Saturday, December 12, 2020

"The Rhythm Changes Guide" now available

In my role as a pubic radio jazz host (KRCB-FM, the first Saturday of each month, 7-11 pm Pacific time), I scour the internet for hip new jazz releases. A few years ago I ran into one of the best CDs I've heard of cutting-edge jazz from Europe entitled, "Evocation" by a one-time ensemble called Generations Unit 2012. A great record. So when the saxophonist on that CD, Lukas Gabric, got in touch and said he had written a book on rhythm changes that he wanted us to publish, I was happy to take a look. Lukas is a saxophone instructor for the Juillard School's MAP program and a great player in his own right, so that's a good foundation, I thought. The manuscript went back and forth between us a half dozen times and the end result is the most comprehensive book ever published on the different approaches one could take to get a handle on this slippery song form. Chuck says, check it out.

Finally, I would like to wish all of us on this beleaguered planet the best of luck getting though the pandemic and rebuilding a sense of normalcy, which has been sorely tested here in the US these last four years. The planet needs us - who else is going to play "Confirmation"? Not the chipmunks.

Sunday, October 11, 2020

"The Jazz Songbook Series" is released!

Listening to Alan Pasqua play at the JEN convention this last January (that seems like a lifetime ago!), the idea came to me, "Alan's music is so beautiful. I should put out a book of his best tunes." Then, bingo!, ten months later we are releasing not only 20 of Alan's best songs but similar books for Tom Harrell, Carla Bley, Kenny Barron, Ralph Towner, Steve Swallow, Kenny Werner, Horace Silver, Oscar Hernandez (Ruben Blades musical director for many years) and Wayne Wallace (also a superb Latin Jazz composer and arranger).

Unlike our earlier fake books, these charts are all direct from the composers' own lead sheets (except for Horace Silver, no longer living). This gives the books some real historical interest, in addition to just being able to play these great pieces of jazz writing. In some cases, the charts had to be re-copied for legibility reasons, but the content is the same.

Of course, a project of this magnitude required many hands to bring it to fruition. My deep thanks to Sueann Bettison Sher, Annalisa Sher and Linda Larsen for the beautiful cover art work; Bob Afifi, my webmaster, for putting all the pieces together; Larry Dunlap for his great editing and music engraving skills; Attila Nagy and Chris Goodmiller for the additional graphics work; and, last but not least, all the composers for allowing me the privilege of presenting their beautiful compositions to musicians world-wide. Thanks to one and all---and also to you, Sher Music supporters, for being the essential last link in the chain. Be well, stay safe and enjoy these labors of love! - Chuck Sher


Wednesday, July 15, 2020

"Introduction to Jazz Piano" is out!

We have just released Jeb Patton's third book for Sher Music, "Introduction to Jazz Piano: A Deep Dive." I asked Jeb if he thought he could write a book that explains all the things a person would need to know in order to successfully use Mark Levine's "The Jazz Piano Book." What he came up with was quite different than I expected. Instead of a simpler version of Mark's book, Jeb has created a deep tutorial on how to immerse yourself in the jazz language so that you come out being a fully functional jazz pianist. This book is not designed for the casual hobbyist but rather for someone who is willing to put in some quality time in order to become a real jazz player. The initial response to its release indicates that, indeed, people are ready and willing to do just that. In these crazy times, more and better music is a worthy goal, I believe and I think Jeb's book will help people do just that. Chuck says check it out - https://www.shermusic.com/9780997661750.php - and stay safe out there!

Wednesday, June 3, 2020

Chuck Sher's Jazz Radio Show!



Folks - I have amassed a wonderful jazz CD collection over the years and am happy to share it with all music lovers the first Saturday of each month, (including this Saturday, June 6th) from 7 pm to 11 pm (Pacific time) on KRCB-FM---public radio for Sonoma Co.

To listen, go to https://norcalpublicmedia.org/radio/radio and scroll down to "Live Stream."

For the next two or three months, I'll be playing the cream of the crop, the "desert island" tracks from my collection. Don't miss it and stay safe! - Chuck

Friday, May 8, 2020

Internalizing Tunes 2.0

While sheltering-in-place during the Covid-19 pandemic, I discovered a very useful process to help with soloing on standard tunes. The following outline need not be applied strictly over and over, but try doing it step-by-step for a song or two and see what seems useful to you.

A - LEARNING THE MELODY
1. Play the melody multiple times. Play it all over the range of your instrument until you are able to change
octaves in the middle of the melody at will.
2. Do the same thing but this time embellish the melody with passing notes and grace notes, and also freely interpret the rhythms so that the melody sounds like you might have just made it up on the spot.
3. Play pieces of the melody and then improvise for a bar or two, back and forth. Ultimately, you should be able to quote the melody at any point in the middle of a solo chorus of the song. For bassists, try playing a walking line that contains a liberal number of melody notes in it.
4. Try singing along with #2 and #3 above and make each succeeding chorus more solo-like than the last one until you are playing a solo that is directly derived from the melody but is not necessarily the melody notes at all.

B - LEARNING THE HARMONY
1. Play pieces of the arpeggios of the chords of the song using the full range of your instrument. No set number
of bars on each chord here­­—just play until you are comfortable with each one.
2. Play the chords in time, with the same number of bars/beats for each chord as indicated in the chart. Try to use chord notes only, as much as you can. For this exercise, play the chord notes with soloistic phrasing, not just running arpeggios. Do this until you have memorized the chord sequence and can play through it without looking at the lead sheet.
3. This time add scalar and chromatic passing notes to connect chord notes (i.e., think of the chord but play anything you hear). Do this until the chord sequence has been internalized and you can sense the next chord before it comes up. This will give your lines a feeling of forward motion because you will be heading for the following chord even as you are playing on the current one.
4. Do #1-3 here but using the appropriate scales that best fit each chord. Mark Levine’s “The Jazz Theory Book” is the standard work on that subject. Make sure you know what scale notes change as you go from chord to chord.

C - USING THE MELODY’S PHRASES TO CREATE YOUR SOLOS
Think of (or sing) the melody’s phrases to yourself while you are soloing, but use any notes, not just the notes of the melody. Thinking in phrases will help you avoid sounding like you are just ‘wiggling your fingers.’
Use either rests or longer-held notes to separate phrases. Of course, if you really hear a line that extends through two phrases, for example, then by all means go ahead and play it.
Here are some suggestions for soloing in phrases.
1. Start on the melody notes at the beginning of each bar, then play whatever you hear after that. This will bring more immediate results than any other approach in this tutorial, so don’t skip it!
2. Start on any chord note at the beginning of each bar, then play whatever you hear on the way to the next down beat. For ballads that often have two chords per bar, also try doing this on two chords per bar, not just the first one.
3. Start each bar on a step-wise (including half-steps) sequence of ‘target’ notes. Work this out in advance if you want or just improvise these as you go.

4. Start each phrase on any note that you hear, but do keep the melody’s phrases in mind as you go through the song. This was the genesis of this tutorial and remains its core exercise, to be done if nothing else.
5. It’s fun to play a string of short phrases that all are variations of each other. By doing this, you might leave the melody’s phrasing for a while but that’s fine as long as you know where you are in the tune.
6. Sing a phrase to yourself and then try to play it on your instrument. Go through the tune this way. This is great ear training and worth the time you spend on it, even if it’s not as much fun as playing your heart out.
7. Play your heart out.

D - INTERNALIZE THE SONG
1. Spend some time consciously integrating the melody and the chords so that you know how the two fit together at every point in the song. Start by seeing what degree of the chord each melody note is. Play embellished
versions of the melody with this in mind.
2. Give yourself different parameters to work within. For example:
- try playing through the song using a minimum number of notes while still maintaining a coherent line through the changes.
- try repeating a rhythmic pattern multiple times before switching to a new one as you go through the song. If any given rhythmic figure presents a technical challenge for you, then try leaving the tune for a bit and taking the rhythmic figure up and down the key of the song until it is smooth and relaxed.
- try feeling the song in 2 (half notes) as opposed to 4. This will change the kind of lines you play - interesting!
  Make up more things like this of your own.
3. Spend some time analyzing the structure of the song. For almost all standards, you can break the song up into four-bar sections­—so treat each one as an independent unit in which you understand the chord movements and can therefore look at it as a single piece of information (e.g. II-V-I-VI). For many songs, it will be more helpful to look at it in two-bar phrases instead of four-bar ones­—do whatever aids you the most in memorizing it.
Importantly, the chords at the beginning of each four-bar or two-bar phrase create their own sequence that is like the signature of that tune, so make sure you have that ingrained in your mind.
4. Feel free to cycle any given number of bars over and over until it is ‘yours.’ Anything from two chords up to eight-bar sections of the tune can be cycled with great benefit to your ability to internalize them.
5. By using these different ways of learning a tune, at the end of this process you should be able to intuitively know where you are in the song without thinking too much about it­—real freedom!
6. Finally, let it be noted that this process is not so much about self-expression as it is expressing the inherent beauty of the song. As the late Lee Konitz once said, “A good solo doesn’t care who played it.” Enjoy!

Monday, April 6, 2020

Stimulus bill money for musicians

Folks - below is a link to the SBA Economic Injury Disaster Loan program where self-employed people can get up to $10,000 from the last stimulus bill. It takes just a few minutes to fill out (amazing!). First come, first served, so don't delay if you haven't already applied. Here's hoping you are all well, following strict safety guidelines and able to find some silver linings in these  perilous times. Much love - Chuck

Saturday, March 28, 2020

Internalizing Tunes

While ‘sheltering-in-place’ this last week, I discovered a very useful process to help with soloing on standard tunes. The following outline need not be applied strictly over and over, but try doing it step-by-step for a song or two and see what seems useful to you.

LEARNING THE MELODY
1. Play the melody multiple times. Play it all over the range of your instrument until you are able to change octaves in the middle of the melody at will.
2. Do the same thing but this time embellish the melody with passing notes and grace notes, and also freely interpret the rhythms so that the melody sounds like you might have just made it up on the spot.
3. Play pieces of the melody and then improvise for a bar or two, back and forth. Use other chord notes and also passing notes between chord notes in the improvised parts.

LEARNING THE HARMONY
1. Play pieces of the arpeggios of the chords of the song using the full range of your instrument. No set number of bars on each chord here—
just play until you are comfortable with each one.
2. Play the chords in time, with the same number of bars/beats for each chord as indicated in the chart. (It is best to use the accurate charts found in Sher Music Co.’s “New Real Book” series.) Try to use chord notes only, as much as you can. For this exercise, play the chord notes with soloistic phrasing, not just running arpeggios. Do this until you have memorized the chord sequence and can play through it without looking at the lead sheet.
3. This time add scalar and chromatic passing notes to connect chord notes. (i.e., think of the chord but play anything you hear.) Do this until the chord sequence has been internalized and you can sense the next chord before it comes up. This will give your lines a feeling of forward motion because you will be heading for the next chord change, even as you are playing on the current one.

USING THE MELODY’S PHRASES TO CREATE YOUR SOLOS
Think of (or sing) the melody’s phrases to yourself while you are soloing, but use any notes, not just the notes of the melody. Thinking in phrases will help you avoid sounding like you are just ‘wiggling your fingers.’ Use either rests or longer-held notes to separate phrases. Here are some suggestions for how to start each phrase.
1. Start on the melody notes at the beginning of each bar, then play whatever you hear after that.
2. Start on the roots of the chords at the beginning of each bar.
3. Start on any chord note at the beginng of each bar.
4. Start each bar on a step-wise (including half-steps) sequence of ‘target’ notes. Work this out in advance if you want or just improvise these as you go.
5. Start each phrase on any note that you hear, but do keep the melody’s phrases in mind as you go through the song.
6. It’s fun to play a string of short phrases that all are variations of each other. By doing this, you might leave the melody’s phrasing for a while but that’s fine as long as you know where you are in the tune.

INTERNALIZE THE SONG
1. Spend some time analysing the structure of the song. For almost all standards, you can break the song up into four-bar sections---so treat each one as an independent unit in which you understand the chord movements and can therefore look at it as a single piece of information (e.g. II-V-I-VI). The chords at the beginning of each four-bar phrase create a sequence that is like the signature of that tune, so make sure you have that engrained in your mind.
2. By using these different ways of learning a tune, at the end of this process you should be able to intuitively know where you are in the song without thinking too much about it. What this ends up doing is giving you a sense that you can feel the whole tune wrapped around you, so to speak, even as you are playing on a particular part of it. At this point, “The Song is You,” to quote Jerome Kern. Have a ball! - Chuck Sher

Monday, March 16, 2020

Shelter-in-Place

Folks - Much of the SF Bay Area is under a "shelter-in-place" order because of the coronavirus. I send my best wishes out to anyone affected by the pandemic and I hope for a more competent and robust federal response soon, like last week, eh?

Meanwhile, I've been in the woodshed, learning all the standards in The New Real Book, Vol.3, bass clef version, and watching my musicianship grow by leaps and bounds. So dust off your Sher Music books and use this time to get to your next level of musical understanding - have a ball doing it! - Chuck Sher

Wednesday, January 1, 2020

A Musical New Year's Resolution

Intention matters­­—what I intend every time I approach my instrument matters. What am I serving, really? If it is “self-expression,” if my intention is to have my emotions expressed through my instrument, what is being served? More and more I see that my emotions are no more interesting or valuable to the outside world than my thoughts. Both are necessary parts of my ‘lower self,’ as the phrase goes, but they are of limited value—even to myself, much less the rest of the world.

So what is worth intending when I sit down to play music? How about expressing the beauty that is already inherent in a given piece of music? How about being a servant of the song, instead of visa versa?

This requires several things, I’ve found. It requires never leaving the pulse as a prime focus. Counting while playing may very well turn out to be essential here, as Peter Erskine says he does in his book, “Time Awareness.” It requires a commitment to be aware of the underlying chord structure of the tune at all times, and to uncover ever-new ways of realizing that structure. It requires being a transmitter of the beauty of the particular song being played, not having the song serve my needs.

The little way I’ve traveled down this path in recent weeks has shown me that, in fact, I can’t help “expressing myself” as I play. The music is coming through me and so what I play, of necessity, will reflect who I am, including my emotional realities. But playing music in order to “express myself” is miles away from intending to serve the music as best I can. And I believe, as it says in the Good Book, that one cannot simultaneously serve two masters.

To me, this is a New Year’s resolution worth sticking to, and I hope it proves to be of some value to you as well. Have a swinging New Year! - Chuck Sher

Thursday, November 7, 2019

November Holiday Overstock sale!

Well, the Holidays are approaching and Sher Music is having a 1/3 off sale on selected books for horn players that we have overstock of. These include some transposed versions of The New Real Books (Vol.1-3), the Standards Real Book and several method books. If you are a horn player, these are the lowest prices we've ever had on these world-class books and they also would make great presents for your horn player friends. The sale last the whole month of November - see https://www.shermusic.com/sale.php for details and have a great Holiday season! -  Chuck Sher & the Sher Music team.