May 29, 2016

Video: Louis Armstrong Recording Session

Here's a newly-discovered film of Louis Armstrong in the studio, recording "I Ain't Got Nobody." We only get to see one song for now; the rest of the session will eventually be released by the Louis Armstrong House Museum. 

Here's the story of how the film was discovered:

These two YouTube items were posted last month, but I just was made aware of them - Thanks, Tom!

May 15, 2016

Combo Projects! "Charles Mingus - More Than a Fake Book"

My Saturday adult combo class has finally finished our latest long-term project: playing through all 55 tunes in the collection, Charles Mingus - More Than a Fake Book. We started in December 2014, and read through one (sometimes two) tunes each Saturday. Some tunes had to be carried over for a second week for us to come close to dealing with them. We missed a few weeks due to vacations. Now, in May 2016, some 70 weeks later, we can say we at least "attempted" all 55 tunes.

I can enthusiastically recommend the Mingus book. The vast majority of the tunes are interesting, fun to jam on, and (mostly) playable by reasonably experienced players. They range from simple to complex. The charts are nicely done - with only a few exceptions, they are clear, without too many typos. Each composition is accompanied by informative text: first recordings, personnel, assorted anecdotes. Only a few of these tunes have made it into the more mainstream fakebooks, and many of them deserve to be more widely known and played.

BTW, if you've ever wondered about the correct changes to "Goodbye Porkpie Hat," you'll find them here.

We're still cycling through the jazz standards "list of shame," now expanded to 150 must-know tunes. In addition Mike, our guitarist, has made up a list of must-know ballads for us to work through.

For our next project, I'll be bringing in some of my favorite bossas and sambas, that are not among the 10 or 15 overplayed ones that you find in American fakebooks. We're starting with a few Roberto Menescal tunes (check this website). I don't think we'll undertake the complete works of Jobim or Menescal or Ary Barroso; that would be a bit much for us. I'll just bring in 20 or so less-known classics, and we'll work on our bossa/samba groove, one tune per week. That should keep us busy for a while.