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Atlanta, GA, United States
When I suffered a lip injury that ended my career as a classical trombonist, I thought my life as a musician was finished, but I fell in love with music all over again when Santa gave me a guitar for Christmas in 2003. Even as I was struggling with my first chords, I was planning a new performance career. As a trombonist, I performed with the Heritage of America Band at Langley Air Force Base, the Ohio Light Opera, and in pick-up bands for touring acts that included Rosemary Clooney, George Burns, and the Manhattan Transfer. Reborn as a jazz guitarist, I sing and play my own solo arrangements of jazz classics, am half of the Godfrey and Guy duo, and hold the guitar chair in the Sentimental Journey Orchestra. I have been a freelance music copyist since 1995, served as Director of Music at Northwest Unitarian Universalist Congregation from 2011 to 2017, and currently serve as Contemporary Band Director at the same congregation.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Lesson #10

Another lesson with Dave Frackenpohl, another lesson summary. This helps me wrap my head around each new assignment, and I hope these summaries will also help others who are on the same path.

We started off playing my transcription of a Zoot Simms solo from It's Only a Paper Moon, recorded with Count Basie. It went pretty well. Dave suggested a different fingering for a lick I had been having problems with. After that, I played a Samba accompaniment etude from The Brazilian Guitar Book. Again, I played pretty well. He turned on the metronome and had me play. Overall, my time was pretty solid. I noticed a few spots where I was playing the bass note on beat 1 slightly early, but I managed to correct myself the next time the same rhythm appeared. After the etude, we read through Triste, which is part of my next assignment. Next, I played my transcription of Joe Pass' solo from I'm Beginning to See the Light, recorded with Ella Fitzgerald. I could have played this one better, but I did alright. Next, we began working on Autumn Leaves. We played it in the standard key of E minor, and then we played in it B minor, since I play it in that key with my duo partner, Lori. Then we played it in G minor, since that's the key most horn players will want to play it in.

My next assignment:

  • It's Only a Paper Moon. I thought I was done with the Zoot Simms solo transcription, but no! The solo is in C. Now I'm supposed to transpose that solo to B-flat.
  • Triste. In The Brazilian Guitar Book, there is a chord-melody arrangement of Triste in A for me to learn. I also will be memorizing the melody and chord changes in B-flat.
  • I'm Beginning to See the Light. Just like Paper Moon, I thought I was finally done with the Joe Pass solo transcription, but no! The solo is in C. Now I'm supposed to transpose it to B-flat.
  • Autumn Leaves. Depending on which group I'm with, I usually play this in E minor (the standard key) or B minor. Now I will be learning it in G minor, and I'll be finding another solo to transcribe. Dave wants me to find a solo in G minor, but I suspect I'll be learning that solo in another key at some point.
It seems like the word for the day was "transposition." I was pleased with the way I transposed today. That's something I've been working on, and my transposition skills are improving. Rather than thinking chord by chord, Dave has had me thinking of the function of each chord. When I am aware of the function of each upcoming chord, I'm able to transpose more easily. This sort of thinking has also been helpful with memorization. Lori and I are challenging ourselves to memorize a couple songs each week. When I focus on the function of each chord, it helps me view the song as a whole a little more easily.

Overall, these lessons with Dave have been very helpful. I have a long way to go, but I'm noticing progress in my playing. Jazz is a strange beast. As a classical player, I could measure my progress by the solos, etudes, and orchestral excerpts I was able to play. With a huge emphasis on improvisation, I find it more difficult to measure my progress as a jazz player. I just notice little things here and there that show improvement. A couple rehearsals ago, I found that I was able to improvise over some chord changes that gave me fits a year ago. It's becoming easier to memorize songs as I begin to be able to view the music as a whole. Transposing is getting easier. I can't point to any particular song as evidence. I'm just feeling more and more comfortable as a jazz musician, and I'm excited about the direction Dave is taking me.

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