Monday, November 21, 2016

John Coltrane's "Countdown" - Improv with Chord Tones, Scales and Four Note Groupings

I had a little practice time today at Berklee and was working on John Coltrane's classic composition "Countdown". My improv students and I have been working this week on improvising on this song focusing on several techniques including the use of Chord Tones, Scales and Four Note Groupings (1,2,3 and 5 for each chord). This tune is based upon the 16 bar jazz standard "Tune Up" which is basically a series of II-7 V7 I Maj's through various keys down in whole steps. Coltrane applied his 3 Tonic System (3 major keys a major 3rd apart) to each II-7 V7 I Maj. So for D-7/ G7/ C Maj/ C Maj 7/, we now have D-7 Eb7/Ab Maj 7 B7/E Maj 7 G7/ C Maj 7/.


Monday, April 18, 2016

Chord Melody on "I'll Wait & Pray"

Here is a chord melody on "I'll Wait And Pray" (George Treadwell, Jerry Valentine) utilizing a variety of voicings, as well as mallet & hand dampening in order to keep the clarity of the melodic line and counterpoint. I created this chord melody for a great student of mine at Berklee, James. He is a drummer, but is studying vibes with me this semester. James transcribed both the melody & chord changes from the beautiful John Coltrane version (Coltrane Jazz - 1959). We compared it to Sarah Vaughan's 1944 version and took elements from both. The goal was to keep it simple, honor the melody and maintain clarity, while using different type voicings. I included pedal markings in the written music to help make clear what needs to be dampened by the mallets/hands. Types of dampening utilized here are alternate and same mallet dampening, slide dampening and hand dampening. If you have any question, feel free to ask.

Written music can be downloaded here:

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Joe Locke's Solo Transcription - Stolen Moments (Sailing)

Another beautiful take on Oliver Nelson's minor blues composition "Stolen Moments" by the great Joe Locke. This is a nice band featuring Billy Childs on piano, Cameron Brown on bass and Idris Muhammad on drums. The session took place in Japan and was put together as the "Joe Locke & The New York Quartet". The album is called "Sailing". Unfortunately this recording hasn't been released. Enjoy!



Monday, December 7, 2015

Joe Locke's Solo Transcription - Stolen Moments (But Beautiful)

Here is a transcription of Joe Locke's solo on Oliver Nelson's minor blues "Stolen Moments". It is the closing tune in the 1991 Locke/Barron "classic" duo session "But Beautiful". Another great insight into Joe's early language. Enjoy!




Sunday, December 6, 2015

Joe Locke's Solo Transcription - You Don't Know What Love Is (But Beautiful)

This is a transcription of another tasteful solo by Joe Locke on the standard "You Don't Know What Love Is" by De Paul/Raye. It is from a duo recording entitled But Beautiful with pianist Kenny Barron, which dates back to 1991. I've posted another transcription from this same recording for the tune "On A Misty Night", as well as a transcription fro a trio version of "You Don't Know What Love Is" from 1994. The playing (compared to Joe's present standard) is much simpler, making it a great resource for students to get introduced to Joe's early vocabulary, strongly informed by Bebop players. The transcription contains the standard changes, but Joe uses some common reharmonizations, for example on bars 9-10 of the A section, which I've left up for the students to identify. Enjoy.



Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Four Note Groupings on "I Love You" & "Rhythm Changes"


This clip was taped in a recent improvisation class taught by Ed Saindon at Berklee College of Music. The class was working on applying the improvisational technique of "Four Note Groupings" to Cole Porter's composition "I Love You" and "Rhythm Changes". Here Ed is heard on piano as he demonstrates the technique, improvising primarily with FNGs. The attached PDF contains the FNG chart for "I Love You" used in this solo, as well as the "Rhythm Changes" progression along with some basic reharmonization. For further information on Four Note Groupings please refer to Ed's FNG Article. Four Note Groupings is one of the five topics extensively discussed in Volume Two of The Complete Guide To Improvisation by Ed Saindon soon to be released. 


"I Love You" & "Rhythm Changes" FNG Chart



Monday, June 22, 2015

Chord Melody on "Beautiful Love"

Here is a simpler chord melody chorus on the 1929 standard "Beautiful Love" by Victor Young. Like we mentioned in the previous chord melody blog on "How Insensitive", this is a good way to systematically work on solo vibraphone possibilities. The combination of pedaling with various mallet & hand dampening techniques can help create counterpoint in voicings, melodic & harmonic embellishment, reharm, etc., while maintaining the clarity and adding nuance to the music. Writing the music down in the form of an etude can help to better understand and assimilate the information, or even generate more ideas. 

In the video clip I am reading the music literally, but be aware that rhythm embellishment can be added. It can be played with a swing feel, or even changing the meter to 3/4. Any of these modifications may pose different challenges in the execution of the dampening techniques.  


If you have any question, please feel free to contact me. Gustavo


Here is the link to the written music: 


"Beautiful Love" Chord Melody (PDF)



Saturday, May 23, 2015

Joe Locke's solo - On A Misty Night

Here is a transcription of Joe Locke's vibes solo on Tadd Dameron's tune, "On A Misty Night". This gorgeous duo session with the great Kenny Barron on piano features many great songs, and took place in August 1991. That's just short of 25 years ago. Joe's playing has never stopped evolving, but the musicianship documented on this album is of a stunningly high level. Yet, this solo, as well as the previously posted solo on "You Don't Know What Love Is" from Joe's 1994 trio album "Very Early", are great insights into the roots of Joe's much praised and admired musical vocabulary.  




Thursday, May 7, 2015

Chord Melody on "How Insensitive"

Here is a chorus of chord melody on Jobim's composition "How Insensitive". This is a good way to systematically work on solo vibraphone possibilities in terms of voicings, texture, melodic & harmonic embellishment, reharm, etc., in combination with sound production and other technical aspects of the instrument. I would normally just show students at Berklee different ideas on a tune, but sometimes slowing down the process by writing things down can help to better understand and assimilate information, or even generate more ideas. 

Important considerations: If you follow the written music along with the video you will notice I am not playing the written music "literally".  For the most part, I am playing the written notes, but altering the rhythm. The application of rhythmic embellishment is crucial in order to make the music come alive. The goal should not be to play this the same way I play it. It can be a reference to get started, but strive to always change it up. My priority is "sound", so attention to "tone quality", articulation & dynamic nuances is very important.  To that extent, dampening techniques are essential. 


If you have any question, please feel free to contact me. Gustavo


Here is the link to the written music: 


"How Insensitive" Chord Melody (PDF)



Tension Resolution Improv on "Time After Time"

Tension Resolution (TR) on "Time After Time": One of the improvisational concepts that my students and I were working on this week in my improv classes at Berklee was that of TR. We chose specific tensions for each chord change on the beautiful standard "Time After Time" and improvised based upon the sounding of those tensions along with their resolution to the nearest chord tone. The constant tension and release creates forward motion in the improvised line and can be the basis of rich, melodic phrases. I think it's an important and fundamental improv concept that can also be effectively employed along with chord tone soloing. In the improv classes, we also focused on a number of other issues in the application of TR including: simple, melodic phrases; a relaxed, swinging time feel; motives; varied articulation; connecting the line from chord to chord; dynamic shaping of the phrases and rhythmic syncopation.

The concept of Tension Resolution (TR) is addressed in my book The Complete Guide to Improvisation. In the chapter, a three step process of TR is explained and demonstrated on the standard "All The Things You Are". Also included in the chapter are written out TR solos on "All The Things You Are", "Stella By Starlight" and "All Of Me".

A lead sheet of "Time After Time" including the listed tensions used in the TR application can be viewed and downloaded here:

Tension Resolution - Time After Time (PDF)