Player's Journal 2002


I've been on vacation from my day job for a few days. Had to take the time before the end of the year, or lose it. As vacation approached, I imagined myself practicing guitar many hours a day. That hasn't happened. I need to sit down and have a good talk with myself about discipline. But then, I have done an hour some days, a half hours other days. And then there is the 30+ years of disciplined practice I have "in the bank." I find that a little practicing goes a lot further, these days. Even so, I need to build up some stamina. I have a four-hour solo gig coming up in January, and that's very demanding. Have to keep reminding myself of that.

My last holiday gig is coming up on Sunday. So today I'll brush up on holiday tunes. The gig is in a bookstore, and is just background music, so I don't need many. My idea is little, simple, one-chorus arrangements of things like "Deck the Halls" that will serve as intros to standard tunes. Seems like a good idea. Let's see if it works.

topics: Gig


I've been playing and practicing a lot more lately, and have a little discomfort in my left arm. Years ago, when I was writing the Musician's Health Series for Guitar Player, I learned how to deal with that. Playing guitar usess the contractor muscles on the front of the arm (the non-hairy side), as we squeeze the neck, and, to a lesser extent, the entensor muscles on the back (the hairy side) of the arm. In contraction, we deal with the resistance of the strings, but in extending, there is no resistance, so the muscles get out of balance. The contractors get overworked, and tend not to relax. So the solution is to give the extensors more exercise against resistance. I do this by wrapping a very thin rubber band around my fingers and thumb, and then opening my hand. When I mention this to students, I always stress that the rubber band should offer very little resistance. Students tend to overdo; first they overdo the cause, then they overdo the cure.

topics: Practicing

The Season

Last Christmas season was slow. I had one gig, but it was a great one: a company holiday party in a renovated brownstone in Boston's Back Bay. I have the journal notes from that one somewhere. Have to dig them up and post them here.

The year before there was also a great holiday gig. Another company holiday party in a brownstone, but this time it was in Greenwich Village. I should post notes on that one, sometime, too.

This year I sent out a PR package, with CD, photo, newspaper clippings, etc. Landed a few gigs. So in December and January I have six gigs. That's a lot, compared to what I did the rest of this year. I'm looking forward to them all. I've brushed up on Bill Leavitt's arrangements of "White Christmas" and "The Christmas Song." I've also worked up "Greensleeves." I'm working on several variations of those: folk style; jazz waltz; reggae; funk. I'll be curious to see how those go. For the January gigs, I need to add a few tunes to my repertoire.

topics: Gig


I've been practicing and gigging more, and my left hand is definitely stronger. That's a good thing, because I just booked a four-hour gig in January, and that's a lot of solo playing. "This Nearly Was Mine" is coming along nicely. It's the kind of arrangement that will work best if I just play the head through once, then out. So tonight I came up with the idea of segueing into "There Will Never Be Another You." I've always played that in trio settings with just a few two- and three-note voicing sprinkled in among the melody notes. I thought I'd have to work out an arrangement with bass lines for solo gigs. But maybe I play too many bass lines. I'll try the arrangement as is, improvise a few choruses in the same style, "comping" with these little chords, then the head out. I won't know how all this will work until I try it on a gig, but I've got lots of gigs coming up, so plenty of chances to experiment.

topics: Gig


Listening to Saint-Saens' cello concierto this morning. That interval, 5 - b6 - 5, so much a part of the piece, so much a part of many pieces in the 19th Century. The "interval of longing." The note longing to resolve back to the fifth.

Thought of longing again tonight while practicing "This Nearly Was Mine". A song about longing. It's one of my best arrangements, I think, with the bass line moving throughout. But I don't play it much on gigs, just because it's so hard to play. I do long to play it, though.

I need tunes like that in my repertoire - or almost in my repertoire - to guage my practicing. When I can't play that piece well, I know I haven't been practicing enough.

"I Remember Clifford" is like that, also. The version that's on my Act One CD was recorded live at a party. It's rare, these days, that my chops are up to that piece. It's another one where the chords have to be connected smoothly, and the melody has to sing. Not easy to play, though I long to play it.

Hoagy Carmichael on Bix Beiderbecke

Bix's breaks were not as wild as Armstrong's, but they were hot and he selected each note with musical care. He showed me that jazz could be musical and beautiful as well as hot. He showed me that tempo doesn't mean fast.

Green Tea and Jazz

Gig tomorrow. Very short notice. I'd sent out PR packages just last weekend, and got a call from All Asia Cafe in Central Square, Cambridge. The owner had read on my bio about the "Coffee and Jazz" show, and she suggested "Green Tea and Jazz." Nice idea. It's for the door, and I since I only booked it Thursday night, I had little time to promote it. Sent out an email, and made up a flier that we'll take over there this afternoon, which will give me a chance to check out the room.


Just got back from the All Asia. A fairly small room, bar is in the middle, tables around. Bandstand is in the front, near the windows. From the fliers that were up, mostly folk and pop, with occassional jazz.

It's small enough that I can use the Peavy Studio 112. Since Mal (my wife) can not go tomorrow and help with carrying stuff, and the weather is supposed to be nasty, I think I'd better try to make it in one trip from the car. The B-15 has a much better sound, but is more of a schlepp.

topics: Gig


"You should work on connecting your chords more smoothly," Bill said.

"But, Bill," I said, at last giving voice to my frustration, "Every day I play all the chord etudes in all three volumes, "Solo in G," "Solo in D," and "Solo in Bb," and I've been doing that for months and months!"

"Well," Bill replied matter-of-factly, "You'll just have to keep doing it for more months and months."

I remember clearly what prompted Bill Leavitt's comment, even though this was in 1972. It was the five chords at the beginning of the last A section of "Solo in Bb": Bb Cm7 Dm7 Eb G7alt. Every time I play that passage, I hear Bill's deep voice.

I had applied for the teaching position at Berklee in late spring. Bill thought I had potential as a teacher, but since I'd never gone to Berklee -- never even had a guitar lesson -- he wanted to go through his books with me before the job offer was official. We had worked through volumes I and II, and were starting volume III. I was seated at the music stand, warming up, and I was rehearsing this passage because I knew it was not smooth. Bill was puttering about the room, and made the observation in a seemingly off-handed manner, but that was his way of softening the message without diminishing its importance.

Of course Bill was right -- to a point. It wasn't a matter of months and months, but years and years, and I'm following Bill's advice even now, long after he passed away.

Yesterday I sat down to practice, and since I'd not practiced much during the week, and felt that my chord-melody chops were down, I decided to go back and review all the chord etudes in Volume II. I was reminded once again how much guitar instruction is embedded in those little gems. If you don't position the left hand properly, some of the inner notes of the chords will be muted. If you don't control the pick properly, you will either overshoot or undershoot the string the melody is on.

These days I play all my chord-melody with pick-and-fingers, but I don't practice Bill's stuff pick-and-fingers. If I did, I'd miss some of those embedded lessons.

Bill used to talk about the idea of the "pick stop." When the melody is on the second string, for example, think of the first string as a pick stop. Accelerate the pick as it moves across the strings so that it hits the melody string as full acceleration. But to avoid going to far, and hitting the next string, use the pick stop.

The goal there is to ensure that the melody rings out. Bringing out the melody is a high priority for me in my chord-meleody playing. In another entry I'll discuss how to do develop that with pick-and-fingers.

But for today, I'll go on with working on connecting my chords more smoothly. Maybe I'll play "Solo in Bb" and see what Bill has to say.

topics: Chords; Leavitt, William G; Melody

The Practice of Composition

Last night's journal entry got me thinking. When I was first teaching at Berklee, I used to compose just about every night. I'd sit on the front porch while my kids played and write music. One piece I wrote back then was an exercise to see if I could write a tune completely in the Harmonic Minor scale. I almost made it. One non-diatonic note insinuated itself.

Take a look at 5Y3

Construction and development

**Bach, C.P.E. Essay on the True Art of Playing Keyboard Instruments from a letter:

Hence, for purposes of thorough instruction the abridging of a keyboard handbook, even when it is done without errors, clearly does more harm than good. All of the compendium writers that I know have written, in certain respects, too little, in others, too much, but in all respects, masses of errors. What miserable nonsense can be found in some! And this is the reason: to judge from their books, the authors have never studied composition, which they must by all means know in order to construct an accompaniment. This study is not merely the rules of composition; it bears directly on an understanding of composition. In a word, no one can put his trust in a keyboard instruction book, if the author has not previously made himself known and proved himself worthy to be considered an accomplished composer through his good compositions.


"Construct an accompaniment." Great phrase. I read an article today about "software development." (That's what I now do in my day gig.) The author was saying that we don't develop software, we construct it. There's some sense in that. But we also develop it, in the planning stages, just as we develop an arrangement, an accompaniment. And the only way to get good at development is to practice compostion. Works in both fields.

I've always said that one of the greatest experiences in music it to accompany a good singer. I enjoyed coming up with the arrangements on the Travelin' Light Duo CDs. In some cases, I re-used arrangements I'd conceived earlier ("My One and Only Love", "Triste"), in others, I "constructed" a new accompaniment ("Black Magic", "Come Rain or Come Shine").

Composition as development. Compositional development.

topics: Bach, CPE;Comping

Be Kind to the Melody

I've been listening to Jay Carlson lately. Wonderful player. Great technique. Fresh, modern lines. Nice balance of control and abandon.

One of the things I like best about his playing is that it is clear he cares about the melody. "My Funny Valentine," "Softly As in A Morning Sunrise," "Bags Groove" - he brings to each a personal statement, with some unexpected twists to the melody, but never violating the integrity of "the tune." Pretty rare, these days. Too many players treat the melody as something to be gotten out of the way so they can get to playing their licks. Jay shows honest respect, but still shows that the tune, for the time that he is playing it, is his.

Thinking about melody reminds me:

One night, many years ago, I was playing a guitar duo gig with Bob Harrigan, at a bar called The Alewife, in Cambridge. A well-lubricated patron asked us to play "Autumn Leaves." I played the head, and then, as one would expect, Bob and I took turns improvising. After a few choruses, the patron said -- loud enough for all to hear -- "You guys are ruining the melody!"

topics: Melody

Soloing: Development

The ancient Greeks used to begin their tales by asking the muses for inspiration. According to Aldous Huxley, they were not praying for craft - they knew they had the craft to tell the story. What they were asking for was a good story to tell.

A motif is like that: a good story to tell. But by itself, it is not a story. Think of the opening of Beethoven's Sixth Symphony. A beautiful motif. But, as Leonard Bernstein pointed out, the secondary theme was being exposed at the same time, as an accompaniment line in the cellos. So having two motifs is great. Sometimes I'll try to start a solo with a two-part motif, made up, say, of a scale passage and an arpeggio. It's really two motifs combined, so there's already some development there in the exposition.
Unlike the ancient Greeks, I cannot assume that my ability to tell the story is sufficient, at this point. So I consciously practice developement techniques. I might decide that I will return to the secondary motif at the end of the second eight bars, and work that motif through the bridge, then try to re-combine the two motifs in the last eight bars. Of course, this is just an exercise. On the gig, those thoughts might be lurking subconsciously, but I'm much too busy to make such detailed plans.

For some ideas on motivic development, see my exercises on Dindi.

Changed Strings

At one Joe Pass clinic I attended, someone asked Joe how often he changed strings.
"Whenever they break," he answered.

I haven't changed strings for several months. I have a giq coming up in a little over a week, so this is a good time to change them.

Brand new strings are far too bright, too rich in certin harmonics, to my ear. They tend to sound metallic. Well, you might say, they are metal, so why shouldn't they sound metallic? It's a twangy sound, and I just don't like it. Usually about three days of playing a few hours a day gets them to the point I like.
My gig is at City Hall, in the city where I live, Medford MA. I've never been in the room where I'll be playing, but I've been in City Hall and it's a big old echoey building, so I expect the hall to be like that -- the last place I'd want twangy new strings.

I use helf-rounds these days. For many years I used round-wounds, which I actually prefer. But I learned while making my solo CD that I squeak a lot, so after that I switched to half-rounds. There's one cut on Act One where the engineer actually chopped a few milliseconds out to eliminate a particularly bad squeak, where I was moving quickly from a chord on the high end of the neck to a chord on the low end of the neck. I leave identifying that cut as an exercise for the reader.

Intelligence and Perseverance

Browsing through my old journals, I found this:

Schuller, Gunther. Horn Technique

Chapter VIII. "The Art of Practicing"

There are two primary elements that can make practicing a success: intelligence and perseverance. What one student may accomplish through hours of hard, physically tiring work, another may attain in half the time by applying logic and intelligent thinking.

Many students never learn to think a problem through. Instead they stubbornly hammer out exercises which deal with the problem at hand only superficially or deal with an altogether different problem. While such practicing is not completely useless, it is obvious that correct diagnosis of a problem will lead to more fruitful practicing results.

Soloing: Exposition

There's too much emphasis on soloing.

By that I don't mean to say that soloing is a bad thing, or that it isn't fun. Just that it's over-valued, relative to comping.

Most guitarists spend most of their careers comping. There are various stories about the origin of that word. Some say it's a shortened form of accompany. I don't think so. If it were, it would be pronounced to rhyme with the second syllable of accompany. What it does rhyme with is the first syllabe of compliment. So comping compliments a melody, just as one color compliments another.

Ok, so back to soloing. I think of it much like composition: exposition, development, recapitulation. The exposition is the statement of a motif. I find it most interesting when that motif is a fragment of the melody of the song, or is at least based on some aspect of the melody, like an interval or a rhythm.

Development begins as soon as the motif has been stated, or "exposed." Many of the techniques that have been used by composers for centuries can be used by the improvisor.

Some possibilities:

Lengthening a note value. Example: quarter note triplets as an augmentation of quarter note triplets
Shorteing a note value. Example: eighth notes as a diminution of quarter notes
Inserting a note or notes withing the motif.
Adding notes to the beginning and/or end of a motif.
Approach notes
Notes a scale step and/or half step above and/or below notes of motif. (See example on "Giant Steps")

More 3-note chords

Reading my last entry reminded me to mention other combinations of strings for 3-note chords. Let's see, I recorded my voicings for "My One and Only Love" on one of the Travelin' Light Duo CDs. Have to see which one. I never notated that, but I should, and post it. Later.

But I did dig up my alternative voicings for the bridge of Wave and posted them. Here's the notated example.

3-note chords

I get a lot of use out of 3-note chords. The most practical approach is to put the 3rd and 7th on strings 3 and 4. Then if I'm playing walking bass, I put that on strings 5 and 6. If, however, I'm working with a bass player, I add a chord tone or tension on string 2.

I posted an example based on Blue Bossa.

Right-hand Technique:

If I'm playing walking bass, I play the bass notes with the pick, string 4 with finger 2, and string 3 with finger 3.

If I'm comping with a bass player, I play string 4 with the pick, string 3 with finger 2, string 2 with finger 3.

It's important to balance the notes of the chord, depending on the situation. So I practiced bringing out each note, one at a time.

Note to self: post that 3-note study on "Here's That Rainy Day".

Terrible tension inside

What is it that makes music intense? Not, too my mind, necessarily volume or speed, but something else. Many have tried to express it in words. Tonight, I opened my journals more or less at random and found an excerpt from an article that was written by the pianist Emmanual Ax about Arthur Rubenstein. I'm not a classical pianist, but it speaks to me now, almost 20 years after I entered it into my journal.

Emmanual Ax:

Rubinstein is often thought of as a 'natural' pianist, the implication being that he didn't think a lot about what he played or how--it just poured out. My sessions with him convinced me otherwise. For example, he talked about the value, for him, of just sitting with a cup of coffee thinking about a score. He said he got an idea for playing part of Chopin's Concerto in f minor differently at the age of eighty-five or eighty-six, while he was sitting in a cafe in Venice humming it. He became convinced that there should be a huge ritard--really enormous--in the recapitulation before the second theme in the first movement. He felt that this particular passage of five or six measures takes the place of the entire recapitulation of the first theme; there is an immediate modulation to A-flat from f-minor, and he said that he took the expansive ritard there because it goes right into the second theme. To me, it made a lot of sense and it sounded wonderful. I've played it that way ever since. That is the kind of thing he was so fantastic about--finding ways to play a piece differently after years of playing."

"The four things he repeatedly stressed [in discussion on playing] were structure, rhythm, articulation, and projection to the audience. Rhythm and articulation were closely linked. He felt that every note should be heard; he hated it when people rushed things. To him, there was no such thing as a 'run' in Chopin. As for projection, he said that there should be an invisible cord from the heart of the performer to the heart of the audience. 'You can't just sit there and play beautifully at the piano,' he insisted. Picasso painted with his stomach; you have to feel the rhythm in your stomach, this terrible tension inside."


Nov/Dec 1983

Letting the line proceed on its own

I got an interesting message today:

I was just listening to "Softly, As In...". Really digging the way you will just let the rhythm/bassline drop out, letting the line proceed on its own. You keep the time really nicely when you do that. I know it can get a little dicey.

Letting the line proceed on its own... Very well-put. I've always felt that improvising, at its best, is letting the line go where it wants to go.

The poet Robert Duncan used to talk about "The Law of 'The'". If you start a sentence with 'the', there are certain places that sentence wants to go. You would have a tough time, for example, if for the next word you choose 'also'. Then there are the "obviousnesses", like 'quick'. Somewhere between lies poetry.

There is "The Law of 'C'". Well, not really. But there are tendencies in the notes. For example, if you've played six notes of the scale, the listener wants to hear the other note.

Somehow, that reminded me of Hesse's writing about melody, so I dug through my old journals (actually, I just did a 5-second search with Word), and found:

Hesse, Herman Gertrude Kuhn the composer

I was patient and not altogether indolent, but I was not a good scholar, and during my last year at school I made very little effort. This was not due to laziness and my infatuation, but to a state of youthful daydreaming and indifference, a dullness of senses and intellect that was only now and then suddenly and powerfully pierced when one of the wonderful hours of premature creative desire enveloped me like ether. I then felt as if I were surrounded by a rarefied, crystal-clear atmosphere in which dreaming and vegetating were not possible and where all my senses were sharpened and on the alert. Little was produced during these hours, perhaps ten melodies and several rudimentary harmonic arrangements, but I will never forget the rarefied, almost cold atmosphere of that time and the intense concentration required to give a melody the proper, singular, no longer fortuitous movement and solution. I was not satisfied with these meager achievements and never considered them as either valid or good, but it became clear to me that there would never be anything as desirable and important in my life as the return of such hours of clarity and creativeness.

At the same time I also had periods of daydreaming when I improvised on the violin and enjoyed the intoxication of fleeting impressions and exalted moods. I soon knew that this was not creativeness but just playing and running riot, against which I had to guard, I realized that it was one thing to indulge in daydreaming and intoxicating hours and another to wrestle strenuously and resolutely with the secrets of form as if with fiends. I also partly realized at that time that true creativity isolates one and demands something that has to be subtracted from the enjoyment of life.

pp. 8f

topics: Hesse, Herman; Practicing

Herb and Hamp

I looked through the "guitar" directory on my computer, wondering what I'd post today. I ran across some notes I'd taken at a clinic Herb Pomeroy gave at Berklee in 1989. Herb is one of the great jazz educators. He's retired now. To understand some parts of the entry, you need to know that at the time I'd been teaching at Berklee for 17 years, Herb for much longer, that John Neves was the bassist in Herb's band, and John was my teacher and my friend.

Read Herb and Hamp

topics: Pomeroy, Herb

Playing Solo Guitar

I got an interesting email from a young player who says that he's been working on jazz standards for solo guitar, and that he had some questions.

This gives me a good opportunity to present some of my thoughts on solo guitar.

My first advice, of course, was that he go to Amazon and purchase my solo CD. The selections on that CD are the best examples of my ideas on solo arrangements. Well, I've had a few new ideas since that was recorded. :) In my journal entries, as a rule, I'll refer to cuts from that CD as examples.

He said he felt his arrangements "lack much interest". That's actually a pretty mature observation. If he's reached that point, he's already made some progress. What makes an arrangement interesting? Well, one thing that interests guitarists is harmony. He went on to ask, "Are there any techniques that you use for reharmonisation?" Yes. But I tend not to reharmonize a lot. I base a lot of my arrangements on changes from the Real Book and other sources that are actually reharmonizations by some of the great jazz players. I'll sometimes substitute a chord, or use an approach chord, but I tend not to reharmonize a lot. I do "correct" the changes, based on my knowledge of harmony, and my ear.

Harmony is important. I think the best book on jazz harmony is Andy Jaffe's Jazz Harmony. (

One step is to take a standard tune, reharmonize it, then do the arrangement. That may seem obvious, but some players do the arrangement first, and then they get locked in to that.

I caution against becoming too infatuated with a "cool voicing" or a "cool reharm". The question is not whether a particular chord is "cool", but how it fits into the entire arrangement.

Another thing that guitarists love is moving lines, either in the bass or in the inner voices of the chords. Bill Leavitt was a master of this, and the chord etudes in his method books ("the Berklee books") are very instructive. His notated arrangements of standards are very instructive. I caution that innner lines are very subtle and only very sophisticated listeners will "get" them. So be careful not to become too infatuated with them.

Bass lines are important to me, and I think they lend a sense of fullness to a solo guitar performance. A lot of solo players I hear don't even try to keep the illusion of bass, and I think that's a mistake. Sometimes I'll even work a bass line in to an improvised section, or use a bass-line-with-chords that I've worked out -- as I do in "Skating In Central Park".

Another of his questions touched on performances. How much material do I need for, say, a 2-hour solo gig? Do I stretch tunes out, or limit to 3-minutes per tune? It depends on the gig, but if I'm providing background music, I usually stick to 3 or 4 choruses of each tune, with maybe an intro and an ending, so each tune is about 4 minutes. The audience in that situation wants to hear melodies they recognize, so the head, one chorus of single-line (mixed with some chords -- as I do in "Softly As in a Morning Sunrise" -- then maybe a chorus of improvised chord-melody, then the head again. As the evening wears on, if I feel that the audience is enjoying the improvisation, I'll stretch out more.

Another good question this guy raised was: are there any tips you can give me for improvised solo choruses? Yes. But that's a really big topic, so I'll just touch on it here. When I'm in the middle of an improvised single-line solo on a solo gig, it often sounds empty to me. I've spent years playing with groups, and I can "hear" the missing bass, drums, keyboard, whatever. But I've learned from listening to recordings of my performances that it sounds much less empty than I had thought. So I'm gradually playing longer and longer single-line solos. One thing I think is vital: when you are improvising, remember that what you are improvising is a melody. Your job is to find that melody. It's not the melody of the tune -- although it could be based on the melody of the tune -- but it still should have a shape and a direction, like any good melody. The more you develop your ability to play melodies -- by playing the melodies of many standards (and playing them well) -- the better you'l be able to find a melody in your improvisation.

Beyond that, there is simply learning your ax and learning some of the standard "stuff": triads, arpeggios, chord-scales, approach-notes, etc. Much of which you'll find elsewhere on this site.

Of course, this does not answer the questions, so I'll deal with all of this more in future journal entries.

topics: Solo Guitar

Something old, make it new.

Read something online today about a guy auditioning, having to read. Realized that my reading is pretty rusty. Dug out my exercise book. Played scints in G, second position. Boy, those constant intervals sound weird! Then that sequence exercise in Eb in the 5th postition. (Posted that one today). Then set about reading through my tunes section. That's a few lead sheets of tunes with melodies that seem to capture a certain essence, and encourage good phrasing. "Ceora", "Scrapple from the Apple", "Boplicity", "Blues for Alice". Hmmm. Didn't do so well. Need to review them more often. None of that is really sight reading, but it's been a while since I looked at notes.

Tune for the day was one I've worked on off and on for a year: "My Foolish Heart". I have the solo version all worked out, but I had a hard time playing it. Hands just didn't feel coordinated. Decided to get a workout with some of my more familiar repetoire. Played "Skating in Central Park". This reminded me that John Lewis died not so long ago, and Lionel Hampton died just a few days ago. I got a nice email from Willie Ruff, saying, "At the moment I am remembering Hamp and all he was and will remain." Thought about that, and improvised for a while, just trying to make it new.

After practicing, I was still thinking about Lionel Hampton and Willie Ruff. Early in Willie's career, he had to opportunity to go with either the Israel Philharmonic, under Leinsdorf, or with Hampton's band. He took the Hampton gig. Here's an excerpt from Willie's Book, A Call to Assemby:

"Lionel, while still a child, began his musical life as a drummer and was taught the trade by a nun. Although he never became a great drummer, his mastery of timing, his formidable ear for melody and harmony, and the uncanny drummerly instincts that he brought to the vibraphone quickly made him one of the word's greatest jazz soloists. No show during our month at the Aplolo came and went without my hearing some fresh and original example of Lionel's synthesis of all his gifts." - p. 237

topics: Ruff, Willie

Tune of the night

"Scotch 'n' Soda" turned out to be the tune of the night. I picked up the guitar not knowing what I was going to play, only having a few minutes, and not knowing what I wanted to play, but not wanting to start with exercises. The tune suggested itself, somehow.

That's the first tune on my solo CD, and I put a lot of thought into that choice. The first tune needs to set the listeners' expectations. I think it does that: this CD is not about hot licks or recognizable bebop phrases. It's a series of stories.

I used to sing my kids to sleep with this song. Now they are adults. In the 60's and early 70's, I used to sing it on solo gigs. So the song has lots of connotations for me.

I like the way it starts on the IV chord, then goes to bVI7 with #11 in the melody -- some of my favorite sounds. I end it with a vamp: Eb6 Ab7, which has a nice bluesy feeling. On the CD, I play that, I think, 3 times. On gigs, I vamp longer, and when I'm playing at home, I just play it over and over, savoring, reminiscing.

topics: Gig; Practicing

Warming Up

Friday evening, start of Labor Day weekend. A good time to sit on the front porch and play. It's a windowed porch with bamboo blinds, so I have some privacy. It's quiet, except for an occasional passing car. The porch of this 100-year-old house has pine paneling and a mahogany (or maybe cherrywood) slatted ceiling, so acoustics are warm and cozy.

I decided that today my warm-up would be loose and easy scales and arpeggios over the first few chords of Here's That Rainy Day. On gigs I always use that as my opening tune, so warming up with it helps to create a gig mood. Some days I feel like being much more regimented, and I warm up with three-octave major and minor scales, ninth arpeggios in all keys in one position, or something equally as formulated. Some days that's what I need. But today I need to just play.

Gmaj7 Bbmaj7 Ebmaj7 AbMaj7. Somehow my fingers are finding some chromatics between the chord tones that I usually do not find. Maybe the muse is enjoying this beginning of the holiday weekend, as well, and is delighting in taking possession of my fingers for a moment. I don't question, I just follow the line where it wants to go.

topics: Practicing