I spent a bit of time over at Jim Rattigan’s house yesterday. We did some rather basic work on 2-5-1 progressions. Exactly what I needed. Then we worked a bit on “All The Things You Are”.
Here’s a lead sheet (please let me know if you find this link doesn’t work)
This jazz thing has been going on for some time already but I’m still at the beginning so I thought I’d better get writing before it became really too late to do it.
So, the background. Back in 1977 I borrowed an alto sax and started learning some scales. I wanted to play jazz but I didn’t think it would sound right on the horn. The sax only lasted a week or two because the embouchure didn’t come right away. I suppose I should have had a lesson. That was that. Over the years I did other bits of improvising, including a few albums involving four horns (all me), then two (with another player) horns, then three horns (with two others). None of this was jazz.
Then, 1988, or thereabouts, I had a jazz piano lesson with some bloke in Hampstead. He went on about learning all the 2-5-1 chord changes. I did it for a while but didn’t get the point. I suppose it was my failure, but I don’t think this person had any teaching skills – nothing he said seemed very stimulating.
Then, last year, Jim Rattigan, horn (French) player and friend got a CD out called “Unfamiliar Guise”. Very nice, it was, and I interviewed him for the horn magazine, and gave him a really good review to help him shift CDs. It’s a good recording but not what I would want to play. In fact, I don’t know what I’m looking for, really. I just want to be able to play jazz. Simple.
Jim’s album got me thinking about jazz, and the horn, and I talked with him quite a lot about how you learn it. He gave me some photocopied sheets of “all” the jazz scales and I spent hours during the summer of 2000 learning some of them. I also ordered an instrument from Yamaha – the “Marching French Horn” in Bb, on a hunch that this would make the perfect forward facing jazz horn for horn players. I have named it the “Frunting Horn” even though 18 months have passed and there’s still no sign of it. The scales dried up and stopped flowing.
The next wave came during May of 2001 when I was on a short tour with Peter Erskine and the Creative Jazz Orchestra. I was one of three horns (French) playing written out parts of Peter’s music. I heard Kenny Wheeler live for the first time and spoke to him a bit (he only lives a couple of minutes walk from our house). What he said was encouraging – for example, he uses the Aebersold books, still! He’s 72 and still practicing and developing his playing. Incredible.
At last, I stopped waiting for the Frunting Horn to arrive and got out, instead, the beautiful little Besson cornet that Mum and Dad gave me for my 40th birthday and ordered a pile of Aebersold playalong books.