The power of articulation

A while back I wrote several posts about time, making the point that one’s sense of time and swing was more important in playing jazz than the ‘correct’ notes. The articulation of a note is a partner in time. You can have perfect time but if every note is attacked with the same force, dynamic,…

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On time, practicing, and listening

A few weeks ago, I wrote a couple of posts about time and rhythm. I suggested that rhythm is a fundamental yet under-appreciated element of good jazz playing and it is one of the obvious weaknesses of less experienced jazz players. I asked readers to send me a sample of their playing so that I…

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Quick and easy mastery of improvising jazz

Okay, let me come clean that the title of this post is completely misleading. But when you first saw it, admit that you had a tinge of excitement that it could be possible. Sorry about that, but I’m trying to make a point. While jazz mastery is not quick and easy, I am going to…

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Finding meaning for your jazz playing

I just read Viktor Frankl’s classic, Man’s Search For Meaning. It’s been on my reading list for a long time so my recent sojourn to the northern Arizona flower-covered mountains gave me the opportunity to finally read it. In essence, the book is Frankl’s horrifying account of his life in Nazi concentration camps and what…

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Warm up your ear for improvisation

We are all pretty good at warming up our bodies to play our instruments. Brass players require a little extra as we limber up the vibrating mechanism called our lips. For that, we play long tones, lip slurs, tonguing, etc. While each instrument has different needs for warming up physically, each one of us can…

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Memorization and jazz improvisation

I received an email this morning from a classical pianist eager to improve her jazz skills. Her question involves memorization, which she considers her ‘weakest area’. She asked, “How do I train my brain to play without music?” I’m turning my answer into a post because this is such a common question. She is certainly…

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About a metronome

I originally meant to write this as a reply to a comment Richie Beirach wrote on my blog. But as I started writing, I realized that this could be the springboard for something much more important. I wrote a blog post last week suggesting that of all the tools we jazz players have at our…

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Keeping sharp musically as we enter year two of COVID

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…

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Bobby Shew on proper breathing for brass players

Bobby Shew is a well-known trumpet great. What people may not know is that he is also a world-class teacher. I had an opportunity to sit down with Bobby and ask him questions for close to three hours. We covered a lot of topics, but the nearest and dearest to his heart was on his…

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