Category Archives: Classes

6/30/18 – Birth of the Cool and Duke with Guest Paul Peress

On Saturday, June 30th at 10am we’ll start delving into Miles Davis’ revolutionary “Birth of the Cool”.  This influential and enduring work has it all: inspired arranging, cool vibe, great playing – a multi-session group effort featuring compositions and arrangements by Gil Evans, Gerry Mulligan, Miles, John Carisi and John Lewis. This nonet project from the late 1940’s and early 50’s is the culmination of hours of hanging out and experimenting, and is a great example of intricate, intimate and soulful small ensemble writing. We will probably look at “Jeru” by Gerry Mulligan using scores and parts.

Then after a short break I’ll bring up my good friend and NYC homeboy drummer, composer and band-leader Paul Peress. Paul comes from an exceptionally musical family, his late father Maurice was a well-known conductor, composer, educator, and friend of Duke Ellington. Paul will discuss his own meeting Duke Ellington on several occasions, and his work with his father Ellington’s “Black Brown and Beige” with his father. He’ll also touch on work we did together in NY, where I arranged some of Paul’s music, and various music concepts important to him as a drummer/composer. For summer reading, check out how Maurice traces the roots of the intersection of jazz and classical music from the mid 19th century on, and recounts much of his multi-faceted career in his book “Dvorak to Duke Ellington”. Highly recommended.

Then…lunch will be provided…more hang and discussion. We’re done around 1pm–see you there!

 

About Paul Peress:

“A MUST SEE ARTIST AND MASTER DRUMMER” – The Los Angeles Times

Paul Peress is a Grammy nominated drummer, bandleader, producer, and songwriter, newly based out of Los Angeles. He has worked as music director/drummer with Chaka Khan, Brenda Russell, Moby, The B-52’s, Mary Wilson, Deniece Williams, Regina Belle, Tom Scott, Bobby Kimball, Stephen Bishop, Jeff Golub… His band, The Paul Peress Project, has performed in over 20 countries, including appearances at The Heineken Jazz Festival, Jamaica Jazz & Blues Festival, Lincoln Center Out of Doors, South Africa’s Joy of Jazz Festival, BET’s Jazz St. Lucia…

5/5/18 – Concert Jazz and Extended Form – and Mervyn Magic

Ellington’s auspicious Carnegie Hall debut in 1943 gave us the masterpiece “Black, Brown and Beige”, arguably the first long form, extended “legit” concert jazz work. Contemporary critics and aficionados were skeptical that Duke, or anyone for that matter, could pull off such a feat.  Seriously, given that jazz is an improvised art form, how it be “composed” enough for the deadly serious concert stage? How can an a jazz artist sustain interest and craft a meaningful jazz work longer than the a few sides of a 78 rpm record? In the last class we spent some time on the first movement, of “Black, Brown and Beige” using a few contrasting recordings. We’ll continue on from where we left off.

A few decades later with Miles’ “Bitches Brew”, the line between written and improvised sound had grown opaque and the process multi-dimensional. Plus there remained no doubt that even the freest sounding jazz can be composed and legit. Concepts like exploiting musicians’ individuality, evolved common practice techniques, free improvisation, electronics, rock and R n B influences,  and modern production all coalesced for Miles and the “Bitches Brew” band. Last month we took a hard look at “Pharaoh’s Dance”, I want to continue on and look at the rest of the record. Also I’ve been waiting to introduce Sun Ra to the group, maybe now’s the time? We also might check out a bit of Trane’s “A Love Supreme”.

After a short break I’ll introduce our guest speaker,  five-time Grammy Award winner Mervyn Warren, a highly accomplished film and television composer, record producer, arranger, songwriter, lyricist, pianist, and vocalist. Mervyn is equally adept at many styles, his work spans the genres from film score, pop, R&B, jazz, orchestral, classical, vocal, country, and more. His filmography includes The Wedding Planner, A Walk To Remember, The Preacher’s Wife, and A Raisin In The Sun. His artist roster includes Whitney Houston, Michael Jackson, Queen Latifah, Boyz II Men, Barbra Streisand, Dolly Parton, Rascal Flatts, Chicago, Michael Bublé, Al Jarreau, & many more. 

Mervyn will be joining us to shine the light on the recently completed project by legendary jazz vocal group The Manhattan Transfer. It’s been almost a decade since their last studio album (2009’s The Chick Corea Songbook), and their new 2018 album, The Junction, sets the group on a new course with hybrid elements of jazz, swing, hip hop, and more. We’ll be playing tracks from the new album and talking to Mervyn about his arranging, the recording process, and more.

 

3/24/18 – THREE GREAT WORKS, GRANT GEISSMAN

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SATURDAY, MARCH 24TH, 2018 – 10am – 12:30pm

On March 24th I want to start talking about a composer’s intent – how a writer’s vision is carried forward and realized. This will be the first in more than a few installments of this broad topic – we’re doing more than analyzing the music, we’ll be trying to “decode” it. Even improvised “free” jazz can have strict form and recognizable intent.

We’ll look at three contrasting works: “Black, Brown and Beige” by Duke Ellington, “Pharaoh’s Dance” by Joe Zawinul from Miles Davis’ Bitches Brew, and “A Love Supreme” by John Coltrane. Despite their obvious stylistic differences, these three works share an evolved sense of “composed” performance. Duke, Miles and Coltrane were composers and instrumentalists. They all played like writers and wrote like players. How does being a player affect one’s intent in composing? Let’s see if we can decode some of these great recordings’ magic.

The premiere 1943 Carnegie Hall Concert of “Black, Brown and Beige” was just the beginning. The piece has been chopped up, reworked, rerecorded and orchestrated, both by Duke himself and others. We’ll check out the original, and compare it to an interesting and evocative symphonic treatment of the work by the late conductor Maurice Peress with the Buffalo Phil. We’ll hear how both versions really lean on the players to make the magic happen – the score is just a point of departure.

Miles was playing and composing, calling the shots, and even arranging and “recomposing” others’ original tunes when he recorded the seminal Bitches Brew in 1968. A lot of it sounds like free blowing, but there is definite structure and intent.

Trane’s 1965 masterpiece “A Love Supreme”, well, what can I say…

 

 

Then after a short break I’ll bring to the stage our guest speaker, guitar virtuoso and Emmy-nominated composer Mr. Grant Geissman. Grant has had a long and prolific career, and we’re going to hear all about it. Let’s try and decode him while we’re at it!

 

You’re definitely going to get your money’s worth on Saturday. And there will be free food and … oh yes, coffee. See you there. Scott

Cover charge: $15 includes continental breakfast

Purchase tickets in advance on Eventbright or at the door.
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Vitello’s E-Spot Lounge – 4349 Tujunga Ave Studio City, CA 91604

About Grant Geissman

Grant Geissman

Grant Geissman is a guitarist and composer with fourteen albums released under his own name, the latest being the jazz trilogy of Say That!, Cool Man Cool, and BOP! BANG! BOOM!, for which he wrote and arranged all of the songs (Futurism Records). Geissman also co-wrote the music for all twelve seasons of the hit CBS-TV series Two and a Half Men and all six seasons of Mike & Molly. He was nominated for an Emmy Award in 2004 for co-writing the Two and a Half Men theme (“Men, men, men, men, manly men”). His other TV credits include playing the Django Reinhart-style acoustic guitar solo on the theme of the hit sitcom Monk.

Geissman recorded the now-iconic electric guitar solo on Chuck Mangione’s 1978 mega-hit “Feels So Good.” Over the years, the versatile guitarist has recorded with such artists as Burt Bacharach, Inara George, Joanna Newsom, Lorraine Feather, Julio Iglesias, Quincy Jones, Gordon Goodwin’s Big Phat Band, David Benoit, Van Dyke Parks, and Ringo Starr.

Ellington Study Group

8/25/17 Quantum Meter and Tim Davies

On the 25th I’ll open up the topic of meter and time in jazz composition. We’ll talk about how a composer can engage meter, ways to work within a grid of time, or to work expressively against it. We’ll get into techniques like plastic meter, hemiola and cross-rhythms, tuplets and more. I’ve got musical examples cued up from all eras of large ensemble jazz…perhaps time and meter in jazz music is a bit like quantum physics…flexible, dependent upon your point of view…there are a lot of ways we can go with this, let’s see where it takes us!

Then after a short break I’ll bring to the stage the world-renowned composer, orchestrator, educator and conductor Tim Davies. I know Tim as a prolific and inspiring jazz composer and educator, but he also has done tremendous work in the studio and on the stage, including hundreds of credits in TV, film, symphonic music, as well as arranging for pop artists. And BTW, he’s a great drummer. We will have scores and musical examples posted online for viewing in class, as well as full projection and sound system. Check out Tim’s full bio below, and I’ll see you there! Scott

TICKETS AVAILABLE AT EVENTBRITE AND AT THE DOOR

Tim Davies is one of the busiest conductors and orchestrators in Hollywood. His film and TV credits include La La Land, Trolls, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, Minions, Ant-Man, Empire, CHiPs and Frozen. He is the most prolific orchestrator and conductor in the world of video games having worked on the God of War,Infamous and Batman: Arkham series.

Davies is an active arranger as well. Recent highlights include arranging and playing drums for the twentieth anniversary concert of NAS’ Illmatic and being lead arranger for Kendrick Lamar’s performance of To Pimp a Butterfly, both featuring the National Symphony at the Kennedy Center in Washington DC. He has arranged for albums by chart-topping artists Amy Winehouse, Akon, Miguel, Cee Lo Green and for orchestras all over the world from the Los Angeles Philharmonic to the Metropol Orkest in the Netherlands. He plays drums and writes for his own group, the 18-piece Tim Davies Big Band, and has received two Grammy nominations for Best Instrumental Composition, in 2010 and 2016.

Recently Davies has been in demand as a composer, having worked with two-time Oscar winner Gustavo Santaolalla on the score to the Fox animated film The Book of Life. This was also the beginning of a partnership with producer/director Guillermo del Toro, which led to writing additional music for Crimson Peak and now creating the Annie-nominated score for his new TV show, Trollhunters, produced by Dreamworks Animation for Netflix.

In 2013 he launched his orchestration blog www.debreved.com, which has since become an important resource for composers and orchestrators all over the world. Daviesis on the board of Education Through Music Los Angeles, helping provide music education for underprivileged children.

5/6/17 – Harmonic Rhythm and Special Guest Brent Fischer

PLEASE NOTE NEW SATURDAY TIME and EXTENDED FORMAT
HARMONIC RHYTHM AND SPECIAL GUEST SPEAKER BRENT FISCHER

On Saturday May 6th at 10am we’ll continue our exploration of harmonic rhythm, focusing on how jazz players and composers use chord movement…this topic comprises much more than cool chord substitution and complicated altered harmony. Harmonic rhythm defines phrases, form and pacing, and your heightened awareness of the flow of harmony will direct and focus the emotional content of your writing. We will refer to examples from Ellington/Strayhorn and Bob Brookmeyer.

Then after a break I’ll introduce our special guest Brent Fischer. Brent is the son of the late, great composer and pianist Clare Fischer, who was one of our most prolific and innovative jazz composers and performers. Brent is a fantastic composer and multi-instrumentalist in his own right. He collaborated frequently with his dad, but also has developed his own unique musical voice as a composer and performer. Brent will present some Clare’s harmonic and orchestration concepts, and how he’s carrying on his dad’s legacy. This is deep stuff people, so bring your analog or digital notation aids and put on your thinking caps. We will have some handouts, and I will project all scores and examples, and they will be available online for your laptops or tablets. Please see http://ellingtonstudygroup.com for more details, and we’ll see you there.

 

Grammy®-winning producer, composer, arranger and recent Record of the Year nominee Brent Fischer credits his late father, Clare Fischer, for creating a family tradition of writing with a rich harmonic and orchestrational palette that has become the Fischer brand. A multi-instrumentalist (vibes, keys, bass, drums), Brent Fischer moves easily between genres. His arranging credits for pop, R&B and jazz royalty include: D’Angelo, Prince, Michael Jackson, Usher, Al Jarreau, Elvis Costello and The Roots. Brent Fischer directs all the Clare Fischer ensembles and produced the last eight Clare Fischer albums, including: Grammy®-nominated 2011 release ‘Continuum‘, 2012 Grammy®-winning ‘¡Ritmo!‘ (Best Latin Jazz Album) and 2013 Grammy®-winning ‘Music for Strings, Percussion and the Rest’ (Best Instrumental Composition). The new Clare Fischer Latin Jazz Big Band release ‘¡Intenso!’ features Sheila E. and Roberta Gambarini.

2/25/17 – Hello and Goodbye

Saturday Feb. 25th, 2017 at Vitello’s E-Spot Lounge, Studio City, 10am – noon

 

On Saturday: Geek alert! I want to spend some time talking about what some call “harmonic rhythm”, a way of describing chords or a chord progression movingthrough time and how harmonic movement can define phrases and form. I’ll discuss how you might use the ebb and flow of some jazz harmony to expand the usual contemporary diatonic/modal vocabulary of a lot of today’s film and pop music. It’s all about opening up your inner ear and unlocking emotional and expressive potential of even the simplest phrase…and along the way perhaps leading you to a deeper understanding and appreciation of the jazz harmonic language.

 

Then we’ll move to a detailed discussion of “Hello and Goodbye” by Bob Brookmeyer from “Live at the Vanguard” by Mel Lewis and the Jazz Orchestra.  I’ll have a projected full score and printed musical example handouts. Be square or be there! –Scott

Saturday Feb. 25th, 2017 at Vitello’s E-Spot Lounge, Studio City, 10am – noon

Cover charge: $12 includes continental breakfast
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Vitello’s E-Spot Lounge – 4349 Tujunga Ave Studio City, CA 91604
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