Is jazz in danger of becoming a caricature of itself?

By Michael Lake | February 23, 2021 |

I was forwarded a YouTube link yesterday of a young musician playing John Coltrane’s solo from Giant Steps note for note. He was a technically proficient player who obviously had worked hard to get each of Trane’s difficult phrases under his fingers. But after watching it and thinking of the many similar online imitations of…

How to get started with jazz improvisation

By Michael Lake | February 21, 2021 |

I received an email this morning from an enthusiastic sax player struggling to get better at playing jazz. He has started working with my book Jazz Patterns for Ear and wrote, “After playing the exercises in the book, I played a standard tune and immediately felt closer to the things I was playing”. He said…

Some remembrances of Chick Corea by friends and colleagues

By Michael Lake | February 18, 2021 |

The world was shocked on February 9th, when we lost Chick Corea. I was on a couple of email threads the next day from reading some remembrances of Chick from people who knew him. With their permission, I will share a few. From Monika Herzig, author of the book Experiencing Chick Corea: A Listener’s Companion…

Keeping sharp musically as we enter year two of COVID

By Michael Lake | February 16, 2021 |

It was February 3 of last year that 9,800 people had the virus and 200 had died worldwide. Then on March 11 the World Health Organization officially declared COVID-19 a Pandemic, with WHO Director-General declaring at a briefing in Geneva that the agency is “deeply concerned by the alarming levels of spread and severity” of…

How your eyes make it so much harder to improvise jazz

By Michael Lake | February 10, 2021 |

Here’s an experiment for you. Take a look at the following chord chart. Does it look inviting and pleasant to improvise over? Probably not, and that’s because you are evaluating it through your eyes and analytical brain. The message most likely is THIS LOOKS HARD. If you were to improvise over these changes, what notes…

A shiny new website and how to save money upgrading yours

By Michael Lake | February 9, 2021 |

I couldn’t take it any longer. Richie Beirach’s broken-down website built sometime late in the Bronz Age was begging to be taken out of its misery. Broken links, decades-old news, and the original “Under Construction” header message were not doing him any favors. Like a lot of musicians, Richie didn’t think it mattered. After all,…

Audiobooks and the new one by Dave Liebman called The Art of Skill

By Michael Lake | February 7, 2021 |

As an experiment about two months ago, I recorded my reading of the book Richie Beirach and I produced called the Lineage of Modern Jazz Piano. I then made it into an audiobook. The audiobook market is growing by about 25% over the past couple years, so that must mean that people are becoming more…

How well do you TRULY know these standard tunes?

By Michael Lake | February 1, 2021 |

You show up at a jam session and Autumn Leaves, All the Things You Are, and Bye Bye Blackbird are called in their standard keys. You know the melody for each of those tunes and make your way pretty well through your soloing. Looking back, however, how well did you know those tunes? For most…

The many benefits of recording yourself playing your instrument

By Michael Lake | January 31, 2021 |

Last week I sent out a video lesson from my course Improvisation Savvy. The lesson took players through the process of playing on their instrument the music that lives and is often trapped within their musical imagination. A few people completed it but not nearly as many as I had hoped for. In thinking about…

Here’s how to play the authentic improvised music that’s inside your head

By Michael Lake | January 27, 2021 |

I put out a challenge last week that was tied to a new lesson for my online course Improvisation Savvy. It involves singing an 8-bar improvisation over a provided rhythm track and then playing on one’s instrument a transcription of what was sung. The point is to hear your authentic music coming from your instrument.…