Tag Archive | "Jazz"

Charlie Parker: The Man Who Lived Too Much

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Charlie Parker: The Man Who Lived Too Much

Posted on 30 August 2010 by Robert

Charles Parker Jr. was born August 29, 1920. He was involved with drugs & alcohol throughout his extremely short life (35 years). These vices would eventually become part of his untimely death on

March 12, 1955.  Nevertheless, Parker has forever changed jazz and left a wonderful legacy.

Parker’s passion for music was sparked while listening to his father, a vaudeville singer & dancer, play the piano on his sparse visits home. Once enrolled in high school, Parker took up the saxophone in the high school band. Parker played with local bands until 1935, when he made the decision to leave school and pursue his dream — a career in music. He is known as “Bird,” and there are several theories as to why. One theory is as follows:

Parker got the nickname “Yardbird” while traveling to a “gig” with the Jay McShann Orchestra. The car he was riding in accidentally ran over a chicken and Parker insisted on taking the dead “yardbird” and fixing it up for dinner at their destination, rather than having it go to waste. — The Jazzine

Charlie Parker is one of the most distinguished jazz musicians with well over fifty records published. His music has influenced countless artists since his first recording with Savoy Records in 1944. He is credited as being one of the inventors of bebop, recording “Shaw Nuff” with Dizzy Gillespie in 1945. “Shaw Nuff” is noted as being the first important bebop recording. Several of Charlie Parker’s songs have become jazz standards, including “Confirmation,” “Anthropology” and “Billies Bounce.

Unfortunately, apart from having been an innovator, Parker is known for his drug addiction. After being involved in an automobile accident as a child, he developed an addiction to morphine. This developed into a heroine addiction in short order, which would eventually have a factor in his death. He would miss gigs, practices and other appointments which led to him being fired. Parker’s addiction was widely known and regrettably played a part in the connection between jazz music & drug use.

Examples of Parker’s Music:
“Hot House” -Bird & Diz are awarded Downbeat awards!


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Artist Profile: Edo Castro

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Artist Profile: Edo Castro

Posted on 26 August 2010 by Robert

Emotion, technical skill and passion are three things that can make or break a musician. Musicians often have two of the traits but it’s the rare three trait-bearing musician who can make it big. I’ve heard one recently; his name is Edo Castro.

Edo Castro is a jazz bassist hailing from the San Francisco Bay area. He taught himself to play and later attended The American Conservatory of Music in Chicago. Castro holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in jazz studies and electric bass. Castro was exposed to many different styles of music, having grown up in the 60’s, but was infatuated with the likes of Bill Evans, Paul Desmond and other jazz greats.

Kai Horsthemke of SABassPlayers.com said it perfectly when he wrote “Castro is much more concerned with mood and texture, not to mention melody, than with extroverted, chops-flashing bravado.” While Castro doesn’t shred as much as other prominent bassists, his technical prowess and emotive expressiveness remind you that there is more to bass playing (and music in general) than showing listeners your lightning-fast chops.

Castro has released three albums on Passion Star Records:
Sacred Graffiti

Castro has also played as a sideman on over 25 albums.

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What Is Bebop?

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What Is Bebop?

Posted on 13 April 2010 by Robert

Before the second world war, big bands (also known as swing bands) were the “in” thing with artists such as Benny Goodman, Artie Shaw, Woody Herman being some of the more well-known leaders of the swing era. The bands usually consisted of between twelve and twenty-five musicians featuring a whole host of brass, woodwind, and rhythm instruments. Swing didn’t allow much room for improvisation and the solos (if there were any) were usually short. Wanting to show off their skills, they began to experiment with a different type of music. They began to experiment with music that allowed for more artistic freedom, that allowed them to bend the rules of music theory. They began to experiment with bebop.

Nobody can say the exact moment when bebop was born, but the first important bebop recording was one done by Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie entitled “Shaw Nuff.” You can listen to “Shaw Nuff” below:

Here’s a video of Charlie Parker & Dizzy Gillespie:

You can tell by listening to “Shaw Nuff” that bebop is characterized by fast rhythms that seem to move around a lot. I’ve heard bebop described as sounded “stressed out” or “frantic,” and it’s easy to understand why. In bebop, the bass drums rhythm-keeping function is moved to the hi-hat and the bass drum is used for accents. Below is a great video of Steve Gadd’s bebop drumming:

Bebop musicians often alter the way the chords are played by the rhythm section by flatting certain notes or adding others in order to add more “flavor” to the music and make the solo more interesting. However, as much flavor as they tried to add, bebop was not initially received very well by the general public who didn’t understand the point of bebop. Swing music was much easier to dance to than bebop, and dance music is what sold in that day. Bebop was more of a “music for musicians,” in a way that many times musicians understood what the soloists were doing while non-musicians didn’t.

Whether the general public accepted it or not, bebop greatly changed the face of jazz. Jazz went from being a type of dance music to a virtuosic style of jazz where musicians had an outlet for their creative impulses.

Great Bebop Albums:
Krupa & Rich
Bird’s Best Bop on Verve
Drums Around the Corner
Drum Suite
Clifford Brown & Max Roach
Tenor Madness
The Sidewinder
Smokin’ at the Half Note

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The Ashley Hamer Group Does Avishai Cohen

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The Ashley Hamer Group Does Avishai Cohen

Posted on 09 April 2010 by Robert

I’ll admit, I have never listened to Avishai Cohen or heard anyone cover any of his songs. However, that didn’t stop me from being interested when I got an invitation via Facebook to see one of Denton’s up-and-coming jazz groups play some great music.

When I first arrived at The Greenhouse, I quickly found that it was a packed house. Granted, I arrived around ten minutes late but I’ve been to The Greenhouse before and it was never this packed. The Ashley Hamer Group played in a nice location, and it was a very in-your-face situation. The set was entirely acoustic with no mikes which had one drawback: I didn’t get to hear the saxophone as well as I wanted to. The name of the band was nowhere to be found. It wasn’t on the invitation, and it was posted nowhere near the bar or anywhere else at The Greenhouse for that matter. It wasn’t until I asked the drummer in the band, Colin Hinton, that I knew they were referred to as The Ashley Hamer Group.

Ashley Hamer – Saxophone
Matt Hornbeck – Guitar
Tim Chernikoff – Keyboard
Julia Adamy – Bass
Colin Hinton – Drums

I noticed right off the bat that Matt Hornbeck has some great chops on the guitar. He was playing some fast runs that require tremendous dexterity with ease. I was rather impressed. The keyboard fit in well with the rest of the band; almost too well. At times, I didn’t even notice what the keyboard was playing until I heard a quick fill or solo. I also noticed that Colin Hinton has a lot of fun playing the drums and seems to be a nice, easy-going kind of person. In fact, the group as a whole seems to be a  laid-back group of friends just out having fun loving what they’re doing. Between every song, they could be seen laughing and cutting up with each other. It’s this type of attitude that makes a band great.

The only negative part I can say about the experience is the fact that there wasn’t enough seating to fit the crowd. I had to sit behind a small tree in order to be close enough to the band to hear and see what was going on, but others were less fortunate. I ended up leaving at 11 PM because it became so crowded that people were constantly standing in front of me. I was disappointed, but I had already been impressed by the band and had enough information written down to write this review.

The Ashley Hamer Group is a great 5 piece band. You definitely need to go seem then when you get the chance to. The music they played at The Greenhouse was wonderful, their attitudes are great and they’re good musicians. I regret having to leave early as I’m sure the performance got even better as time went on. I’d love to hear some original tracks and hopefully I’ll be able to hear a few at a performance of theirs in the future.

Photos courtesy of Lucky George Blog

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Who am I?

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Who am I?

Posted on 07 April 2010 by Robert

It just occurred to me that much of the people who read my blog don’t know me as well as they know other bloggers in the jazz niche. I feel that having a tight-knit community is important in small groups such as the one I’m a part of, so I’m going to tell you a little about myself and why I’m doing this.

My name is Robert, although my closest friends call me Ross. I’m a 23 year old student at the University of North Texas studying electrical engineering. I got into jazz just about the time I started my time here at the university, four years ago. Before that time, I had listened to a few jazz songs and liked them, but when I was thrown into the jazz scene here in Denton, my love for the genre grew.

The next thing I know, I’m taking classes such as “Introduction to jazz records,” and “Music health” just because my love for music had grown for so much. The music found on my iPod went to being mostly jazz tunes (and now it’s almost completely jazz). My guitar playing style went from rock to jazz and I recently began learning to play trumpet and I haven’t really played the guitar much lately at all. Soon after, I began this blog in an attempt to spread my love of jazz to everyone.

I’m always watching, always listening, always reading and always talking about jazz. You might say that I have become obsessed with it. I enjoy every aspect of it, from the theoretical aspect of it through the final result: the album. If you ever want to talk jazz, you can find me on AIM (minorsecond), or even call my google number posted on my bio page.

I hope you enjoy reading what I have to say, and you should let me know via email (robert@minorsecond.com) if you ever have any suggestions on topics or if you would like to write a guest post. Be sure to subscribe via RSS!

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Recital – Yoshi Matsubara & Asher Barreras

Posted on 06 April 2010 by Robert

Yoshi Matsubara & Asher Barreras, two seniors at UNT held a recital performance in Kenton hall at the University of North Texas April 5 2010. Senior recital performances are essentially projects that students must complete in order to get their degree. One might not expect much from a recital, but then again most don’t get the chance to see a performance by Yoshi & Asher. Yoshi is a guitarist & Asher is a bassist.

Roberto, Yoshi, Asher, Brian C, Brian G

The room was extremely hot but that was soon forgotten when the music started. Recital performances at UNT are very intimate affairs, usually with less than 50 people in the room (including the band.) However, there was a huge turnout for Yoshi & Asher, and I soon understood why. The performance consisted of 5 standards and 2 original pieces. “I Wish I Knew” was originally on the program but wasn’t played for an undisclosed reason. However, Yoshi’s original piece “Victory Dance” easily made up for it.

Yoshi and Asher

Set List:
I Wish I Knew (Not Played)
Victory Dance
Blame It On My Youth
Don’t Forget

Brian Girley – Alto Sax
Brian Clancy – Tenor Sax
Roberto Verastegui – Piano
Ryan Jacobi – Drums

Yoshi, Asher, Ryan, Brian G

I remember being most moved by “Victory Dance,” “Joya,” and “Don’t Forget.” The band had obviously rehearsed many times over a long period of time and I believe this was most obvious on these songs. Here’s a clip from the performance for your pleasure:

The piano solo in “Victory Dance” and the sax solo that followed it along the way it was obvious that Yoshi was enjoying his song being played and that he believed in what he was doing really helped make this song even more awesome. It really is a great tune. The simple fact that Asher explained that “Joya” was written because of the support of his family combined with the amazing saxophone work, compliments of Brian Clancy & Brian Girley, Roberto’s fluency at piano, and the great beat courtesy of Ryan Jacobi make a monumental song.

Too bad these songs aren’t available online or I’d purchase them right away. If you hear of either of these guys (or any of the sidemen, for that matter) hitting the big time, don’t be surprised! Definitely take the time to go see Yoshi Matsubara or Asher Barreras if you have the chance. You don’t be sorry.

Photos & Video courtesy of LuckyGeorge

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Foundations Cover

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Review – Paul Murphy & Larry Willis – “Foundations”

Posted on 03 April 2010 by Robert

Disclaimer: Avant-Garde jazz is not my thing, so this review will obviously be from my perspective. If Avant-Garde is your thing, then you’ll likely not find my review helpful.

Sometimes an album comes along that receives great praise from all of the knowledgeable people and you are left wondering what all of the hype is about. Perhaps it’s too experimental for you, or perhaps it feels like it’s not going anywhere.

Album Art
Album Art

Both are the case with Paul Murphy & Larry Willis’ Foundations,which was released August, 2009. While the musicianship is undoubtably virtuosic, I felt as if the tracks were written for a very specific audience. As a matter of fact the liner notes state that the entire album is improvised, which is impressive.

Foundations is almost one of those “you had to be there” things. I’m sure that the live performance (assuming there was one) was one to be amazed at, but for me it just doesn’t work.

While the following video is a track which is not on the album, it’s very much the same type of track you’ll receive when purchasingFoundations.

Notable Tracks
Dance Pointe

Mr. LB
Dance Pointe
East Turn Alt
Composite Drive
June Jump

Avant Garde jazz is not for everyone. Some say that it is music intended only for musicians. I appreciate the abilities of the musicians in this album, but it’s definitely not an easy listener. This is music to listen to with intent, almost as if it were made only to be studied. Watch the video posted above before you make your mind up on this matter. If you want to listen to a sample of this album, or even buy it, click the link below.

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Review – Philly Joe Jones’ “Look, Stop, & Listen”

Posted on 03 April 2010 by Robert

I was excited to listen to this album because it had gotten great reviews in print and online. I was right to be excited because this album became one of my all-time favorites after the first listen. Here’s why:

Album Cover Art

Back in the 1950’s, Tadd Dameron was throwing out bop tunes and was great at it. Philly Joe Jones was part of this ensemble. When Tadd Dameron died, Jones started a tribute called “Dameronia.” Look, Stop, Listen” is the only album available (at least that I could find after searching around) by Dameronia. What I found on this album blew me away. The drum fills that Jones delivers are jaw-dropping. There is so much feeling throughout this entire album, and that is what makes it great. It is hard for me to come up with a list of favorite tracks, but here is my best shot, in order of preference:

Notable Tracks
Dial B For Beauty
Look, Stop, and Listen
If You Could See Me Now
Choose Now

Track List
Look, Stop, and Listen
If You Could See Me Now
Choose Now
Killer Joe
Dial B For Beauty
Our Delight
Theme Of No Repeat
If You Could See Me Now (1st Take)
Look, Stop, and Listen (1st Take)

Philly Joe Jones – Drums
Johnny Griffin – Tenor Sax
Don Sickler – Trumpet
Virgil Jones – Trumpet
Benny Powell – Trombone
Frank Wess – Flute & Alto Sax
Charles Davis – Flute & Tenor Sax
Cecil Payne – Bari Sax
Walter Davis Jr. – Piano
Larry Ridley – Bass

The Verdict:
If you don’t already own this album, you owe it to yourself to buy it. I believe that it’s an album that belongs in the collection of every jazz fan. It is well worth the money! You can listen to samples and purchase the album by clicking the link below.

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Dizzy Gillespie

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Why I Love Jazz

Posted on 29 March 2010 by Robert

To me, jazz is much more than the sound that vibrates your eardrums. It’s a complex style of music, it’s a culture. To me, there’s music, and then there’s jazz. When some people find out that I mainly listen to jazz, they think that it’s odd. I’ve even been told that I listen to “old people music.” I’m not offended by what people think because had they actually been exposed to jazz they would probably understand it the way you and I do.


I believe that the number one thing going through the original jazzers minds was fun. Take for example the great video above featuring Louis Armstrong & Dizzy Gillespie. When I watch that video, I can’t help but smile and I almost wish that I had lived in that day. These guys didn’t worry about whether hip-hop is jazz. These guys didn’t worry about whether jazz is dead either (at least not yet). They were having a lot of fun!

Aside from having fun, jazz is also a very emotional genre of music. If you watch Ella Fitzgerald singing “Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered,” you can almost feel what the song is conveying. The lyrics are masterful as is Ella’s delivery. To me, jazz is far more efficient at conveying emotion than any other genre.

The theory behind jazz is complex yet concrete. You have your standard progressions, throw your chord voicings on top with a sweet melody and you’ve got a jazz tune. Now that might sound simple, but as a musician I can say that I’ve failed many times trying to learn some of this theory. It’s tough. Not to mention that many of the times, the music is improvised. I’m always amazed at the technical proficiency of the musicians.

So, share with me please… what do you most like about this wonderful style of music?

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10 Albums That You Must Own

Posted on 29 March 2010 by Robert

Here are 10 albums that you should go out and purchase right now if you don’t already own them. They aren’t in order of importance, because that it would be unfair for me to have to decide which ones rank higher. They are albums that have helped shape my love for this wonderful genre and I hope that they do the same for you (if they haven’t already.)

1. Miles Davis – Kind Of Blue
2. The Dave Brubeck Quartet – Time Out
3. Stan Getz & Joao Gilbert0 – Getz/Gilberto
4. Philly Joe Jones Dameronia – Look, Stop, and Listen
5. Ella Fitzgerald & Louis Armstong – Ella & Louis
6. Chet Baker – The Best of Chet Baker Sings
7. John Coltrane – Blue Train
8. Miles Davis – Sketches of Spain
9. Louis Armstong – Hot Fives & Sevens
10. Charles Mingus – Mingus Mingus Mingus Mingus

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