Happy Fat Tuesday

Last night was Jazz Band Masterclass. Grayling (guitar player) was the only one in abstentia. Too bad – he missed a great rehearsal.

I was able to use some of the breath work that I’ve been doing. It helped tremendously to focus on breathing. We worked on C Jam Blues (aka Duke’s Place). Fred showed us another way of framing it. We did it “street jazz” style . . . a la New Orleans street jazz. It sounded just like Mardi Gras. And I was able to scat with ease. Still working on it, but it’s coming along.

We also worked The Days of Wine and Roses and On Green Dolphin Street. Both felt good. I never realized that On Green Dolphin Street goes between a Latin and a swing style. Very cool. As I listened today, I identified which style was which. Way cool.

So this week, I’ll keep plugging along at the tunes we are working on. Remembering to breath, remembering to listen. Happy Mardi Gras.


My assumptions were correct . . .

The breath thing was right on target.

I just returned from a week in Louisville, KY, where I was required to go for my day job. I didn’t get a chance to practice while I was there – no piano, lots of connecting with people, etc. But I listened!

Today, I practiced Meditation and How High the Moon. I identified the intervals that were giving me issues. I went over those intervals with the aid of my piano and my trusty new-best-friend tuner. I practiced the intervals that were giving me difficulty. I found that going down a major third had the worst intonation. So, this week will be sponsored by the downward major third. I will be going over this interval frequently.

I also took some time and added breath marks to my charts. When I practiced, I stood in front of the piano,  and focused on how I was breathing. Once I started breathing correctly, the intonation improved. Imagine that.


Today, I was listening to my Jazz Band Masterclass play list, and All Blues by Inga Swearingen started to play. As I listened to the haunting long tones, the thought occured to me that I really need to pay attention to my breath when I sing. And all of the information and techniques from my voice degree came rushing back to me.

Singing jazz is so different than singing classical music, but many of the same techniques can be applied. In fact, jazz is even more difficult because of the need to control vibrato. Tuning is more difficult with vibrato as well.

So, from this point foward, I will be standing, knees slightly bent, breathing deeply and using apporpirate breathing skills when I sing jazz. I’ll bet my pitch issues would be helped by this, too.

Staying in Tune

Last week, I took advantage of technology, and decided to record myself singing “My Funny Valentine” over a track from the iRealBook. Boy, was I in for a surprise.

Turns out that the perfect pitch ear that I had umpteen years ago has also gotten rusty. I was surprised at how many notes were just not on pitch. This was also confirmed when Fred Hughes approached me about intonation at rehearsal. And it’s so easy for me to point that out in other musicians.. . .

So, I am adding a new phase to my practicing. I will record myself singing the songs we have worked on, and then identify the intervals that are not in tune. They I will practice, practice, practice the intervals with the aid of a tuner from the Guitar Toolkit app for my iPhone.

Still trying to get to Carnegie . . .

Getting to Carnegie Hall

My dad was a jazz trumpet player, and he always told the Carnegie Hall joke. You know the one. A man was walking down a New York street, and came upon a street musician. He asked the musician, “How do you get to Carnegie Hall?” The musician replied, “Practice, Man, Practice!”

When I first started in Jazz Band Masterclass, I thought I could just get by with listening to the tunes and singing the melody. I confess, I didn’t practice more than two or three times a week. I soon realized that jazz was different. In order to internalize the harmonies and structure of the songs I am learning, practicing has become a daily (well most days) routine.

During one of the sessions, Fred suggested that even as a vocalist, I need to go over the scales and chords associated with each composition. So I do that. As I am learning a song, I sing the notes in the chord structure along with the scales that go with the chords. It’s boring.  And tedious. But it’s as if I am training for a marathon . . I can’t just show up at the starting point on the day of the race without putting the training time beforehand.

Some days I may be able to spend 45 minutes to an hour at the piano. Other days, not so much. But I do try to do something every day. I am still rather shy about scatting, but I know that if I keep up with the tedium of it, one day it’s going to click.