Archive for the ‘UBC Summer Music Institute’ Category

Ellington Sacred Music Concert #4

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Here we are almost a year later, all set to perform another concert of Duke Ellington’s Sacred Music. We had previously performed the concert in Vancouver in 2009, 2010 and 2011. The 2012 concert is being held in Victoria at the Alix Goolden Hall on Saturday, November 10, 2012. The concert, as with our previous versions, includes vocal soloists Dee Daniels and Marcus Mosely, the Fred Stride Jazz Orchestra, The Sacred Music Gospel Choir, and tap dancer, Alex Dugdale.

You can read about Dee, Marcus, Alex and the Sacred Music Choir on last years post. However, the band this time out is a mixture of Vancouver and Victoria musicians. Coming with me are lead trumpet player Derry Byrne; Mike Braverman, clarinet/tenor saxophone; Chad Makela - baritone saxophone; Leo Bae, piano, Andre Lachance, bass; and Bernie Arai, drums. The Victoria musicians are Tom Ackerman, alto saxophone/clarinet; Gordon Clements, alto saxophone; Phil Dwyer, tenor saxophone; Bruce Hurn, trumpet; Dave Flello, trumpet; Alfons Fear, trumpet and 3 great Victoria trombone players - Ian McDougall, Mark Wilson and Matt McConchie. I’m really looking forward to the concert and sharing this great music with a new audience.

All proceeds from ticket sales will benefit the work of Our Place Society with Victoria’s homeless and people living in poverty. Find out more about the work of Our Place and how you can help at: OurPlaceSociety.com

This concert has sold out each year so order your tickets early!

CONCERT TICKETS: www.eventbrite.com, Lyles Place at 250-382-8422, and Ditch Records & CDs, 250-386-5874, all in Victoria.

Here is Dee Daniels performing Tell Me It’s The Truth at our 2009 concert.

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Of course this concert would not happen without the generous support of:

Our Place Society, the Victoria Jazz Society and:

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A Concert of Duke Ellington’s Sacred Music

Duke Ellington 1965

Duke Ellington 1965

Here were are once again, having the great fortune to be able to perform some of Duke Ellington’s Sacred Music. This will be our 3rd time performing this great music in an effort to support the First United Church and their mission to help the homeless on the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver. This concert has started to become a yearly highlight for me and I’m sure it is the same for all the other performers and organizers.

Duke Ellington described this music: “This music is the most important thing I’ve ever done, or am ever likely to do. This is personal, not career. Now I can say out loud to all the world what I have been saying to myself for years on my knees.” While the centre of this music is the spirituality, it never feels overtly so. Nor does the singing take over, with the jazz orchestra taking a strict accompaniment role. Every performer is integral to the music. This was always one of Duke’s striking compositional traits, everyone contributed to the sound of the music in a deep, meaningful way. The great big band in our concerts, which is made up of some of the finest jazz performers in Vancouver, which in addition to a superb accompaniment role, shines on two instrumental features and provides a generous amount of solo statements throughout the evening. This is a total jazz experience.

For our 2011 concert presentation we are adding, or rather changing around, a few songs for this third performance. New this year are Is God A Three Letter Word For Love and Ain’t Nobody Nowhere Nothin’ Without God, both from Duke’s Third Sacred Concert and Meditation from the Second Sacred Concert. Also on the program are Come Sunday, Praise God and Dance, The Lord’s Prayer, It’s Freedom, Don’t Get Down on Your Knees To Pray, David Danced Before the Lord, In The Beginning (which won the 1966 Grammy award for best jazz composition), Tell Me It’s The Truth, The Shepherd, Ninety-Nine Percent and The Biggest and Busiest Intersection, which is an all out jazz tour-de force for the band.

It was singer Dee Daniels who really got the ball rolling on performing this wonderful music. We had done a concert for Festival Vancouver in 2008 titled Duke, Dee and Me. Dee sang some Ellington songs at the concert, one of which was Tell Me It’s The Truth, from one of Ellington’s Sacred Concerts. In her little preamble before we performed the tune she put forth to the audience how great it would be to perform Duke’s Sacred Music in Vancouver. Someone in the audience contacted her and away we all went. A partnership with First United Church, supporting their mission helping the homeless on the Downtown Eastside, was the final result.

What superlatives can I write about Dee Daniels that hasn’t already been said? I guess all I really need to say is that working with Dee is always a great pleasure. Not only is she a great singer, but she is a very warm person who cares deeply about every single aspect of the concert. For more on Dee click here

Last year was the first time I had ever worked with Marcus Mosely. I had seen him perform a few times over the years and I do remember meeting him briefly at a concert that we were involved with up at Whistler a few years ago. Marcus, like Dee, is also very warm and professional. And man, can he sing! For more on Marcus click here

Tap dancer Alex Dugale joined us for the first time last year. Alex is originally from Seattle and is currently finishing his music degree in saxophone performance at the Eastman School of Music. Alex’s tap techinque, impeccable time and imagination are fantastic to behold. He plays jazz with his feet!

The 12 voice Sacred Music Gospel Choir is comprised of some top level professional singers and they are also great nice to work with. The first year we had the wonderful Phoenix Choir but their busy schedule did not allow them to continue for a second year. However, a few members of that choir, along with other interested and skillful singers, wanted to continue to be a part of the performance. The choir which is managed by Mike Angell and Rob Hollins is: Corlynn Hanney, Crystal Hicks, Erin Hollins, Gregory Ferrugia, Matthew Smith, Miles Ramsay, Mike Angell, Patti Fletcher, Phil Jenion, Rob Hollins, Sara Ramsay, Siri Olesen.

This year we are being joined by the gospel group The Sojourners. The Sojouners are Marcus Mosely, Will Sanders and Khari McClelland. For more on the group  click here

Finally, the orchestra, or rather big band, is made up of some of my favourite Vancouver musicians. Their passion for making music and their individual and collective skill sets are truly world class. I always feel I have the best seat in the house when I stand in front of them.

Orchestra Personnel:

Conductor/Director: Fred Stride
Saxophones: Jens Christiansen, Aaron Hardie, Bill Runge, Mike Braverman, Chad Makela
Trumpets: Derry Byrne, Kent Wallace, Tom Shorthouse, Chris Davis
Trombones: Dennis Esson, Rod Murray, Jeremy Berkman
Piano: Ross Taggart
Bass: Andre Lachance
Drums: Bernie Arai

Our host, as for the past 2 years, is CBC’s Rick Cluff. Rick, like everyone else connected with this production, is also great to work with. He is warm and knowledgeable and a genuine fan of both the music and performers. Since this concert does not take place in a formal concert hall, but in a large church, Dee and I felt that the experience needed a little “help.” Amplification, or microphones are used only on the solo singers, choir and instrumental soloists, while the band is heard acoustically. Staging is also brought in to elevate the performers above floor level, giving us a stage. Finally, the concert is filmed and shown on a giant screen behind the performers, greatly adding the concert experience.

I hope you can join us for this great evening of music and dance and The Sacred Music of Duke Ellington.

For more on First United Church and their great work click here

Purchase tickets through www.eventbrite.com click here

Event: Sacred Music of Duke Ellington

Date: Friday, November 18, 2011 at 8:00 PM (doors open at 7:00)

Location: St. Andrew’s-Wesley United Church 1012 Nelson Street (Corner of Burrard & Nelson) Vancouver, British Columbia

The Sacred Music of Duke Ellington concert is a fundraising event for the work of First United Church, a place of refuge for people who are homeless on Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside. For more information, please visit www.firstunited.ca.

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UBC Summer Music Institute 2011 - The Jazz Bands

It has taken me a while to get around to writing and posting this blog, but here goes.

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We recently wrapped up UBC Summer Music Institute #19. It seems like yesterday that my old UBC associate Marty Berinbaum (now retired) began the camp. We’ve had many talented kids go through the program over the years and this year was no different. And, as always, my job was directing jazz ensembles.

Week 1 - Intermediate Jazz Band

The first week I worked with younger students in the intermediate jazz band (big band). This year we had students ranging in age from 12 to 17, with 14 probably being the average age.

Interestingly, the numbers were down this year in the saxophone section (go figure that one!). I ended up with 1 alto (a real mystery), 2 tenors and a bari. There were 4 trumpets, 3 trombones, 1 guitar, 1 bass and 2 drummers (no piano). I also had some junior counselors (senior high school students) helping out and filling in some of the holes in the sections (alto 2 and piano).

As I always like to do, we read through a few charts on Sunday afternoon and again on Monday morning before I decided on a final concert program. The first week of the camp goes very quickly so there is not much time to spend on reading, although I feel strongly that this needs to be done.

Tuesday afternoon was the faculty recital with some of the jazz faculty ending the concert. I played piano, which is something I’ve been pursuing with a little more intensity in the past couple of years. Joining me were Adam Jones (bass), Alex Flock (guitar) and Bernie Arai (drums), who became a dad for the second time the very next day. Congratulations to Bernie!

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Stan Kenton

To help give this years camp a stronger musical focus, we celebrated Stan Kenton’s 100th birthday (December 15, 1911) by listening to a few recordings and reading through some pieces associated with his bands.

Since the music performed by Kenton’s band was beyond the technical capabilities of such young musicians, we worked from my new junior band arrangements of Artistry in Rhythm and Intermission Riff. Also on the concert program were Work In Progress by Gordon Goodwin, Paul Murtha’s arrangement of What Is Hip?, Winter Poem by Sammy Nestico and Michael Sweeney’s arrangement of Mas Que Nada.

The final concert was a great success with the band really peaking on What Is Hip?. It’s great to hear such young players concentrating on the details and still bringing substantial energy and fun to the performance. The Intermediate Jazz Band was then followed by the Intermediate Concert Band, directed by Bryan Knapp, another original UBC Summer Music Institute faculty member. Bryan is a marvelous conductor and he can really get the younger musicians following his every move. To use a little “jazz speak” - “they were very tight.”

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Week 2 - Senior Jazz Band

Week 2 was with the older students, with a wide range in age, from 14 to 69. And, because the enrollment was up this year for senior jazz, we ended up having 2 bands. My colleague Dennis Esson directed the “other band.”

As a first order of business, Dennis and I had to divide up the students to create 2 big bands of equal ability. To help us recognize the abilities of the students we had them read through two of Sammy Nestico’s great charts - A Little Blues Please and The Blues Doctor. Both charts are relatively easy to play, with just enough reading challenges to help us gauge their skill level and with the flexibility to be opened up for solos. Because we had 8 alto saxophone players, we had them play in pairs and in various combinations. The other instruments switched off, sometimes returning in a different combination. Helping us with this task were my RA (rehearsal assistant) Adam Gough (saxophone) and guitar instructor Alex Flock. After hearing all the students play we chose 2 lead altos, 2 lead trumpets and 2 lead trombones. We then filled in each section making sure to spread out the soloists. We did not want to have any band ranking, no #1 and #2 band.

Dennis’ group ended up with 4 altos, 3 tenors, 1 bari, 3 trumpets, 3 trombones, 2 guitars, 1 piano, 2 basses, 1 drummer. My group had 4 altos, 2 tenors, 1 bari, 3 trumpets, 4 trombones, 2 guitars, 1 piano, 2 basses, 2 drummers and 1 mallet player (vibes, marimba with some latin percussion). We were a little lean on trumpets this year, but all 6 six were excellent players topped by 2 very superior lead players. BTW - all the performers dressed in blue shirts in the photos below are councilors who function as camp assistants. Their help contributes greatly to the success of the camp.

Each band then set off to their respective rehearsal spaces to spend the remainder of the first day reading through various charts. Rather than start working right away on the music for the Saturday concert I prefer to read (as does Dennis). By doing this the students become exposed to many more writers than they would in their school bands. This also has the added benefit of helping them work on their reading skills, which can be a serious issue for many high school students. Another benefit is I can really get to know their skill sets, including who likes to solo and how well they might be able to solo. There is no point in choosing repertoire that has solo sections beyond the capabilities of the available soloists.

On Monday and Tuesday mornings Dennis and I worked with our own groups and after lunch we changed places. I felt this was important to all the students and would go a fair ways to help eliminate the inevitable perspective of an A band and B band. We preferred Dennis’ band and Fred’s band, although the office used red and blue.

This year only Monday and Friday afternoons were set aside for 3:00-5:00 recreational activities. The Tuesday rec. period was given over to the faculty concert, which was composed of solo pieces and assorted small ensembles performing an eclectic mix of classical music and jazz. The faculty jazz band was made up of myself at the piano, Adam Jones on bass, Alex Flock on guitar, and stepping in on drums, for an absent Bernie Arai (a new father), was current UBC student Jeremy Lawi. Our front line was Dennis Esson on trombone and Mike Braverman on tenor sax. I had a great time playing with the guys and hearing their great solo work. Mike, as always, set the room on fire with one of his solos.

Wednesday afternoon was set aside for master classes for all instruments. I was in charge of all the rhythm section instruments. Perhaps playing would have been nicer, but we ended up talking about practicing, music education, life and many other things both musical and non-musical. Recreation period on Thursday had sessions for flutes and brass, with the brass session being a mouthpiece manufacturer demonstration and tryout. Most days ended at either 3:00pm or 5:00 pm, but Monday and Friday were long days beginning at 9:00am running until noon, then another 2 hour rehearsal from 1:00-3:00. We would then meet again at 7:00pm and finish at 9:30. Still, I always felt good at the end of each day. The kids were great to work with, both serious and willing.

With my group we read through various charts on the first 3 days of the camp including: Machito (Pete Rugolo), Artistry In Metal (Artistry In Rhythm) (Stan Kenton arr. Fred Stride), Groovemeister (Les Hooper), Artistry in Rhythm (Stan Kenton), Big Dipper (Thad Jones), Time Waits For No One (Sammy Nestico), Street of Dreams (Victor Young arr. Stan Kenton), Chunga’s Revenge (Frank Zappa, arr. Fred Stride), Black Nightgown (Johnny Mandel), Shadrack (McGimsey arr. Bill Holman), Dancing Nightly (Bill Holman), Rompin’ At The Reno (Benny Carter), Riba (Duke Ellington arr. Ron Collier), Bags (Bill Holman), Intermission Riff (Ray Wetzel/Stan Kenton), Blues Express (Shorty Rogers), Michelangelo (Astor Piazzolla arr. Fred Sturm), and Pacific Swing which was composed by our lead trombone player, Jared Richardson.

This group of students turned out to be quite decent in the reading department, which allowed us to plow through all this music. It seemed that most of the kids, in both weeks I might add, loved the reading experience and many of them told me they don’t read very much in their school band and they could feel their reading getting stronger. I think we could have easily read new charts every day. But there is a point when it is better to concentrate on a few pieces and work on conceptual and performance skills.

The final concert at the Chan Centre on Saturday afternoon began with Dennis Esson’s group performing Les Hooper’s The Residual Fire Dance, Ascending by Fred Sturm, my version of Willie Maiden’s A Little Minor Booze, Bill Holman’s Kingfish, Bob Curnow’s beautiful arrangement of Pat Metheny’s Always and Forever, poignantly played by trumpet player Thad Mai and my arrangement of Earth, Wind and Fire’s Runnin’. Dennis’ rehearsal assistant was Cam Golinsky, who also taught trombone lessons and took care of all the jazz ensemble library needs. Thanks Cam! Cam is dressed in the yellow camp shirt seated in the trombone section. My rehearsal assistant Adam Gough filled in on tenor to cover for one of the students who had to leave that same morning.

Thad Mai soloing on Always and Forever

Thad Mai soloing on Always and Forever

Dennis Esson's Jazz Band - aka Blue Band

Dennis Esson's Jazz Band - aka Blue Band

My band followed and we began our set with Ernie Wilkins’ arrangement for the Count Basie band of Moten Swing. I think there are very few greater moments in big band music than that first ff horn figure going into the bridge in the first chorus. Wow!

Ol’ Man River is Bill Holman’s rousing arrangement of Jerome Kern’s classic tune. This chart features several soloists, particularly tenor sax and drums. The drummer on this chart, Miles Wong, was in great form throughout. Holman’s independent writing can be a little disconcerting for younger players that are used to full sectional work or block-type voicings. His approach demands that everyone play with strength and conviction and not to just follow the lead player, not unlike playing Ellington or Mingus.

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Steve Owen’s new arrangement of Radiohead’s Kid A was up next. This chart is part of a new series published by Sierra Music Publications of the music of Radiohead.  The students were really into playing this one. Overall the parts aren’t too hard, but the chart does require a skillful drummer and a strong trumpet soloist. Our trumpet soloist was Alex Gambrel, a recent recipient of a Fraser MacPherson Scholarship.

Loco-Motion is my 2009 UBC Summer Institute composition (published by Sierra Music Publications). This is a straight ahead blues chart that can easily be opened up for solos. We did find that it was better to open up the the trumpet solo section, where the rhythm section can be looser and really groove. This chart was directed by my rehearsal assistant, Adam Gough, a current UBC music major and aspiring music educator. I have always tried to create opportunities for students to get their feet wet directing the big band in both rehearsal and performance settings.

Adam Gough directing the Red Jazz Band

Adam Gough directing the Red Jazz Band

My newest UBC Summer Music Institute jazz band piece is It’s Just You And Me. This chart is a slow ensemble outing based on a reharmonization of an old standard. I alternated 4 bar phrases of a rhythm section-less chorale with a Li’l Darlin’ style ensemble melody. Between each 8 bar section I inserted a 4 bar phrase, or interlude, which I had intended the piano to solo over. For our performance I had the vibes take those short solos. The second chorus consists of a 16 bar piano solo with no interludes. The final B and A sections are more alternating chorales and swing feels, but occurring in different places than in the first chorus. I was fairly pleased with this one and it didn’t require too much work from the students. The main focus in rehearsal was tuning, blend and releases. When those things happen the group really becomes a much more mature sounding ensemble.

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Johnny Richards’ El Congo Valiente from Cuban Fire concluded our portion of the concert. This arrangement was written by Richards in the early 1960s for high school bands, but it’s still a challenge and closely resembles the original. We had all the necessary percussion on this one and they really added to the performance.

El Congo Valiente

El Congo Valiente

For a “really big band” finale we combined both jazz bands and played Pete Rugolo’s Artistry in Percussion featuring all 3 drummers at 3 different kits. We also had all 4 basses and all 4 guitars playing with both the piano players sharing the bench. This was quite the visual and aural experience, especially the trumpet soli played by 7 trumpets and the 3 drummers.

Massed Senior Jazz Band - Artistry in Percussion

Massed Senior Jazz Band - Artistry in Percussion

The week was very successful and both jazz bands were in excellent form throughout the concert. We were followed by a concert band directed by John Van Deursen, made up of visiting students from Hong Kong and Taiwan as well as some local students. They were followed by the Senior Concert Band directed by my colleague Dr. Robert Taylor (UBC Director of Bands) and Yeh Shu Han a very fine trumpet player and conductor from Taiwan. Like the jazz bands, these groups really played well. It is always a treat to hear all the groups on the final concert.

I’m looking forward to #20.

UBC Summer Music Institue 2010 - Week 2

The students attending the senior week of the UBC Summer Music Institute ranged from about 14 to 70 years old. For this years senior jazz band, aged 14 to 20, we ended up with 7 saxes, 4 trombones, 5 trumpets, 2 drummers, 3 basses, 2 guitars and 1 piano.

Given that this is a summer camp I tried to have all the kids playing as much as possible. This did mean, as horrible as it sounds, that I had all 3 bass players reading through the charts at once, but with only one of them running through an amp. Both guitar players, each running through his own amp, played at the same time, with the more experienced student playing sustained chords and single note lines while the other played in the Freddy Green style. Multiple drummers always presents a problem. While I’m not big on adding extra percussion, such as shakers and tambourines, on swing tunes, there were a few charts where I had one of the drummers playing congas. For the last 3 days I added a second drum set and 2 more bass amps. To show the students how it can work with multiple drummers I played them some Kenny Clarke-Francy Boland recordings, which featured both drummers, Kenny Clarke and Kenny Clare, playing at the same time. The big thing to avoid when doing this is duplicating the cymbal work. The best combination is for one drummer to play with brushes with no hi hat pedal work and the other as normal.

For the first day and a half I simply handed out charts, reading them down and making comments as we went. Sight reading seems to be a big problem for many high school students and I tried to help them with this essential skill. I feel there are several components to successful reading skills, which I constantly pointed out:

  • Feel the pulse, like it becomes a part of you, or allow the pulse to make you feel like moving, nodding or dancing.
  • Always know where beat one is.
  • Play with confidence. This means to not hide behind soft, inefficient playing. It is always better to play out and loudly step in a hole, or miss read a pitch or rhythm, than to hide and try to follow someone else. Strong confident playing is easier to correct than weak playing.
  • The more reading you do the better you get. I’m sure that if I were to hand out the same charts at the end of the week the students would fair much better.

Besides helping the students learn to play large ensemble jazz I also want them to experience music that they probably do not play in their school program. In addition to the charts we performed we also read through: Lullaby of the Leaves - arranged by Francy Boland, Chunga’s Revenge - arranged by Fred Stride, Sax-Accord - Fred Stride (we had a very nice sax section), Old Man River - arranged by Bill Holman, Michelle - arranged by Chico O’Farrill, Stereoso - Bill Holman, Ring of Fire - Fred Sturm, Diminuendo and Crescendo in Blue - Duke Ellington, Waka Jawaka - arranged by Fred Stride, Perdido - arranged by Duke Ellington and Opus In Pastels - Stan Kenton.

For the last 3 days of the camp I had the band playing the Clark Terry/Jimmy Hamilton Perdido Line as an ensemble warmup. This was a great way to get the horn players playing with the proper jazz/swing articulation, as well as helping them learn to play together. I would sometimes have the rhythm section stop and have the horns continue on. It is interesting how a horn section quickly begins to focus as a single unit when you take away their rhythm section crutch.

As the week went on I had the bass players and drummers pick out the charts they might like to play, and we went down to a single bass player and drummer for most charts. For the Saturday afternoon concert I knew I had to do at least 2 charts for each bass player and one with all 3. I also had to do a similar thing with the drummers. Since the guitar players were working very well I left them alone to play together on every tune.

On the last day of the “camp” we were given from 40 to 45 minutes to perform the music we had been working on. Beginning the concert program was a concert band, directed by John Van Deursen, made up of very young students from Taiwan. We followed with our set and the Senior Concert Band directed by my colleague at UBC, Robert Taylor, ended the program. All three groups were excellent.

Here is a rundown of the charts we performed on the final day.

Don’t Get Sassy - Thad Jones; adapted/arranged by Mike Carubia

This is a wonderful simplified version, for young jazz players, of the Thad Jones classic. Like the original, this chart in Bb instead of the original Db, includes some challenging ensemble work. The tutti melody includes broad gestures as well as a little figure that requires the horns to play lightly, almost catlike. The solo section is fairly loose in structure and allowed a fair degree of latitude to include several soloists. While a Bb blues scale can be used throughout the solo section, a couple of our soloists worked on playing through the changes. Keep in mind that the summer institute is not an honour band so for many of the students it is their first foray into more advanced literature and solo work. Some soloists had never played an improvised solo before. For me, given the very short time frame, I prefer to encourage the students to play out, or speak up, be pleased with their playing and to not feel that a good jazz solo is measured by the number of notes per bar or displays of virtuosity.

Dragonwyck - Gene Roland; transcribed/adapted by Fred Stride

I’ve always enjoyed Stan Kenton’s Adventures in Blues recording. The entire disc was written by multi-instrumentalist/composer/arranger Gene Roland, who is also featured on both soprano saxophone and mellophonium. Several of the charts had always seemed like they would adapt easily to younger players. Dragonwyck is one of my favourites so I started with that one. The A sections of the tune are quite simple and are great for the beginner soloist. The bridge however, requires use of the diminished-whole tone scale [aka the altered scale]. I did spend some time explaining this particular scale, to more than a few glassy-eyed students.

Malaguena - Ernesto Lecuona; arranged by Bill Holman; adapted by Fred Stride

I wrote this version of this Stan Kenton/Bill Holman classic, which is down a fourth from the original, in 2003 or 2004. I’ve used it with many ensembles since. The kids love playing this high energy chart. We had strong leads in the trumpets and the trombones, as well as a fine rhythm section, so it seemed like a no- brainer. I also had both drummers playing on this one. Drummer #1 played the part as normal while #2 played with felt mallets during the inro and added cascara-type playing throughout the latin section. The 2nd drummer did not play during the swing section. I also had all 3 bass players playing, except for the swing section where we went down to a single player. Multiple players on a walking bass line is not a good idea.

The Shortest Dissonance Between Two Points - Les Hooper

This one doesn’t seem to be particularly popular, but is, nevertheless, a typically excellent Les Hooper chart. I’ve never played or heard a bad, or even mediocre, Hooper chart. Les is a consistently first rate writer. This chart features bass throughout and so was a natural as a “bass section feature.” All three bass players played on this one, both melody and improvised solos. The horn parts are not hard to play, but do require work with blend, tuning and especially releases.

One Big Happy Family - Les Hooper

I did not intend to feature a Les Hooper set. But as I went looking through my library for a fairly easy-to-play blues, I ended up with this one in my hands. I always like to include something that I can get multiple soloists playing on, especially something that is harmonically straightforward, like a blues. I also wanted something that I could put together quickly and that would be relatively easy for the band, something they could relax on, as many of the other charts were tough on the face and brain. This chart fit the bill perfectly. This also seemed like the perfect choice to have my rehearsal assistant, Adam Gough, get his feet wet directing. He did well and the kids obviously liked him, he has a bright future ahead of him as a music educator. One of the enjoyable experiences during the week was watching one of the kids in band do an impersonation of me helping Adam with his directing.

After Six - Fred Stride

For roughly the past 10 years, of the 18 years the UBC Summer Music Institute has been in existence, I have been writing originals and arrangements for the camp. The main reason is write things that high school students will not have not played before and for me to deal with the challenge of writing with the limitations of your average high school student in mind. This year I thought I would write something in 7/4, not fast, using straight 8ths (latin?) and somewhat modal. I also wanted to have the horns start the piece playing a groove on a single pitch (G), which would become a pedal point against which I could set a melody, then eventually add the rhythm section. The resulting sound for this section of the chart is one of a somewhat busy and rhythmic texture. It then struck me that a contrasting section would be most welcome and should feature a single horn section, possibly voiced, over a simple groove. I then played with these ideas throughout the chart.

Harmonically this piece is quite different from your average high school jazz chart. The first chord that is heard is a C/Ab. These types of chords have quite a dark colour, which appeals to me. With this dark hue happening along with the rhythmic texture I felt the B section should at least start with a lighter, or sunnier, harmony, something from a major key source. I ended up with Fmaj7/G. Of course I’m never one to stay too long in a single harmonic territory, so I made my way back to the darker sounds of the A section, giving the chart an AAB form of 12,12 and 22. To help tie it all together the end of the B section uses the final 6 bars of A.

The solo section, which is not based on A and B, uses a combination of chords from both A and B. I also decided that since these chords are unusual for high school students I should spend a little longer on each one. I also felt I should not use the C/Ab types of chords, that I should restrict myself to using those chords that involve familiar scales and modes, Bb natural minor for the Bbmin7(b6) chord, D dorian for Fmaj7/G, B natural minor for Bmin7(b6) and F lydian for Cmaj7/F.

After Six - Solo changes

After Six - Solo changes

To be honest I didn’t think we would get too far the first time through, but the kids really surprised me, especially the drummer. They got the overall concept of the alternating bars of 4/4 and 3/4 quite quickly which allowed us to work on phrasing and the overall feeling of the piece.

Finally, I’ve never felt that great coming up with titles so After Six seemed convenient as a working title. So, on the last day of the camp I asked the students if they could think of anything better and one of them suggested Before 8, which I thought was quite funny. But, after some discussion they all seemed to agree that After 6 was a good title, as you could read other things into it.

Black Friday - Walter Becker, Donald Fagen; arranged by Fred Sturm

I simply love Fred Sturm’s writing, whether it is for pros or young students. A number of years ago I acquired a disc of Fred’s arrangements of Steely Dan tunes for the HR Big Band in Germany. Black Friday was a perfect vehicle for our 2 guitar players. There is a significant amount of written lines for them to deal with and the solo section is over an E pedal, giving them quite a bit of room for solo work. The first few times we went through the chart both guitarists were playing their favourite rock/blues licks for their solos, but I put a challenge before them of forbidding any such licks and for them to play a little more freely, to go for harmonic colour. They were encouraged to think of E only as a home base and as a place of resolution, not as a chord. They were set free to journey anywhere in their solos and solo exchanges. They were both wonderful and rose to the challenge, of course I let them use their distortion and delay pedals. Another challenge in this excellent chart is the first trumpet part which presents several high F#s and one high G# above high C. It’s amazing, that when a piece of music is this well written, that playing those notes down the octave did not harm the energy level of the chart at all.

For the 18th time I had a great time working with the kids at the summer institute. It was obvious they really wanted to play challenging music in a great band. Pushing them hard and not allowing them to settle for anything less than their absolute best never seems to be a turn off for them. They definitely came through on the final concert. The energy on stage was exhilarating. I’m already looking forward to next year.

For more information about the UBC Summer Music Institute click here

After Six - Score - page 1

After Six - Score - page 1

UBC Summer Music Institute 2010 - Week 1

I just finished up 2 weeks of teaching at the UBC Summer Music Institute which my now retired colleague at UBC, Marty Berinbaum, started 18 years ago. While there have been orchestra, choir and junior string programs over the years, the centerpiece of the camp has always been bands.

The camp is set up for day campers or overnighters. Most of the students are local, with a few coming in from other parts of the province. For the last 8 or 9 years we have had a group of students from Hong Kong and this year we had a large group from Taiwan.

My job at the camp (or “institute” for those wanting to avoid saying “band camp”), has always been working with the jazz students. For the first week I worked with students ranging in age from 12 to about 14 or 15. This years intermediate jazz band consisted of 5 saxophones, 5 trumpets, 3 trombones, 1 guitar, 2 bass players and 3 drummers, with a junior councilor (a senior high school student) in each of the horn sections. I played piano only when it was really necessary. I needed to be free to direct and teach. The philosophy of the summer institute is to help students better their musical and ensemble skills. This is what is foremost in my mind as I work with my students.

On the first day, Sunday, I had the band read through various charts so I could get a feel for what we might be able to play during the week and possibly perform at the Friday afternoon concert. Choosing repertoire is always a tough thing. Showing up for the first rehearsal I have no idea what the students might be able to play. You ask yourself a hundred questions. Can the drummer read? Can anyone read? Can the bass player read chord symbols? Can the first trumpet play above the staff? Can anyone improvise? So, I come prepared with a wide range of styles at varying levels of difficulty.

I like to have the students play as wide a range of repertoire as possible, particularly things they are not likely to play in their own school bands. As I pass out new music I play recordings and tell them a few things about the bands they are hearing and especially about the composers and arrangers. On that point, it’s been interesting over the years to note that many young musicians never look up at the top right hand corner of their part.

We began each day around 8:50 a.m., attendance was taken, decisions were made regarding recreation activities (swimming, playing games, practicing, going home, hanging out at the dorms, etc), then it was right into the music.

The daily rehearsals centered on specific pieces and the usual issues attached to playing ensemble music: reading and interpreting swing rhythms, jazz phrasing, articulations, attacks, releases, sound, falls, bends and balance and anything else that may show up as we play. I also like to spend time helping them learn to tune. The smaller number of students in the jazz band (as opposed to the concert band) allows me the luxury of having the time it takes to talk about this important performance issue. I go through the entire horn section, one player at a time, and deal with the common tuning issues as they occur. The rhythm section gets to take a break (supervised of course). The students learn to try to absorb the sound of the principal pitch source (a piano, which is very difficult, or another horn, which is much easier), to listen and try to hear the same pitch colour in their mind, take a big breath and play out. They then learn to listen for wobbly sound waves or “beats” that might indicate they are out of tune. I also talked about the confusion that can happen during this process, how easily we can become confused. Am I flat or sharp? Equally important is for them to learn to not listen to those around them telling them if they are flat or sharp. They need to learn to trust their own ears. As each student tunes I never tell them if they are sharp or flat, only that they need to make an adjustment (happily, most young players can tell when they don’t match the pitch source). I encourage them to experiment with their tuning and to follow the old adage “when in doubt pull out.” This procedure helps a player clear the air and clear up a confused state of mind. The resulting very flat, and out-of-tune, playing can be quite amusing.

When the students see that most cannot tell the difference between flat and sharp they begin to become comfortable with the process. Any young player can learn to tune properly given patience and confidence and the constant reminder from the director to not accept anything less than in tune playing. This constant reminder gets them to listen and adjust when necessary. This reminder has the added benefit of keeping them involved with the music even when they have a rest. Once a tuning session has ended and they play they start to hear the difference and begin to want to play in tune all the time. They become a little more conscious of their sound. What I have observed over the years is that the students quickly take this issue very seriously and will take it upon themselves to tune before their performances without being asked or for me to even be involved.

The musical portion of each day gave way to the recreational activities at 3:00 p.m., except Tuesday when the faculty performed for the students and their families. This “concert” is always eclectic. The students hear solo flute, opera arias, brass quintet, solo marimba, a jazz quintet and pretty much anything you can think of in between. All of this is crammed into less than an hour and a half.

I neglected to make note of all the charts we read through earlier in the week, but here are the charts I chose for the final concert.

Easy Money - Benny Carter; arranged by Michael Sweeney.

This chart, which I recently learned is out of print, is a great, non-stressful, opener. The main melody, as in the original version for the Basie band, is in unison and octaves and gets everyone playing together right off the bat. This was the line I used to work on the legato-slur combinations jazz players use in their swing phrasing. This is an excellent chart for the young jazz player. I hope it comes back into print.

Manteca - Dizzy Gillespie; arranged by Fred Stride

I wrote this arrangement about 10 years ago. This chart allowed me to have both bass players on the latin groove and shifting to a single player for the swing sections. I was also able to have 2 drum sets going with the 3rd player playing various percussion during the latin sections. While multiple drummers takes more care and attention, it does allow more players to be involved and stop kids from sitting around. After all, this is a summer camp and I want to keep everyone involved as much as possible.

The Minor Goes Muggin’ - Sy Oliver; transcribed/adapted by Fred Stride

I’ve always loved Sy Oliver’s writing. The original version of this chart written for Tommy Dorsey had him playing a solo rendition of the melody. Our version, down a minor 3rd, assigned all the trombones to the melody. For some reason the trombone players liked playing this one.

Watermelon Man - Herbie Hancock; arranged by Mike Kamuf

This is a new arrangement of a classic tune. I heard it in Calgary last February and pickup a copy when I got home. A nice feature in this chart is the horns-alone chorus. This section was fun and forced the students into providing their own inner groove, without the aid of the rhythm section.

Blue Monk - Thelonious Monk; arranged by Michael Sweeney

I always try to put something on every program that is not too hard to play. This is one such chart. The only tricky aspect is the across-the-bar-line triplet figure in the melody. While this sounds a little daunting, it always seems to come together without too much pain. It just requires patience and diligence from the players and the director. I had the students sing the phrase quite a few times, then had them try to play what they heard in their mind, from when they sang the phrase. I realize this is fairly close to Professor Harold Hill’s ”think system” (from The Music Man), but this way of learning helps remove the intellectualizing of the concept and gets them closer to feeling the phrase, which is when the best music is played. This is also a great chart for assigning solos to those that missed out in the other charts, or those that are soloing for the first time.

Do Nothin’ ‘Til You Hear From Me - Duke Ellington; arranged by Sammy Nestico

There are no real solos in this beautiful ballad treatment of this Ellington classic (which started out life as Concerto for Cootie). This chart can be played as either a slow swing ballad or with even quarter notes. I choose the latter this time out. There is a short written piano melody on the bridge of the second chorus which I reassigned to the guitar, who then went on to improvise a beautiful solo.

Chameleon - Herbie Hancock; arranged by Michel Sweeney.

This chart made for an exciting program closer and also allowed me to have both bass players and all 3 drummers play at once. I talked to the drummers about taking care to not duplicate what another drummer was playing, especially any cymbal work. They also moved the lead spot between them, on their own I might add. The lead drummer was the player who played the main groove and ensemble figures. This worked like a charm and seeing 3 drum sets on stage at once is an impressive site.

The band really peaked on the concert. They were concentrating and trying to play everything as they had in rehearsal. Another wonderful Intermediate Jazz Band concert.

For more information about the UBC Summer Music Institute click here

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