This 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.
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!
This 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.
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.
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.
This 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.
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.
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.
This 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
This 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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
A 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.
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.
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!
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.
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:
This page contains my jazz improvisation recordings from 2008. 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.
As I'm sure most of you know, "Cherokee" is one of the more demanding standards and it's become sort of a rite of passage amongst jazz musicians. I've tried to play "Cherokee" a few times over the years, but I always break down during the bridge (don't we all?). I never really focused on the tune until a month or so ago, after chatting with Atlanta jazz trumpeter, Joe Gransden. We were talking about the video I shot where he and Sam Skelton are playing "Cherokee". I told Joe how intimidating it is for me to hear him play Cherokee so well and he told me that he practices the tune every day. Often he'll play nothing but Cherokee for an entire hour! I found it comforting to learn that even a great player like Joe has to work hard for a tune like "Cherokee". I was also inspired to see how good I could get if I practice "Cherokee" every day. So, for the past month I've tried to practice Cherokee every day for at least five or ten minutes. I'd put in more time in if I had it.
Above, you'll hear my first recording of the tune. There are some definite problems, like the clam during the bridge and the hurried/uneven tempo near the end, but it's a major improvement from where I was a month ago. I encourage you to pick a tune and work on it for a month. I think you'll be happy with the results.
You may recall that I recently switched to using a Mac as my primary computer. Even though I could still use my old PC to record with, I really want to have a Mac solution that sounds as good (or as bad, depending upon what you think of my other recordings). For this attempt, I used GarageBand to do the recording. Unfortunately, the levels came out awfully low, especially after I exported to mp3. I ended up amplifying the mp3 in Audacity, but that resulted in a lot of clipping on the trumpet track. I also tried adding some reverb to my sound in GarageBand, thanks to a suggestion from a reader named Raphael. Whatever reverb I added is just about impossible to hear in the final clip, though, perhaps due to the Audacity amplification. The next time I record my playing, I'll probably try using Audacity to do the whole thing. In any case, I've got quite a bit of tinkering in my future.
Unless I overlooked a recording, it's been about four years since the last time I posted a ballad recording (iwasdoingallright - audio clip "My Funny Valentine" from 2004). Hoping to meet my unofficial ballad quota of one every four years, I gave "My Foolish Heart" a try tonight. This was my first time improvising over the tune. I don't think it sounds too bad, especially considering the fact that I didn't look at the changes. And for the sake of consistency, I even threw in one of my trademark cracked notes near the end!
I recently purchased the "Miles Of Modes" Aebersold recording. As you might guess from the title, it has a lot of modal exercises and tunes. It also has a pretty energetic rhythm section, at least on some of the tracks. This clip features one of my favorite tracks from the play-a-long, "Trane's Ride" (written by Jamey Aebersold). If you've listed to several of my recordings, you know cracked/missed notes are par for the course. Heck, my recordings would probably be unrecognizable without them! Well, let's just say this recording doesn't disappoint. Near the end of the recording are two notes in a row which I totally miss. They're just tiny squeaks of air...
As I often do when recording, tonight I set my Aebersold tracks to shuffle and tried playing with whatever was randomly selected. I was really in the mood to play something fast and hard-hitting, so when this track from the Kenny Werner - Free Play play-a-long began, I was tempted to hit the "next" button. I decided to give it a try, however, when I saw the title of the track, "Drone in E". Since that's the key of F# on the trumpet, I figured this would be a good chance to challenge myself to play in one of my less familiar keys. This is my first time playing with this Aebersold track, and it's the first time I've shared a clip quite like this, but I thought it came out good enough to share. Just pretend I actually hit those two notes at the end :-)
I first recorded with this "I Mean You" play-a-long track back in 2004 (iwasdoingallright - audio clip). I've improvised with the track a few times over the years but I hadn't had the inclination to make any new recordings until last weekend. Above you'll find a clip from last weekend (Clip #2) as well as a clip from this weekend (Clip #1). As you'll hear, Clip #1 is similar in style to most of my other jazz recordings while Clip #2 is a little more adventurous (at least in parts).
When practicing jazz improvisation, I try to approach my solos with a variety of styles. I'll play a few choruses in a straight-ahead hard/bop style, then I might try something really sparse, or maybe I'll play in an angular or avant-garde style. These varied approaches aren't always successful, but they do help open new avenues of creativity that I might otherwise miss by playing everything the same way all the time. Variety... it really is the spice of life!
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 ;-)