each have their moments of cringe -- my signature sound!

iwasdoingallright - audio clip Aebersold #40, Softly as in a Morning Sunrise

This is my second time recording "Softly as in a Morning Sunrise." The first time was back in 2006. Unlike 2006's recording, today's version eases into the improvisation a bit before building. It also extends through two choruses. There are elements of today's solo that I prefer (like the nice high C!), but I can also hear myself getting a little anxious as I tried to hold on through the second chorus without making any major mistakes that would ruin the clip.

iwasdoingallright - audio clip Aebersold #34, There Is No Greater Love

I've enjoyed "There Is No Greater Love" ever since I first heard Sonny Rollins' version on "Way Out West." I love how slowly he takes the tune, giving him time to really dig into the changes and explore the harmony (I also really like the version on "People Time" by Kenny Barron and Stan Getz).

Unfortunately, when I first tried playing "There Is No Greater Love," I found it rather challenging to play over the first four measures of the "A" sections. Rather than play something that made musical sense over the entire four measures, I'd end up playing four different one-measure solos due to the movement of the chords. I've stuck with the tune, however, and I'm finally at a place where I can occasionally play a decent solo. This might not be the best solo I've ever played over "There Is No Greater Love," but I think it meets my goal of at least making some musical sense.

Jazz Improvisation - May 16, 2014

Jazz improvisation recordings, 2014

recordingThis page contains my jazz improvisation recordings from 2014. 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

MAY 16, 2014

iwasdoingallright - audio clip Aebersold #50, Nardis

As I explained in my 11-year anniversary article, in 2013 I bought a new laptop and I lost the ability to use my old Firewire recording interface. That's why 2013 passed by without any new jazz improvisation clips. At the end of 2013, I solved this issue by buying a new Scarlett 2i2 USB recording interface. And after waiting six months, today I finally decided to use it!

In this clip, you'll hear me play a solo to "Nardis," a tune written by Miles Davis. Actually, since Miles never recorded "Nardis" and since Bill Evans played "Nardis" all the time, I figured it was actually Bill Evans who wrote "Nardis," with Miles snagging the publishing credits. In this YouTube video, however, Bill Evans sets the record straight. Miles Davis wrote "Nardis" for Cannonball Adderley, but the tune because associated with Bill Evans when "no one else seemed to pick up on it."

Usually, my audio clips are mixed down to "mono" so the trumpet and backing tracks are merged. I thought that Garageband did that for me in the past, but I couldn't figure out how to do it in the latest version. I don't particularly like the separation. It makes it too easy to nitpick my playing!

Jazz Improvisation - August 4, 2012

Jazz improvisation recordings, 2012

recordingThis page contains my jazz improvisation recordings from 2012. 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

AUGUST 4, 2012

iwasdoingallright - audio clip Aebersold #108, Recorda-Me

Ever since my poor performance at the International Trumpet Guild conference, I've dedicated a decent chunk of my practice time to memorizing tunes. One of the tunes that I've memorized is "Recorda-Me," by Joe Henderson.

Before I recorded this jazz improvisation clip, I promised myself that no matter how bad I up sounding, I'm still going to share something from the recording session. As you'll hear in this recording, I stayed true to that promise!

The two choruses don't really fit together at all, but that's because I didn't like what I played in the first chorus. This happens a lot when I record. I'll try an idea, and if it doesn't go anywhere, I'll move on to a new idea in the following chorus. Typically, in these instances I'll only post one chorus, but since neither of these are a winner in my opinion, I decided to share them both.

Perhaps now is a good time to mention that I've been out of town for the past 5 weeks. I brought my trumpet with me, but I only ended up practicing about once a week. Consequently, I'm still a bit rusty as I work to rebuild my chops. Isn't it convenient that I always have an excuse when I don't like my playing? Yes, it is convenient.

MARCH 13, 2012

iwasdoingallright - audio clip Aebersold #33, El Gaucho

Today I'm sharing two choruses of me improvising to Wayne Shorter's composition, "El Gaucho." In the first chorus, I was trying to capture some of the light and floating qualities of Wayne Shorter's recorded solo. I'm not sure it comes across all that well, but there are a couple of spots where you can hear faint glimpses of Wayne's trademark style in my solo. Or maybe you'll think, "That guy tried to play like Wayne Shorter and failed miserably." In either case, you thought about Wayne Shorter while listening to me. Mission accomplished.

In my nine-year anniversary article I mentioned my recent root canal and how I thought the temporary tooth had strengthened my chops. Well, it appears that I may have celebrated too soon. I've had my new crown for a couple of months now, and all the progress I thought I had made seems to have vanished. The new crown has subtle differences in shape from my previous crown and those tiny differences seem to have made a big difference in my playing. I'm not exactly rebuilding my embouchure, but I am struggling to recapture what little upper range I had just a few months ago. I guess it's mostly a matter of endurance. Where I once could play ten minutes of notes above the staff during each session, I can only play five minutes now. You'll hear a nice example of my post-five-minute range during the second chorus of my solo.

Jazz Improvisation - August 21, 2011

Jazz improvisation recordings, 2011

recordingThis page contains my jazz improvisation recordings from 2011. 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

AUGUST 21, 2011

iwasdoingallright - audio clip Aebersold #59, Caravan

For the past few months, I've been playing weekly (and weakly!) with that in-house jam session from a couple of years ago. We've played "Caravan" a few times, and since I haven't totally hated my playing, I thought it would be a good tune to record and share on this site. No, this recording isn't of a group performance. It's just me and an Aerbersold track, and actually, it was quite a bit more challenging than playing with live musicians. With a live group of musicians, I can play a short phrase and leave some space for the rhythm section to respond with a rhythmic hit or a variation on my riff. Obviously, the recording won't respond to my playing, so those same short phrases end up sounding kind of empty and pointless.

After a few takes, I settled on the two choruses that you'll hear in this recording. As you might notice, my chops sound pretty tired. I've been having a lot of problems with chop fatigue lately and I'm not sure what to do about it. I'll also talk more about that in my upcoming anniversary article.

APRIL 25, 2011

iwasdoingallright - audio clip Aebersold #53, Joy Spring

It's been over six months since I shared my last jazz improvisation recording, so here are two full choruses of Clifford Brown's "Joy Spring." I first tried playing "Joy Spring" back when I was in college, but I really struggled to play over the shifting chord progressions. This past weekend I decided to give it another try and was pleasantly surprised to find that I could keep up with the changes and play something that didn't sound entirely tragic. I think that sums up the two choruses that you'll hear in my recording from last night: not entirely tragic.

The first chorus is a bit sparse and somewhat pleasant sounding. In the second chorus I thought I'd channel my inner Clifford Brown and try some faster lines near the end. Unfortunately, it appears that I don't have an inner Clifford Brown. Or if I do, he hasn't practiced in a very long time. The first of the fast phrases is actually pretty good, but by the third and final attempt it's downright comedic as the notes spill out of my horn in a jumbled mess.

Jazz Improvisation - September 25, 2010

Jazz improvisation recordings, 2010

recordingThis page contains my jazz improvisation recordings from 2010. 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

SEPTEMBER 25, 2010

iwasdoingallright - audio clip Aebersold #94, Chi Chi

After six years of sharing my jazz improvisation clips, I thought it was about time that I post a Charlie Parker tune. Until this past week, I never even tried to play "Chi Chi." I guess that's one of the (many!) downsides of being dependent upon the Real Book back when I was in college. If a tune wasn't in Real Book Vol 1, I didn't try to play it. It's too bad "Chi Chi" didn't make the cut for Vol 1, though, because it's a great tune with fun changes. But I think we can all agree it's not nearly as important to the jazz continuum as "Good Evening Mr & Mrs America and All the Ships at Sea," which you will find in Real Book Vol 1. If I had a dollar for every time somebody calls that at a jam session...

Anyway, I've been practicing "Chi Chi" for 10 minutes or so every day during the past week. I started out trying to play a bunch of notes, but as time went on, I found myself leaving more and more space for the chords. You'll hear some of that space in the first chorus of my recording.

JULY 19, 2010

iwasdoingallright - audio clip Aebersold #106, Zambia

Tonight I tried to record some tracks for an upcoming ear training article, but I wasn't playing very well. Instead of putting my trumpet away for the evening, I thought it might be fun to record another attempt at Lee Morgan's "Zambia." My first attempt at this track was back in 2004 (iwasdoingallright - audio clip here's that 2004 recording). I've played this tune a few times over the years, but I've never really worked on it... which I guess is kind of obvious based on my lack of improvement! I'd probably be discouraged by the lack of progress, but that 2004 recording was one of my favorites at the time so perhaps I'm comparing one of my best nights from 2004 to a so-so night in 2010. If that's the case, then I guess I'm doing all right.

I do think it's interesting, though, that both solos start out strong and then fizzle when I get half-way through. If I ever do decide to practice this tune, I know where to focus.

MAY 1, 2010

iwasdoingallright - audio clip Aebersold #8, Airegin

Airegin is another one of those tunes that I've always had trouble with. It's a little too fast for me and the changes always throw me off. Having avoided the tune for years, I thought it was finally time to overcome my Airegin aversion. So, a couple of weeks ago I started working on it every day, much like I did last year with Cherokee and like I did below with Moment's Notice. And what do you know... I actually improved! I'm not saying this track is great (I totally missed the high notes toward the end), but I think it's pretty good when you consider that I couldn't even make it through an entire solo a couple of weeks ago.

iwasdoingallright - audio clip Airegin. This time with more trumpet!

Since I haven't posted many recordings this year, I'm including a bonus clip. It's actually more of a blooper. During today's first jazz improvisation recording attempt, the cord to the backing track accidentally came unplugged. I could still hear the backing track, but it wasn't making its way into the my computer for recording. You can faintly hear the backing track that got picked up by my trumpet microphone, but for the most part all you'll hear is me. Consider it my tribute to Mr. David Lee Roth.

FEBRUARY 28, 2010

iwasdoingallright - audio clip Aebersold #38, Moment's Notice

Much like last year, most of my February has been spent working on some new projects at work. Since I haven't had much time to practice the trumpet, I've focused my jazz improvisation studies on just a couple of tunes. One of the tunes, "Moment's Notice," has been a favorite of mine for many years, but I never could manage to play a decent solo. Either the fast tempo or the challenging chord changes would get the best of me and I'd resign myself to the fact that I'm just not good enough. It doesn't help that I've heard Lee Morgan's blistering solo on the "Blue Trane" album so many times that I can't help but compare my playing to his. And let's just say, I haven't sounded very good by comparison.

This recording from tonight isn't anything special, but it's a lot better than my attempts from a year or two ago. I especially like the part around 20 seconds in (right after the second A section starts). I mess up the rhythm a little but then recover such that the mistake almost sounds intentional. A year ago, that mistake would have derailed my entire solo.

If you're familiar with Lee Morgan's solo, hopefully you'll recognize the lick I borrowed (it's near the end of my first chorus).

Jazz Improvisation - November 14, 2009

Jazz improvisation recordings, 2009

recordingThis page contains my jazz improvisation recordings from 2009. 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

NOVEMBER 14, 2009

iwasdoingallright - audio clip Aebersold #15, Cherokee

Eleven months ago, I posted the first recording of me improvising over Cherokee (iwasdoingallright - audio clip). Since that time, I've continued to practice Cherokee once or twice a week, just to keep it in my ears and under my fingers. Regardless of how much I practice, though, it's still a very challenging tune for me at this tempo. I always feel like a runaway train speeding downhill when I attempt these Cherokee solos. It only takes a few tiny pebbles, or in this case a few bad notes, and I jump off the track. This year, at least, it was much harder for me to pick which audio clip to put online since I had about 5 choruses that were probably good enough. That's not to say this clip is actually good (for instance, I don't like the first 8 bars); it's just the most good enough...

By the way, this is my first recording with my new GR 65M mouthpiece. Can you hear any difference? It's probably hard to tell one way or another since the mix between trumpet and backing track varies so much with each of my clips.

AUGUST 18, 2009

iwasdoingallright - audio clip Aebersold #34, Just Friends

When I decided to record "Just Friends" tonight, I thought this would by my second recording with this track. As it turns out, it's actually my third (Here's the first -on flugelhorn- iwasdoingallright - audio clip and here's the second iwasdoingallright - audio clip). My second recording might sound better to most of you, but I prefer this new clip. Unlike the second clip and most of my other recordings, this one was pretty much effortless. No nerves, no tension, no chop problems. Now that's a refreshing change of pace!

It's hard to believe this is only my third recording this year. I guess I could count the bassline clips, but still... I need to get back in the habit of recording myself more often.

MARCH 21, 2009

iwasdoingallright - audio clip Aebersold #11, Watermelon Man - Take 1

Like most of my jazz improvisation recording sessions, I improvised over a few choruses of this track and selected what I thought was my best chorus to share on this site. I liked this recording well enough, but after listening to it a couple of times I felt inspired to try some new ideas. So, about 15 minutes after the above clip was recorded, I picked up my horn and recorded the following:

iwasdoingallright - audio clip Aebersold #11, Watermelon Man - Take 2

The "Take 2" clip actually features two choruses of improvisation, since I couldn't decide which was better. As I think you'll agree, there's more energy in the "Take 2" choruses, both in rhythm and phrasing. This is a direct reaction to my playing in "Take 1" which I thought could have used a little more "oomph"...

You might prefer "Take 1" over "Take 2". Regardless, I think this is a good example of how listening to jazz, even to recordings of our own playing, can help spark new ideas and directions that we can use in future solos.

Jazz Improvisation - July 6, 2009

Bass lines with Mace Hibbard

mace hibbardA couple of months ago, I took a lesson with jazz saxophonist and educator, Mace Hibbard. Knowing that I wanted to experience the same type of lesson that he'd give to his students at Georgia State University, Mace Hibbard began the lesson by asking me to play a bass line on my trumpet. We settled on a concert Bb blues for the chord progression and set a metronome to sound on beats 2 and 4. It would have been nice if I actually had some experience playing bass lines, but I figured I could fake my way through this by outlining the chords and hoping for the best. That's when I panicked. Who am I kidding, I can't fake my way through this!

Before I continue, here's some background info on Mace Hibbard. In addition to being one of the best saxophonists in Atlanta, Mace Hibbard is one of my favorite musicians to hang out with and a really good sport. And by good sport, I don't mean that he's good at sports. Because I've heard that he isn't. Rather, he's a good sport by taking my jokes and mildly-abusive sarcasm in stride (see, I just zinged him about sports!). Mace Hibbard is also one of my wife's favorite Atlanta jazz musicians, which might worry me if Mace wasn't happily married and socially inept (got him again!). Perhaps now you can see why when Mace asked me to play a bass line, it kind of felt like he was exacting his revenge for all of the fun I've had at his expense.

Back to the lesson... My nerves got the best of me and when I lifted my trumpet to play, my mind instantly went blank. Frankly, I think my brain checked out so I couldn't blame it for what was about to happen. After stumbling through two pathetic measures, Mace told me to stop playing. I needed to start from the beginning and take this one step at a time...

STEP 1: PLAY THE ROOT NOTES

The lesson continued with Mace asking me to play quarter notes over jazz blues changes, playing just the root notes. Learning the sound of the root notes in the context of the overall progression will provide a foundation for each of the following exercises. You might consider it a starting point for learning any new chord progression.

iwasdoingallright - audio clip Play root notes for each chord.

There are a variety of jazz blues progressions, but here's the one we used:

I7 | IV7 | I7 | I7 | IV7 | IV7 | I7 | VI7 | II-7 | V7 | I7 | V7

Here's the progression in the key of C, which is the trumpet's key for the audio clips.

C7 | F7 | C7 | C7 | F7 | F7 | C7 | A7 | D-7 | G7 | C7 | G7

You'll hear this progression in each of the audio clips that follow. It's also worth noting that the audio clips were recorded recently. While I was able to play some of the easier exercises (Step 1) during my lesson, Steps 3 and 4 are the result of practicing these bass line exercises several minutes each day for a few weeks. I mention this so you'll understand that this isn't something you're likely to master in a single day. Like anything worth learning, it takes practice.

STEP 2: OUTLINE EACH CHORD

After a few botched attempts at the quarter note root exercise, I finally managed to play it well enough to move on to outlining chords. We started by adding the 3rd of each chord and then the 7th. In the clip below, you'll hear me outline the full chord as I play the root at the start of each chord change, followed by the 3rd, 5th, and 7th. Of these additional notes, the 3rd and 7th are the most important since they define whether the chord is major, minor, dominant, etc.

iwasdoingallright - audio clip Outline the changes.

Outlining the chords like this is especially valuable for us one-note-at-a-time instrumentalists. Since we can't play chords on our instruments, this is an ideal way for us to hear the sound of each chord change so we can internalize and learn what the entire progression sounds like. The key here is that we're learning the sound of each chord and not simply learning the written chord symbols. If you learn the symbols without learning the sound, then your solos will never truly blend in musically with the changes.

STEP 3: PLAY A BASS LINE

Once we can outline all the chords, we can move onto something that actually sounds like a bass line. At this stage we'll add a few swing rhythms and some connecting notes outside of the root, 3rd, 5th, 7th. Even though this is a bass line exercise, I'd suggest that you needn't worry too much about actually sounding like a bass player. Instead, focus on establishing a jazz feel as you smoothly move from one chord to another. This will help you to hear the common and leading tones in each chord and it will prime you for the next exercise... playing solos!

iwasdoingallright - audio clip Here's my rough take on a bass line.

STEP 4: PLAY AN IMPROVISED JAZZ SOLO

Having reached the point where we can confidently play bass lines, we're now ready for jazz improvisation. Thanks to the previous exercises you should have internalized the chord changes to the point where you can hear them in your head while you play a solo. You can play inside or outside the changes and you'll always know where you are within the chord progressions. You can also play elements of the bass line exercise in your solos to help trigger new ideas.

iwasdoingallright - audio clip Here's the solo. Not great, but a huge improvement over my lesson.

Even though I'm no longer playing the bass line in this clip, you can (hopefully) still hear the chord progression in my solo. Thanks to the bass line exercises, the changes have become a part of the music.

I encourage you to add these bass line exercises to your practice routine, especially when learning new tunes. I'd also suggest that you try to sing these exercises in addition to playing them on your instrument. Singing will really ensure that you've internalized the sounds. And don't forget to use a metronome since these are all played without accompaniment. Who knows, with enough practice, someday you might sound as good as the saxophonist in this video:

Thanks, Mace!

Jazz Improvisation:  Older Posts »
SEARCH

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 ;-)

All Jazz Improvisation Posts

Recent Jazz Improvisation Comments