Monthly Archives: September 2015

RIP Phil Woods

Written by user on September 30, 2015

Phil Woods in 1978 (Photo: Tom Marcello)

Yesterday, the great alto master Phil Woods passed away. Within the pop music world, he was known for his classic solo on Billy Joel’s “Just the Way You Are.” Within Jazz, he’s remembered as one of the greatest alto players this music has produced.

Amassing an extraordinary discographical resume, Woods soon became one of the most influential post-Bird altoists, and also became a crucial advocate for the music, helping to found the Delaware Water Gap …

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How to Play Rhythm Guitar

Written by user on September 29, 2015

(James Chirillo, Photo: Frank Stewart)

If you’ve checked out our playlist on YouTube about how to approach rhythm section techniques, you may notice that the rhythm guitarist is getting a clean, high-intensity sound followed by quick decay. This was a necessary component of playing acoustic rhythm guitar in a big band, and to learn more, you can check out some of James Chirillo’s guitar set-up lessons on our site here.

But once your guitar is set up, how do you approach playing …

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What Is Collective Improvisation?

Written by user on September 28, 2015

(Evan Christopher, Photo: Eric Hartman)

If you’ve listened to very early recordings of Jazz (for example, the first instances of recorded Jazz, played by the Original Dixieland Jazz Band), you’ll notice something unusual: the solo is missing. The solo – an artist stepping to the front to improvise on the melody and chord changes while backed by the rest of the band – is such a staple of Jazz that it’s very odd not to hear it in these first recordings.

What …

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Introduction to Jazz Guitar Chords

Written by user on September 24, 2015

(Tom Dempsey, Photo Courtesy of the Artist)

When you start playing Jazz Guitar, you may find that the chords you learn in a chord book sound too heavy and too bulky. You might also find that it’s too difficult to move about the fingerboard smoothly when you’re voicing such large chords. However, there’s good news: you don’t have to do those voicings. In fact, with a full rhythm section, you can focus on much sparser outlines of chords for your playing …

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Happy Birthday, John Coltrane!

Written by user on September 23, 2015

(John Coltrane in 1963, Photo: Hugo van Gelderen. Courtesy of Wikipedia)

Today marks what would have been the 89th birthday of the legendary saxophonist, composer, and bandleader John Coltrane!

In celebration, we’ve curated a short playlist on Spotify that plays highlights from his incredibly varied and trailblazing career, from some of his earliest hard bop work, his modal work with Miles Davis, to his groundbreaking quartet, to his ecstatic Free Jazz work that marks his later career.

Click here to listen!

How To Play Free Jazz

Written by user on September 22, 2015

(Matthew Shipp, Photo: Frank Stewart)

If you’re accustomed to playing standards, approaching a freely improvised performance can be a bit daunting. How do you approach playing with others in the absence of chord changes? How do you even begin?

If you’re not familiar with Free Jazz, we posted an intro video on our YouTube page. Additionally, we invited the guitarist Mary Halvorson to offer insights into how to begin working in free improvisation, posted here.

But once you start play with other artists, …

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How Do You Start Improvising?

Written by user on September 20, 2015

Many beginning Jazz students ask this question: how do you begin to improvise, and how do you practice it?

It can be a daunting challenge, but one way to start is to make a game of it and set sound boundaries for yourself to work around.

Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra saxophonist Walter Blanding offers some insights in this Jazz Academy lesson on developing improv games for your practice sessions. Check them out, and give it a try.

Want another practice technique? Check …

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What Are Long Tones?

Written by user on September 19, 2015

Ask any woodwind or brass player what one of the most important practice techniques is, and they’ll almost certainly point you to long tones. What are they, and why are they so important?

Long tones are exactly what they sound like: you play a note into your horn and hold it at a steady volume and pitch for as long as your breath will allow. Then you go up or down and half step and repeat, ultimately going through the full …

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The Music of Dave Brubeck

Written by user on September 18, 2015

On YouTube, Jazz at Lincoln Center just posted a full concert video of its program The Life and Music of Dave Brubeck, which you can see here, or watch below:

The concert offered fresh big band arrangements of classic pieces associated with Brubeck. Earlier, we also created a companion set of videos in which a Jazz quartet performed and discussed great music of the Brubeck Quartet. Find the full playlist here.

Want to learn more? A great piece to start with is …

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