Rhythm Section Primer

I wrote this handout for a class Kathy and I did at UVA last week.  I hope you enjoy it (pdfs are at the bottom of the post, if that’s more your style).  Special thanks goes to John D’earth and everyone else in the Jazz program at UVA.  Kathy and I had an amazing time!

PDF Files:
Rhythm Section Basics page 1
Rythm Section Basics page 2

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Standards in Solitude

Randy Pingrey – Alone

Easy Living

Sweet Sue

Come Sunday – solo piano

Deed I Do

Randy Pingrey – all instruments and arrangements (except for Deed I Do, which is based on a Kathy Olson arrangement)

I recorded these tracks over the past few months using a small digital four-track device.  It started out as something that I was doing just for fun, but eventually I realized that I had pull together a few of my favorite tracks to release here.  I hope you enjoy it!

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Chasing the Bird

While at NEC, I was fortunate enough to study for a year with the famed trombonist-extraordinare Robin Eubanks.  For a while, I was bringing in Charlie Parker solos to work on with him, and in one of our lessons he said (and I’m paraphrasing here):

You know, someone should take some time to transpose these solos up a fourth.  They’re really in the pumpin’ register.

After you take a second to chuckle at the phrase “pumpin’ register”,  let me explain what he meant: When trombone players practice Parker’s solos (say, from the Omnibook or from their own transcription), we play what Parker played, but down an octave.  Unfortunately, the “money register” for a saxophone tends to skew lower on the instrument’s available tessitura than what is common for the average jazz trombonist.  As a result, here is what a trombone player looks at when they try to play a Charlie Parker solo:

To a jazz trombonist, the preceding excerpt, although playable, doesn’t really lay in an idiomatic fashion on the horn.  When a trombone is played in its lower register, all of the slide positions are further apart compared to the closer positions of the higher register.  In other words, what Robin meant by “pumpin’ register”,  is that the solo is just too damn low and one has to move the slide too much.  Bebop is already hard enough on the trombone, and the range that trombonists play Parker’s solos in certainly doesn’t make these tricky solos any easier.  Here is what the same excerpt looks like when it’s transposed up a fourth:

Now we’re talking!  The range is much more reflective of what jazz trombonists actually play.  So, I went ahead and I transposed the whole solo up a perfect fourth, just like Robin suggested.  Here, take a look and listen for yourself:

Moose the Mooche (pdf file)

The benefits are pretty clear – I’ve been working on the solo for about a week, and the bebop vocabulary feels much better suited to my instrument.  I suppose one could argue that it would be more valuable to study Parker’s solos at the original pitch, but I’ve always thought that the jazz tradition is ours to play with, so why not?

I also went ahead and did the same thing to Parker’s solo on Donna Lee.  Check it out too:

Birds Solo on Donna Lee (pdf file)
(I haven’t had the time to work on this solo, so I can’t totally swear by its accuracy, and there’s not yet an audio file for me to post.  Besides, it’s really, really hard…)

So anyways, feel free to download these solos, and share them with your trombone playing friends!

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A new year, a new look

A new year has come and Trombonist-at-Large has a new look.  I’m pretty excited about it, but there are still a few kinks to be worked out.  If you really like the change (or really don’t like it), let me know.  Feedback is always deeply appreciated.  The site is around 8 months old now, and I’ve really enjoyed developing it to this point.  It’s work I don’t plan on giving up on anytime soon!

Many apologies for the lack of updates recently – right after the holidays I started working at Berklee College of Music, and I’ve been a little overwhelmed with beginning-semester administrative issues.  I’m guessing things will slow down a tad soon, and I’ll make it a goal to document my work more here at Trombonist-at-Large.

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The Olson Pingrey Quartet at Rutman’s

December 10th, 2009

On the D.L. “by” Randy Pingrey

Tygart Valley by Kathy Olson

Stone Age Rhumba by Randy Pingrey (more info)

Blues for Mac by Kathy Olson

Reverie by Kathy Olson

My Waltz by Kathy Olson

Low Contrast by Randy Pingrey (more info)

Venus de Milo by Gerry Mulligan, arranged by Randy Pingrey

Kathy Olson – bari sax
Randy Pingrey – trombone
Mark Zaleski – bass
Austin McMahon – drums

What a great evening!  Kathy and I can’t thank Mark and Austin enough for being so shockingly perfect for our music, and it was wonderful to see so many people at the gig.

And special thanks goes to Rutman’s Violins for having us play…

…and an extra special thanks goes to Joel and Laura for being totally awesome.

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Stone Age Rhumba – Sneak Peak!

The December 10th Rutman’s hit is quickly approaching for the Olson Pingrey Quartet!  Kathy, Mark, and I had a lovely rehearsal last night and I thought I’d post a sample of one of the new tunes we’re going to play.  It’s called Stone Age Rhumba.  Here are the first two minutes:

Stone Age Rhumba

Kathy Olson – bari sax
Randy Pingrey – trombone
Mark Zaleski – bass
Recorded on December 8th, 2009

(by the way – the piece features an extensive drum part – which you’ll have to come to the gig to hear!)

My intention for Stone Age Rhumba was to write a tribute to the great trombonist Bill Harris while continuing the vibe of other pieces I had written for this ensemble (this piece shares a few motivic ideas with my piece Low Contrast, which you can listen to here).  Harris was the featured trombone soloist of the Woody Herman Big Band starting in the 40’s.  His technique, imagination, and sense of humor were totally unique and second to none, and his playing has been a recent source of inspiration for me. 

Harris’ most famous feature in the Herman big band was the tune Bijou by Ralph Burns.  It was once described by Woody Herman as a “stone age rhumba”, which is where the title of the piece comes from.

And as one final reminder – the Olson Pingrey Quartet plays on December 10th at Rutman’s Violins in Boston, MA.  We’ll start at 8PM and play until 9:15 or so.  There’s a $10 suggested donation, and we would really love for everyone to come out.  Thank you!

P.S. The gig has happened, and you can listen to the whole thing, including the full version of Stone Age Rhumba right here.

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More Solo Trombone Improvisations

For the past few months I’ve been working on solo trombone improvisations, but it’s been a while since I’ve thought about it much – I’ve been busy dealing with other issues.  However, just recently my friend James Wylie put on a concert of solo saxophone improvisations, and that inspired me to revisit the subject.

The music of the first generations of jazz trombonists has interested me more recently.  I’ve been checking out Miff Mole, Vic Dickenson, and Bill Harris in addition to the trombonists I was already into (viz. Teagarden, Dickey Wells, Lawrence Brown).  It’s that spirit that has been influencing me more and more.

These are also the first recordings I have with my new equipment – a Conn 6H – and it’s a horn I love to play.  It makes me feel much more connected to “the tradition”.  Whatever that means.

Here is my most recent work:

I

II

III

IV

V

Feel free to download or stream – whatever you prefer.

And please come to the Rutman’s gig on December 10th!

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