Last night we rehearsed, in Combo 2, some of the tunes that we'll be playing at the June Jazz Aspen festival. We spent quite some time on Benny Golson's "Whisper Not", working on the minor ii7b5-V7alt chords found throughout that tune. We also played Benny's "Are You Real". We're looking, too, at Gigi Gryce's "Minority", and Ellington's "Caravan". Lot's of minor. I know. But that's been our focus this spring. A couple of things that seemed to help everyone's improvisation's were a couple of suggestions:
- Concentrate on playing mainly eighth notes. Eighth note and/or sixteenth note phrases (depending on tempo) are the "bread 'n butter" of bebop and post bop jazz. Too many "spiddly-diddly" triplets make it sound sort of, well, "spiddly-diddly". Eighth note lines tend to give forward momentum and direction to the phrases.
- Keep the syncopated flow happening, like a river, under your improvisation. We practiced vocalizing this syncopated flow, sort of like scat singing without pitches... We'd play 8 mm on our instruments, then vocalize 8 mm together. The groove really started locking in and bouncing after a little while of that.
We also spent some time talking about the great Stan Levy, who recently passed away. Bob, his son, shared some stories that highlighted Stan's commitment to helping young players, and giving strong support in every musical situation. He left a legacy of incredible music and affected, positively, a whole lot of people.