Master Class

Master Class
Tim Horner lectures about music

Tim Horner lectures about music

Working with Professor Hui Yu

Working with Professor Hui Yu

Talking about musical cooperation

Talking about musical cooperation

We had another nice Master class and concert at Shenyang Normal University for the music department there. The Dean of the music department is Professor Hui Yu. He is a doctorate of Ethnomusicology from Wesleyan University in the US. He lived in the US for 16 years, and spoke English better than anyone we have come across in the other venues. This made it quite easy for us to communicate throughout the afternoon and evening.

At the beginning we were told that the students were mainly classically trained, and that they would be shy when it came to asking questions. Actually once we got going there were many questions from the students. After the first was asked, they all began to open up, which of course helps us, as we want them to participate. One of the best questions asked was, “How do you reach musical cooperation on a piece of music”? I found this to be a great opportunity to demonstrate just how we as professionals get together to rehearse original music.

I started by acting as if I was making a phone call to Jim Ridl.” Hi Jim. Do you want to come over to my house and work through some new music?” Jim says YES! Then to Tom Dicarlo the same question, and to Tim Horner the same question. SO we get together, and Jim pulls out his new tune “Sun On My Hands”, which is dedicated to his father who was a farmer in North Dakota, and had very dark hands from working outside for many years.

I spoke of how after 35 years of practicing the language skills need for negotiation the chord changes, and harmonic language used in jazz improvisation, it was very easy for us to knock out a performance of any song right on the fly, as the cooperation, and conversation takes shape on its own when the musician are of a high level. I spoke of how Jim might play the first A section of the melody, and then I would play the 2nd A section, then Jim would play the B section, and perhaps I would answer with the last A section. Then Jim might solo on one A section, then I would solo on the 2nd A section, and we would join together at the B section, and complete the tune with a great moving, emotional performance. That emotion and spirit in the music can happen in my house. It does not have to be in a concert situation. Anyway this really demonstrated the mutual cooperation between musicians in jazz performance. It really sent the message to the students.

Then the professor of clarinet named Zhao’ Jie’ came running up on stage very excited about this piece of music he wanted to play with us. His music was written in the key of B flat for clarinet, and Jim had a piano part with no chord changes at all in C. Tom on the bass had no chart at all, and Tim on drums had nothing either. I had to transpose the B flat melody down one step. Within 5 minutes we came up with a good plan to make this work for the clarinet professor. I set it up with a little vamp, and away we all went. It was really good, and Jim, Tom, Tim and myself made something happen. The magic of jazz improvisation.

Afterwards Tim Horner took the microphone and mentioned how this unexpected jam session with the clarinet professor was a perfect example of how us musicians must always be using our ears to negotiate the music. For example Tom Dicarlo, and Tim Horner had no music at all, and Jim Ridl, and myself were using music with no harmonic definitions (chord changes). So listening and using the ears are vital in this situation.

Afterwards the trombone professor Zhou Gang who was the first to ask a question in the master class came up on stage with us, and jammed on an F blues. We all had a lot of fun, and I felt we really reached the students.

Afterwards we were hosted to a beautiful traditional lunch, and then a short rest, and a concert performance, which went well as usual. Many pictures, and autographs were taken as normal with all performances we have done. Another triumph for this band!

Zhao Jie' jams with the quartet

Zhao Jie' jams with the quartet

Setting up the jam with trombone professor Zhou Gang

Jamming with Trombone professor Zhou Gang

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Seoul Jazz Academy

Seoul Jazz Academy

Seoul Academy

Seoul Academy

We broke off for individual master classes at The Seoul Jazz Academy, which is a really cool jazz school in Seoul. It is accredited and affiliated with The Berkley School of Music in Boston. I had a group of aspiring jazz pianists and composers, along with a few drummers who wanted to learn more about chords, and the language skills needed to play jazz. I took them through my system for an hour, and then the quartet got together for a 1 hour concert at the school. Before the master class I had about 30 minutes to wait for the students. I sat down at the beautiful Yamaha grand piano in the performance space, and a composition just came out of me. I quickly wrote it down, and had the embassy interns make copies for me. During our performance we demonstrated how we sight read and rehearse a composition for performance. Also it gave a great look at just how we prepare and perform a piece of music. We did a really nice performance of this new tune. It was titled “Soul in Seoul”. It was a premiere and it was fantastic for me as I wrote something, and was able to hear it performed immediately. The sound on stage was absolutely perfect, so I felt we were playing at our top level. We were really able to dig deep into the music and reach for new ideas, and dig spiritually into the music. I was in heaven once again as we knocked out one tune after another, just like it was a walk in the park. This band is really bonded. We are one!

Mark Sherman/TIm Horner 4tet Russia Arrival

Mark Sherman/TIm Horner 4tet Russia Arrival

View from Hotel

View from Hotel

Fire Escape Rope

Fire Escape Rope

Fire Escape Drop

Fire Escape Drop

The Mark Sherman/Tim Horner 4tet began the Rhythm Road/US State Department tour with a flight from NYC to Seoul Korea. The flight was uneventful. I personally have flown to Japan, and other flights that are 14-15 hours, and after all these years it is still just as uncomfortable as it always was. It takes such a tremendous toll on your body. My sinuses were so messed up after the flight from the pressure of being 40,000 feet in the air for 15 hours. The whole thing really messes your system up. Anyway we arrived safely in Seoul, and checked into the Airport Transit hotel, which is generally used for people who are changing planes and have an overnight wait as we did. The rooms were small but adequate. The only drag was there were no windows in the hotel as it is actually one flight above the airport itself. The next morning as we were walking to our gate for our flight to Russia, I turned to Tim Horner and said, ” Man we have not seen daylight or had a breath of fresh air in 24 hours. I really noticed this, and missed the air. The hotel had air conditioning of course, and prior to that we had been flying the long flight, so I really noticed that I had not taken in any fresh air in a long time. That air conditioning and airplane air just dries you out and creates a lot of stress on your body. Anyway we caught our flight to Vladivostok, Russia, and arrived safely. A few interesting things happened upon arrival. As we exited the plane a mean looking security officer pointed a laser beam at everyone entering Russia as we passed the flight cockpit. I found out that this was a method they use to detect if anyone is running a fever. This is their way of preventing H1N1 from spreading into Russia. Very interesting as I never experienced that form of security. Next the entire plane piled into a bus that would take us to the terminal. Well they piled us in like sardines and eventually the doors closed. We literally drove 10 feet to an entrance to the terminal. We all looked at each other in disbelief as we all simply could have walked the 10 feet to the terminal. That was really funny. Like something out of a comedy movie. Anyway we arrive by van safely to the Hotel Hyundai in Vladivostok where I checked into a really nice room with a view of the naval port and the Pacific Ocean. When I opened the window in my room I saw a black bag and said to myself “oh man someone left a black bag on the window ledge”. I opened it and found a thick rope wrapped around a large spindle. I looked out the window and saw a 100-foot drop and realized that this rope was tied into a giant hook on the ceiling of the window casing. It is the fire escape. If a fire occurs your escape is climbing down this rope 100-200 feet down, which in itself is really dangerous, and you would have to be in great shape and have some rock climbing skills to do it. “DON’T LET GO”!! Totally unbelievable. This would never pass building code in the US. Finally had a good night sleep and we will play music today. More to come!

Click here listen to the band  The Great Triplet

The Mark Sherman/TIm Horner Quartet

Great concert at Smalls the other night with The Mark Sherman / TIm Horner Quartet that is going to Russia and Asia with the Rhythm Road tour sponsored by Jazz At Lincoln Center and the US State Department. If the other night’s concert is any indicator of the level of the music then we should have an amazing month abroad. The music will certainly take off on this tour. We will need to record after the tour as we will be so tight and the music will have lived through 30-40 concerts.

Jim Ridl is one of the most talented musicians I have come across. His soloing is really great, with an innovative rhythmic approach, and a vast array of harmonic language tools that he uses, however his writing is truly amazing. We have been playing 3 or 4 of his tunes that are really special compositions. He captures the deeper meaning of defining an experience or concept through the music.

Tom Dicarlo is a very supportive bass player who plays very in tune and rhythmical correct. A really nice soloist as well. His tune “Can you Tell Me A Story” is becoming a centerpiece for the band. It has very little jazz soloing but the melody and the chords, mixed with the general mood set by this piece makes it a special part of our show.

And my headlining partner Tim Horner is just simply a musical genius on the drums, as well as a great composer. He has written several tunes that we do “You Are The Song”, and “Line Of The Salesman”. Both tunes are derived from well know song forms, but Tim has cleverly re-invented the melodies for these forms and made them his own. This is something I often do in my writing which is to take the well known song farms that the great masters like Parker, Coltrane, Miles, Tadd Dameron, Cole Porter used and disguise them and turn them into my own. It is difficult to reinvent the music as these past masters have taken it to the top level, and most musicians today are still trying to catch up to the foundation and innovations that the above mentioned masters brought to the music. This is one tour I am truly looking forward to. #rhythmroad


I had a really nice time yesterday doing a master class for the drummers in the Juilliard School’s jazz program. First of all I was thrilled to get the call as I spent 5 long productive years in the building. Anyway what a beautiful set up they have now. When I went to Juilliard there was no jazz program and Wynton Marsalis, Dan Block, and Rob Waring, were the only jazz players in the school, but we studied classical music at school. Now there is a separate wing for the jazz department, and the director Carl Allen has assembled an incredible faculty and curriculum for the program. Carl a well-known and seasoned veteran drummer apparently is doing an incredible job running this program. In the 3-4 hours I spent there yesterday, I was greeted by many of my favorite musicians from the faculty. Had a little hang with Frank Kimbarro, Ron Carter, Eddie Henderson, Rodney Jones, Carl Allen, Billy Drummond, and Kenny Washington. These guys are all top of there field. At the master class I had 5 or 6 drummers and Carl Allen, Billy Drummond, and Kenny Washington attending the class. Tough company to impress. It all went well and was a really nice loose environment to teach in. Basically I was there to help the drummers open up more to the vibes and the harmonic language skills needed to play jazz. They are great young drummers already or they would not be at Juilliard, but widening the scope is a great thing for them. That is the goal of course.

I was so honored that Carl Allen, Billy Drummond, and Kenny Washington were there. ALl three are at the top of the drum world, and Kenny Washington and I have known each other 40 years. We met in high school at Music and Art High School in NYC when we were 13 or 14 years old. He was then and continues to be a true be bop master on the drums. A jazz master as are all the names listed above, but Kenny was playing with Betty Carter and Johnny Griffin when he was 17 or 18 years old, and he never attended college. The music was his college, and he is a true master. Just goes to show you if you want to learn something you can do it yourself. All the recordings are out there for you to draw from, transcribe, and simply memorize. Kenny desperately as a youngster wanted to sound like Philly Joe Jones. He memorized and mastered that style, and turned it into a huge career, and he developed his own sound. Just amazing!! Great to see Kenny. He had been teaching all day and waited a few hours just to see my master class. I was so happy. Then Kenny and I took a walk down to the 3rd floor to try and find our great friend and colleague from high school Danny Druckman, who is currently director of the percussion dept at Juilliard, as well as a percussionist with the New York Philharmonic. We did not find Danny, but I showed Kenny the infamous orchestra rehearsal room 309. I explained to him how this is where Danny Druckman and I spent countless hours rehearsing with the likes of Leonard Bernstein, Sir George Solti, Sixten Ehrling, Zubin Mehta, Herbert Von Karajan, and so many more genius conductors who came through Juilliard week to week for concerts. The room has an incredible feeling. You walk in this room and you can feel the history. I sure did!!

Afterwards a little hang at a local restaurant with Rodney Jones who has been one of my best friends for around 40 years as well. He is absolutely the most incredible  person. Highly accomplished spiritually, as well as being one of the globes finest guitarists and teachers. All in all a great day, a thrill for me, and a great honor to be called upon to do the master class at Juilliard.

I just got the news that my 4tet with Tim Horner will kick off the Rhythm Road/US State Department Southeast Asia tour with 2 concerts in the US. We will play at the National Geographic Society in Washington DC on April 22nd at 6pm and at Dizzy’s Coca Cola Jazz Club in NYC on April 24th at 12:30pm. Then we will be off to Southeast Asia. Concerts and workshops everyday for 5 or 6 weeks. Can’t wait. #rhythmroad

Promo video

Last week my usual rhythm section of Allen Farnham, Dean Johnson, and Tim Horner got together for a gig at Trumpets Jazz Club in Montclair N.J. The crowd was great, I sold about 8-10 CD’s and everything just went well. How amazing it feels to play with this group as we come back together and the music is magical, with great purpose. Nothing to be said, just hit the music. I have 3 or 4 new tunes that the band addressed in addition to the maybe 40 other originals this band performs. Anyway I just get up there and call tunes like I was calling standards, but they are mostly original tunes. It’s a great feeling to have that confidence with your musicians. It is a setting that makes me most comfortable in this music. For me the dream is to play the music a lot and get better and better at it. This band allows me just that opportunity. The comfort zone of a regular group is a really special feeling, as many times on the road alone I experience the opposite extreme. That is me picking up a rhythm section I hardly know for a gig somewhere across the globe, with one quick rehearsal/sound check and then a concert with some of my originals and standard arrangements. I often must avoid playing certain originals, as they require more attention of which there is none, as a quick sound check does not do much for digging deeply into the music. However there is another way to look at it. If the players you are hiring are true masters of the language and the music, although they are new to your music, they can bring their individual craft, spontaneity, and personality into the situation. I can give you a perfect example of that. Last year I played a concert in California while on a west coast tour at Occidental College in Pasadena. Well the rhythm section I called was John Cambell, Tony Dumas, and Joe Labarbera. WELL! These guys swung my music into paradise, their way and it was incredible. John Cambell spent years with Clark Terry (flat out a bebop master), I met him on a Mel Torme gig at Carnegie hall years ago. Tony Dumas played with Freddie Hubbard, and I can see why. Joe Labarbera, needs no introduction as he was with Bill Evans for many years and has made a mark with his crisp, loose, identifiable style of drumming. It was an honor to play with that rhythm section. They sounded so seasoned. Anyway the music was incredible and I would play and or record anytime with those guys, but of course the originals did not have the life experience they have with the aforementioned quartet of Farnham, Johnson, and Horner. Six years together has made the music do something different. Something unified. I can’t tell if it is the personalities, playing ability, time on the road together, or a combination of all these things, but there is something special about the longevity of this band. Things get pretty intense onstage and the music goes different places every time we play.

Later in the week we played a quick set at The Zinc Bar. The money was not as good, but the music was even better! Looser and looser. Can’t wait until the next gig with the Quartet. Also The Quintet DVD of the band with Joe Magnarelli will be up for sale on my site and globally in a few weeks. I am quite excited about that. Check my site for my schedule.