Category Archives: Classes

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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11/11/16 – Thad, Duke, and some College Chords

screen-shot-2016-11-09-at-12-30-25-pmOn Friday we will dive back into large ensemble voicing, first by revisiting “Diminuendo and Crescendo in Blue” by Duke Ellington. Duke’s work in the mid 1930’s predicted and influenced the “modern” big band arrangers.

screen-shot-2016-11-09-at-12-31-45-pm

Then…it’s Thad, Thad and More Thad (Jones, that is)…this time with an emphasis on jazz theory and harmony. His style fulfillment of the Old Testament Swing Era prophecy. This new sound is rich with thick harmony and intense harmonic movement…and impeccable voicing and balancing technique. We’re going to see lots of “college chords” and some challenging jazz theory – we will refer to examples from “Inside the Score” by Rayburn Wright.
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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9/23/2016 – More Gil, more Thad

miles-aheadAt the September 23rd meeting we will start off by taking a quick listen to “Maids of Cadiz” by Gil Evans and Miles Davis. We’ll talk about some of the broad strokes: form, pace, and how Gil shapes this evocative and powerful piece. Then we’ll dive back into large ensemble voicing technique, continuing with the antiphonal style of Sammy Nestico, and introducing the chromatic, cross-doubled method of Thad Jones. We’ll refer to Ray Wright’s “Inside the Score” and Don Sebesky’s “The Contemporary Arranger”, and talk about strategies that might make your writing clearer, more transparent, expressive and powerful…and get us away from the screen and onto the score paper, away from the keyboard and back into your “inner” ear. See you then!

6/24/16 – Clear and Transparent Voicing Technique (that still grooves!)

On the 24th we’ll delve in to Ellington’s “Such Sweet Thunder”. This piece is a great example of the use of riffs, space, harmony, layering, groove, and economical jazz writing. There’s so much to say, I bet it takes an hour at least. Then we will begin a detailed study of large ensemble voicing, the way it’s officially “taught” in the textbooks…using as reference excerpts from Ray Wright’s “Inside the Score” and Don Sebesky’s “Contemporary Arranger”. We’ll discuss the different ways to stack and meld big band horns, particularly in the antiphonal style of Sammy Nestico, and if we have time, we will begin the melded, cross-doubled style of Thad Jones. This will be a great way to get us off the computer, away from the MIDI/sample grind, and address true, clear, powerful and artistic jazz orchestration. Please bring analog staff paper and writing implements, there will be handouts. Be there or be square!  –Scott

Last class was “Ko-Ko” and “Moten Swing”, we talked about form, voicing, and particularly orchestrating for a smaller horn section. Good stuff!