Feb 24, 2012

Andrew White, "The Living Legend"

If you are a jazz person, and you are not already familiar with Andrew White, this post is for you. I'm putting it up here because Andrew does not have a web presence befitting his stature, and his work might be interesting to some readers.

What can one say about Andrew White that has not already been said...by himself? Here are some of his self-descriptions:

“The world’s leading authority on the music of John Coltrane”

“Living Legend of Music Historiography”

“Renaissance Man of Music”

“the enormous and unquestionable prowess of the highest acclaimed, irrepressible, legendary, leading saxophonist of the day”

“the ultimate bad-assed-Zorro-Super-sax”

“I am considered to be the world’s most voluminously self-industrialized artist in history and possess one of the greatest minds of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries.”

“the legendary self-purported genius”

“the master himself, 'Mr. Bionic Saxophone', 'Mr. Saxophonitis', 'Mr. Vocalese Buz', 'Jaws White', and 'Mr. Musical Achiever of the ’70’s and ’80’s' ”

Well, that’s all true, allowing for just a little self-promotional hyperbole. Andrew White is best known as the man who has transcribed virtually every John Coltrane solo that was ever recorded. The transcriptions are accurate, and his musical calligraphy is good too. Andrew is also a world-class jazz saxophonist who has recorded with McCoy Tyner and toured/recorded with Elvin Jones; as a funk bassist he toured with Stevie Wonder and recorded with Weather Report; as a classical oboist he played for a couple of years with the American Ballet Theater.

And - of practical interest to you if you are a jazz player - Andrew runs a mail-order business selling his Coltrane transcriptions (also some transcribed solos by Charlie Parker, Eric Dolphy, and Andrew White), along with many self-produced recordings and various essays and treatises. The latter range from scholarly to humorous, sometimes both.

Andrew doesn’t do the internet. To enjoy his works, you will need to write him for his “Comprehensive Catalogue of Over 2500 Self-Produced Products.” Last time I checked, the catalog was priced at $10.00. You will easily derive $10.00 of amusement from the catalog alone. Then you can decide on the transcriptions, recordings, or prose works that interest you, and mail him an order.

Andrew has written an amusing and informative autobiography, “Everybody Loves the Sugar - The Book.” I'm reading it for the second time. Probably not too many people can make that claim. It is 794 pages of stories (often risqué, often humorous), opinions about the music industry, opinions about racism, opinions about "jazz education," various other digressions, and of course self-promotion, all in the context of autobiography.

The book reminds me of a medieval tome. It's a large book, typewritten (on a typewriter). Andrew does not do word processors. It is written in a colloquial style, and not meticulously edited for spelling. Personally, I dig Andrew's writing (as well as his musical work). It's not for everybody. However, if you want to try to understand where he is coming from...

For a taste of his prose, here is a link to "Chicken Alto," a great story from "Everybody Loves the Sugar."

For catalogs and products, you can contact Andrew White at:

Andrew’s Musical Enterprises
4830 S. Dakota Ave., N.E.
Washington, D.C. 20017
phone: (202) 526-3666
fax: (202) 526-4013

Although Andrew does not maintain a web presence and seems to dislike computers, here are a few more links that you might want to check out:

Andrew's Wikipedia entry

A youtube video - "Giant Steps" and "Everything I Have is Yours"

Another video - Andrew talks about "Improvisation on the Bandstand"

Andrew's statement acknowledging the "Benny Golson Jazz Master Award"

A "Saxophone Journal" column by Andrew (he wrote columns for the magazine for a number of years)

Some excerpts from an interview with Billy Taylor

A great recent article on the CapitalBop site, including some old and new recordings - Listen!

Feb 5, 2012

Encore and Sibelius

Back in the early 1990s, when music notation software had just become available, I bought Finale and Encore, and after working with both, settled on Encore. It seemed quicker and more intuitive, with fewer actions required to perform routine tasks. I used Encore to chart some clarinet duets to use with my students; the duets eventually became a booklet. I also made transposed, compatible versions for alto sax and flute. The book was then picked up by Mel Bay Publications and published as the "Easy Classics" series, with additional versions for trumpet, tenor sax, and violin, and with piano accompaniments (written by my mom and my sister). A year or two later, the company asked me to produce versions for viola and cello. I did so and sent them in, but these books never were actually published. Then - a few months ago - I got an email from the company asking if I was still interested in seeing them published, and if so, could I provide digital files.

Unfortunately, Mel Bay no longer accepts Encore files, only Finale and Sibelius. Fortunately, I have been working on a different project for which I have been learning Sibelius (current version: Sibelius 7). Sibelius' user interface is similar enough to Encore that the transition was easy.

I really did not want to recreate everything from scratch. So the problem was: How do I get old Encore files into Sibelius? The first thing I tried was exporting the files from Encore into MusicXML, then opening the MusicXML files in Sibelius (MusicXML is a format designed to facilitate the transfer of music files from one music notation program to another). Although this procedure worked OK, the original formatting was lost, necessitating extra work on my part to restore the format.

The next thing I tried was using PhotoScore Lite, the note recognition program that is included with Sibelius. I exported the Encore files as PDFs, then read those PDFs with PhotoScore Lite (since PDFs would likely be cleaner than scanned versions of hard copy). This worked well, preserving the original format. Unfortunately, Photoscore Lite does not pick up articulation marks or text, only notes - meaning more work on my part, putting that stuff back in.

Finally, I bit the bullet and purchased the upgrade to PhotoScore "Ultimate." This was really the best solution. It reads the PDFs pretty accurately, although occasional errors still occur. Although I still have to proof and revise each file, my time spent was cut to about 25% of either of the other methods I tried. So for anyone faced with the problem of transferring Encore files to Sibelius, that's my suggestion.

Sibelius is working well for me, though it has its quirks.

I'm rather fond of Encore; there are some things it does better/quicker than Sibelius, such as manually editing staff or note spacing, or selecting non-contiguous elements. Encore was developed in the early 1990s by Passport, and in 1998 became the property of GVOX. For 10 years, very few improvements or updates were made, and Encore fell out of favor with publishers and with serious users. Since about 2008, GVOX has made a renewed effort to support and improve the program. I think it still has potential.

I admit that it has been years since I have tried to work with Finale; I understand that it has been improved quite a bit in the last few releases. Eventually I'll find the time to try it again.