Monday, December 31, 2012

Jazz Forum

Happy new year to all. I hope to be posting some new stuff here this coming year. I've been doing a lot of writing at my PlayJazzNow Blog and haven't done much cross-posting here, sad to say.

Got questions about anything jazz-related? Like to share your wealth of knowledge with your music colleagues? Come visit the PlayJazzNow Forum!

Very soon we will be releasing a mobile version of the quite popular JazzPlayer app - a free piece of software that gives you full control of the 4 channel mix of your backing tracks.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Gene Bertoncini: Out of Danger at the Cafe Ciao 5/13/11

Sometime late in the last century I purchased an LP called O Grande Amor by guitarist Gene Bertoncini and bassist Michael Moore. I got the disc primarily to check out Moore, who had then recently been described (I think in The New Yorker) as something like "the world's best jazz bass player". Despite the dubious hyperbole, I was deeply impressed by the bassist's lyrical virtuousity and spot-on intonation. What I didn't expect was how much I would enjoy Bertoncini's playing. His approach to the jazz guitar seemed very fresh at the time, and it still makes me very happy to hear him.

If memory serves, I attended a concert by this duo in 1979 or '80 at DePaul University, where I was a student at the time. That was the only opportunity I ever took to hear either of these wonderful musicians live, until last week, when Gene Bertoncini spent a couple of days in Chicago, giving master classes and playing a gig at a tiny West Loop restaurant called Cafe Ciao.

Surrounded mostly be friends, guitarists and other well-wishers, Gene turned in a heartfelt solo performance on his classical guitar. He seemed to be enjoying himself immensely, basking in the friendly glow of this casual venue, far from the New York City jazz jury - "out of danger" as he expressed it. Bertoncini is a sweet, humble, charming gentleman in his 70's (I'm guessing), with old world manners and a 50's hipster sense of humor. All of this personality comes through in his music, the result of a lifetime of hard work perfecting his art.

Bertoncini's style is akin to the work of Jim Hall, Charlie Byrd and Laurindo Almeida. He likes to blend and bend genres, often finding musical sense in fusing the compositions of, say, A. C. Jobim and F. Chopin, as he did the other night. The evening's playlist consisted of a seemingly spur-of-the-moment mixture of jazz and Brazilian standards, a couple of classical compositions and a brief reading of Bill Evans' harmonically enticing Very Early. A highlight of the evening for me was Gene's aforementioned mashup of Jobim's How Insensitive and Chopin's Prelude in Em (Jack Nicholson's character's signature theme from the classic film Five Easy Pieces).

Gene is such a deep and mature player that the occasional lapse or technical glitch did nothing to mar the overall vibe of his performances. His unique harmonic concept and warm sound carried the evening. In fact, this gig reminded me of the night I had the pleasure of hearing the legendary Andres Segovia give what must have been one of his final performances. Segovia played to a packed but pin drop quiet Orchestra Hall in the mid 1980's. Despite his advanced age and technical limitations, he had each of us present hanging on his every magnificent note - as did Gene Bertoncini last week.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Video: Walking Bass on the Minor Turnaround

New camera, better picture and sound. Here's 4 minutes of me walking through ii / V / i / vi in D minor:

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Digital Real Book and FreeHand Music

Publisher (and bassist) Chuck Sher has released The Digital Real Book. Its a collection of 650 great tunes in 2 volumes drawn from his printed editions of The Real Book. I'd like to imagine that Chuck took the cue to go digital from PJN, but perhaps he thought of it independently. Either way, you can now download the books or purchase individual tunes.

The Digital Real Bookis being distributed by FreeHand Music, which, according to their website, has the most extensive selection of legal Digital Sheet Music available for musicians online. Their catalog includes over 125,000 downloadable sheet music titles from the world's leading artists, composers, and publishers. What's great about FreeHand Music is that many of their downloadable jazz charts are transposable to the key of your choice.

There's a search box on the right hand side of this blog that will whisk you over to their website. So if you're looking for a tune, or want to check out The Digital Real Book then head on over there.

I've begun adding links to these downloadable lead sheets to many of the tunes at PlayJazzNow, which I think will be a nice complement to the tracks if you want to work on the melody and/or lyrics to specific songs. We still offer free chord charts to everything, but those do not include melodies or lyrics.