A new piece for Big Band!

So, it’s been an awfully long time since I last posted anything on here, but I haven’t been inactive musically! I am currently studying in Oslo for a course in composing and arranging for large ensembles. The current project (for which I will be heading out to Oslo in a couple of weeks) is one for Big Band. I haven’t written for Big Band for a couple of years now, and I forgot how time intensive it is! But I am pleased with the results so far. My current work on the piece (just the introduction) is here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GcSWAnu5Zds&feature=youtu.be

Let me know what you think…

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Nottingham International Jazz Piano Competition

In just over a week, I’ll take part at this year’s NIJPC. My submission to the selection round was a very hurried affair (30 minutes in a practise room with a dictaphone) and so I didn’t get through straight away, but instead got called up as a last minute replacement. It doesn’t give me very much time to get a set together, but in a way I prefer it that way around. I’m not very good at planning long term, but give me a short term goal and I’ll get it together somehow!

The pieces I’ve chosen are Parker’s Mood, as my blues; Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered, as my standard, and Tones for Jones Bones as my modern piece.

The tricky part is trying to work out what to do with my left hand. For ballads a slow stride seems appropriate, but at faster tempos perhaps it might sound somewhat old-fashioned (not to mention that I’m no master of it!). Walking bass is ok too, but only in moderation- a little Lennie Tristano-style counterpoint is good, but it’s not going to keep an audience interested without some more variation in rhythm and register. I’ve worked out a couple of ostinato patterns, but inventing them on the fly is hard to do, especially if you’re improvising in you right hand at the same time!

Anyway, I’m sure I’ll enjoy the experience of hearing and meeting other jazz pianists from all over the world. So that’s what I’m going to bear in mind – I’m going there to learn, not to win!

Blues scale fingerings for piano

The blues scale is a staple of jazz musicians the world over, but I realised while teaching a student of mine the other day that I have never worked out a thorough system of fingerings for the blues scale in all the keys.

Of course there are no right and wrong fingerings, and some will work better for some people than others, but here’s what I came up with for the right hand (based on the rationale that thumbs should try to go on white notes, 123123 was preferable to 123412 and based on comfortable hand shape)

Blues scale (root, m3rd, 4th, b5th, 5th, 7th) Suggested fingering
 C:  1 2 3 4 1 2 (thumbs on C and G)
 D:  2 1 2 3 4 1 (thumbs on F and C)
 Eb:  1 2 3 1 2 3 (thumbs on Eb and A)
 E:  2 1 2 3 1 2 (thumbs on G and B)
 F:  1 2 3 1 2 3 (thumbs on F and B)
 F#:  2 1 2 3 4 1 (thumbs on A and E)
 G:  1 2 3 4 1 2 (thumbs on G and D)
 Ab:  1 2 3 1 2 3 (thumbs on Ab and D)
 A:  2 1 2 3 4 1 (thumbs on C and E)
 Bb:  1 2 3 1 2 3 (thumbs on Bb and E)
 B:  1 2 3 1 2 3 (thumbs on B and F)

A bit of Mozart

Playing jazz is great, but when you’re a pianist it’s hard not to get sidetracked by all the amazing classical music composed for the instrument.

Here is me playing Mozart’s piano sonata in C (1st Mvt.). Yes, the famous one (and it’s meant to be easy!).

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LLFYwlu08uY&feature=share

Afterwards I talk about some technical exercises to help improve evenness in playing it. Specifically:

  1. Practising the ‘thumb under’ exercise (playing first finger then thumb under, then first and second and thumb under etc.)
  2. Practising difficult passages with a different rhythmical subdivision, e.g. a swing feel or a dotted feel
  3. Using ideas from drum rudiments (www.vicfirth.com/education/rudiments.php) as a way of practising two finger strength/stability in addition to regular trills

Dartmouth Music Festival

On the 16th, 17th and 18th of May, some of the best musicians in the country descend upon the beautiful town of Dartmouth for the annual music festival. This year I’m very pleased to be performing at three venues in the town –

  • The Grill Room at The Royal Castle Hotel on the Friday at 8pm with Becky Brine.
  • The River Restaurant at Dart Marina at 1.30pm on the Sunday with The Adam Dyer Trio (Al Swainger on bass and Gary Evans on drums).
  • The Dartmouth Yacht Club at 5pm on the Sunday at 5pm with Becky Brine.

If you live locally come along and support, and if you fancy a trip to a beautiful place to hear some great music, I can throughly recommend it!

A new jazz show – can you help me to name it?

It’s been a few years since I graced the airwaves, but I’m back! I’ll be presenting a new jazz show on Phoenix FM starting next Monday at 6pm, playing all sorts of great jazz, old and new. I’ll also be promoting gigs in the Essex area, so if you’re playing somewhere, let me know and I’ll do my best to let my listeners know.

The one thing I can’t work out is what to call the show… ‘Jazz Club’ was the name of the jazz show on Phoenix a few years ago, but I’m slightly wary of the comedy connections! And the others I’ve come up with (‘Jazz Attack’, ‘Swingin it’ and ‘In the Pocket’) seem pretty tame/lame! So if you’ve got an idea, please post it here or send me a message on Facebook.

And don’t forget… tune in next Monday at 6pm either on 98FM, online or using the Phoenix FM app. I’ll probably make all sorts of embarrassing mistakes which will be worth listening out for!