Bluesette

So, this is the first arrangement I wrote fully on my own.

I transcribed Jean ‘Toots’ Theileman’s Bluesette and wrote the Bass Clarinet and Second Soprano Clarinet part based on the key changes.

I think it is kind of fun, it has a propulsive, merry-go-round feel that works with the melody. I only wish I knew how to play accordion better, so I could play the bass part on accordion. That would make it really cool.

Tho, playing the bass clarinet part through as many times as it took for me to get it mostly down, gave me a new respect for tuba players. I shall never make fun of the tuba!

Here’s the pdf of the arrangment: Bluesette

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African Blackwood Deficiency

Thank you for coming in, Big Ears. While your copper, stainless, and brass levels are good, especially copper, I am seeing a definite African Blackwood deficiency. I am recommending daily clarinet and oboe supplements to build up your levels. In six months, let’s run the test again and see if you’ve built up enough tolerance for some Bass Clarinet and, maybe, Bassoon. And try to get more exercise…

Roosevelt Sykes Explains His Philosophy

Roosevelt Sykes explains his philosophy of “Honey” to a young John Fahey.

As recounted in Fahey’s book, “How Bluegrass Music Destroyed My Life”.

“Well, Jawn, I think that it is time that you learned about
HONEY.”

“Honey, what’s

HONEY

got to do with show biz?” I asked.

“Honey’s got a lot to do with everything that is important in life, Jawn. Not just show biz, but everything.”

“Well,” I said, “OK, Roosevelt. If you say so. So tell me about

HONEY

if you want to. I don’t understand what you are talking about now, but I”m sure once you explain it to me I will understand it.”

“Oh yes, Jawn,” Roosevelt said, “you will understand it. And it will help you all through life. Just ordinary, plain

HONEY.

From now on you’ve got to learn to think about

HONEY.

It’s very important. If you’re going to stay in show biz for a long time, you’ve got to learn about

HONEY.

“Now, Jawn,” he went on, “as you know

HONEY

is sweet, right?”
“Oh, yes,” I replied.

And, another thing,” he said, “it makes everybody happy and makes everybody fell good when they swallow some

HONEY.”

“Right?” he asked.

“Right,” I answered, wondering what in the world he was getting around to.

But, I knew he wasn’t crazy, and I knew he knew a lot, so I didn’t say anything.

No.

I just listened to him.

And also the way he was repeating the word honey so much was kind of hypnotic.

You know what I mean?

But I knew he was “alright,” so I kept a passive attitude.

Anyway, he went on: “What you’ve got to learn, Jawn is to think about

HONEY.

And think about how sweet it is, and how good for you it is, and how nice and smooth it is, and how wonderful it is, and how good it is to you, and how wonderful it is for anybody who eats any of it. It makes them happy and it makes you happy. It’s wonderful stuff, Jawn, isn’t it?”

“Well,” I said, “now that you mention it, I guess it is, Roosevelt. I just never thought about

HONEY

before.”

“That’s OK, Jawn. You are beginning to learn the secret about

HONEY.

You are already doing it, so before long you’ll know all about it and how great it is and how you can use it by just thinking about it.”

“OK, fine.” I said.

Sykes: “For a while, it’s very important to practice thinking about

HONEY.

Set a little time aside every day and just sit somewhere quiet and think about

HONEY.

And before you go to bed at night always think about

HONEY,

at least for a few minutes. It will help you sleep.”

Me: “Well, I’ll try it, Roosevelt. But only because you said so and I trust you. Because I still don’t understand why

HONEY

is so important.”

Sykes: “Oh, you’ll understand it very soon. You’ll see why it is so important. Don’t worry. Now, listen very carefully, Jawn. Once you learn to think about honey and think about it very deeply then whenever somebody comes around and says something unpleasant, what you do is you start thinking about

HONEY.

If you do then you can turn the conversation around 180 degrees and the painful person will be on the end of the stick and not you. And furthermore it’s your stick and not his.”

Me: “Yeah, I think I’m beginning to get you.”

Sykes: “See, by thinking about honey rather than thinking about what a jerk the other guy is, or the situation is, or whatever, then you will find yourself treating him as if he was doing you a big favor. And once the guy starts thinking that you are grateful to him and that he is, in fact, doing you a favor, then you have got control of the situation. You are in power. You are in the driver’s seat. Not him, but you. And that is the whole point, isn’t it?”

Me: “Well, yes, Roosevelt, now that I think about it I guess that is the whole point. By thinking about

HONEY

and talking nice to the guy, you switch things around, and you’re the real boss.”

Sykes: “That’s it, Jawn. You got it. But now don’t get confused. We’re talking about feelings mostly and how to keep feeling good and on top of things that you don’t want to do. The bad guy can make you do things. He can make you do things that you don’t want to do. But if you turn it into a situation where it looks and feels to both of you like you are doing the guy a big favor–if he can’t control the way you feel, but you can–then you are the one who really wins, Jawn. Even if the other guy doesn’t know it. You see what I mean, Jawn?”

Me: “I think so. You’re telling me that the really important thing is not what I do but what I feel. If I have possession over my feelings, that’s the important thing. Is that what you mean, Roosevelt?”

Sykes: “Yes, Jawn, that’s exactly what I mean. You see, Jawn, it doesn’t really matter what somebody does to your body, or what they make you do with your body. That isn’t really important because, Jawn, you aren’t your body, are you?”

Me: “I’m not sure what you mean, Roosevelt.”

Sykes: “I mean, there’s something else over there, something else besides your body, and that’s who answers when I call ‘Jawn.’ That body doesn’t answer. It belongs to the real you. And the real you is not your body. See what I mean?”

Me: “I think so, Roosevelt. Yeah, I see. There’s this body over here but the me, I am something else.”

Sykes: “Right, Jawn. That’s what I mean. And look. As long as you can prevent this bad guy who comes along, and believe me there’s lots of bad guys gonna come along, right?”

Me: “Yeah, I gotcha.”

Sykes: “As long as you remember that you are not the same thing as that body, and as long as you can think about honey, then you can always control how you feel. Not somebody else, but you. And that’s how you win the game, Jawn. That’s the only way. And the important thing about

HONEY

is that it enables you to keep feeling good regardless about what the other guy says or does. See–look, John. Some badmouth comes up to you and says something unpleasant so you start thinking about

HONEY.

So you go along with what he says, you agree with him and you thank him because the whole time you were thinking about the many, many good properties of

HONEY.

And that way you can change the balance of power…. Now, in an extreme situation, where this, what I told you, doesn’t work, then what you do is you start talking about

HONEY.

Yes. Tell the guy all about

HONEY

and how much you like it, and about the many good qualities it has. Now, the guy may think you’re crazy, but that’s OK. You still got him under control.”

Me: “Gosh, Roosevelt, I think what you’re telling me will work. Next time something I don’t like happens, why I’ll just start thinking and maybe talking about

HONEY.”

Sykes: “Yes, and Jawn there’s more to it than what I told you so far. You’ve got to realize that by putting things back in natural order or harmony, that you are doing this other guy a big favor. Because you are making him feel good, too. That way you both win. So, you talk like this, Jawn: Why, of course, I’ll help you. How nice of you to ask me. How nice of you to think so highly of me that you ask me to help. Sure. I’d be delighted.

Me: “Gosh. I think you got something there, Roosevelt.”

Sykes: “I sure do. And the whole time what you’ve got to do is imagine that you have a great big pot of

HONEY

And what you are really saying is, Here, have some

HONEY.

I’ve got lots of it. There’s plenty to go around. And another thing you do is you make yourself feel like you’re made of honey. And so is the other guy. In fact, everything is made out of

HONEY.”

At this point, Roosevelt started to laugh quite agreeably.

And so did I.

Me: “It seems like thinking about it is funny, too.”

Sykes: “Right, Jawn. Thinking about

Honey.

is funny. And not only that but it rhymes, you see,

HONEY IS FUNNY

Get it?”

And they I started laughing because it was so funny to think about everything being made out of

HONEY

Sykes: “Why, Jawn, when you get right down to it, there is

HONEY

everywhere. There is no place you can go where there isn’t any

HONEY

And not only that but there is

HONEY

in your voice. It’s in your mind. Why it’s everywhere. And isn’t that funny?”

Now we were both laughing like two madmen but it didn’t matter and neither one of us cared because, you see, it seemed like everything in the universe had turned into

HONEY

And this seemed very, very funny, and we kept on laughing and laughing for maybe fifteen minutes, and then when we tried to stop laughing we couldn’t stop laughing because everything seemed so funny.

It’s a Mystery

William Parker:

Last Question. Do you think that they, whoever “they” are, the writers, the people who document stuff, do you think they’ll ever understand this music the way musicians understand it?

Fred Anderson:

No, because I don’t think nobody understands. (laughs) They can only go by what they hear and what they like and what they don’t like. And I think that is the way they write about it, what they think is good. But I think most musicians that I know, anybody that ever said anything, ever did anything, never was satisfied with what they were doin’. They were searchin’. And I don’t think they really knew what they were doin’. They were still searchin’. And I think it’s been a mystery, just like life. Everybody writes a book and tells you how to do it this way, do that. That’s just their opinion and I don’t think nobody knows. I think life is a mystery. The music is a mystery. I think this whole universe is a mystery. (laughs) We’re talkin’ about somethin’, man, that nobody really understands. But, you’re entitled to your opinion and if you can put it out there and somebody can get something out of it, cool. It’s an individual thing. It’s a mystery. You make these decisions and that’s it. Whatever you leave, you leave it. (laughs) You just have to believe in what you’re doing and stick to it and be consistent and try to do it right and do it the best way as you see it. If somebody can benefit, cool. I’ve benefited from a lot of things that I’ve heard, by applying some of these techniques in my mind. Now that don’t mean that I was right or wrong, but if I did anything, I learned from observance, seeing how things was done. Another thing that taught me a lot of stuff–I didn’t realize that my wife was sick. She could’ve been sick a long, long time before I even met her. But it came upon me to deal with it. So you don’t know man. You just have to deal with the problem. Whatever the problem is, you try to deal with it. Sometimes you can deal with it, sometimes you can’t But that’s it, man. That’s how I see it.


From “Conversations”, a collection of interviews William Parker conducted with various performing artists and composers, published by RogueArt.

When I was young, I really liked music that used the recording studio as an instrument.

However, as I’ve gotten older, I’ve come to question the value of those sorts of albums which are stitched together in the studio. Those Frankenstein creations where the musicians might or might not even be in the same room (or building).

I think my perception radically changed when I saw Anthony Braxton’s Quartet (Braxton, Crispell, Dresser, Hemingway) at Yoshi’s a number of years ago. I had been collecting Braxton recordings and attempting to understand them without much success. Seeing that band, though, and feeling what was going on between the players, I understood that the music often called “Jazz” is most about the interaction of the players in the moment.

Jazz recordings, at best, are like insects captured in amber.

To be captured in amber, the insect has to die.

Similarly, the spontaneity of the moment and the energy exchange between players, things that are the essential features of a jazz performance, have to be stripped away, in the interest of fidelity and trapping a piece for eternity.

I’ve come to feel that most recordings of Jazz are really just souvenirs, simply reminders of artists I respect and gestures of support for their ongoing struggle to represent their craft against all odds.

The Duke Dreams

Duke Ellington: This Isn't Piano, This Is Dreaming from thisisdreaming.com on Vimeo.

“Where did you get your ideas from?”
“The Ideas? Oh, man, I got a million dreams. It’s all I do is dream. All the time.”
“I thought you played piano.”
“No, no, no, no, no! This is not playing piano, this is dreaming.”
…Duke plays…
“That’s dreaming.”

Horn Players

I was watching last last Jazz Night in America with the Bad Plus and Joshua Redman playing tracks from their new album.

Bad Plus Plus Joshua Redman

Watching, I was struck by how funny it is, that in modern small combo jazz, the horn player often sits there and basically does nothing for what amounts to nearly half of the concert.

The piano, drum, and bass players play the whole night, but the horn player plays during the head and his solos and then just sits out the rest of the concert.

Related, listening to early jazz, Armstrong, Oliver, Bechet, I’ve been paying attention to how the clarinet interacts with the ensemble. It seems like the clarinet is most closely allied with the banjo. While the brass, piano, and drums play mostly on the beat, the clarinet & banjo play contrapuntally and interstitially.

While the horns play the main theme or motif, the clarinet will often play against the theme, or after it, or during breaks in the music. Sort of like the clarinet player is commenting on the theme.

Similarly, in early small combo jazz, the horns don’t sit out, they act as part of the rhythm section when they are not actively soloing.

It’s funny that that custom seems to have been lost in much of modern jazz.