Public Domain Jazz X-mas Fake Book

Stephen Cox has put together a nice fakebook of public domain X-mas tunes. He has included 23 holiday standards with charts in concert, Bb, Eb and bass clef. Just in time for your holiday gigs. This is a free download.

Thanks Stephen!

Public Domain Christmas Jazz Fake Book


Doug Webb's ii-7 V7 subs

Here is a page of saxophonist Doug Webb's ii-7 V7 substitutions from a clinic he did at Casa Valdez last year. Audio of Doug playing through all of these to follow soon. These are pure gold!

click aboove for a larger version


Scales of Slash Chords

  1. C/C = C Major Scale or C Lydian Scale
  2. Db/C = C Phrygian Scale or C Locrian Scale
  3. D/C = C Lydian Scale
  4. Eb/C = C Dorian Scale
  5. E/C = C Lydian Augmented Scale
  6. F/C = F major Scale
  7. Gb/C = C (Half-step/Whole step) Diminished Scale
  8. G/C = C Major Scale
  9. Ab/C = Ab Major Scale
  10. A/C = C (Half-step/Whole step) Diminished Scale
  11. Bb/C = C Mixolydian
  12. B/C = C (Whole step/Half-step) Diminished Scale


Joe Viola Plays Manny Albam- Jazz in the Classroom, Vol.III..INCREDIBLE!!!!

 Joe Viola changed my life. My entire concept of saxophone sound, technique and teaching was a result of my studies with him. I owe so much to him and think about him almost every time I play or teach. His words of wisdom echo in my skull, but more than that...his saxophone sound rings in my head as something like my Platonic ideal of what a saxophone should sound like. Joe V had the intonation of an angel and his tone was pure, clear and just plain lovely. He would always say that whether you are playing Classical or Jazz, a good saxophone sound was a good saxophone sound. Some might argue this point, but when you heard him play it was quite clear that this statement was true.

 A saxophonist buddy of mine who went to the same high school as I did and then also studied with Joe at Berklee after I did just sent me a recording that I have been dying to hear for many, many years. It is Joe Viola's 'Jazz in the Classroom' album that was put out by Berklee in 1959. The album was done in the Berklee studios on two track reel to reel. Viola overdubbed all of the woodwind parts, playing all of the saxophones, flute, oboe, English horn, clarinet, and bass clarinet. The first side is in a Classical style and the second side is sax quartet with an added rhythm section of Ray Santisi, Gene Cherico and Alan Dawson. Manny Albam was a rising star as a composer and arranger and he composed everything on the album. The entire recording is truly mind blowing. The sax quartet tracks just sound impossibly good, because no section sounds that in tune, tight or phrases together so well. The great thing about this recording is that you can play along with it because all of the Jazz in the Classroom scores are in the online Berklee archives. I have included links to each score with each MP3 track. Playing along with Joe makes me feel like I am back in his studio with him again. Hearing this was incredibly inspiring, but it also made a mere mortal like myself feel like a lazy slug.

Joe Viola Plays Manny Albam: Berklee's Jazz in the Classroom series, Vol.III

Hal Crook play-alongs- Berklee archives

Hal Crook is one of the most gifted professors at Berklee College of Music. I played in his big band when I was at school there and his big band compositions are about that best that I have ever encountered. He is an incredible trombonist and a demanding educator and I still use his books with my private students. I just ran across an entire stash of his educational play-alongs while I was looking through the Berklee online archives today.

 There are 45 different play-along tracks with parts in concert, Eb, Bb and bass clef. He also includes a guide tone line for each composition, each tune being a contra fact of a Jazz standard. The guide tone lines notes are marked in red on the melody parts so you can see how the melody was created from the guide tone lines.You can tell that he wrote the tunes specifically for educational purposes, but they are all still very hip. There are nicely recorded audio play-along tracks for each tune at reasonable tempos. What a great find!

Hal Crook's Berklee Play-Alongs


PDX Jazz @ The Mission Theater To Open Fall Season with David Valdez & The Latin Side of Cannonball Adderley

The David Valdez Latin Jazz Ensemble kicks off the PDX Jazz @ The Mission Theater Fall season on Thursday, September 19 at 7:00PM in a program dedicated to the "Latin Side of Cannonball Adderley." This special one-time performance will feature trumpeter Tom Barber, bassist Dave Captein, drummer Todd Strait, percussionist Mario Sandoval, and out front on alto sax, David Valdez.

"Julian 'Cannonball' Adderley was one of the most important alto saxophonists in jazz, and a musician who had a profound impact on my musical concept," states Valdez. "When I was younger, Cannonball was a more obvious influence in my sound, and later on his influence remained as an energetic approach to the instrument. From my perspective, he was one of the only altoists who approached Bird's level of technical mastery and fluidity. Cannonball had total mastery of his instrument, but his playing was also full of raw emotion - a rare combination. There is a distinctly freewheeling and boisterous quality to his music, but he could also change gears and sound highly refined and romantic."

"Throughout his career," Valdez continues, "Adderley seemed to always understand how to connect with audiences, this was due in part to his deep grounding in the blues. He brought an earthy bluesy approach to everything he played, which was a perfect balance to Coltrane's rarified improvisations with the Miles Davis Quintet of the late fifties. 1962 was a busy year for Adderley; he released four albums for Riverside Records, including Cannonball's Bossa Nova, which featured an established group of L.A. based Brazilian studio musicians, among them pianist, Sergio Mendes. This was at the height of the Bossa Nova craze, and quite possibly Riverside was instrumental in encouraging Adderley to follow in the footsteps of Stan Getz. Whatever the motivations for this new musical direction were, Ball's approach mixed elegance and a fiery energy that many similar recordings of this era lacked."

 Valdez has selected a vast body of Adderley's works including: "Stars Fell on Alabama," "Joyce's Samba," "Lolita," "Heads Up! Feet Down!," "Goodbye," "Minha Suadade," "Clouds," "Lisa," and "I Concentrate On You," among others.

David Valdez & The Latin Side of Cannonball Adderley
Thursday, September 19 @ 7:00PM

David Valdez - alto saxophone
Tom Barber - trumpet
George Colligan-piano
Dave Captein - bass
Mario Sandoval - percussion
Todd Strait - drums
Tickets $15 in advance and at the door.
Please note new starting time of 7:00PM


Eddie Daniels' Oleo solo- by Mark Sowlakis

Analysis and Thoughts on Eddie Daniels' Oleo solo from the clinic at NTSU, 4/8/1986

  Pulling apart Eddie Daniels solos is a very rewarding challenge.  It is my opinion that Eddie is the greatest jazz clarinetist ever, and I've struggled for years to deconstruct his playing and to find out what he's thinking and feeling in his improvisations.  Gradually I'm getting better at hearing his ideas and figuring out a little bit of what he's about, and getting further insight into what he does.  It's amazing how he makes it sound so effortless.  There is much to be gained by slowing down his solos and really hearing and analyzing what's going on.  He's such a virtuoso that I simply cannot keep up with him at the tempos he's capable of playing, but I do get a lot out of his work by slowing it down and going over it a little at a time.  There is so much here in the three choruses of his Oleo rhythm changes solo……let's take a look and see what we find.

After 16 bars of the basic Sonny Rollins melody, Eddie takes off on the bridge…..we should all be familiar with the III7-VI7-II7-V7 progression of these changes in bars 17-24.  He connects that common tone High E over the E7/A7, then snakes a nice phrase that outlines the A7 and hits some interesting dissonances, the #9/b9 combined with the minor 7th, major 3rd, and then descends chromatically to the 9th of the D7, before abruptly changing directions to finish the phrase in the upper register.  He then begins his phrase over the G7 by outlining an Ab triad before working it back to the G7 that then resolves to the A section….however in this A section, he plays a very cool ascending motive that rather seems to outline C diminished. This motive is repeated and taken higher and higher, creating a nice displacement effect until it reaches it's apex, high E, which serves to resolve this A section and set up his four note G7 eighth note phrase that begins his two chorus solo.  Already in this melody statement we've seen some interesting and masterful craftsmanship
  I've added the typical Rhythm Changes chord changes into this transcription not because they are the exact changes sounding at all times, but as a reference to analyze Eddie's note choice against.  The eighth notes that transition chorus one into chorus two clearly outline the G7 to Cmaj cadence across this double bar line. Bar two clearly outlines the Dmin G7, where he plays the #5 over the G7, and then he clearly uses some substitution…..it's obvious that he's using a 1235 figure over Cmaj, Ebmaj, Abmaj, Dbmaj, which are tritone subs for the standard A7, D7, G7 in bars three and four.  In bars 5 and 6 he goes right through the I, I7, IV changes and then uses sharp four diminished before finishing this phrase.  I love how there's four beats of silence that follow, setting up the new motivic development phrases that follow for four bars. He chooses nice dissonances over the A7 in bar 9 of this chorus, notice the flat 9 flat 13, and repeats this four note motive five times, before finishing this section with some obvious cadential material that leads into the bridge. Right away in the bridge you should be struck by the obvious F melodic minor scale that he uses, which we should all know as an E altered dominant scale. Over the following A7 chord is uses the b13, the f natural, in combination with the major third and the flat nine, before going into a diminished run over the D7, creating that familiar b9 sound. Leading back to the A section he clearly uses a ii-V lick, then goes through the standard changes, outlining a D7b9 and a G7b9 in bar 27.

  He transitions into the next chorus with a very cool syncopation of an ascending interval that he begins to widen out, and again he blows through the first 8 bars in a very typical diatonic fashion. In bars 9, 10 and 11 he uses something that to me seems like a lick out of a classical concerto, maybe Weber or something similar. He then finishes this first 16 bars with some more typical changes blowing……and then he does some nice stuff on the bridge that offsets the torrent of previous notes. Notice the use of the #11, the G#, over the D7's, and the sharp nine Bb and flat 13 E flat over the G7 's. I really like how he goes from the fast passages in the second eight, to the drawn out passages of the bridge, to the quarter note stuff in bars 25-27. He finishes off this solo with two more typical bebop phrases that employ some very obvious C major scale stuff and passing tones between the chord tones through the final bar and final cadence, concluding the final phrase with the flat 9 sharp 9 G#/A# against the G7 that resolves to C major over the bar double line. 

I can't think of another clarinetist that can consistently conceive of these types of be bop solo ideas and execute them with such precision and aplomb as Eddie Daniels, particularly at these types of tempos. It all sounds so simple until you strap on a reed, pick up a clarinet and try to keep up with him. Good luck with that!  I hope you enjoyed this post and maybe even learned something!
Mark Sowlakis
familiar with the III7-VI7-II7-V7 progression of these changes in bars 17-24.  He connects that common tone High E over the E7/A7, then snakes a nice phrase that outlines the A7 and hits some interesting dissonances, the #9/b9 combined with the minor 7th, major 3rd, and then descends chromatically to the 9th of the D7, before abruptly changing directions to finish the phrase in the upper register.  He then begins his phrase over the G7 by outlining an Ab triad before working it back to the G7 that then resolves to the A section….however in this A section, he plays a very cool ascending motive that rather seems to outline C diminished. This motive is repeated and taken higher and higher, creating a nice displacement effect until it reaches it's apex, high E, which serves to resolve this A section and set up his four note G7 eighth note phrase that begins his two chorus solo.  Already in this melody statement we've seen some interesting and masterful craftsmanship. 

Mark Sowlakis web site

Audio file of ED's Oleo solo
PDF:  Oleo:ED


Theo Wanne Gaia Mouthpiece review- by Michael Conley

Review of Theo Wanne's Gaia Mouthpiece for alto saxophone-

 The first thing one notices about the Wanne Gaia mouthpiece is the careful packaging, including a zippered case for the mouthpiece packed inside, and an oversize box. The box includes a screwdriver with a tiny Phillips head for changing the pressure plates on the finely wrought ligature. The mouthpiece is very nicely made, and fine craftsmanship is evident in the elegant design, with a gold embossed logo, a gold-plated brass ring around the shank and the gold metal ligature. For me the rubber on the Gaia felt a little harder than that of other pieces, with a slight pebbling of the exterior surface. I tried the two mouthpieces Theo sent me, a #6 and a #7, with the included Wanne ligature, but also with the Rovner light ligature that I currently use. I used a Rigotti Gold 3.5 strong reed on the Wanne pieces as well as on a borrowed NY Meyer 7 and a Drake NY Jazz #6, which I played for comparison, on my Mark VI alto.

    The Wanne mouthpiece boasts a " precision crafted True Large Chamber". Photos and text on the Wanne website illuminate what is meant by this, explaining the machining innovations which allow for precise cutting of unusual inside shapes before only obtainable by molding material. These Gaia pieces have a slight baffle, described as a "Medium Roll-Over Baffle", which was evident in the sound, imparting a brighter sound than anticipated by the promotional materials, which compare it to  "The sound of a vintage Meyer Bros. mouthpiece, just better". Of course that is a tall claim, and while I did not have one of those legendary pieces to try for comparison, I believe they would have a darker sound than the Gaia, as did the "New York" Meyer that I had available, and the Drake as well. That said, I did find the Gaia to be a very nice mouthpiece, free-blowing and easy to play, and also very even from bottom to top. One thing I noticed was that the altissimo was very strong. I usually play as high as E4, but when I got up there I found that I could easily keep  going higher. Several minutes later, playing in D minor, I effortlessly nailed an F4 without thinking about it. I was able to produce even higher notes that would require some woodshedding to get under control, and that was a nice feeling- wow!  That characteristic alone would be a decisive factor for some players. I also experimented with some multi-phonics and was able  to get them to speak consistently, as I do on other mouthpieces I like. The Gaia has plenty of volume and projects well in all registers.   

     I was wondering if the extra pressure plate included would indeed have an effect on the sound. How much effect could a different type of metal on this tiny part have on the overall sound? I was pleasantly surprised to get a noticeably darker sound when I switched from the gold to the "heavy copper". I was able to compare instantly as I had two ligs, one with the original gold, and the other changed to the copper plate. Wanne offers several other materials for this tiny component, and I can imagine some players would want to experiment to fine tune the sound to taste. I personally found that the Rovner ligature responded fine on the Gaia and was easier for me to compare and evaluate since I am used to it. The Wanne ligature does have it's good points, which include a certain clarity in the tone. I found the cap awkward, as I usually put a cap on during the set when I put down one horn for another instrument. The Wanne cap requires the player to loosen the ligature screw and insert it between the reed and ligature's pressure plate.  So it will protect the tip, but it is not really a "cap". On his company's website, Wanne notes that another maker's cap will fit his ligatures in situations like I described.

    My second test took place at Casa Valdez Studio across town. I wanted David Carlos Valdez to help me evaluate the qualities of the mouthpiece and for him to try them as well. Valdez found the #6 to be darker and more to his liking. I thought he sounded great on it, but then again, he is one of those guys who sound great no matter what!  When I was playing  he was easily able to distinguish the Gaia by sound alone from the Meyer and the Drake. He also noticed the difference in the pressure plates by listening alone. David plays a vintage Link, and is unlikely to switch to a new product, but he agreed that the Gaia is very even and easy to play, and we both believe that it is well suited to players going for a contemporary sound with a bit of brightness at the core.

Michael Conley

    Another thing I did at Casa Valdez was try the Gaia using David's keyless alto to test the harmonics and overtones. Again, here the Gaia was ready to speak in the altissimo.

    There are many parameters to mouthpiece making and adjustment, and Theo Wanne is definitely on to something with his innovations. His website is packed with technical details beyond the scope of this review, and I do recommend that interested players take a look to learn more about what goes into his process. The site includes a very thorough Mouthpiece Glossary. I am interested in trying his saxes as well, and some of the other accessories coming out later.  I appreciate the energy and research he is devoting to bringing us new options for refining our playing.-

Note from David Valdez:
I wished these pieces were darker. They kind of blow like vintage Meyer pieces, except that they are way brighter. They response well and have a nice feel, but they seem like more of a contemporary piece rather than a warm vintage style piece. Theo's site says, "due to its True Large Chamber, it has an even bigger, fuller sound than the vintage mouthpieces", which did not seem to be true to me. The Gaia has a long flat baffle that drops into what I would describe as a bullet Berg-like chamber, so there is no way these puppies are going to really sound like a vintage Meyer. Personally, I want a really warm dark alto sound and unfortunately the Gaia did not do it for me.  

The Theo Wanne piece retails for $499
Theo Wanne's Gaia

Micheal 'Shoehorn' Conley website


So You Want to be a Professional Musician?- by Dan Wilensky

Saxophonist Dan Wilensky recently moved to Portland for NYC and has been a nice addition to the scene here. He sent me this article, which will soon be published in Downbeat.


by Dan Wilensky

If you are a considering, beginning, or rekindling a career in music, you have a few choices to make.  Clearly, you have to practice and study a lot, play with as many people as you can, and recognize good opportunities when they arise.  But should you go to college?  Or back to college?  If so, should you get a degree in composition or, say, physics?  Where should you live to maximize your employment possibilities?  Are you ready for the road?  Is it a good idea to transcribe solos?  Should you take the time to master Garage Band and Pro Tools?  Do you want to focus exclusively on one type of music, or become a jack of all styles?  If you're not independently wealthy, are you ready to face financial Armageddon?

It's enough to make you reconsider your chosen vocation.

At sixteen, I was well along in my quest to be a professional musician: I developed voracious practice habits on saxophone, flute and piano, composed and transcribed every day, gave lessons to younger kids, street-played, sat in and gigged at local clubs, and spent a year studying with Joe Henderson. Then I deferred a scholarship to Eastman to tour with Ray Charles for 6 months .  By the time I arrived in frigid Rochester for the spring semester, I fancied myself a bonafide road warrior.  Though Eastman was and is a superb school, the lure of academia quickly faded, and I hightailed it down to NYC.  35 years later, I can say that it was the right path––for me.

Times have changed, and two trends have conspired to make things more difficult for musicians of all ages: there are more musicians than ever, and fewer places to play.  Technology––always a double-edged sword––has done it's part, and the occasional economic catastrophe hasn't helped.  But there's another "culprit": the preponderance of college graduates with degrees in jazz performance and the like.  Let's deal with this thorny issue first.

Somewhere along the line, people stopped going to school merely to get a good education.  Now, even junior-high kids obsess about their career paths, and a basic liberal arts education is viewed by many as quaint.  For the purpose of this article, I'll (somewhat reluctantly) assume that you were never interested in procuring a B.A. in poetry.

But if you're harboring delusions of busting out of music school, degree in hand, and living la vida loca like some Duke Ellington or Dave Brubeck, get real!  Different times, different audiences.  You've always had to play better than the next guy.  But now, in addition to being a superior sight-reader, doubler and arranger, you have to master studio and computer skills, networking, self-promotion and graphics, plus have a winning personality to get even a whiff of a career in music.  Shoot for the stars, but keep in mind that success stories like Wynton Marsalis are extremely rare––the NBA of the music business.  There are a lot of other kids on the block that play good hoops.

A perfunctory look at the current music marketplace should convince any college-bound musician to consider a variety of options.

If you are ready for the big time (i.e., you can really play, and a whole gaggle of experienced musicians and teachers have told you as much), it wouldn't hurt to simply go forth and do your thing.  You'll never know unless you try, and  you can always go back to school later if things don't work out.  If you lack the desire or confidence to pursue that dream, think about what sort of degree would be truly useful.  Obviously if you intend to teach music in a public or private school, a degree in music education is essential.  And if you want to be in an orchestra, you probably won't even get to audition unless you've graduated from a superior music school.  A masters in composition might come in handy too.

But there's another, possibly more practical choice: keep working on your music while you secure your future with a degree in something else.  Even with all the stories in the press about MBAs living with their parents, you are much more likely to make a better living if you have a college degree.  Then you can subsidize your jazz habit with a decent job.

If you have any spare time, learn Pro Tools, or at least Garage Band.

Regarding location, you exponentially increase your employment opportunities by living in a big city.  That model has been somewhat altered by over-the-internet recording technologies, but there's still a ton of other stuff happening in the world's great music metropolises.  That's where you'll test your mettle and make the most connections.

And the questions about what and how to practice?  Try it all.  See what's right for you.  I heard Chris Potter discussing the merits of learning songs and solos by ear.  Can't argue with those results!  But you can find numerous luminaries who copiously transcribed every last Charlie Parker solo.  I did a lot of both.  Learning by ear gives you a leg up when you're on the bandstand; you sharpen your response time in the heat of the moment.  Conversely, transcribing solos helps by slowing everything down; you can analyze the compositional structure, cop the nuances, improve your manuscript, and create a useful document.

When you practice don't give yourself a concert; you should work on what you don’t know and continually challenge yourself with material that is slightly more advanced than what you can play now.  Practice every day.  If your neighbors aren't complaining, something is amiss.  Listen to recordings of your own playing with a critical ear, and assess where you need work.  Don't bother to listen to that “perfect” solo for the tenth time unless you desperately need to boost your ego.

Be sure to go out to hear your mentors and your colleagues play.  You'll (hopefully) be inspired, increase your visibility, and gain insight into what works and what doesn't.  Ask to sit in; if you sound less than mellifluous, address it the next morning. Go back out there and kick some ass.  It's that determination and perseverance that will see you through the inevitable ebb and flow of a career in music.

Finally, I haven't suggested specific scales, exercises or songs for you to practice as I assume you’ll practice everything.  And I assume you will listen to everything; don't confuse "don't like" with "can't do."  You should surround yourself with music, books about music, and musical instruments; teach and take lessons; go to concerts; listen to and play something new every day; eat and breathe music.  Then take a vacation.


Dan Wilensky has toured and recorded with hundreds of artists, including Ray Charles, Jack McDuff, Slickaphonics, Steve Winwood, Joan Baez, Cornell Dupree, Mark Murphy, R. Kelly, Manhattan Transfer, James Brown and David Bowie.  He has played on numerous jingles, film soundtracks and TV themes, and can be heard on over 250 records.  His books, Musician! and Advanced Sax, and his four CDs as a leader, are available at danwilensky.com and other channels.

Dan's web site


Posterous disaster

Some of you may have noticed that many of my media links haven't been working. That is because Posterous, the web site that was hosting of my media files, is now defunct. I'm in the process of migrating all of these files to a Wordpress blog. I have four years worth of files that I had to change all the links for, so it has been a total drag. I'm finished now. Thanks for your patience!


The Music of Jerry Bergonzi- free PDF download!!

Jeff Elwood just finished compiling and engraving a PDF of Jerry Bergonzi's original tunes. Jerry wanted to offer the 244 page PDF for free as a digital download. There is a both Bb and a concert PDF. I have a session set up tomorrow at my place to read some of the tunes.

Here's what Jeff has to say about the project:

"This project was a labor of love. Having been a fan of Jerry’s playing and writing since 1st hearing the Standard Gonz recording, I decided recently to send him an email to see if he would be willing to share some of his lead sheets.  I then received emails from Jerry and saw that everything was handwritten. I asked Jerry if he ever thought of making cleaned up versions of his tunes and selling it as an ebook. He loved the idea! Who would have known that I would do close to 200 tunes? I enjoyed every minute of the process, but mostly enjoyed my conversations with Jerry. What a kind, humble man!

In talking, Jerry then decided he wanted to give the book away for free. He is truly honored by people taking interest in his music. Jerry is a well-respected musician and educator, and this book will help to preserve his great legacy. Since this book is being given away for free, I ask that you purchase Jerry’s recordings, as many of the tunes will be difficult to play without hearing them. Please enjoy this great catalog of compositions!- Jeff Ellwood"

Download The Music of Jerry Bergonzi


The Music of Kurt Rosenwinkel blog- How does he do it?

 I just saw Kurt when he came to Portland last February for the PDX Jazz festival. He gave a clinic earlier in the day before his show, which was really more of an interview. I was struck by the level of devotion of his young guitar playing devotees. We got a chance to catch up before his concert and he told me about his upcoming show at Madison Square Garden with Eric Clapton and Alan Holdsworth, solidifying his guitar god status if anyone had any doubts. A buddy of mine just forwarded a link to a blog written by a heart-core Rosenwinkel disciple call The Music of Kurt Rosenwinkel (how does he do it?). The blog is a clearing house for all things KR, there are videos, transcriptions, lessons, gear and recordings. This is definitely a player's blog for players and if you love Kurt's playing you need to check this site out.

The Music of Kurt Rosenwinkel- How does he do it?

The Jazz Conception Company

 Interactive Jazz educational products have come a long way since the first Jamey Aebersold play-alongs. Do any of you remember putting pennies on top of the record player stylus to get the pitch lower? That shows how old I am. I have reviewed several different online and DVD products on this blog in the past and each year more high tech educational products are released. I have used Jim Snidero's play-along etudes and Walt Weiskopf's books with my students for years so I was excited to see that the two of them had collaborated on a multi-media product.

 The Jazz Conception Company has put together two series of video lessons that feature Snidero and Weiskopf that you can use with an iPad or a desktop. The first is a 10 lesson Jazz improvisation series (with 19 play-alongs) for all instruments and the second is an 8 lesson Jazz saxophone series (with 8 play-alongs). The production values are top notch and the price point is much lower than many other interactive products, with a year subscription for the improvisation lessons running $49.99 and the saxophone lessons at $39.95. That for about 4 hours of improvisation lessons and two and a half hours of saxophone lessons, plus all of the play-alongs.

 I was a hoping that the lessons were aimed at towards advanced players, but they are more for beginning and beg-intermediate level players. The play-alongs aren't as challenging as Snidero's play-along books and you won't get the advanced level material that you might see in Weiskopf's improv books. That said, the lessons are very good and the presentation is excellent for a beg-intermediate level player. I have done a lot of video and DVD production in my time and I can say that the production quality is fantastic. You really get a lot for your money compared to other multi-media products and the use of mobile technology is groundbreaking. It looks like the company is planning more lesson series in the future so I really look forward to seeing what direction these more advanced lessons will take, since both Snidero and Weiskopf have a track record of creating some of the best Jazz educational materials on the market.

The Jazz Conception Company


Drop 2 worksheet

Thanks to Dan Gaynor for this one
(Click on above graphic for a larger version)


Rafael Navarro Interview

DCV: Tell about where you went to school, who you studied with and which players were major influences for you? This is always something that I'm interested in finding out from MP makers because I like to know what their ideal saxophone sound is.

RN: I went through the school of hard knocks. I never studied music formally. I have a BA in Sociology and moved onto Engineering and have worked as a sales engineer for 14 years. Music started earlier for me. I started singing at 11 and by 15 was already singing with local groups and so on. I picked the horn very late and worked the best I could on my own by listening to records and just being ballsy enough to go to jam sessions. I developed rather quickly, but stopped playing for a living at 33. Sound however; was very easy for me to produce, perhaps due to my singing background. Nonetheless, I’ve listened and still listen to Lester, Getz, Lee Morgan, Clifford Brown, Hank Mobley, Sonny Stitt & Rollins, Phil Woods, Art Pepper, Joe Henderson, Bob Mintzer, Brecker, Malach, Oliver Nelson, Dexter, Stanley Turrentine, Trane & Cannonball and goes on.
To me, the perfect saxophone sound has to have core and great balance of mids, high and lows. Hank Mobley had a great sound in that respect. Joe Henderson also had some of that too. So perhaps, Mobley, Sonny Rollins, Henderson, Trane and Dexter are from where my concepts come from tenor and Stitt and Phil Woods and Cannonball on alto. Mintzer has a lot of that package with a modern vibe, but still he does like the old school and is in his playing.

DCV: I read the story on your site about how you first started working on pieces when tried to save a mouthpiece that you dropped, then later you trained under Pedro then eventually under Ralph Morgan. Can you tell me a bit about how those two masters worked?

RN: Both Pedro and Ralph were pretty knowledgeable craftsmen. Pedro is quite an exceptional minded human being. He can do Jewelry, re-wire an alternator, make his on gold and silver bath’s, make a mouthpiece, fix a horn, restore a horn, rebuild an engine, build houses, you name it. I think Pedro was very influential on the way I approach things. He is very methodical but also practical. He can see point from A to point B before you even knew it. That of course comes with experience but I also think is part of his factory package. Thinking ahead and learn how to use my hands and brains together is what I really learned from him.

DCV: I had a long talk with Ralph and he was a real character. He seemed to have very particular ideas about what a saxophone setup should be. What was it like to work with him and how did his ideas affect your own pieces?

Ralph Morgan
RN: I really had a great time with Ralph. I really never debated his thoughts but just watched him work and asked lots of questions. We spent our time talking about saxophone and mouthpiece making history.  He let me opened a file cabinet he had and I started reading and getting to see drawings and all kinds of stuff you can rarely see around. I was like a kid in a candy store. On Sunday, I remembered he picked me up and took me to Church. That was quite an interesting moment for me, because the man took his bible really serious and he did operate on Christian values. It was very interesting for me to see him as a whole package and not just as a mouthpiece maker. I do remember him giving me the Joe Allard SBA prototype to play. Man, it was a great horn. Right then, he saw me putting the neck towards my left side. He basically said, well; I think I should just teach how this thing works. Put the neck towards the lyre …I did so and noticed the sound did changed somewhat, or perhaps was my imagination… As I remember, he thought it was the way the neck was intended to be placed.

DCV: What inspired you to begin making your own pieces, and what type of piece did you first start with?

RN: I think I had it in me for 22 years. I really liked to manufacture things with my own hands and furthermore make it available to people. It is not an easy task but I am trying and will keep on doing it. Pricing on vintage pieces has gotten out of hand. I think we all should try alternatives, and there are so many good ones out there.

DCV: What were some vintage pieces that inspired your own pieces?

RN: On the vintage side, for the metal Maestra the Zimberoff was very big influences, although my pieces do not play like them, the chamber size is really close. I am of course influenced by those great Dukoff Stubbies, FL links and Double Rings. My next two metal Maestras are going to be influenced by those nice short roll baffle Florida Links and the Double Ring. This will happen towards the summer. The prototype is done on and now I am slowly preparing to produce them.

As far as rubber tenor pieces, The Maestra was greatly influenced by the Reso Chamber. The body length of my piece is longer, but the chamber is perhaps a hair bigger than a Reso. This is also the case with the original Maestra I. The series has been revised to produce three types of pieces. The first one is already done and it takes after a later clam shell slant sig Link. The other two Maestra rubbers are influenced by a Reso chamber and an early Babbitt with a short step baffle for those who want that type of zing .

The Rubber and Metal Bahia's came from a modification I did on a Reso-Chamber by adding a slope baffle. They are more centered and could be bright for some and focussed for others.

The Mintzer is a hybrid of everything I've seen. I of course have played Freddie Gregory's pieces, so in many ways his work influenced the way I finish my pieces, however our work and pieces sound and feel different. Freddie's work is so impeccable and all his pieces reflect the highest quality in work and sound.

DCV:  You said that you are getting your rubber from Germany, the same stuff that Zinner blanks are made from. Did you consider resin compounds or other sources of rubber?

RN: Yes, my rubber comes from the same factory Zinner gets his blanks from. It is the oldest and actually the inventor of rubber in collaboration with Goodyear.

DCV: I've talked to different mouthpiece makers about the difference between the old rubber and the stuff that they are making today and have never really gotten a clear answer. Can you tell me more about the manufacturing process?

RN: I spent a great deal of time understanding the process of making rubber. To do that I went to Germany and served as an apprentice at the factory that I get my rubber from. I worked in the factory for 15 days and rotated on every station in order to understand how the rubber is manufactured. Needless to say, it was a great experience, but also let me now how expensive it is to produce rubber. In fact, it cost me more to make a rubber piece than metal (raw materials only.)

I started by getting rubber from NYH in Germany and later found another company nearby who is making the same product only better in the sense that the marble tint is 100% FDA approved and the rubber seems to be as friendly to work as the rubber used on those early pieces. One of the guys that leads the production in NYH, went to this company, so the process was transferred and the quality control improved. I also tried other rubbers from Italy, France, US, China and Japan. None of them, with the exception of the Japanese rubber, were good. The Japanese rubber is good but does not machine, grind and buff the same way the German rubber does.
The rubber I get from Germany is produced the same way they have been doing it for a 100 years. Companies like Vandoren, Bari woodwinds, Selmer, Yanagisawa and Zinner are or had used this rubber for many years. Others like Morgan, use the same rubber dust as the one mentioned above, however the compounding is done here in the US. One of the most important things is to know how to cure the rubber. That is where the German Rubber is different from everyone else.
Morgan factory
Only Morgan cures the rubber in a similar way. You can use the same dust, but if you use other accelerators to cure it, the compound will definitely be different. German rubber is cured with Sulfur while others don't use that... BIG difference in outcome. Sulfur curing takes more hours than other accelerators.

In my case, I machine from rubber bars and I don't compress mold my parts. A rubber bar is simply denser in qualities. But lets keep in mind, that given the chance to mold with the right rubber, I would also do it as it will be a lot more cost effective. It is also equally important to have the right design otherwise, it doesn't matter which material you use, the end result is greatly influenced by the design.

DCV: What are the different pieces that you are making at the moment and how do they play differently?

RN: I am glad you said “at the moment” because there is more to come. I started making traditional sounding pieces, darker than most, yet they still have some of the traditional sounds. The Bahia is brighter but not overly bright to a great extent is like a link with more power and color.

DCV: You recently started working with Bob Mintzer on a Mintzer signature piece, can you tell me how that came about, also how is the Mintzer piece different from your other tenor pieces?

A: The Bebop Special has a unique palette of colors. It is not a bright piece, but rather more lush and velvety sound. It has a lot of buzz to the sound but you can also push it and get some edge from it. It has a great core and centered. It is more centered than all of my other models and I still think is darker to a great extent.
DCV: What are your plans for new mouthpieces?

RN:  An alto, bari and soprano will be launched soon. But there are other new models coming towards the fall, hopefully.

Navarro Saxophone Mouthpieces