Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Fall Jazz Retreat - 10/20-22 at Camp Casey, Whidbey Island

October 20 the EWHS Jazz Kids headed to Coupeville WA for a 3 day intensive rehearsal/workshop. Huge shout out to Michelle and Tim Nye who were the lead chaperones making the whole thing possible.

The theme of the year was CREATE and students started off well with each instrumental section creating a performance piece based on the word CREATE as an acrostic. For the record, the winners were the rhythm section but all sections had some very redeeming merits. 

Clinicians included Oliver Groenwald (trumpet), Stuart Hambley (trombone), Dan Greenblatt (saxophone), Max Bennett (saxophone), Milo Petersen (guitar), John Sanders (piano), Paul Gabrielson (bass), Steve Korn (drums)

Here's a fun slide show of the weekend. You may need a password to view this. Send Mr. Bergevin an email if you need permission.

Thanks to Mingus for the background music.

Here's a summary of what the clinicians worked on ....

Saxes ...
I worked mostly with the Jazz 1 saxophones.  Most of the time we worked on gaining much better control over triads, which are the an essential building block for creating melodies (which, after all, is what we try to do as improvisers), especially triads in inversions.  We worked on some exercises in both chromatic and diatonic contexts.  

Then we started to consider triads in spread ("broken"?) voicings, where the intervals are fifths and sixths rather than thirds and fourths.  We also examined the triads that come from the harmonic minor scale, where there are two different diminished triads as well as an augmented triad.  And we looked also at the seventh chords that are readily derived from the harmonic minor scale (seven different types).

Finally we worked on learning this exercise (attached) that I wrote using triads from the harmonic minor scale in spread or broken voicing.

Dan Greenblatt

More Saxes ....
There was a wide range of abilities with both sax sections. There are some very “hungry” students in jazz two and the better half of jazz three! It’s fun working with the hungry people. 

My original plan was to go through the chords in the blues and play roots, thirds, sevenths and other notes on the basic blues and the jazz blues. The blues is the foundation of jazz! I threw out that plan because I realized some students had never even practiced their Triads. So I quizzed them on the four types of triads and we played them in different keys. Then we moved on to the different types of 7th chords in different keys. After that, we added a major 9th to those 7th chords - good challenge for sure! I started to loose a few kids at this point. 

We took a break after that and listened to some of the students music that they’ve been checking out - there was some stuff I had never heard before. We discussed what we were hearing - what we liked and didn’t like etc.

Finally, I taught them a blues by ear - the head Solid. Most of them got this. 

What worked: going through the types of triads and seventh chords was a good challenge for them. Especially learning them in different keys. 

- Max Bennett

Mostly I had Colin and Ben try and catch up a bit to where Jai and Carson are re: chords and playing each key in five places on the neck. We talked about various progressions and all four had a chance to try improvising over ii-v-I and over a V chord. 
With the big band I had the guitarists zeroing in on guide tones and not moving all over the neck unnecessarily. I showed the drummers different ways to play shuffles and talked about taking and keeping a count-off.
Also staying alert when tunes last a long time. There were some sax figures that were a little rough so we isolated them and they cleaned them up really well. I was struck by how well most kids improvised on On G.D. Street.
All the sax players really had a handle on it. I showed the guitarists and pianists some chords that are missing from their app's changes. I love what you are doing with these people. They are lucky to have you ! I hope I can spend more time with your band. BPM Live App.

-Milo Petersen

Trombones ....
You have a bunch of great kids, who were all ears during our time together. Here are the key concepts we discussed in our trombone clinic and big band rehearsal:
Long tone warmups are an important time to focus on air, pitch, slide technique, and beautiful sound. We conducted along to Tommy Dorsey and Urbie Green playing I'm Getting Sentimental Over You, while imagining what it feels like to play like them. I stressed the importance of imagining what they want to sound like and listening to the greats over and over again to get those sounds engrained in their minds. Told them to find a jazz trombone recording to learn how to sing along with. Also, stressed the importance of mastering their major scales by working on them each day, while varying articulations, intervals, etc. Told them to find method books to work through and to help sight reading. Discussed the importance of supporting the lead player with a big full sound and marking some important things in parts when necessary; only make a mistake once! Some basic thoughts on getting louder when following the lineup and softer on the way down; to always be looking to give the music "shape." Stressed using recordings to "study" the music they are performing. To help sight reading, discussed reading through the rhythms only and without their instrument; internalizing what they see. Also went through All the Things You Are by playing only the roots of the chords and demonstrated the process of then playing only 3rds, 5ths, and 7ths, before being able to arpeggiate each chord. Briefly touched on keeping instrument clean to help smoothness of slide. Discussed how each individual needs to spend time figuring out where their tuning slide should generally be to play in tune and continue to monitor their pitch at all times.
I think that's about it and I'll let you know if anything else comes to mind.

- Stuart Hambley

Piano Players ...
I spent most of our time on practice approaches. I showed them my favorite warm up sequence. They learned a circle of fifths (counterclockwise) finger builder pattern. We segued from there into practicing in twelve keys, but always moving counterclockwise through the 12 roots/tonics instead of just up/down chromatically. We did simple patterns that move nicely around the circle.

We also spent some time practicing patterns over rhythms to mix up our regular counting. Like playing three note patterns over 1/8 notes and 7th chords over triplets. We did a five note pattern and played it over 1/4, 1/8, 1/8 triplets, 1/16, 1/16 triplets.

- John Sanders

Our bass class began with tuning our basses so we all had the same pitch.  After this was established be talked about getting an open sound (tone) on open strings with a bow and with pizzicato.  This is important so the students can see and establish the relationship or these two techniques and how they essentially are the same activity.  After working this exercise on all strings of the upright bass we discussed how we could get the same open sound when using our fingers to stop the strings for each note.  Each note has the same importance on the bass and nothing is skipped this way (although most jazz bassists like to use open strings whenever possible as they sound the best and make shifting to other positions easier as well).  Then we talked about and worked with scaler practice and getting to know the fingerboard on the bass.  This is no easy accomplishment but can be gradually mastered through slow repetition of each scale.  We only worked on major keys since our time was limited.  It was surprising to see that each student had a different favorite major scale to practice.  I had each student play their chosen scale and then we briefly discussed a practice technique that would make each scale easier to play and practice.  Our next subject was still pertaining to scales with the focus on pitch recognition of each note of a scale so we worked on playing scales with using the same finger on the left hand for all notes of the scale.  I asked them to play the G major scale up and down the G string (using one finger) with what I like to call the say it, sing it, play it method.  Nothing new here but something that can easily be overlooked in ones practice.  This proved to be very insightful and even one of our students had a very strong sense of pitch, even in the act of displaying frustration.  After this I asked if anyone had a question and one good one was posed “How can you play a walking bassline without playing the same boring stuff over and over?”  This is a good question so I asked them to walk any bassline for me and then after this example by the student I asked them to walk the same line without a given chord tone (usually a leading tone like a 3rd), this proved to be quite challenging but it is good practice helping the student not just play “notes” but to see the overview of the harmony they wish to communicate at any given time.  We then went on to discuss how to transcribe difficult bass solo’s and such.  One of my recommendations was to transcribe easier material such as walking bass lines or any bass line for that matter.  We discussed how this process would yield the same result in our development and this may pave the way to hear the difficult solo passages in the future.  We also liked about a program on the computer, now called an “app” that can be also purchased and used on a smartphone called “Transcribe!” (there are others…) and we could slow down any given musical idea that we were listening to and even flag and loop them as well.  The students loved this and we worked on pulling melodic ideas from a Freddie Hubbard solo on his song “Birdlike”. We all took a turn at playing some of these ideas and everyone caught on to them quickly.  I believe you are going to have a serious group of bassists this year if they start going after this stuff.  No hand outs were given during this mini workshop.

Trumpets ...
My goal was to combine a warm up routine with practicing basics, common rhythmic structures and articulations.
Based on the F Blues pentatonic, we worked on each individual pitch. Everyone was able to choose their comfortable range. The basic rhythmic configuration was based on the typical ride cymbal figure.
We started improvising and expanded by adding notes until everyone was allowed to use all 5 notes for his improvisation.
We played all together with no musically defined “rests” just breathing when necessary. We worked on staying in time, sharing the same quality of triplet subdivision and timing, various dynamics, mostly soft.
Learning curve: How much rhythmic and tone material can one handle without loosing tempo and accuracy, how much material is needed to be creative.
In between playing, I’m always finding out what the student’s experiences are and getting/giving feedback.

In the big band section rehearsal with the trumpets and later merging trombones, we worked on parts of Freckle Face, mostly on blending and measure 90 - 91 (triplet quarter).
As aforementioned, I would use “Cute” and “Li’l Darlin’ “ to be able to work on reoccurring rhythmical situations in a little more resource friendly environment for the brass sections.

- Oliver Groenwald

I worked with the guys on feel, pulse, soloing over a form, playing with intent, confidence.  
 - Steve Korn

Here are some student reflections:

Julia K:

- Collaborating with people at a higher level than you helps you grow
- Same concepts apply to both instrument and voice

Bryce- ¨You can do one of two things. Play it correct, or play it beautiful¨ -Mr. Greenblatt

Jared: I love how the sectional with the trumpets and trombones in jazz 1 was focused on blend, learning how to balance and blend with the other people in your section. Oliver did a very good job explaining how same volume doesn’t necessarily mean you are blended with each other, rather you’re just the same volume.

Alex A: I thought I took away a lot of new social skills about seconals and how to get everyone on the same page rhythmically. I also took away some improvising techniques and some great experience with singing during the jam section.

Mwangi : I liked the retreat
Colin M: I enjoyed the master class as I learned a lot there. The most important thing that I learned was the Jazz Blues chord progression Bb Eb Bb Bb Eb Eo Gmi7 C7 Fma7 Bb7 Gmi7 C7 Fma7.

Kayvon: I really enjoyed the weekend.

Alex G: I personally had a great time at the jazz retreat hanging out with my friends. I also got to learns a lot from the practice sessions but especially the master class.

Collin Walla: I liked getting know people in the jazz program better.

?? I really enjoyed the entire trip. I especially liked the jam session, the trumpet workshop, and our free time. I feel like I learned the most during the trumpet work shop because I learned more about how soloing involves rhythms more than the actual notes and a little more about chord changes.

Elle: I really liked how the saxophone sectional was focused on fundamentals. We learned about different types of chords and how to play them. We even learned a lick by ear which was really awesome.

Carson: I liked the group jam session, and it was helpful to get a detailed reminder about how when improvising, solos should feel melodic and have a structure that fits with the song. Even though the lesson on the blues soloing was fairly basic, I can apply it to all kinds of settings in jazz.

Anton T: I liked the jazz 3 saxophone sectional, it was helpful and very productive. It was great being able to be with our section for 3 hours and just practicing together.

Unathi M: I liked how all the time we had allowed us to repeat and refine sections of our music during big band rehersal.

Jacob S: The jam session and the master-class with the instructors were probably the most important times for me and my section. In the jam session we learned great solo forms that most of us should have already known and we got for comfortable with soloing in front of each other. Also, in the saxophone master class, we mainly focused on chords, which was useful to many of the freshmen and some of the sophomores in the ground since that knowledge can be used for better soloing later on.

?? I thought the monster band jam session was extremely fun. I enjoyed singing with everyone and not only did it help us bond, but I think it helped us grasp some concepts like repetition .
  • I felt like I got some good, useful insight during the master class. Stuart Hambley, the trombone person, had a lot of good ideas for warm-ups including lip slurs, scale work, and we were also given a packet of useful tips and tricks. What I liked best about the class, however, was the idea of listening to a piece of music or excerpt and transcribing certain parts.

Hope J: I learned a lot from the master class with the trombone teacher. He helped me get a grasp on how to be a good jazz musician, showed me some songs that I actually enjoy, and the concepts/warm ups he taught us were extremely helpful. As for the guy who was teaching the jaz

Alexis M: The jazz retreat went

Liam S:
I really enjoyed being exposed to the different types or chords

Jackson W - We should do more work in our sections next time. It allowed for improvement on backgrounds and counting. The work with the professionals helped improve soloing, and learning chord changes. Having each band play a song at the end was good because it let the each band show off what they worked on during the retreat.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Roxy Coss - Earshot Jazz - Guest Artist Lecture and Performance

EWHS Jazz Program with Guest Artist Roxy Coss

On Tuesday, October 10th 2017, Roxy Coss joined the EWHS Music Department as guest artist for the day. Earshot Jazz Festival helped support the event with PR. Logistics and production were handled by EW Music Booster Extraordinaire Mike Henderson with help from Tim and Michelle Nye. 

This was an inspiring session and students were smitten with Roxy's beautiful sound, powerful technique and easy charm.  For more about Roxy ... visit here... https://www.roxycoss.com

The day was a combination of large and small group rehearsals combined with some lecture and demonstration. Roxy prepared to play as a guest with Jazz Ensemble III and Jazz Ensemble II (big bands).  She also sent several original arrangements in advance that were prepared by Jazz Ensemble I for the evening show held in EW Theater. 

There Q&A sessions with the Symphonic Band, Wind Symphony and some small group mentorship with the top combo musicians. 

Concepts that were addressed in the Q&A included:
1) mindfulness - get out of your own way when improvising
2) pay attention to your body and how you feel about things (in reference to her sax harness).  She discussed the back issues that have been a result of scoliosis and years of playing a heavy saxophone. 
3) a list of heroes which she grew up studying - know 20 players, have 3 favorites and one current favorite
4) the importance of her experience with Essentially Ellington as a 15 year old and how it formed her life path 
5) background info about her arrangements 
6) an explanation about a typical day in her life demonstrating her ability to continuously hustle
7) the importance of the soloist to be intentional about playing WITH the rhythm section
8) the difference between soloing in a vertical versus horizontal style
9) seek out the center of the activity that you're most passionate about
10) benefit of private lessons - band is fun but private lessons are much more efficient way to improve - you'll still need to practice
11) seek out the private teacher at the colleges you are thinking of attending starting as early as grade 10
12) strive to emulate your favorite artists by LISTENING and don't worry that you're going to become a copycat ... you'll always sound like you ... find your voice

Roxy Coss Quartet featuring Randy Halberstadt, Michael Glynn and D'Vonne Lewis

Roxy plays for the EWHS Wind Symphony Class

Jazz Ensemble 2 and Roxy Coss Quartet - thanks to Parent J.S. for sending this video.

Jazz 1 with Roxy Coss - Don't Cross the Coss

Jazz 1 with Roxy Coss - Chasing the Unicorn

Jazz 1 with Roxy Coss - Breaking Point