Miles, Mulligan and more

On February 10, I will again be performing Miles Davis' classic The Birth of the Cool organized and led by my dear friend Thomas Helton. This concert will be slightly different, however, in that it will feature three new arrangements by yours truly written specifically for the nonet. In addition to that, the second half of the concert will feature the various incarnations of the famous Gerry Mulligan Quartets.

Birth of the Cool
Birth of the Cool

This concert is being produced by Richard Nunemaker for the Houston Tuesday Music Club on Sunday, February 10 at Emerson Unitarian Church at 4pm.You can hear Thomas, Richard and myself discussing the concert on KUHF's "The Front Row" by clicking here.

Of the new arrangements, I chose to write three features, one each for alto saxophone ("Opus de Funk"), trombone ("Lament") and baritone saxophone ("Ghengis"). Here's a playlist of the concert, in backwards order:

"Opus de Funk" is really just a transcription and re-orchestration from the 1959 album, Art Pepper + Eleven: Modern Jazz Classics. While the original Birth of the Cool selections are wonderful, there isn't a straightforward blues among any of them. This recording has long been one of my favorites, with plenty of room for the alto to blow through the blues. That, plus the excellent arrangement by Marty Paich make this a great pairing to the original album (and great practice for me to learn how the unusual nonet instrumentation can be handled).

"Lament" is trombonist J.J. Johnson's well-known jazz ballad. I wanted to pay tribute to Johnson's presence on the original recordings and feature his talents as a great writer, since this ballad is truly one of the best written in the idiom. My arrangement sought to capture the "Gil Evans sound" heard most prominently on "Moon Dreams". There were many things to consider here: where to draw the  line on using dissonance, Gil's careful placement of voicing, the development of the main theme throughout the piece, and so on. It was a real challenge, as students of Gil Evans' style are surely aware.

Finally, I chose "Ghengis" from Gil's Guests written by the late, obscure multi-saxophonist Gil Mellé. Mellé was a bit of a renaissance man in modern music, he dabbled in various ensemble sizes and structures, had a strong interest in atonal music and unusual forms and was even a featured painter on several jazz LPs of his peers in the late 1940s. "Ghengis" is an unusual tune with an unusual construction. The melody itself is raw and atonally inclined, with several instruments providing a (somewhat) pointillistic melodic shape. While the tune is just a head arrangement, there is an obvious tape splice to include the improvised solos before returning to this head to end the piece. Mellé's baritone sax is front and center, however, and the original arrangement made for a great place to jump off and experiment with combinations and sounds within the nonet.

Enjoy the music and I'll see you at the concert!

Houston's jazz history

I've decided that something needs to be done to aggregate and organize all the information relevant to this city's expansive jazz history. Therefore, I'll start putting all the collected information that I can find in one place, and you can find it here: I'll post the significant updates here on the blog, but I invite everyone to contribute submissions by either emailing me directly or posting a link in the comments section of the History page. Photos, articles, videos and interviews are welcome (and needed!). Eventually I'll be able to categorize and sort everything for quick access via search.

Some Noteworthy Winter Performances

If you're in the Sugar Land area for New Year's Eve, why not drop by the Town Square for the free, family friendly festivities? The highlight (of course) being that I'll be playing with Fried Ice Cream and the big Sugar Cube Drop that will take place at midnight. It should be pretty neat, right?




I'll be playing with Thomas Helton's Tribute band on January 9 at Ovations. I'm really excited about this because we'll be performing Miles Davis' classic Birth of the Cool in its entirety. It's my first time playing any of these tunes, so I've been really studying up on my classic bebop and cool jazz improvisation styles. Sometimes orchestras perform historical concerts on period instruments, and I feel like this is no different from that. But The Birth of the Cool is an historical artifact that I feel is still relevant and influential to many jazz musicians. It's going to be a lot of fun!

Finally, on February 25 & 26, the 13th Annual Moores School of Music Jazz Festival is taking place. This year's guest artist is trombonist Andy Martin. He will be giving free noon clinics and a performance with the MSM Jazz Orchestra on Saturday night's concert. You won't want to miss the spectacular concerts on both nights, though.

You can always keep up with what I'm doing by checking out my calendar of events, too.

The MSM Jazz Department ends its 2009-2010 season

On April 21 and 22, The Moores School of Music Jazz Department will give its final concerts of the year with saxophonist Bill Evans. This concert marks Evans’s return appearance with the Moores School Jazz Orchestra since they last performed together for the 2009 MSM Jazz Festival.  Together, they will be playing selections from Evans’s latest album, Vans Joint. Check out "Soulbop" below for a sample.


Wednesday, April 21 at 7:30 in the Moores School of Music Opera House click here for ticket information


Thursday, April 22 at 6pm at Miller Outdoor Theater Kicking off Waste Management’s four-day “Houston Celebrates Earth Day” Festival, presented in part with Da Camera and Whole Foods Market.

Admission is FREE!

The University of Houston MSM Jazz Festival 2010

So, you're thinking about attending the 2010 Jazz Festival, but you're still not sure if you should throw down the cash, eh?  Well, who can blame you?  Ten dollars for a ticket can be a lot these days, after all.  Perhaps I can help.  If I tell you what's going on, would that entice you?  Maybe?  OK, good enough for me...

On Friday evening at 7:30pm, The Texas Music Festival Jazz Project will be performing.  This is Houston's all-star big band comprised of top-notch Texas musicians playing a wide array of music written for the classic big band setup.  If you like swing, you're in luck; if you like bebop, you'll be happy as well; if you like a great ballad, prepare to be wowed; even if you like contemporary music that's a little harder to understand... well you get the point.  The point being that this band can play anything and everything and they do it VERY WELL.  As I said, the band is full of top-notch players and there are plenty of solos to be passed around, so you won't be disappointed!  It will be an entertaining and exciting evening.  Here's the roster:

Saxophones David Caceres, Kelly Dean, Dr. Woody Witt, Warren Sneed, Karl Fulbright

Trombones Dr. Armin Marmolejo, Ed Lowe, Bruce Melville, Ryan Gabbart, Jim Pedigo

Trumpets Danny Wilson, Mike Harris, Dennis Dotson, Steve Brown, Noe Marmolejo

Rhythm Section Mike Wheeler, guitar; Matt Lemmler, piano; Anthony Sapp, bass; Joel Fulgham, drums

Playing the following: Outside In, Tom Garling A Little Minor Booze, Willie Maiden Dauphin Dance, arr. Bob Mintzer Take the ‘A’ Train, arr. Gordon Goodwin A Flower is a Lovesome Thing, arr. Mike Tomaro Housewife from New Jersey, Tim Hagans Soft Lights and Sweet Music, arr. Michael Abene Wade in the Water, arr. Matt Lemmler Skylark, arr. Mike Harris Let’s Eat Cactus, Gordon Goodwin Ecaroh, arr. Rob McConnell


And can you believe it?!  Saturday evening features even more big band jazz!  On Saturday night at 7:30pm, the UH Jazz Orchestra will perform with featured guest artist, Brian Lynch on trumpet.  I know, I know... it's ridiculous how much good music you'll need to see this weekend, but trust me, it's TOTALLY worth it.  Brian will be playing a slew of his own compositions and arrangements (which are incredible to hear and incredibly hard to play, check this one out) with the students in the UH Jazz Orchestra to close out the weekend's festivities.  And this isn't your ordinary college big band, all these guys (and girl) can PLAY!  Get ready to be amazed at the level of virtuosity this band has.  You still want to see a program, don't you?  No worries!

Saxophones Bob Eason, Darrel Materum, Eric Bustamante, Zach Spruill, Scott Baker

Trombones Tim Dueppen, Henry Darragh, John Grimmett, Thomas Neal, Jaime Ramos, Glen Scarborough

Trumpets Steve Brown, Cameron Kubos, John St. Julian, Kristen Finley, Zachary Lerner

Rhythm Section Robert Wolf, guitar; Michael Ward, guitar; Landon Petersen, guitar; Joel Love, piano; Henry Darragh, piano; Glen Ackerman, bass; Gerald Massoud, bass; J.D. Guzman, drums; Terence Hobdy, drums; Chad Tumminello, drums

Playing the following: Point Aconi, Aaron Lington Things Are Getting Better, arr. Rob McConnell The Palmieri Effect, Brian Lynch Blue Moon, arr. Brian Lynch Guajira Dubois, Brian Lynch Peer Pressure, Brian Lynch One for Mogie, Brian Lynch


And if all of that STILL isn't enough for you, did you know that you can see visiting middle school and high school jazz ensembles perform on each day, all day for FREE?  You would probably be surprised by how many of these groups sound great, also.  There's a lot of talented youngsters in Texas, so come see for yourself!  Oh, and you can also check out the free clinic featuring Brian Lynch and and the UH Jazz Orchestra at noon on both days, too.  Free?!  Yes!  See you there!

(All events take place in the Moores Opera House)