Category Archives: News

2019 Cambridge Saxophone Students Concert

I was delighted to present a concert on Saturday, 8th June 2019 at Whittlesford Parish Church which featured students from Cambridge Saxophone and the Advanced Jazz Ensemble from the SCYM.

The concert was organised to raise funds for the refurbishment of the church roof, (raising over £1200) and to students, (especially adults) who wouldn’t normally get the chance to perform, the chance to do so.

Michael Brecker’s Pop Sax

The late, great Mike Brecker is regarded by many, (including myself) as probably the greatest virtuoso on the saxophone. Brecker’s contribution to the jazz cannon is well noted, but it was his work as a session musician throughout the 1970’s and 80’s the arguably allowed him to explore jazz saxophone later in his career.

Mike didn’t release a solo album under his own name until he was 37, (Charlie Parker was dead at 35 and Coltrane died at 40) and whilst we also lost Brecker too young, (Mike died aged just 57 in 2007) – his over 700 recording credits are a testament to his outstanding skill as a musician. We’ve briefly covered Brecker’s music in this Vlog post from my ‘Sax Advent Calendar‘ but here is a more focused pop music playlist.

Enjoy the playlists, share them and be inspired!

John Coltrane ’58

1958 was a pivotal year in John Coltrane’s development as one of the most important ‘voices’ in jazz. In 1957 he had undergone what was in his own words a ‘spiritual awakening’ which had led him to getting REALLY serious about his music and saxophone playing.

In March this year, all of Coltrane’s Prestige recordings were collected into a new 8 x LP set – click here to purchase (watch Ashley Kahn’s unboxing video below). The box-set is set out in chronological order from January to December 1958, so you can really hear Coltrane’s development during the year. 1959 was a year when Coltrane made two of the most seminal albums in jazz, his own Giant Steps and Kind of Blue for Miles Davis.

Coltrane ’58 features 37 tracks, all of which have been remastered from the original tapes, such as ‘Lush Life’, ‘Lover Come Back to Me’, ‘Stardust’, ‘Good Bait’, and ‘Little Melonae’, plus first recordings of ‘Nakatini Serenade’, ‘The Believer’, ‘Black Pearls’, ‘Theme for Ernie’, ‘Russian Lullaby’, ‘Sweet Sapphire Blues’ and ‘I Want to Talk About You’.

All of the recordings took place in New Jersey at Rudy Van Gelder’s home studio, created during a series of 3-hour sessions…

Enjoy!

#DFBlues Challenge 2 – Minor Blues

So the second of my #DFBlues Challenge is now upon us!

It’s really simple to do and open for EVERYONE to enter. All you have to do is video yourself playing, (or singing) a Minor Blues, (with my backing track if you can, but hey as long as it’s a Minor Blues, you do what you want!) & then post it to Social Media using the hashtag #DFBlues

I’ll then pick my favourites at the end of May and do a follow up Vlog episode then. Make sure you are subscribing to my YouTube channel!

Why Transcribing Is So Important

If you ran through this website you would notice that there is one type of course that keeps popping up – transcription.

Transcribing in its strictest sense is the art of musical dictation, that is writing down what is played – but I don’t want you to do that, (at least most of the time.)

Why? Well music is sound. I’ll say it again MUSIC IS SOUND! So often we spend far too much time using our eyes when we play music rather than our ears.   If you truly want to understand how a musician, especially a saxophonist sounds then you need to learn the art of imitation.

But I thought jazz was all about self expression, being unique? Self-expression is a real important part of jazz, but you’d be very much mistaken if you thought jazz was all about making it up on the spot etc.  Jazz is a language, like French and if you really want to become fluent in a language, to communicate with others in that language, to express yourself in that language then you need to learn how to converse in that language.

There is no better way of understanding how Lester Young, Charlie Parker, Paul Desmond, Miles Davis (not a sax player, but worth transcribing,) John Coltrane, Sonny Rollins and many others construct their solos than listening intently and learning how they play by USING YOUR EARS!!

Here’s one of my students Simon playing a transcription project he’s been studying on Sonny Rollins’ version of ‘Three Little Words’ (there’s no course for this, Simon’s been working on this by himself.)

You can listen to our transcription projects below


If you want to start learning how to transcribe, or how you can apply it to your playing, then click here

100 Jazz Standards you HAVE to know

The Great American Song Book has formed the backbone of the jazz repertoire for the past one hundred years.

Whilst many of the songs are approaching the 100th anniversary of their composition, that is no reason not to play close attention to them.  Jazz standards have played an important role in the development of jazz during the 20th and into the 21st century. I regularly get asked by students which jazz standards they should know, and whilst this list is not exhaustive, these are the top 100 that you should know, and in the Vlog episode below I explain how you should go about learning them, (tip start with the playlists below…)

Cambridge Saxophone 100 Essential Jazz Standards  (click to download)

(If you’re reading this and Spotify isn’t showing correctly, please either view this page in Chrome or click here)