Category Archives: News

Joshua Redman interviews Sonny Rollins

I’ve always loved finding out what makes great musicians ‘tick’.  I often find some of the best interviews can be hosted by fellow musicians as they often have insights into the right questions.

This article that I found years ago on the JazzWise website contains an interview that Joshua Redman did with the legendary Sonny Rollins back in 2005.  It was based around Sonny’s release of his Without A Song the 9/11 concert  – recorded just days after the tragic events of the 11th September 2001 in New York and Washington.   Sonny lived just a few blocks from the World Trade Centre site and has suffered in recent years from lung issues, thought to be from the toxic fumes released in NYC during and after the attacks.

You can read the full interview here, and of course please do watch my #DansVlog episode.  I’ve also put together an exclusive Sonny Rollins playlist which compliments the interview.

Some of my favourite quotes from the interview..

When I was a little kid I tried to sing in front of one of these places on 133rd Street, which years ago used to be a real haven for clubs when people used to come uptown. And Buddy Johnson said he really dug my playing-I was about 12 years old; that was a great feeling. As I grew older, all the great people were living uptown: Coleman Hawkins, Don Redman, Erskine Hawkins, Duke Ellington.

JR: One thing that’s completely astounding to me is I’ve heard recordings that you did when you weren’t even 20, and some of your first recordings you did in your early 20s, and you had been playing the saxophone for less than 10 years. You were an absolute prodigy, you were playing on the highest level imaginable. It’s kind of intimidating and almost depressing for a musician like me to hear that. Did it feel like it came naturally?

SR: You’re very, very kind. I just practiced a lot; I practiced a lot because I loved playing. I’d be practicing all day long. My mother used to have to call me to come and eat dinner because I was in there practicing all the time. I guess some of that came through. I was also lucky to be around some of these great people. I was able to record with a genius like Bud Powell when I was very young, and so I always try to get myself up as close as I can to that level.

You can’t spend too much time thinking about what you’re going to play, it comes out so fast. 

But right now, Joshua, I still have hopes of improving and sounding better and making a better record. Hope burns eternal. I’m going to put off going into the vaults and trying to find something I’ve done before. This [new CD] was a special occasion and we’ll see what happens in the future.

If Spotify (below) isn’t showing in Safari, then use Chrome

#DFBlues Challenge

As part of my Vlog on YouTube I wanted to start a series of ‘challenges’ that all my viewers can take part in over a period of weeks.

The first challenge will be the #DFBlues challenge.  Simply post a video of yourself playing a 12 bar blues for a minute or less on Social Media and make sure you use the ‘#DFBLUES’

At the end of January I’ll pick my favourite three, tell you why they are my favourites and the winner will get an exclusive ‘Coffee with Dan’ mug!

Here’s the backing track (click on this link to open) 

2019 Cambridge Saxophone Playlist

As part of my goal to get my students to do more listening, here is my 2019 Cambridge Saxophone Playlist.

There is a good mixture of old classics and new players, so get listening and GET SHARING!

Naturally as I’m a jazzer and primarily a tenor player, it’s going to be biased towards those, but please feel free to add your own and share your playlists back with me via the forum. 

If ‘Something went wrong, please try again later’ is displayed by Spotify – head over to Chrome and it will work there, or simply follow me on Spotify and you can view it! (Safari doesn’t like the way Spotify wants to track you and I)

1959 The Year Jazz Changed Playlist

2019 marks 60 years since the most important year in jazz history, 1959.

In 1959 Miles Davis released Kind of Blue (the best selling jazz album of all time), John Coltrane (who plays tenor sax on Kind of Blue) recorded his seminal Giant Steps album and Ornette Coleman pointed to the direction of jazz in the 1960’s with The Shape of Jazz to Come.  One also must not forget the contributions of Dave Brubeck and his Time Out album, (featuring Paul Desmond’s ‘Take Five’), Charles Mingus with his amazing Ah Um & amazing contributions by Cannonball Adderley, Coleman Hawkins, Art Blakey & The Jazz Messengers, Oscar Peterson, (who released 8 albums in this year!)

1959 also saw the death of two of the most important artists in the development of jazz both before the Second World War and after it, Billie Holliday and Lester Young, great friends off the band stand, an amazing partnership on it and died within weeks of each other.

So listen to the playlists below and be sure to come along to one of our concerts celebrating this amazing year in jazz history.  We’re at the Cambridge Arts Theatre on Sunday, 3rd March and the Cockpit London on Monday, 15th April with more dates to come!

Getting the ‘something went wrong’ message for Spotify?  It’s not us, it’s Safari, (or the web browser you’re using.) We know it works in Google Chrome.

Cambridge Sax Student is BBC Young Musician

We were all delighted to hear former Cambridge Saxophone student Rob Burton in the BBC Young Musician final on Sunday, 13th May 2018.

Rob now studies Classical Saxophone at the Royal Academy of Music in London, but studied with Dan Forshaw and Cambridge Saxophone from 2012 – 2015.  Rob won the Woodwind final and played with the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra for the final (watch from about 48 minutes)  – sadly the BBC will remove this programme after 31 days,  we will hunt for another recording!

Watch via this link 

The A to Z of Bebop – 27 Essential Bebop Heads to Learn

Learning Bebop heads is a really great way to learn jazz vocabulary over ‘standards’ from the Great American Songbook.

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At least 85%, possibly as high as 95% of Bebop tunes are ‘heads’ written over songs from musicals and shows of the 1930’s and 40’s.  Musicians such as Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie did this to avoid paying royalties in the recording studio for the songs they were using in the clubs.  Popular songs such as ‘How High The Moon’ (which turned into Parker’s Ornithology) and ‘I got Rhythm’ (Anthropology) were transformed into instrumental songs, often pushing the technical demands of the player.

This playlist is meant to give you a starting off point.  There’s no doubt that if you want to get better at improvising, then learning these songs, (and I mean learning, that’s NO PRINTED MUSIC,) will give you a greater vocabulary to work with.