Category Archives: Uncategorized

Summer Comping Trip: a play-by-play analysis of two great jazz soloist-accompanist combinations

When I studied jazz performance and composition at Hampshire College, one of my most important experiences in ensemble playing was a class I took at the University of Massachusetts  at Amherst (through the Five College system) with Professor Archie Shepp … Continue reading

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‘Ornithology’: the memory palace of two bebop masterminds

In a recent news story, publishers who represent songwriters Jeff Lynne and Tom Petty contacted publishers for singer/songwriter Sam Smith about  a four-bar similarity between the melody and chord progression of Lynne and Petty’s 1989 hit song ‘Won’t Back Down’ … Continue reading

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Charlie Parker and Alan Turing: Anthropology is ‘The Bombe’

In my Theory and Practice of Jazz Improvisation class at UVM, we study some building blocks of the bebop melodic language which Barry Harris has assembled and codified as the ‘5-4-3-2’ licks.  They are four short licks of between four … Continue reading

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Will The Circle Be Unbroken: reflections and an exercise on the circle of descending fifths and the dominant cycle

When the first keyboard instruments with a twelve-note chromatic scale were introduced around the beginning of the 14th century, they entered a world where years had twelve months and days were measured with a twelve-hour clock.  In addition to the … Continue reading

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Viral Rhythm

The word ‘virus’ is most often associated with negative and harmful microbes, from actual diseases like pneumonia and H1N1 to the fictional virus that kills off most of the Earth’s population in the recent Planet of the Apes movies.  The … Continue reading

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Midnight Donna and Reets in Paris: anagrams, mirrors and the one bar ii-V

In the 2010 thriller movie ‘Shutter Island’, Leonardo DiCaprio plays Edward Daniels, a U.S. Marshal who is plagued by nightmares about an arsonist named Andrew Laeddis,  Later in the movie, it is revealed that the names ‘Edward Daniels‘ and  ‘Andrew … Continue reading

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What is this scale called: Charlie Parker, Barry Harris and the minor ii-V progression

Charlie Parker recorded a number of solos on the chord progression to ‘What Is This Thing Called Love’.   On two of these performances, a 1952 studio version of ‘What Is This Thing’ with a big band and a live … Continue reading

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Six Degrees of Bud Powell, Part ii-V-I

Note: as in previous posts, I have included YouTube links for some of the recordings mentioned; however, as always, readers are encouraged to purchase the recordings themselves, as YouTube considerably limits a listener’s ability to fast forward and rewind, which … Continue reading

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Six Degrees of Bud Powell

In a recent appearance on the NPR quiz show ‘Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me”, the actor Kevin Bacon was asked how he felt about ‘Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon’, a game which was invented by college students in the 1990s … Continue reading

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‘Oh, play that thing!’ – the use of transcribed solos in the jazz tradition

In a recent interview with Charlie Rose, Yankee pitcher and five time World Series champion Mariano Rivera was asked how he prepares to face a particularly difficult hitter: Rose: Tell me about studying for a hitter.  How do you study … Continue reading

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