Apr 30, 2012

Mike Morris' Coltrane Story

Here's a story from my friend Mike Morris. Mike is a terrific tenor player, whose playing career has included work with Stan Kenton, Woody Herman, Blue Mitchell, Isaac Hayes, Tom Harrell, Manhattan Transfer,  and many more. This story is from around 1962, when Mike was a high school kid.

John Coltrane was appearing at the Jazz Workshop in San Francisco, and Mike went to hear him. (Note: I remember that club, on Broadway in SF. I used to stand outside on the sidewalk to listen, as a high school kid.)

Mike said that Coltrane practiced all through every break - he was playing continuously for 4 hours. After the show was over, Mike walked up to Coltrane.

Mike: "Mr. Coltrane, that was great. You play so many great ideas. But can I ask you a question?"

Coltrane: "Sure."

Mike: "Do you really know everything that you're doing?"

Coltrane (in a friendly manner): "Yes, I do."

Mike: "I play the alto."

Coltrane: "I used to play the alto, but I gave it up. Charlie Parker already did everything there was to do on the alto. Nobody has figured out a way to play the alto that's any better. But the tenor is wide open. There's so much you can do on the tenor."

Mike: "Then I guess everyone else is going to have to play baritone!"

Coltrane: (laughs)

Apr 12, 2012

"Easy Classics for Viola" and "Easy Classics for Cello"

Some years ago, when I was shopping for a publisher for my "Easy Classics" books, I received a favorable reply from Bill Bay at Mel Bay Publications. He was interested, but suggested a piano accompaniment, and also a version for violin. As it turns out, Bill made a very good call - Easy Classics for Violin has been by far the best-selling book in the series.

As I mentioned in a previous post, a project to produce compatible versions for viola and cello sat dormant for some years, but now has been finished. Easy Classics for Viola will be shipping to stores at the end of this month; Easy Classics for Cello will be released in May. Print music is not a huge market, and nobody is getting rich on this, but it's great to see the project completed!

A few words about the publications: There are now "Easy Classics" books for clarinet, alto sax, trumpet, flute, violin, viola, and cello (tenor sax is out of print). The arrangements are generally appropriate for second-year players. All of the books are set up to be played in any of the following ways: solo, duet, solo with piano accompaniment, duet with piano accompaniment, or mixed ensemble.

All of these books are available both as print music and as ebooks.

The clarinet, alto sax, trumpet, and flute books are in keys friendly for wind instruments, and are mutually compatible - that is, they can be played in mix-and-match combinations as duets, or in ensembles. The violin, viola, and cello books are likewise mutually compatible, and are in string-friendly keys. There are separate piano accompaniments for strings and for wind instruments.

The new viola and cello books will make it possible for string teachers to use these arrangements in string ensembles.

If one wishes to play the pieces with mixed string and wind instruments, there is a way around the "key" problem, in some cases: Concert-key, treble-clef instruments can play from the piano part, using the cue notes in the upper staff. That is, a violin can play with wind instruments by reading from the "wind" piano part, or a flute can play with strings by reading from the "string" piano part.

Thanks to all the students and colleagues who have helped develop these books, and thanks to Collin Bay at Mel Bay Publications.