Weekend Performances

Low-Down Sires Day of the DeadI have a busy weekend of performances ahead of me. Tomorrow night, November 1, 2013, I’ll be celebrating the Day of the Dead with the Low-Down Sires at the White Horse Black Mountain. We’ll be playing two sets of traditional jazz starting at 8 PM. There will be some great tunes for swing dancing and listening alike.

On Saturday, November 2, 2013 you’ll be able to find me with the Owen High School Marching Band at the BandBeat Marching Band Championship competition, being held at Winthrop University. The OHS band has been doing great this year and I’m looking forward to the students making the finals this year.

Sunday, November 3, 2013 I’m conducting the Smoky Mountain Brass Band at Calvary Lutheran Church in Morganton, NC. The concert starts at 3 PM and will feature my friend, Dr. John Entzi, both soloing on trumpet and then taking over the podium at the church where his parents were members since 1946. Tickets for this event are free, but you should call ahead at 828-437-0780.

If you’re in the area consider coming out and supporting live music and music education. Be sure to find me and say hello!

Recreating Ancient Greek Music

The English word “ethics” has its root in the Greek word, “ethos.” In Greek “ethos” means “character” and is also frequently used to describe the power that music has to influence us. The myth of Orpheus is one example of how the ancient Greeks felt about music’s importance. We’re still influenced by the ancient Greek ideas about music today. The names of the modes (ionian, dorian, phrygian, lydian, mixolydian, aolian, and locrian) are named after Greek city-states.

In spite of this influence, we really know very little about what ancient Greek music actually sounded like. Some scholars, however, have been coming up with some interesting insights into the study of ancient Greek music and deciphering what it may have actually sounded like. Reporting for the BBC, Armand D’Angour writes:

But isn’t the music lost beyond recovery? The answer is no. The rhythms – perhaps the most important aspect of music – are preserved in the words themselves, in the patterns of long and short syllables.

The instruments are known from descriptions, paintings and archaeological remains, which allow us to establish the timbres and range of pitches they produced.

And now, new revelations about ancient Greek music have emerged from a few dozen ancient documents inscribed with a vocal notation devised around 450 BC, consisting of alphabetic letters and signs placed above the vowels of the Greek words.

To listen to a short excerpt of a song found on a stone inscription performed with a zither-like instrument accompanying follow this link to the article.

Asheville Jazz Orchestra at the White Horse Black Mountain October 26, 2013

AJO-2The professional big band I direct, the Asheville Jazz Orchestra, will be back for our monthly show at the White Horse Black Mountain this Saturday night, October 26, 2013. The first of two sets starts at 8 PM.

I always have fun playing with the AJO, in part because with 17 musicians to book there are almost always different musicians playing the show. This semester I’m helping out with the bands at Owen Middle School and Owen High School and got both the directors to play in our sax section for this show. OMS band director Tyson Hamrick will be playing with us on tenor sax (Tyson has played with us a bunch and is one of my go-to guys for the 2nd tenor chair). This gig the OHS band director, Jason Minnix, will make his AJO debut on bari sax.

If you’re in western North Carolina this weekend and are looking for some live music to check out come on out to the White Horse to listen and dance to the Asheville Jazz Orchestra. We’ll play our usual mix of big band charts ranging from Swing Era hits to some originals I’ve written.

Joe “Tricky Sam” Nanton’s Solo on East St. Louis Toodle-Oo

When performing with the Low-Down Sires, a traditional jazz group, we frequently decide (either collectively or individually) to perform the solos off of recordings rather than to improvise our own. We recently added Duke Ellington’s composition East St. Louis Toodle-Oo (Harlem Twist) to our repertoire and I really enjoyed the trombone solo on the recording. We all thought this would be a good one for me to play the recorded solo on, so I transcribed “Tricky Sam” Nanton’s solo from it.

It’s got a couple of interesting things on it. The opening lick is cool for the motive he played with a three note melodic idea superimposed over different parts of the first couple of measures.

Nanton Lick 1

Nanton also plays around with some chromatic passing tones on his solo break, specifically a passing tone between the 5th and 6th notes of the major scale and then the 2nd and 3rd notes. This chromatic passing tone usage would become pretty common with bebop musicians and sometimes is called a “bebop scale” today. For example, a major scale with the passing tone between the 5th and 6th notes is frequently called a “major bebop scale” and a major scale with a passing tone between the 6th and 7th notes is sometimes called the “dominant bebop scale.” Here is Nanton’s solo break.

Nanton Lick 2

It’s a short, but very tasty solo. Click here to download a PDF of the whole thing. As always, I recommend you at least double check my accuracy here and let me know if you spot any errors. It’s best to do your own transcribing, since you’ll learn the whole stylistic language (articulation, vibrato, swing feeling, etc.) as well as develop your own ear much better that way.

Free Music Ed

I’ve discovered a new music education web site  I’d like to plug. FreeMusicEd.org has some great resources for music educators. There are links to free music downloads, music theory sites, tuners, metronomes, and instructional resources. There’s also a nice podcast with 35 episodes so far.

I discovered this resource through John Bogenschutz’s web comic, Tone Deaf Comics. The latest podcast from FreeMusicEd.org was an interview with Bogenschutz and I was interested in learning more about the creator of one of my current favorite comics. Through listening to that podcast I’ve discovered the many other episodes that are available. Go check them out here or use iTunes or your favorite podcatching software to download them.

Low-Down Sires at LEAF October 19-20, 2013

It may be a little late for those of you already out at the Lake Eden Arts Festival who don’t have access to the internet, but if you’re local and planning on coming out to hear some live music this weekend, I’ll be performing this Saturday and Sunday (October 19-20, 2013) at this fall’s LEAF music festival. The schedule has a wide variety of great music and dancing going on, ranging from bluegrass to rock. Some of the acts that are performing include Acoustic Syndicate (American roots rock), Orquesta GarDel (salsa), the Soul Rebels (NOLA brass band) and Dr. John (Americana legend).

Low-Down Sires weddingI’m playing with the Low-Down Sires, a traditional jazz group based out of Asheville, NC. Tomorrow (Saturday, October 19, 2013) we’re playing from 1:30-2:30 and then we’ll be participating in the 5 PM parade. Sunday, (October 20, 2013) our set is 1:15-2:15. If you’re out at the festival be sure to stop by and hear us play and say hello.

Brass Myths – Hanging the Trumpet From the Ceiling

Have you heard the story about [insert famous player] who hung his/her [insert brass instrument, but usually trumpet] from the ceiling and played [insert incredibly high note]? Have you actually seen it done? Me neither, but there’s usually a friend of a friend who swears it was done.

I’ve looked all over YouTube for a video of this famous trick and never been able to find it. I did find the below two videos which attempt to duplicate this as a demonstration.

Now the problem with the above demo is that he’s not really playing all that high. Of course, you can also create a pretty good seal by pushing the mouthpiece back against the lips with the trumpet held just in by the valve like this. Similarly…

…with the trumpet on the palm like this you can create quite a bit of mouthpiece pressure. Try it out yourself to see what I mean. I can even spot this player’s embouchure motion (down and to his left to ascend) while he does this, so he clearly has enough control over how he grips the instrument to apply an appropriate amount of mouthpiece pressure.

With as ubiquitous as this myth is, why are there no videos of anyone doing this? Do you know of one? Please post your link in the comments.

Low-Down Sires at Cool Cat Corner Dance Workshop

Low-Down Sires LogoIf you’re around Charlotte, NC today (October 5, 2013) and looking to do some swing dancing come on out to the Cool Cat Corner’s swing dance workshop. I’ll be playing with the Low-Down Sires at the evening dance from 8:30-11:30 at Chantilly Hall.

An alumnus of the band, Brad Lail, will be joining us for this show on washboard. Brad left the group before I joined it, so I’ve never played with him and I’m looking forward to meeting and playing with him tonight.

Bill Harris (?) Solo on “Blues on Parade”

I just finished a quick solo transcription of a trombonist soloing on “Blues on Parade.” I was helping Tad out with this transcription and he thinks it must be Bill Harris from Woody Herman’s Live, Volume 2 album (which seems plausible to me, but I don’t have the entire album and the album credits). Here’s the transcription I did (pdf here).

Bill Harris solo Blues on Parade

It’s a simple solo, but swings hard and was played with a lot of energy and excitement (just like Bill Harris usually played). There are some elements of tailgate trombone style in there with some of the bends and glisses. Note the use of a lot of rhythmically simple quarter notes and lots of silence throughout.

Does anyone out there have this album and can confirm that this solo was played by Bill Harris?