Seattle Homecoming

As of last Friday May 25th, I am officially a Seattle resident for the first time since 2004.  I’m so happy to be back and can’t wait to start playing lots of great music with all the amazing musicians here.

So far I’m having a blast!  Trekked out to the Gorge on Saturday to see my friends in tUnE-yArDs tear it up in front of a very enthusiastic Sasquatch audience.  Also got to enjoy a mind-blowing performance by the Legendary Roots Crew from side-stage.  Questlove is my hero!  Then on Sunday night I played my first Seattle gig with Wayne Horvitz’s conduction band at the Royal Room.

Spread the word Seattle people, I’m ready to dive in and start doing some good work.  Recently revamped the teaching page on my website.  I’ll be available to teach from my new home in the Roosevelt neighborhood as well as a little bit at the Gallery 1412 near Capital Hill.  Also, I’ll be curating the Racer Session on Sunday June 17th (Father’s Day) at 8pm sharp.  More info to come.

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The Seven Days of Lennie (Day 7)

I Don’t Stand a Ghost of a Chance With You is not a Tristano original, but is nonetheless very connected to Tristano’s recorded legacy.  “Ghost of a Chance” has been recorded countless times by many of the greats including Bing Crosby (who co-authored the lyrics), Lester Young, Frank Sinatra, etc…  As far as I can tell there are only three recordings of Lennie playing this song:

1) Solo on September 23rd 1947 for the Victor Label

2) With Lee Konitz at the Confucius Restaurant on June 11th, 1955

3) Solo in Copenhagen on October 31st 1965.

I love each version, but have been really digging the early solo version lately.


Thanks for following along on The Seven Days of Lennie.  If any of you will be in Seattle on November 4th and 5th, I’ll be performing all of these compositions (and more) with my Quintet at the Gallery 1412 and Egan’s Ballard Jam House respectively.  For more details go here.

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The Seven Days of Lennie (Day 6)

We’re getting so close!  Lennie’s Pennies is definitely the most difficult Tristano composition I’ve learned thus far. The tune is based on “Pennies From Heaven” but altered to be in minor.  If you haven’t already do yourself a favor and check out Bing Crosby’s version (skip forward to 3 minutes in).  “Pennies” has one of the greatest verses I’ve ever heard.

Lennie’s line is difficult to learn as well as very difficult to play (measures 27-28 don’t lay too well on the alto sax).  The harmony in the 28th bar (5th to last) always eluded me.  It’s one of the most distinct and mysterious moments in the changes.  Even though they drop a beat early on, I love the intensity of this live recording with Warne and Gary Foster in 1971 at the Ice House.

Transcription: Lennie’s Pennies

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The Seven Days of Lennie (Day 5)

April is Tristano’s line based on the standard “I’ll Remember April” which I talked about in a previous post.  My transcription is mostly based on the performance from the Half Note in 1959 with Lee and Warne.  If you haven’t realized yet I’m a big Half Note fan!

The crazy rhythmic stuff at 36 seconds took me days to figure out, and was pretty confusing to write out.  Other great recordings of April include two versions from the 1955 Confucius Restaurant date with Lennie and Lee, and the 1952 Quintet performance in Toronto with some very noticeable differences.

Transcription: April

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The Seven Days of Lennie (Day 4)

Wow.  While some have theorized that this tune is inspired by “You Can Depend On Me,” Lennie’s long-time student Connie Crothers asserts that it is an original chord progression by Tristano.  In any case it’s a very unusual and challenging piece of music.  I love the restraint and purity of sound achieved on the original recording from the 1949 Capitol sextet recordings with Lennie, Lee, Warne, and Billy Bauer.

Transcription: Wow

BONUS: Warne Marsh’s handwritten chart for the tenor part

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The Seven Days of Lennie (Day 3)

Lennie-Bird (based on How High The Moon) is the most recent Tristano composition I’ve added to the repertoire.  I’ve never really been a huge fan of playing How High The Moon (although I can’t help loving this version).  But hearing Lennie’s line totally shed new light on it for me.  My favorite version is from the Half Note with Lee and Warne in 1959.  This is a somewhat insane challenge for horn players as there is very little opportunity to breath.  I love the tasteful places where Lee and Warne stop to breath.

Transcription: Lennie Bird

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The Seven Days of Lennie (Day 2)

All About You is a Lennie line based on the changes to the great standard “How About You?”  If you haven’t heard Judy Garland singing it you must, her version gives me goosebumps every time!

“All About You” is a line that saxophonist Warne Marsh played many times.  Here’s a version from the 1982 North Sea Jazz Festival with Warne and pianist Sal Mosca.  The way Mosca reharmonizes it is CRAZY…it almost sounds like a Monk tune.

And the transcription: All About You

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The Seven Days of Lennie (Day 1)

I’m excited to announce that in exactly one week I’ll be playing a couple gigs up in Seattle with my Lennie Tristano  Project.  Although I’ve always referred to this project as a “Lennie Band,” it’s only recently that we’ve expanded our repertoire enough to be able to play a full set of music comprised entirely of Tristano compositions.  Each day for the next week leading up to our first Seattle show I’ll be giving a little preview of one of the Lennie Lines that we will be playing.  Each post will include a recording (or several) as well as a transcription.  Enjoy!


317 E. 32nd St. (based on “Out of Nowhere”) is one of the most commonly played Tristano heads.  It’s one of the first ones I learned, and is a great tune to warm up on.  Listen to the way that Lee Konitz and Warne Marsh played it at the Half Note in 1959.  They’re soooo loose with some of those rhythms.  Check out the phrase at 36 seconds!!  The version of Lennie and the Quintet live in Toronto in ’52 is great as well.

Here’s the transcription:  317 E. 32nd

**Note: all of these transcriptions are intended for practical performance use and don’t take into account many rhythmic idiosyncrasies.  Some of them compile different elements from different versions as these tunes were often played very differently each time.

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Standard Repertoire

Over the past six months I have been engaged with studying and performing the music of Lennie Tristano, Lee Konitz and Warne Marsh. My studies have renewed my longtime interest in the canon of great American standards. I have decided to write a little bit about a few of the songs that I have been exploring most recently.

These songs (and more) will be performed by my Quintet this Sunday February 27th at the Actual Cafe. For more info go here.

My friend Jesse Rimler of Kapowski recently turned me on to the book American Popular Song by Alec Wilder. I don’t know how I’ve gone so long without reading this book. It’s an amazing resource for anyone interested in songs from the first half of the 20th century.


Laura (1945)

Composed by David Raskin for the film of the same title. The movie, directed by Otto Preminger, is classic noir and totally worth watching.

The melody is hauntingly beautiful and complex, using lots of rich upper chord tones in the first 8 bars. According to Alec Wilder, before the lyrics had been added the publishers of the song unanimously agreed that such a complex melody could not be published. It wasn’t until they heard Johnny Mercer’s beautiful lyrics that they changed their mind. Interestingly Preminger has apparently gone on record saying he dislikes Mercer’s lyrics, which don’t have any strict correlation with the film itself.

I first learned the song out of a fake book when I was in junior high. My inspiration to play the tune came from a girl I had a huge crush on named Laura. Check out Ella Fitzgerald’s version.


My Shining Hour (1943)

Composed by Harold Arlen with lyrics by Johnny Mercer for the Fred Astaire film “The Sky’s the Limit.” Alec Wilder describes the song as representing “…sexless innocence and distilled simplicity.” Your life will not be complete until you’ve seen this clip from the movie. The magic of neon lights! The harmony around 0:35″ gives me goosebumps every time.

Guitarist John Klopotowski wrote a great line on this tune entitled “A Worthwhile Hour.” It’s our newest addition to the Quintet repertoire.


I’ll Remember April (1941)

Composed by Gene de Paul, the author of Star Eyes and You Don’t Know What Love Is. The song was originally sung by Dick Foran in the Abbot & Costello film “Ride ‘Em Cowboy.” I haven’t seen this film, but apparently it features the screen debut of Ella Fitzgerald.

The tune is unique in virtually every respect: the harmony rotates around G Major, modulating to the flat mediant major (Bb) and submediant major (E) during the bridge. This is especially wild in relation to the harmonic stasis of the A sections which start with an 8 bar pedal over G (4 bars of G Major, 4 bars of G minor). Alec Wilder considers the form to be A-B-C-D-A-B, though I would reduce that simply to A-B-A (I can’t think of another widely played standard with this same structure). What really seals the deal is the beautiful step-wise melody in the first 8 bars.

Lennie Tristano used the harmony as the basis for one of his most intricate lines entitled “April.” I’m particularly fond of this version from the complete Half Note recordings of Lee & Warne. Lee’s opening phrases are so good.

Theo Padouvas and I spent the last couple weeks learning this line by ear off the record. We’re totally pumped to perform it for the first time this Sunday.

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New Monthly Jazz Series in North Oakland!

This is an especially exciting month because I have been given the opportunity to begin booking a monthly jazz series at the Actual Cafe. The first event will take place Sunday February 27th from 5-7:30pm. Check out the flier for details.

The premise of this series is to provide an all-ages music venue that is collectively produced and supported by the local Bay Area jazz community. My hope is to provide a much needed opportunity for young student musicians to experience and become a more active part of the local scene.

HOWEVER, the number of people that attend the first show will entirely determine whether this series exists at all. If (and only if) the first show goes well then the cafe will commit to a series most likely taking place on the 3rd Sunday of each month from 7-10pm.

SO, please mark your calendars, spread the word, and help us get this series off the ground!


Below is a more detailed description of my two primary goals for the series if it continues:

1) To create a situation where a community of local creative musicians (i.e you) makes a commitment to attend and support this series every month. Specifically I intend to have each month’s event curated by a different person. That person will be responsible for planning an entire evening of music however they see fit. As you probably know this is a model in use by The Stone in NYC, as well as a highly successful series in Seattle: (the racer sessions received a big write up in the New York Times last summer, and recordings from each week are now being officially archived at the University of Washington). I think the curator structure is an effective way to broaden the scope of activities and make this series more relevant for more people.

I should say that I do not by any means wish for this series to strictly adhere to presenting “jazz” performances. This is merely a starting point as a way to sell the series to the management and general public. My impression is that as long as there is an established audience, it will be fairly easy to transition to more diverse programming.

2) To create an all-ages music series that seeks to connect with and involve high school/college age musicians. I rarely perform in venues that are accessible for anyone under 21. This is problematic because there are a lot of talented young people who could benefit from being exposed to music happening in the area. It would also be great if young musicians could have the opportunity to perform for an audience of older musicians. For those of you that are teachers, and are connected with the schools; you would be an excellent resource for achieving this goal.


Please leave comments and/or feel free to contact me directly if you are interested in helping. As always, thanks for reading!

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