Sunday, January 18, 2009


Last Wednesday was the first meeting of my "Stage Band" class at City College and I felt the familiar trepidation of being unfamiliar.

Like other performance classes, Stage Band can be repeated numerous times, so twelve of the sixteen "pupils" were returnees.

The teacher, Lenny Carlson, explained the official requirements (not published in the catalog) which I would call "intermediate" skill level, ability to read, but not necessarily sight-read, and, I guess, play in tune and take direction.


Lenny Carlson is the real deal.  According to his bio Lenny studied with Joe Pass, a name even I recognize, and did some early work with Ry Cooder.  One of Lenny's compositions received a Grammy nomination.

One young newcomer was turned away because she wasn't advanced enough on her instrument.

Beyond the official requirements, one is more or less welcome based on configuration, and it turned out that my flute is welcome.

We have rhythm guitars, lead guitars, bass guitars, drums, piano, and a vocalist.

Wind-wise there are only saxes and flutes, five or six saxes and only two flutes, and, somewhat surprisingly, no clarinets and no brass.

The smoothness of the flute tones is nice against the rough texture of the reeds, and having two helps us compete volumewise.

Improvisational soloing is optional. It looks like we'll be playing pieces in standard pop format--once through straight, repeat one or more times for solos, then once through straight again to conclude.

So I'm all excited about trying improv, although I find most jazz improv to be as unpleasant as twelve-tone-row composition on the classical side.

Like cadenzas in classical, solos in jazz show off the technical skills of the soloists.  Since I have no particular skills to show off, except perhaps a decent tone, I'll have to provide simple ear-candy, which might complement the usual abstract tonal chaos (to my ear).

I'm working on a solo for Jerry Mulligan's Line for Lyons, which is a pretty familiar tune.

Here's a clip of Mr Mulligan playing it.


I'm worried about next Wednesday. Lenny, says he's going to the inauguration, which is Tuesday in freezing D.C., but will hop a plane that night and will be ready for band practice the next day.

I'm not exactly counting on it.

I'm guessing Lenny might be a party activist or something--he said he got tickets through Pelosi's office.  Lenny's no spring chicken but he's a lot springier than I.

There is so much enthusiasm about Obama!

The other number we did in the first meeting was Don't Get Around Much Anymore, which is usually played in cheerful up tempo, but the lyrics are sad--after a breakup one of the parties is depressed and stays home alone.

Some are going to Washington; some are staying home alone.

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1 comment:

The Blue Elephant said...

Can jazz flute be far behind?