Thursday 12 April 2012

Guitarist Ted Dunbar

I first came across the name Ted Dunbar  (January 17, 1937 in Port Arthur, Texas – May 29, 1998) as a teacher of Peter Bernstein. There's not many recordings available of the guitarist, but recently a few videos have appeared on Youtube - playing with Tony Williams' Lifetime and a wonderful duo performance from 1972 with Richard Davis (below).

Ted studied as a pharmacist and was a pupil of Wes Montgomery. As well as being an influential teacher, Ted worked with many great modern jazz musician (including McCoy Tyner, Sam Rivers and Gil Evans) and wrote a number of interesting books (here's his Wikipedia entry). I have tracked down one of them "A System of Tonal Convergence for Improvisers Composers and Arrangers". This is a system involving 24 scales that can be used to "converge" on the overall key centre. It's a fascinating book and I like is style. For example:
A tonal gravity law is created once you start to play music (in a key). The key of the music exerts a gravity pull on all other chords no matter what they be. The energy amassed in a jazz improvisor's solo has to be climatically released by arrival "home" to the overall key centre. The weight of this released energy causes a last moment of furious groping for approachment to finality through various formulas created under pressure.
Many airplanes approach New York from many convergent cities in the world. A king walks down the aisle and converges on his throne. Wine is a convergent pre-dinner beverage. Calisthenics are pre-game convergent exercises to football players. Bb7 is a standard V chord to Eb minor & major tonalities as well as many other chords and their parent scales in this convergent system.
The book has a home made quality - hand typed and self published, but it is a rich and fascinating resource and one that should be re-published and made widely available.

This diagram illustrates in the approach as the 24 scales "bombard" the F major key centre:

Ted Dunbar's Circle of Gravities
Ted Dunbar's Circle of Gravities [click to enlarge]

Ted's pupils Rick Stone and Amanda Monaco published versions of the list that Ted gave all his students that they had to practice every day. If you ever nailed all of these tunes you would have developed some serious chops.
  1. Confirmation
  2. Donna Lee
  3. Four
  4. Little Willie Leaps
  5. Freedom Jazz Dance (Evolution Of The Groove)
  6. Sippin' at Bell's
  7. Scrapple From The Apple
  8. Vierd Blues
  9. Cookin' at the Continental
  10. Gingerbread Boy
  11. Jordu
  12. Airegin
  13. Yardbird Suite
  14. Au Privave
  15. Budo
  16. Ornithology
  17. Parisian Thoroughfare
  18. Groovin' High
  19. Moment's Notice
  20. Dat Dere
  21. Daahoud
  22. Bebop
  23. Ceora
  24. Anthropology
  25. Tricotism
  26. Joy Spring
  27. Half Nelson
  28. Oleo
  29. Room 608
  30. Milestones
  31. Cheryl
  32. Opus De Funk
  33. Dig
  34. Quicksilver
  35. Impressions
  36. Prince Albert
  37. Giant Steps
  38. Song for My Father
  39. The Theme
  40. Con Alma
It's quite a list! One that's I've been meaning to put on an iTunes playlist for a while.

Here's a great video of Ted in action with bass player Richard Davis on Gershwin's Summertime.

Here's a profile of Ted Dunbar by his teaching colleague Dr Larry Ridley from All About Jazz.

Wednesday 11 April 2012

Jonathan Kreisberg Quartet at Pizza Express

What a phenomenal guitarist Jonathan Kreisberg is! At the Pizza Express, Dean St last night the audience were treated to outstanding performance combining improvisational ingenuity and good taste. Taking material from the Shadowless album, some newer compositions and a couple of standards, Jonathan struck a perfect balance of energy and poise.  Melodies and soloing were intricate and inventive, Jonathan always in control of his material and searching for new ways though it. Shadowless includes some jazz fusion-based material, using a range of pedals - notably an octave pedal and really ingenious use of the volume pedal to create some synth-like effects. High points included an original arrangement of Stella by Starlight and Horace Silver's Peace.

Brilliant English alto player Will Vinson, who I caught at the Pizza Express a few weeks ago with his own band, doubled on piano. He is a passionate, inventive soloist with a beautiful tone, managing to combing romantic lyricism with modernity. Will is a very funny raconteur on stage so it was strange to see him in the role of sideman, though he did a great job. I really enjoyed Joe Martin's playing - a tasteful bass player at the top of his game. Drummer Colin Stranahan is a real find. He's recently toured by with Kurt Rosenwinkel and you can see what these band leader like about his playing. Consistently inventive and also good humoured - not unlike drummer Eric Harland.

The video below gives a sense of what the performance was like. The tune is called Twenty-One and it is, I'm reliably informed, in the time signature of 21/8.

Monday 2 April 2012

Brighton Jazz School Podcast

Since Saturday I have been mourning the death of The Guardian Film Podcast. Film critic Jason Solomons and his film review sparring partner Xian Brookes have been my company on many train journeys and runs round ten park. On the plus side I will have more time to listen to the BJS podcast. Presented by pianist Wayne McConnell and produced by Brighton jazz fan Mike Guest, the podcast is an adjunct to the jazz school that Wayne runs at The Brunswick.

Weighing in at about an hour, it's a hefty chunk of listening but there are always plenty of gems. Features include Album of The Week, Passing Notes (focusing on some aspect of jazz theory) and an interview. I have particularly enjoyed the interviews. Each one has had a memorable nugget - gentleman trumpeter Joe Hunter identifying the romanticism at the heart of his lyrical playing, pianist Frank Harrison on the virtuoso practice routine, drummer Jim Whyte talking about the Ahmed Jamal trio, virtuoso pianist and BJS patron Geoffrey Keezer on how Jim Hall got him to play so sparingly it led him to question his whole musical personality. It makes me wish that I interviewed some of the memorable conversations I had with Joe Lee Wilson - I always intended to at some point.

The one thing that the podcast could do more of is musical extracts. This requires a PRS license and Wayne has put a PayPal link on the site so that you can contribute to the hosting costs and put something towards the license. That said there have recently been some great musical examples from James Williams, Geoffrey Keezer and Tim Garland.

If you're local and love jazz, check it out. If you're, not local it's worth checking out anyway.

You can find out more about the BJS, including links to all the podcasts at the website:

At last, a Blogger app!

Work overload, jazz projects and an almost daily commute to London have made blogging difficult recently, which has meant that I have not posted reviews of some fine gigs, including the great Will Vinson with Aaron Parks at Pizza Express and Pete Burden at The Verdict. I should be able to remedy that as I am writing my first post on the iPhone using the Blogger app.