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Sage Wisdom

"Good improvisation communicates harmonic progression melodically. Effective melodies manipulate harmonic content through the use of guide tones and preparatory gravity notes, masterfully woven in systematic tension, release, and transparent harmonic definition."



« May 2010 | Main | July 2010 »

June 29, 2010 | Meet Blake Van Treese, jazz mandolinist

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Blake Van Treese recently graduated from the University of California, San Diego, and early in his career has taken on the daunting challenge of blazing traditional jazz trails with our beloved mandolin. He started playing harmonica when he was 19, went to guitar, and on to mandolin which he credits the attraction to years of listening to David Grisman and Jerry Garcia.

After moving to to Santa Cruz in 2003 he hooked up with some talented songwriters and musicians, one of them shared his passion for mandolin. He recalls, "I started picking mandolin when I moved. We pushed each other very hard and were in constant competition. I started with folksy stuff and then got interested in bluegrass music. In 2004 I started getting into jazz and studying music seriously. At Cabrillo Junior College I began studying music theory and jazz theory and met jazz educator, Ray Brown (trumpeter not bassist) who took me under his wing despite his reservations about letting mandolin into his classes. One thing he always said to me every time I played a passage with tremolo is, 'this isn't a greek wedding.'"

We asked about personal challenges faced including mandolin in a college big band setting or mainstream jazz environment; he confesses, they "have been numerous. At the same time being a mandolinist has allowed me to gain a great deal of attention because of the fact that I am playing an unorthodox jazz instrument. I think that the main issues I have come across have been problems with amplification and tone. In the jazz ensemble I played a Stonebridge MA-23 SF with a shadow pickup, the tone is pretty bad and seriously lacks sustain, these are the main problems that I have faced integrating into the jazz ensemble. Most of the time comping sounds too percussive and besides that fact, I am usually playing with two or three other chordal instruments. In these cases, I found myself mostly not comping and adding the occasional tremolo for texture."

He continues, "the entire first year I spent at UC San Diego, people really struggled to accept me into the jazz community, but after several gigs and jam sessions (after I proved that I had chops) I began to be accepted. By my second year I had gained the respect of everyone as a player and it was at this point that I started to compose for the jazz ensemble (20 to 30 instruments). After that first piece was performed, the audiences as well as members of the ensemble began to accept me as a legitimate composer and jazz musician."

We enjoy hearing of mandolinists unafraid of breaking down barriers to the traditional boundaries of the instrument. Check out Blake's website for some videos of his experiences at college and some of his compositions on his website.

Artist website: Blake Van Treese, jazz mandolinist


Video: Providence Suite

Posted by Ted at 5:40 AM


June 25, 2010 | Blast from the past: Dash Crofts

When you talk about influencers, those who play mandolin handily refer to established artist legends like David Grisman, Jethro Burns, Bill Monroe, it's the trend-starters like these whose fretboard proficiencies and personalities broke new ground for mandolin and inspired a personal passion for our eight-string wonder. One artist who achieved pop music fame in the 70's is rarely given his due credit for mainstream acceptance of the mandolin is Dash Crofts of "Seals and Crofts" fame.

Seals and Crofts' music was folksy and easy on the ear, but hidden in the lyrics and chord structure was a profundity and complexity uncommon to pop culture. Dash was also an accomplished soloist, although you wouldn't likely hear it in the hit record versions, we came across and intriguing YouTube video that showed off his string prowess, and knack for pushing the mandolin to new boundaries.

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Enjoy video:Seals and Crofts / High on a Mountain1974 California Jam


Posted by Ted at 6:30 AM


June 23, 2010 | A river runs through it. The latest from Old Wave Mandolins

We are crazy about the work of New Mexico builder, Bill Bussmann of Old Wave Mandolins, and this most recent batch of dazzling instruments are examples why. This man builds more toys than Santa's elves, and exponentially more delightful in the hands of his customers.

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Click images for close-up
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We even have two reviews on the site, one a standard Old Wave Dola, and the other our magnificent signature Solocomp JM alto guitar jazz mandola. The latter retains bragging rights for being the longest duration in the JazzMando arsenal. You can hear its magnficient capacity in the embedded video in our builders review.

Builder's website: Old Wave Mandolins
Review: Old Wave Mandola
Review: Old Wave Solocomp JM 4-string jazz mandola

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Read up on other world class mandolin builders:
Click for JazzMando Reviews

Posted by Ted at 5:46 AM


June 21, 2010 | Back in stock, JM11 strings

We're happy to report the arrival of a full shipment of JM11 flatwound strings, and we have enough of a supply to make your mandolinning pleasantly smooth to your fingers, and your ears. If you seek a warmer, richer sound, and don't demand an obnoxious percussive "smack" out of your mandolin, these are what you are looking for, and an inexpensive way to upgrade your mandolin tone.

Easy on the fingers. Easy on the ears.

The polished custom flatwound Labellas have a much closer, tighter wrap which resists corrosion and wear from oxidation and player perspiration (similar to the world renown Thomastiks), and this dramatically increase string life. The steel alloys lends a crisp, subtle "punch" for a sophisticated bell-like articulation. Player comfort from the smooth strings makes these feel as great as they sound!

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Though initially branded for jazz, these will also work well for the classical, folk, and blues mandolinist. They won't "spank" banjos in a loud acoustic setting, but they will give you definition and a warm character for more intimate solo and small ensemble environments.

Strings are sold 2 for $29.95, 1 set for $16.95, and that includes US Domestic and Canada. (We can also ship to most countries for $7.00 additional.)

Purchase: JM11 Flatwound Strings

Also, although we have a limited supply, we're still running the five dollar special on JM Pick shirts. You can still load your shopping cart with one of these in Large or Extra Large.

You never know who you'll bump into wearing one of these...

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Purchase: $5 Shirts

Posted by Ted at 6:06 AM


June 19, 2010 | The best things in life are (sometimes) free

We are huge fans of the Jamey Aebersold method books, especially the Play-along CD series. We've spent many hours getting friendly with the classic jazz standards, the fabulous rhythm section audio accompaniments, and have been hugely influenced by the books on "Turnarounds," "ii V7 I," "Nothin' but Blues," and many more. There are terrific treasures there, and if you haven't spent any time over the decades worth of materials at JazzBooks.com, you should.

Get a good glimpse of some of these you can also take with you, download their free sample, the Jamey Aebersold Jazz Handbook (AKA the "Red Book"), a 56 page intense treasure summary of lesson samples, playing concepts, stylistic interpretations, scales, practice tips, blues progressions, and a host of other intriguing and valuable jazz concepts. It's a pretty big file, around 3 megabytes, but we almost guarantee it will be a tease for the many more gems you can get from the JazzBooks library. Resistance will be futile.

Enjoy: Abersold Jazz Handbook
More Aebersold: JazzBooks.com

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GENERAL INFORMATION.........................................2
Valuable Jazz Information........................................3
SOLOING by Jamey Aebersold................................4
Jazz: The Natural Music............................................5
Suggested Listening-Jazz Artists...........................7
Historically Significant Recordings.........................8
Tips For Learning A New Tune.................................9
Practice Procedures For Memorizing Scales
and Chords To Any Song.....................................9
Practice Procedures-Musical Examples...............10
SONG LIST for Beginners.......................................11
SCALES....................................................................12
Introduction to the SCALE SYLLABUS.................13
SCALE SYLLABUS..................................................14
NOMENCLATURE....................................................15
The Dominant 7th Tree of Scale Choices..............16
Ten Basic Exercises-TREBLE CLEF.....................17
Ten Basic Exercises-BASS CLEF..........................18
TREBLE CLEF SCALES..........................................19
BASS CLEF SCALES...............................................20
Ear Training..............................................................21
Interval Chart...........................................................22
Basic Keyboard and the Chromatic Scale............23
The Circle of Cycle of Fourths...............................24
Scales/Modes Based on the Major Scale..............24
HOW TO PRACTICE by Jerry Coker......................25
HOW TO PRACTICE by David Liebman.................25
Things That Create Interest When Soloing...........26
Starting A Phrase or Melody...................................26
Jazz ARTICULATIONS.............................................27
Jazz RHYTHMS........................................................29
The BLUES SCALE and Its Use..............................30
F Blues & Bb Blues Progresions:
For TREBLE CLEF C Instruments.....................31
For Bb Instruments.............................................31
For Eb Instruments.............................................32
For BASS CLEF C Instruments..........................32
PLAYING THE BLUES.............................................33
What Does "To Hear" Really Mean?......................34
VARIATIONS ON BLUES.........................................35
Values-Plato Quote-Bill Evans Quote..................36
Bebop Characteristics by David Baker.......37
Short List of Bebop Players...................................38
BEBOP SCALES......................................................38
Transposition Chart.................................................39
Two Interesting Short Stories.................................39
Jamey's JAZZ THEORY ASSIGNMENTS...............41
II/V7/I Progression With Emphasis On The
7th Resolving To The 3rd...................................46
PIANO VOICINGS:
Blues Voicings.....................................................47
Major and Dominant 7th Voicings.....................48
II/V7/I Voicings.....................................................49
Jamey's POINTS TO REMEMBER..........................52


Posted by Ted at 6:11 AM


June 17, 2010 | Hannes Coetzee, Tea Spoon Slide Guitar

HannesCoetzee.jpgWe've always been intrigued by musicians who take a novel approach to playing an instrument and make beautiful music with their unconventional techniques. Such is the case with mild mannered Hannes Coetzee of Herbertsdale, South Africa. The 62 year-old taps native aloes from the trees for his livelihood, and taught himself how to play guitar this way in the off season.

With right hand he picks up and pinches the strings and adds the slide teaspoon to his left hand technique. It's interesting to listen to, not unpleasant at all. If you weren't actually watching it, you'd be easily convinced more than one musician was playing at the same time.


Maybe Evan Marshall could add a spoon to his duo style mandolin mastery...

View video: Hannes Coetzee, Tea Spoon Slide Guitar



Posted by Ted at 7:39 AM


June 15, 2010 | JM11 shipment delays

We regret to bring news of a brief outage of JM11 JazzMando flatwound mandolin strings. We hope to be up and running with availability in two weeks. We'll still take orders, but all shipments will be back-ordered and shipped immediately after arrival.

The JM11s continue to gain global popularity, noted for their warmth and clarity of sound, as well as their comfort and smooth feel. We are happy to report the last batch of 200 sets have been free of intermittent defective D strings. If you experienced this or have purchased a set prior to this last winter that you have not opened, be on the lookout for intonation problems. What happens is they go out of tune about a half step at the 12th fret. (No need to panic, as this is only about 1 in 50 strings.) Feel free to contact us immediately for replacements; the defect is obvious immediately when the string is first installed.

We'll keep you posted as they become available, bet we expect them before July.

New packaging October 2007

Read recent reviews of these strings: MandolinCafe post

Other items available in the JazzMando Merchandise Center:

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Posted by Ted at 6:07 AM


June 13, 2010 | New from Don Stiernberg, SWING 220

swing220.jpgWe're on our second day of enjoying an incredible audio treat, the latest from mentor and co-author, Don Stiernberg, "Swing 220," an acoustic string collection of some of the greatest jazz standards ever written. If you were to need a Wikipedia-like aural example of what jazz mandolin ought to be, it would be this project.

Joined by guitarist Jeff Jenkins and Rusty Holloway on acoustic bass, the trio sparkle with that signature Stiernberg sonic "smile," each of the tender tunes swinging hard, dripping with confident frolic. We've enjoyed everything Don has recorded, but this one stands even taller, an almost encyclopedic appraisal of the capability of fretted swing. It's more than just a Yankee Django jazz, it digs from the library of the Great American Songbook and offers a palatable, easy-to-chew experience in the 20th century jazz culinary. Sans drums, piano, and horns, you are treated to the open acoustical nuances and subtle beauty of wood, steel, and joyous space.

Strings, picks, and fingers have never sounded so good.

Songs like "All of Me," "How High the Moon," "On the Sunny Side of the Street," and eleven other classics; c'mon, how could one go wrong? Throw in a musician that has almost singlehandedly defined acoustic jazz mandolin, some incredibly capable supporting players, and you have a recipe for colossal success. This one is destined to put the artist into the mainstream ear.

Kudos to the hardest working musician in Chicago!

Purchase information: Don Stiernberg, SWING 220
Artist Website: Don Stiernberg
Label information: Blue Night Records

Tracks:
Topsy
Stardust
Do Nothin' 'Til You Hear From Me
Caravan
Limehouse Blues
Lady Be Good
Indiana
Pennies From Heaven
Honeysuckle Rose
Night & Day
All Of Me
After You've Gone
On The Sunny Side Of The Street
How High The Moon

Posted by Ted at 7:29 AM


June 11, 2010 | Six senses weren't enough...

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Last week we had some fun investigating in our Tips and Trick column, "Making Sense. More than Five Senses?" the abandonment of our traditional sense of sense. We still talk about the big five, sight, hearing, taste, smell, touch, and we write Hollywood movies about that sixth one ESP, but physiologists tell us there are so many more.

Why is this important to playing an instrument? One of these in particular is the kinesthetic sense, the awareness of our body parts outside of the sense of touch. Reaching for chords and notes on the fretboard, we really ought not depend on our vision, and it isn't so much about the feel of the fretboard and strings. It's more about a spatial awareness, a kind of fingerboard GPS.

If you haven't read it yet, take a few moments: Making Sense. More than Six Senses?"

Posted by Ted at 5:50 AM


June 9, 2010 | JazzQuotations.com

"You've got to learn your instrument. Then, you practice, practice, practice. And then, when you finally get up there on the bandstand, forget all that and just wail." - Charlie Parker

"The music has gotten thick. Guys give me tunes and they're full of chords. I can't play them...I think a movement in jazz is beginning away from the conventional string of chords, and a return to emphasis on melodic rather than harmonic variation. There will be fewer chords but infinite possibilities as to what to do with them." - Miles Davis (About the new modal style.)

"Technique is the ability to translate your ideas into sound through your instrument. This is a comprehensive technique, a feeling for the keyboard that will allow you to transfer any emotional utterance into it. What has to happen is that you develop a comprehensive technique and then say, Forget that. I'm just going to be expressive through the piano." - Bill Evans

"You can play a shoestring if you're sincere."
- John Coltrane

"Jazz is the only music in which the same note can be played night after night but differently each time."
- Ornette Coleman



We have the pleasure of introducing you to a unique website from administrator Justin Steffman, "JazzQuotations.com." In addition to the insights and words of wisdom from many of the great jazz innovators, this site has a terrific summary of the various styles of jazz that have evolved over the last century, including Big Band, Bebop (hard & post), Cool Jazz, Fusion, Free, Post Modern, and a slew of other. If you were ever wondering what the consensus is, this is a great resource to check it out. Also included are links, jazz slang glossary, news, essential listening, and listings of the best vocal standards.

Visit Website: JazzQuotations.com

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Posted by Ted at 5:55 AM


June 5, 2010 | Josh Pinkham with The Frank Vignola Quintet - Luke

Your morning post-bop jazz mandolin treat from former child prodigy, now working professional adult, Josh Pinkham in this most impressive video clip of the Frank Vignola Quintet in "Luke." Josh took lessons from long time family friend Mike Marshall and his friend Chris Thile, but has developed a mandolin voice of his own. It's been great to follow him over the last decade. He comes from some good blood, his father Jeff a talented multi-instrumentalist and songwriter, and jazz vocalist mother, Terry. Last time we met up with him, their was talk of a recording project with David Grisman and his grandfather, rhythm tenor guitar expert Jerry Thomasson.

Enjoy video: The Frank Vignola Quintet - Luke


Posted by Ted at 6:18 AM


June 3, 2010 | June Mandolin Sessions "Chord Combinations for the Lizard Ear." From the Pros!

Our June Mandolin Sessions "Jazz Mandology" article is up, and with understandable bias, we'd like to say it's a goodie. We took our "Lizard Ear" chord concept to several of our favorite pro players and were treated with some great chord combinations to try. You'll enjoy them, too. Some great tips from Wayne Fugate, Scott Tichenor, Emory Lester, Will Patton, and Paul Glasse.

Lots of fun!

Read article: Chord Combinations for the Lizard Ear, Cont'd From the Pros

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Do us a favor and weigh in with reader feedback at the bottom with comments on the article, or just slip in a five-star rating.
Job security, you know...

Posted by Ted at 6:55 AM


June 1, 2010 | From the JazzMando Research Lab: New Instruments

Q95HQ.jpgWe've had some three dozen amazing instruments in our hands for close scrutiny the last few years. One of the missions of the website is to honor and promote builders that are either on the rise or established but have a different bent on what a mandolin should look like. All of them harbor a deep respect for tradition but take the established, conventional body styles and features and bring them into the 21st Century. Each of these instruments enjoy personal screening and hands-on evaluation for five to ten days, our crew assessing playability, testing tone, and critiquing the aesthetic statement.

It's a rough job, but somebody has to do it.

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James Condino A6

Not all are expensive boutique instruments. We know most players can't afford the stratospheric high-end, so we've tried to include models the hobbyist and working professional can budget for. We also know that for the serious player, one isn't enough. With a diversity of styles, often an arsenal of different weapons of M.A.S. destruction is called for. (Mandolin Acquisition Syndrome)

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Lawrence Smart 10-string fanned fret

Take some time to browse through our list of gems. Maybe there's a builder you haven't met yet!

View page: JazzMando New Models of Mandolins

Posted by Ted at 6:03 AM



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