Category Archives: Playing Music With Others

Honest Introspection

I frequently mention to students that YOU can be your best teacher if you learn to listen.

In this episode of #DansVlog I show you how I create a Honest Introspection from a gig I did at the Hot Numbers Jazz Cafe in Cambridge.


Silent Night – Christmas Project

It’s time for a Cambridge Saxophone ‘Christmas Project’. This year I want EVERYONE to get involved and so I’ve chosen something that everyone should feel comfortable contributing to.

What I would like you to do is the following:

  1. Watch the video lesson.
  2. Download the correct music for you (click here to access the folder on Dropbox, mail me if you don’t have access).
  3. Record yourself at the end of the week playing along to the recording, AT THE CORRECT SPEED!

The speed is really important – rather than ten videos of the same thing, I want to create one recording, with each of us playing a few bars each. That way those of you who are less comfortable can still contribute, and there is enough in this to pose a small challenge for more accomplished players.

If you’re not sure how to record the video on your iPhone or iPad click here. To record direct to YouTube from your webcam, click here.

One final thing: I got my dates mixed up – you have TWO WEEKS to complete this, but it would be nice to have it out BEFORE Saturday, 20th December!

Stapleford Jazz Collective

One of the most common targets from all my students at the start of the year was to reach a standard where they are able to make music with other people.

With this in mind I decided, in partnership with Woodwind and Reed, Cambridge and the ACE Cultural Foundation to launch the ‘Stapleford Jazz Collective’ at the brand new Stapleford Granary Arts Centre.

We meet on the first Wednesday at each month at 7.30pm

The ensemble is open to all musicians who have reached grade three or above and it is a fantastic opportunity to get together with like minded individuals and make some music, just for fun!

As someone who has lead various ensembles of different age groups I’m really looking forward to this and encouraging ALL my students to get involved.

If you require any further information, please don’t hesitate to contact me.

Wynton Marsalis Chats to Cambridge Saxophone Students

On Saturday, 21st June I was delighted that Wynton Marsalis brought the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra to the Cambridge Corn Exchange. It was a particularly special date for me as it was exactly fifteen years ago to the day since I performed on the same stage with a Blues Brothers band.

I had been in touch with LCJO saxophone players Sherman Irby and Victor Goines to arrange a backstage meeting, but they both escaped to The Eagle for some fish’n’chips! I met up with them later on, but it was a real thrill to introduce some of my students – in particular 14-year-old Rob Burton, who, maybe one day, will be playing with LCJO – to … Wynton Marsalis.

Some of the great pearls of wisdom that Wynton shared with us are outlined below.

Don’t just learn the notes, learn why those notes were played.

Many of you may know that Wynton is quite a jazz conservative. His excellent book Moving to a Higher Ground is a must-read for any student of music, jazz fan or not. We’re going to read his book and have a Google hangout on it over the summer. But he surprised me a great deal by encouraging Rob (and all of us) to learn the music of Ornette Coleman:

The avant-garde is what youngsters should learn. They need to appreciate the freedom that is found in the music of Ornette Coleman.

I later met up with Sherman Irby, Victor Goines and other members of the saxophone section for a few beers. I’ll say more about this over the next few weeks, but these are some of the key points they wanted to share:

  • If you want to be a musician, be like a stockbroker. Spread your portfolio as widely as you can: be an arranger, clarinet player, teacher, composer – but work hard at all of them.
  • Vocabulary is everything – if you want to be a better musician, learn the vocabulary to express it.
  • Work hard on your sound. (Where have you heard that before?)
  • Spend time each day listening to music – really.


It was such a great thrill to have these guys in Cambridge. I’m in touch with a few interested parties about getting a Cambridge International Jazz Festival and I’d love to welcome Wynton and the Jazz at the Lincoln Center Orchestra back to this town.

Just before the guys came to Cambridge they recorded this in Harrogate