I was the drummer for combo yesterday, but of course it does not hold the combo back as I love to play, and can control any situation from that vantage point. Having grown up studying with Elvin and playing a lot I can really give the combo the feel it needs, and spread the depth of the rhythmic structure of the music itself. Much of my concept on piano and vibes has arrived as a result of my rhythmic concept, which I got, from playing the drums.

We had Vinnie on bass, a newcomer who played very well, and our other normal diligent players. Dave, Rob, and Matt. We ran through Birdlike (Freddie Hubbard), Black Nile (Wayne Shorter), Beatrice (Sam Rivers), After You’ve Gone, and we attempted to play T Monk’s Pannonica. A difficult set of changes to master. After we played Black Nile the second tune we played, I stopped the band and began to talk about anticipation, and the technique of thinking ahead of the changes, and actually playing ahead in order to command the direction of the line. I demonstrated how being ahead of the changes is always best, and that falling behind is a terrible place to be. Trying to catch the train as it sails by. I demonstrated this a bit at the piano, and then instructed each player to take more choruses of soloing on Black Nile, but this time to play 1-2 quarter notes ahead of the changes. Well I never heard Matt Mayer sound so good. He was jumping ahead and resolving in a way that he never did before. This technique is a vital part of improvisation. Especially when dealing with lots of changes at fast tempos. Playing ahead of where the music actually is in real time is a very effective, and sensible way to be in control of the music and not to get caught by the changes. It has always worked for me, and it was a thrill to hear it change Matt and the others approach on negotiating the changes on the tunes. That anticipation drill helps you lead the direction of the music. After all the music will not stop, so it is easier to be ahead of the game, and use silence or resolution to allow the music to catch you, than for you to be behind the changes, trying to run after the music while negotiating the harmony. Sort of like being ahead of the ball game in the ninth inning, rather than playing catch up ball!!!

Deep stuff really if jazz improvisation is your life as it is mine!!!

Lena Horne

Lena Horne

I am truly sorry to hear of the passing of Lena Horne. She was a true legend in jazz singing. I am blessed to have had a chance to rehearse in her home with her and Rodney Jones, and to have played vibes on one of her recordings for Blue Note Records, with Bruce Lundvall executive producer, and Rodney Jones producer. She lived to 92 which in itself is a blessing, but she will still be greatly missed.

Well it has been a strange run of gigs this week after spending 3 weeks on the road playing my own music. Thursday night I played at a new place that is having jazz in Yonkers. It is called the Pizza Place. It is owned and operated by Ron Masciandaro who is actually a graduate of the Berklee School Of Music in Boston. He plays some piano and has this really good pizza place that also serves other Italian dishes. I played there with my piano tuner Victor Lagamma, a long time friend. He happens to be a nice writer and plays very well. Anyway I have been encouraging him for years to get out and play more. Well he took me up on it and he called me for a gig. I got my buddy and band mate Tim Horner on the gig as well. We had a nice time. I played  alot of vibes and sold a bunch of CD’s to a very invigorated and appreciative crowd of 50 people. This morning Saturday morning I went down to the APAP convention at the New York Hilton, and I did a sound check playing drums for this singer from LA who is showcasing at the convention. Her name is Tish Oney and she sings really well. I got the call for that gig because of my good friend and colleague John Chiodini from the west coast. He is the MD for her. She is doing a show of Peggy Lee’s music. It just so happens that John Chiodini , and myself both spent 7 years touring, and 4 CD’s recorded with the Peggy Lee Quintet with Mike Renzi (who got me the gig in my 20’s), Jay Leonhart, Grady Tate. So Tish Oney had two musicians who spent alot of time with Peggy Lee. Paul Beaudry of New York’s finer  bass players joined us in Tish’s band. It was pretty nice considering we only had 20 minutes to perform, but I hope Trish gets some nice gigs out of it. I enjoyed her. So we finished the gig and I walked out into the hallway at the Hilton and I ran into 20 people I knew. Bryan Carrott, one of worlds best vibraphonists, who I went to high school with. I have the utmost respect for Bryan as a musician. He is an excellent player. Very soulful. Ran into John Benitez, and Lonnie Plaxico also. Lots of todays finest were a this APAP convention. It was a zoo. Tomorrow I have to teach a student and play percussion at the matinee of “Ragtime” the Broadway musical. It is the last show as it is closing tomorrow, but I committed to sub and cover for my friend Charlie Descarfino a long time ago as he has another important gig. It will be my first gig on Broadway in more than a year as all I do is play jazz these days. It is quite a crazy weekend of musical variety.