ISIM Conference Dec 14-16, 2007

Bill Neil and I are performing (workshopping?) at an improvised music conference. In Evanston, Dec 14-16.

Featured Artists and Presenters include: Jane Ira Bloom (NY) and Mark Dresser (CA), Mazen Kerbaj (Beirut) and Michael Zerang (IL), Oliver Lake (NY) with the University of Michigan Creative Arts Orchestra, Bennett Reimer (IL), and the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (IL). 

I’m honored to work alongside these esteemed musicians! I’ll post pictures and stories after the conference. Stay tuned!

More details are available at

Reverse blogging

Out here in the Blogosphere, there’s a flurry of activity. I see a ton of hits at my blog site but few comments. People are reading but it’s interesting that there’s not much interaction. Certainly we’re all busy and few have spare time to drop comments at each site they visit.

It makes me wonder if we don’t have this whole blog thing exactly backwards. Wouldn’t it be more interesting for readers to ask questions to guide the writer? It might save a lot of wasted, worthless blog posts which nobody reads.

Until I find the time to write the “Reverse Blog,” can you offer some questions here? I’ll create posts to answer or respond to them manually for now. If it’s a good idea, I’ll work on a software solution.

Thanks and bring on the questions!

jazz torrent

There’s been a flurry of activity recently. I’m back in the studio writing a lot of music for some upcoming projects.

Which leads me to a confession: the hard work of being an artist is the continual need for energy. There are so many distractions to overcome: business, phone calls, etc. Retaining focus on creating art and maintaining sufficient energy – that’s the challenge.

I’m not really complaining. It’s maybe now I finally realize what all those people meant when they said “You want to be a musician? That’s a hard life.”

The hard part isn’t practicing, touring or performing. It’s managing your life amongst all the chaos.

Practice, practice, practice

We’ve all heard it before: practice makes perfect, or perhaps perfect practice makes perfect .

I’m, as JJ Johnson called it, a “practice-oholic.” I really enjoy working out new ideas on the saxophone and maintaining optimal performance conditions. It’s become a part of who I am.

I recently read a great book by Daniel Levitin, This is Your Brain on Music. Levin mentions some research by Dr. Anders Ericsson. 

Ericsson asserts that “the critical difference between expert musicians differing in the level of attained solo performance concerned the amounts of time they had spent in solitary practice during their music development, which totaled around 10,000 hours by age 20 for the best experts,  around 5,000 hours for the least accomplished expert musicians and only 2,000 hours for serious amateur pianists.” source

So there you have it. Get busy – there are a lot of hours to put in if you want to become an expert.

Moonless Night Ballad

In my previous post I mentioned putting out some music which (perhaps) isn’t so derivative of the Bebop tradition. Here’s a short sketch which fits the idea.


It’s just a cycle of sounds: note clusters which aren’t really voiced in typical chord-like ways. I really enjoy weaving melodies atop washes of sound like this. In this case, the soprano is basically just playing A Lydian throughout. What I find interesting is how the shifting clusters in the piano make such a simple scale seem like so much more than it really is.

To me, the clusters set a vivid emotion and create several layers of musical expectations. They produce a wash of sound at one level. At the next level, they provide a repeating chord progression. At another level deeper, they also form an illusion of something beyond what’s technically there.

Let me know what you think.