Tuesday, May 6, 2014

New Improv Prerequisite for A-JAM 2015!

Yearning to be the A-JAM rep to the IASJ international jazz meeting in Portugal in June of 2015? "Now's the Time" to start preparing...

We'll hold auditions right before Thanksgiving, as usual, but this year there is a new wrinkle. There is a new preqrequisite, which is designed to prepare you better for the spring combo rehearsals, and reduce the improv fear factor...

In order to join the A-JAM combo in spring of 2015, you must have successfully completed a basic course in improvisation, which will be offered in the fall.

The course you need to register for is MUAP 1185 - PRIVATE IMPROVISATION. It will be held at Vista on Wednesdays at 12:30 PM. Students may take it at the campus of their choice, however, as available. Alamo Colleges students can enroll now!

The fall 2014 improvisation class will be introductory, including chord-scale theory and its applications. Instructor permission is required. For more information, contact Katchie Cartwright, 210-486-4828 or Dan Smith 210-486-4818.

A required text for the course will be David Berkman's "Jazz Musician's Guide to Creative Practicing." Why not buy a copy now and get a good head start?

PS: If your basic piano skills are lacking, why not take piano lessons during the summer to get a head start on that? Or sharpen your skills by taking lessons on your main instrument. Summer is a great time for catching up on things you're too busy to do during the academic year. Join a jazz jam session or create a session at your home or a friend's. Learn tunes, have fun... :-)

Jazz Contrafacts - More Than Just Rhythm!

What's a contrafact? "In jazz, a melody built upon the chord progression of another piece (after contrafactum, in medieval and Renaissance music." - Grove Music Online (Oxford Music Online)

Many bebop and other types of contrafacts are based on very popular tunes from earlier eras. If you're developing jazz repertoire, it's a good idea to learn the original melodies as well as the contrafact compositions.

The most famous example is the entire genre we call "rhythm changes". These are all contrafacts on Gershwin's "I Got Rhythm." There are hundreds of examples.

To get started, check out this useful little list of jazz contrafacts from Wikipedia.

For example, Dizzy Gillespie's "Groovin' High" is based on Vincent Rose's "Whispering. There are scores of others. Check them out!

Some YouTube clips...
Here's a classic performance of "Groovin' High" by Charlie Parker and Gillespie in 1945.  Here's "Whispering" from Red Nichols and His Five Pennies in 1928. A beautiful vocal version of "Whispering" from Harry Belafonte. And a twangy and fun instrumental of "Whispering" from Les Paul and Mary Ford in 1951. Top it off with a quodlibet of "Groovin' High" and "Whispering" together with Phil Woods, Frank Wess, and Jon Faddis with the Barcelona Big Band. (And what's a quodlibet? You can look that one up yourself! :-)