“Banjo! The All-American Instrument” Radio Program

I just found an archived radio program well worth checking out: the Illinois Humanities Council and WBEZ 91.5 radio website provide access to a lovely talk on the banjo and American folk music by banjo player mark Dvorak (Banjo! The All-American Instrument).

Dvorak begins with a clawhammer banjo medley of many of the best known folk songs and fiddle tunes from the American old-time repertoire. While the playing is in itself worth a listen, the real highlight is Dvorak’s informative lecture touching on all aspects of American folk music.

In the 70-minute program, Dvorak addresses the origins of American folk song, three major banjo styles, and musical figures such as songwriter Stephen Foster and banjo player Frank Proffitt in the contexts of American culture in the 19th and early 20th centuries.

Focusing on the repertoire of folk music, he demonstrates the evolution of an old English folk song into the American standards “Mama Don’t Allow,” “Crawdad Song,” and finally, the Woody Guthrie industrial ballad “Pittsburgh Town.” Dvorak also tactfully relates the often grim stories behind such well-known folk songs as “Old Joe Clark,” “Oh Susanna,” and “Tom Dooley.”

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Bye Bye Blackbird Chord Melody

Here is my guitar chord melody arrangement for “Bye Bye Blackbird,” composed by Ray Henderson, published in 1926. A jazz standard, “Bye Bye Blackbird” has been recorded by many notable musicians including Miles Davis, Nina Simone, Frank Sinatra, Keith Jarrett, Sarah Vaughan, and many others.  Continue reading

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Album Review at Guitar International

Check out my review of the Hugh Tracey archival guitar recordings on the album Origins of Guitar Music in Southern Congo and Northern Zambia 1950, ’51, ’51, ’57, ’58 at Guitar International Magazine.

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Jazz Styles at A Passion For Jazz

A Passion for Jazz has a great breakdown of the styles of jazz, from its beginnings in the 19th century to contemporary jazz styles from the 1980s and 1990s. Each style is covered in a couple of paragraphs which describe the music and its place in the jazz timeline. A commendably comprehensive list, the only thing I would want to add to it would be the jazz-world fusion artists such as Rudresh Mahanthappa, John McLaughlin, Gabriel Alegria, and many others. Regardless,  A Passion for Jazz has provided a fantastic resource for students and fans of jazz.

Check it out here: Styles of Jazz Music Article


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The Harlem Renaissance and American Music

A new article of mine on the influence of the Harlem Renaissance on 20th century American music is now available at All About Jazz. It relates to a previous post on this blog, linked here:

The African-American Experience in Jazz Suites

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My Youtube Channel

If you haven’t already, check out my Youtube channel. I currently have five playlists, three related to my teaching materials.

These three playlists include sample lessons, ear training resources, and videos of the songs currently available in my Beginner Guitar Series and Video Lesson Archives.

Two playlists are just recommended listening: the first is some of the best recordings of Hindustani classical music that I come across, the second is full concert footage of some of my favorite performers.

These will continue to grow, and I hope you enjoy!

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The African-American Experience in Jazz Suites

Here is a link to another blogger’s post on jazz suites as they reflect the experience of black Americans (A Blog Supreme, NPR, by David Brent Johnson).

This topic is very similar to that of an article I will soon have published at All About Jazz entitled “The Harlem Renaissance and American Music.” In this article, I explore representations of African-American culture and history as it appeared in works by William Grant Still, Duke Ellington, and George Gershwin.

I’m looking forward to exploring some of the suites mentioned by Johnson and comparing them to those I already know. I’ll post the link once it’s available.

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Review: 98% Funky Stuff: My Life in Music, by Maceo Parker

Just finished reviewing Maceo Parker’s new autobiography, 98% Funky Stuff: My Life in Music, for Jazz Books Reviews:

98% Funky Stuff: My Life in Music, released in February 2013, is the autobiography of legendary funk saxophonist Maceo Parker. The writing is straightforward and engaging, often understated, and the two hundred pages go by quickly. Over the course of ten chapters, Parker provides a glimpse of his early life and influences, his experiences performing with artists including James Brown and George Clinton, and his gradual ascent to leading his own band. Parker’s uniquely laidback and sensible personality is present throughout, as is his commitment to his values, family, and music.

Parker covers pretty much everything in a roughly chronological breakdown of his life. His story begins with his childhood and early life in Kinston, North Carolina, growing up in a nurturing environment with supportive parents and siblings. The writing evokes an image of a young boy, drawn to music, first by the singing of his parents’ church choir, then by the sound of the piano, and finally by the allure of the marching band. By his sophomore year in high school, Parker’s band with his siblings and friends, the Mighty Blue Notes, were gigging around town…Click here to read the full review!

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Ear Training Resource

Ear training is one of the fundamental skills a musician works to acquire. Recognizing intervallic relationships between different notes enables accurate sight singing, transcription, imitation, and allows the improvising musician to know what how something will sound before they even play it!

Ear training is a multi-faceted discipline, involving passive and active stages of development, recognition of diatonic and chromatic intervals, both ascending and descending, and the ability to discern intervals in both melodic and harmonic contexts.

The first step to developing a trained ear is to recognize the basic intervals. One of the most common methods for recognition is by relating specific intervals to their occurrence in familiar tunes. In my new Youtube series, intervals are taught in just this manner, by identifying the intervals in order, and immediately providing their sound in the context of a melody.

Ear Training – Interval Recognition Part 1 is now available. This video provides the mnemonic devices for the ascending diatonic intervals.

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Website Redesign

You’ll probably notice that my website looks quite a bit different from your last visit, but I think that’s probably a good thing. I’ve altered the layout to make it more intuitive and accessible. In the new layout lesson info, reviews, articles, audio, and notations are all located in their individual and easy to find tabs.

This will also let me focus the blog better than in the past. This will still be the central vein, informing readers of new content on this site and new projects. It also allows me to focus on different aspects of music in the blog, such as sharing and opening discussions on music, videos, and well-written articles from all over the web.

Please feel free to comment and share your thoughts on the website content, design, direction, or anything that comes to mind!



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