Posts Tagged ‘Music Improv’

In the Pocket Returns

Tuesday, February 16th, 2016

After nearly a 2 year hiatus, Carlos Puig and In the Pocket has returned to booking gigs again.Hairdoc  Dr. Puig spent the last few years serving as the president of his professional society, the International Society of Hair Restoration Surgery.  That job consumed most of his free time, making it very difficult to play out.

In the Pocket will be performing at Mosset Grill & Wine Bar, in Sugar Land Texas, on Wednesdays from 6pm to 9pm Starting on February 24th.  The food is superb, and the atmosphere very relaxing.  We are looking forward to seeing all of jazz junkie friends again soon.

February 24  In the Pocket


Trombonist Ed Lowe

 Vlad Morakhovsky on piano & Carlos Puig on Bass

March 3, In the Pocket

Paul Peacock

Saxophonist Paul Peacock,

Vlad Morakhovsky on piano and Carlos Puig


Erin Wright\’ Thursday Jam Session

Sunday, March 2nd, 2014

Title: Erin Wright\’ Thursday Jam Session
Location: Costa\’s
Description: 415 Westheimer Rd
Houston, TX 77006
in Montrose
Start Time: 19:00
Date: 2014-02-27
End Time: 23:00

Neural Substrates of Spontaneous Musical Performance: An fMRI Study of Jazz Improvisation

Monday, February 24th, 2014

Charles J. Limb
*, Allen R. Braun
1 Language Section, Voice, Speech and Language Branch, National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Maryland, United States of America, 2 Department of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery and Peabody Conservatory of Music, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, Maryland, United States of America
To investigate the neural substrates that underlie spontaneous musical performance, we examined improvisation in professional jazz pianists using functional MRI. By employing two paradigms that differed widely in musical complexity, we found that improvisation (compared to production of over-learned musical sequences) was consistently characterized by a dissociated pattern of activity in the prefrontal cortex: extensive deactivation of dorsolateral prefrontal and lateral orbital regions with focal activation of the medial prefrontal (frontal polar) cortex. Such a pattern may reflect a combination of psychological processes required for spontaneous improvisation, in which internally motivated, stimulus-independent behaviors unfold in the absence of central processes that typically mediate self-monitoring and conscious volitional control of ongoing performance. Changes in prefrontal activity during improvisation were accompanied by widespread activation of neocortical sensorimotor areas (that mediate the organization and execution of musical performance) as well as deactivation of limbic structures (that regulate motivation and emotional tone). This distributed neural pattern may provide a cognitive context that enables the emergence of spontaneous creative activity.
Citation: Limb CJ, Braun AR (2008) Neural Substrates of Spontaneous Musical Performance: An fMRI Study of Jazz Improvisation. PLoS ONE 3(2): e1679. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0001679

Link to Full Article: jazz improvisation and cerebral function

Neural Substrates of Interactive Musical Improvisation: An fMRI Study of ‘Trading Fours’ in Jazz

Monday, February 24th, 2014

Gabriel F. Donnay, Summer K. Rankin, Monica Lopez-Gonzalez, Patpong Jiradejvong, Charles J. Limb*
Department of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, Maryland, United States of America
Interactive generative musical performance provides a suitable model for communication because, like natural linguistic discourse, it involves an exchange of ideas that is unpredictable, collaborative, and emergent. Here we show that interactive improvisation between two musicians is characterized by activation of perisylvian language areas linked to processing of syntactic elements in music, including inferior frontal gyrus and posterior superior temporal gyrus, and deactivation of angular gyrus and supramarginal gyrus, brain structures directly implicated in semantic processing of language. These findings support the hypothesis that musical discourse engages language areas of the brain specialized for processing of syntax but in a manner that is not contingent upon semantic processing. Therefore, we argue that neural regions for syntactic processing are not domain-specific for language but instead may be domain-general for communication.
Citation: Donnay GF, Rankin SK, Lopez-Gonzalez M, Jiradejvong P, Limb CJ (2014) Neural Substrates of Interactive Musical Improvisation: An fMRI Study of ‘Trading Fours’ in Jazz. PLoS ONE 9(2): e88665. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0088665
Editor: Dante R. Chialvo, National Research & Technology Council, Argentina Received September 24, 2013; Accepted January 14, 2014; Published February 19, 201

Link to the Full Article:  trading fours in jazz

Bob Henschen Trio: CD Release

Tuesday, September 3rd, 2013

Title: Bob Henschen Trio: CD ReleaseSlide1
Location: Cezannes
Description: Friday, October 11, CD Release Party, Bob Henschen Trio – new album “Cravo e Canela with Aric Nitzberg and Tim Solook.
Start Time: 2100
Date: 2013-10-11

Red Nichols

Monday, September 24th, 2012

Red’s style of playing cornet was greatly influenced by Bix Beidebecke, but he was a better overall musician and an excellent sight reader. Nichols learned to play music from his father, a college music teacher. After moving east from Utah he teamed up with a Midwestern band called The Syncopating Seven. After that band broke up he moved to New York in 1923. He soon teamed up with the trombonist Miff Mole and the two would go on to make a great many records together under a variety of names such as, Red Nichols and his Five Pennies, Arkansas Travelers, The Red Heads, The Louisiana Rhythm Kings, The Charleston Chasers and Miff Mole and his Little Molers. Usually these sessions featured the same or similar personnel. Red did a series of recordings for the Brunswick Record Company under the name of Red Nichols and his Five Pennies, although the bands were often quite a bit larger. These sessions at first featured trombonist Miff Mole and Jimmy Dorsey on alto and clarinet, and later in the decade featured a who’s who of great White Jazz musicians, such as Benny Goodman, Glenn Miller, Jack Teagarden, Pee Wee Russell, Joe Venuti, Eddie Lang, Adrian Rollini and Gene Krupa among others. Red appeared on over 4000 records in the 1920s. Nichols survived the Depression by working in Broadway shows, even leading the pit orchestra for two of George Gershwin’s shows; “Girl Crazy” and “Strike Up the Band”. In 1934 Red fronted a band for the radio show sponsored by Kellogg’s Cereal and led many studio orchestras including one for the Bob Hope Show. In 1959 Hollywood made a highly fictionalized picture of his life called “The Five Pennies”, starring Danny Kaye as Red.

Cindy Scott Interviews Ron Carter

Wednesday, March 17th, 2010

Interview with NEA Jazz Master Ron Carter
January 20, 2010
by Cindy Scott

Ron Carter is among the most original, prolific, and influential bassists in jazz. With more than 2,000 albums to his credit, he has recorded with many of music’s greats: Tommy Flanagan, Gil Evans, Lena Horne, Bill Evans, B.B. King, the Kronos Quartet, Dexter Gordon, Wes Montgomery, and Bobby Timmons. In the early 1960s he performed throughout the United States in concert halls and nightclubs with Jaki Byard and Eric Dolphy. He later toured Europe with Cannonball Adderley. From 1963 to 1968, he was a member of the classic and acclaimed Miles Davis Quintet. He was named Outstanding Bassist of the Decade by the Detroit News, Jazz Bassist of the Year by Downbeat magazine, and Most Valuable Player by the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences (from

I had the privilege of interviewing Mr. Carter in anticipation of a workshop he did at the University of New Orleans on Friday, January 22, 2010.  Following is a transcription of our talk. My questions are in boldface, and his answers are in italics.

When you think about the future of jazz, do you go dark, or do you get excited? Where is this music going to end up, do you think?

Every bandleader hopes that they know where jazz is headed, and they hope that their band is leading in that direction. Jazz will always be around. It doesn’t have the level of encouragement that other genres have, for whatever reason.

I’m never discouraged when I hear young people [play jazz]. I just did a master class at the Berklee School of Music in Boston for a bunch of 10 to 14-year-old kids. They were enthusiastic about the music and knew the names of some important jazz musicians. They were really involved in trying to learn how this music works for them. If we can keep this kind of youthful activity and interest in this music, it’s going be around forever.

You’ve played a fair amount of “free” jazz. Do you recommend
exploring that style of playing to your students? Why or why not?

You mean not getting paid, or “free jazz”?

Oh, no, I mean “free” jazz. It’s often the same thing, though, isn’t it?

(Laughs) It seems to be the same. I encourage students that any job is a free lesson for them. I’ve heard them say that the music isn’t hip enough for them or it didn’t maintain their focus. I tell them this is a chance to work on other avenues of playing their instruments. If you want to find a better half note, or a better sound for the notes, better intonation, or maybe you want to find a better way to play the parts every night, use that gig to work on those things. So, every instrument, every [type of] music, every musician who plays a job that’s not his favorite kind of job can find musical value in these situations. I’ve encouraged my students to look at that as free school.

What are the most important tools for young bassists to have
together on the bandstand?

Actually, the getting it together part starts way before the bandstand. They have to have a teacher. Music’s going too fast and it’s too complicated to continue to play it by ear and rely on pure instinct and talent. Musicians write parts for bass players, now, and they want to have the parts played. Well, if you can’t read it, you’re going to have a tough time. So my first recommendation to any bass player is to get a teacher. They’ll help you learn the instrument, help you find out how to get a better instrument, show you how to read music, show you how to practice. Show you how to develop a discipline on the instrument, and those are all things that are very critical — before you get to the bandstand.

Many of us who study jazz end up teaching jazz. What do you think makes a great jazz educator?

That’s a pretty easy question. Those educators whose classes I’ve enjoyed the most have been those who have actually been in the field, and who’ve played lots of gigs, and have sometimes NOT found the best bands to play in. They’ve traveled and gone through the hardships of transportation difficulties. They’ve also played in GREAT bands, and have enjoyed their success and have enjoyed the camaraderie.

How does a drummer’s playing style affect your own playing? How do you reach rhythmic agreement, when you work with so many different kinds of drummers?

Well, I’m taller than most drummers, so I kind of have a head start. (Laughs) Secondly, if a bass player brings a point of view to the bandstand of where he thinks the time is and is verbal enough to explain to the drummer where he thinks the time is, should they not be in the same place, they can work it out. One of the problems is that this music has no specific language. A word that means something to Person A means something completely different to Person B. So you have to find a kind of common verbal language with this drummer to try to help them find the right musical time path, as it were.

A good bass player should know how the drums operate. If he knows that the drums are pitched a certain way that is blocking out certain notes on the bass, he should be comfortable enough to tell the drummer, ask him, if he would change the pitch of this drum or change the tone of that drum. That’s something that’s really not that complicated for drummers to do. And I’ve found drummers look for advice, they look for recommendations, because they want to have a good time playing. They want to have a good sound. They want to have a good time feeling with the bass player, and they’re open to most suggestions. The bass player must, however, know to make the suggestions.

You have spoken in other interviews about New Orleans-style
drumming. Have you played with many drummers from here? In your opinion, what makes New Orleans drummers unique?

As far as the New Orleans drum style is concerned, my first exposure to the New Orleans drum sounds were with Billy Higgins and Ed Blackwell. It took me a while to feel where they were playing the beat. They played, if this makes sense, more straight up and down rather than slanted like Tony Williams or Billy Cobham. One thing that caught my attention was the beautiful sound they got on the snare. New Orleans drummers get a great, great snare drum sound. And anytime I find a drummer with that kind of snare drum sound, we can find something to do together. I heard Herlin the other day on a recording, and boy, what a great sound on the snare!

You work with many great jazz musicians all over the world. How is it different working with, say, Milton Nascimento, i.e., playing Brazilian music with Brazilians, versus playing Brazilian music with Americans?

Well, the natives always do what the natives do best. The Brazilian musicians have a different sound on the guitar. The drum rhythms are a little more complicated than the way Americans typically play Brazilian styles. I have had the pleasure of playing with some fabulous Brazilian drummers. And I enjoy playing Brazilian music with American drummers. The feel is not quite the same, but equally enjoyable with an American drummer playing Brazilian music.

If you find the rhythms more complicated, do you find it challenging to rhythmically agree with Brazilian musicians?

The sound is an important factor, because the Brazilian drums are pitched differently. And certainly, their rhythms are a little more complicated. They’ve kind of gotten a little “freer” than the records we heard with Stan Getz when he first brought Brazilian music to the States in the 60s. The drummers down there are much more aggressive than the kind of conservative Brazilian approach by most American drummers.

I see. And you just figure out how to make that work and have a great time because you’re such a fantastic musician with so much experience in doing that?

You can say all that again, I don’t care. (Laughs)

Well you know it’s true.

Ok. (Laughs)

Thank you so much for spending time with me today. I’m really looking forward to the workshop at UNO.

Me, too. See you Friday at 1:00!


The workshop was presented Friday, January 22, 2010 at the University of New Orleans courtesy of the National Endowment of the Arts, the Theloneious Monk Institute of Jazz, and the University of New Orleans Jazz Studies Program.

Carter also has a new authorized (and collaborative) biography written by Dan Ouellette called Finding the Right Notes. The 435-page book chronicles the artist’s colorful life from his first days as a musician until early 2007. It is only available online through

Louis “Satchmo” Armstrong (1901-1971)

Thursday, November 5th, 2009

Louis Armstrong was the greatest of all Jazz musicians. Armstrong defined what it was to play Jazz. His amazing technical abilities, the joy and spontaneity, and amazingly quick, inventive musical mind still dominate Jazz to this day. Only Charlie Parker comes close to having as much influence on the history of Jazz as Louis Armstrong did. Like almost all early Jazz musicians, Louis was from New Orleans. He was from a very poor family and was sent to reform school when he was twelve after firing a gun in the air on New Year’s Eve. At the school he learned to play cornet. After being released at age fourteen, he worked selling papers, unloading boats, and selling coal from a cart. He didn’t own an instrument at this time, but continued to listen to bands at clubs like the Funky Butt Hall. Joe “King” Oliver was his favorite and the older man acted as a father to Louis, even giving him his first real cornet, and instructing him on the instrument. By 1917 he played in an Oliver inspired group at dive bars in New Orleans’ Storyville section. In 1919 he left New Orleans for the first time to join Fate Marable’s band in St. Louis. Marable led a band that played on the Strekfus Mississsippi river boat lines. When the boats left from New Orleans Armstrong also played regular gigs in Kid Ory’s band. Louis stayed with Marable until 1921 when he returned to New Orleans and played in Zutty Singleton’s. He also played in parades with the Allen Brass Band, and on the bandstand with Papa Celestin’s Tuxedo Orchestra , and the Silver Leaf Band. When King Oliver left the city in 1919 to go to Chicago, Louis took his place in Kid Ory’s band from time to time. In 1922 Louis received a telegram from his mentor Joe Oliver, asking him to join his Creole Jazz Band at Lincoln Gardens (459 East 31st Street) in Chicago. This was a dream come true for Armstrong and his amazing playing in the band soon made him a sensation among other musicians in Chicago. The New Orleans style of music took the town by storm and soon many other bands from down south made their way north to Chicago. While playing in Oliver’s Creole Jazz Band, Armstrong met Lillian Hardin, a piano player and arranger for the band. In February of 1924 they were married. Lil was a very intelligent and ambitious woman who felt that Louis was wasting himself playing in Oliver’s band. By the end of 1924 she pressured Armstrong to reluctantly leave his mentor’s band. He briefly worked with Ollie Powers’ Harmony Syncopators before he moved to New York to play in Fletcher Henderson’s Orchestra for 13 months. During that time he also did dozens of recording sessions with numerous Blues singers, including Bessie Smith’s 1925 classic recording of “St. Louis Blues“. He also recorded with Clarence Williams and the Red Onion Jazz Babies. In 1925 Armstrong moved back to Chicago and joined his wife’s band at the Dreamland Cafe (3520 South State Street). He also played in Erskine Tate’s Vendome Orchestra and then with Carrol Dickenson’s Orchestra at the Sunset Cafe (313-17 East 35th Street at the corner of Calmet Street). Armstrong recorded his first Hot Five records that same year. This was the first time that Armstrong had made records under his own name. The records made by Louis Armstrong’s Hot Five and Hot Seven are considered to be absolute jazz classics and speak of Armstrong’s creative powers. The band never played live, but continued recording until 1928. While working at the Sunset, Louis met his future manager, Joe Glaser. Glaser managed the Sunset at that time. Armstrong continued to play in Carrol Dickenson’s Orchestra until 1929. He also led his own band on the same venue under the name of Louis Armstrong and his Stompers. For the next two years Armstrong played with Carroll Dickerson’s Savoy Orchestra and with Clarence Jones’ Orchestra in Chicago. By 1929 Louis was becoming a very big star. He toured with the show “Hot Chocolates” and appeared occasionally with the Luis Russell Orchestra, with Dave Peyton, and with Fletcher Henderson. Armstrong moved to Los Angeles in 1930 where he fronted a band called Louis Armstrong and his Sebastian New Cotton Club Orchestra. In 1931 he returned to Chicago and assembled his own band for touring purposes. In June of that year he returned to New Orleans for the first time since he left in 1922 to join King Oliver’s Creole Jazz Band. Armstrong was greeted as a hero, but racism marred his return when a White radio announcer refused to mention Armstrong on the air and a free concert that Louis was going to give to the cities’ African-American population was cancelled at the last minute. Louis and Lil also separated in 1931. In 1932 he returned to California, before leaving for England where he was a great success. For the next three years Armstrong was almost always on the road. He crisscrossed the U.S. dozens of times and returned to Europe playing in Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Holland and England. In 1935 he returned to the U.S. and hired Joe Glaser to be his manager. He had known Glaser when he was the manager of the Sunset Cafe in Chicago in the 1920s. Glaser was allegedly connected to the Al Capone mob, but proved to be a great manager and friend for Louis. Glaser remained Armstrong’s manager until his death in 1969. Glaser took care of the business end of things, leaving Armstrong free to concentrate on his music. He also hired the Luis Russell Orchestra as Louis’ backup band with Russell as the musical director. This was like going home for Armstrong, because Russell’s Orchestra was made up of predominantly New Orleans musicians, many of whom had also played with King Oliver. The band was renamed Louis Armstrong and his Orchestra and was one of the most popular acts of the Swing era. Glaser put the band to work and they toured constantly for the next ten years. During this period Armstrong became one of the most famous men in America. In 1938 Lil and Louis finally got a divorce. Louis then married Alpha, his third wife. The endless touring was hard on their marriage and they were divorced four years later, but Armstrong quickly remarried Lucille and they remained married for the rest of his life. For the next nine years the Louis Armstrong Orchestra continued to tour and release records, but as the 1940s drew to a close the public’s taste in Jazz began to shift away from the commercial sounds of the Swing era and big band Jazz. The so-called Dixieland Jazz revival was just beginning and Be Bop was also starting to challenge the status quo in the Jazz world. The Louis Armstrong Orchestra was beginning to look tired and concert and record sales were declining. Critics complained that Armstrong was becoming too commercial. So, in 1947 Glaser fired the orchestra and replaced them with a small group that became one of the greatest and most popular bands in Jazz history. The group was called the Louis Armstrong Allstars and over the years featured exceptional musicians like Barney Bigard, Jack Teagarden, Sidney ‘Big Sid’ Catlett , vocalist Vilma Middleton, and Earl Hines. The band went through a number of personnel changes over the years but remained extremely popular worldwide. They toured extensively travelling to Africa, Asia, Europe and South America for the next twenty years until Louis’ failing health caused them to disband. Armstrong became known as America’s Ambassador. In 1963 Armstrong scored a huge international hit with his version of “Hello Dolly”. This number one single even knocked the Beatles off the top of the charts. In 1968 he recorded another number one hit with the touchingly optimistic “What A Wonderful World”. Armstrong’s health began to fail him and he was hospitalized several times over the remaining three years of his life, but he continued playing and recording. On July 6th 1971 the world’s greatest Jazz musician died in his sleep at his home in Queens, New York.

Thanks to Mary Devito for her help with this page.

Louis Armstrong and his Hot Five Louis Armstrong and his Hot Seven
Louis Armstrong and his Orchestra Louis Armstrong and his Savoy Ballroom Five
Louis Armstrong and his Stompers Louis Armstrong and his Sebastian New Cotton Club Orchestra
Louis Armstrong with the Polynesians Louis Armstrong With Andy Iona And His Islanders
Louis Armstrong and the Mills Brothers Louis Armstrong With Jimmy Dorsey and his Orchestra

Title Recording Date Recording Location Company
Elder Eatmore’s Sermon On Generosity
8-11-1938 New York, New York Decca
Elder Eatmore’s Sermon On Throwing Stones
8-11-1938 New York, New York Decca

Title Director Year
Ex-Flame Victor Halperin 1930
I’ll Be Glad When You’re Dead You Rascal You Dave Fleischer 1930
A Rhapsody in Black and Blue Aubrey Scotto 1932
Pennies from Heaven Norman Z. McLeod 1936
Artists & Models Raoul Walsh 1937
Every Day’s a Holiday A. Edward Sutherland 1937
Dr. Rhythm Frank Tuttle 1938
Going Places Ray Enright 1938
Cabin In The Sky Vincente Minnelli & Busby Berkeley 1943
Show Business at War Louis De Rochemont 1943
Jam Session Charles Barton 1944
Atlantic City Ray McCarey 1944
Pillow to Post Vincent Sherman 1945
New Orleans Arthur Lubin 1947
A Song Is Born Howard Hawks 1948
Botta e risposta Mario Soldati 1949
Young Man with a Horn Michael Curtiz 1950
Here Comes the Groom Frank Capra 1951
The Strip László Kardos 1951
Glory Alley Raoul Walsh 1952
The Glenn Miller Story Anthony Mann 1953
High Society Charles Walters 1956
Satchmo the Great 1957
Die Nacht vor der Premiere Georg Jacoby 1959
The Beat Generation Charles F. Haas 1959
La Paloma Paul Martin 1959
Kærlighedens melodi Bent Christensen 1959
Jazz On A Summer’s Day Bert Stern 1959
The Five Pennies Melville Shavelson 1959
The Five Pennies Melville Shavelson 1959
Paris Blues Martin Ritt 1961
Auf Wiedersehen Harald Philipp 1961
When the Boys Meet the Girls Alvin Ganzer 1965
A Man Called Adam Leo Penn 1966
Hello, Dolly! Gene Kelly 1969
On the Road with Duke Ellington Robert Drew 1974

My Life in New Orleans by Louis Armstrong, Da Capo Press, 1954
Swing That Music by Louis Armstrong, Da Capo Press, 1936
Louis Armstrong by Hughes Panassie Da Capo Press, 1971
Louis by Max Jones & John Clinton, Da Capo Press, 1971
Louis Armstrong : An Extravagant Life by Laurence Bergreen, Broadway Books, 1997
Louis Armstrong’s New Orleans by Thomas Brothers, W.W. Norton and Company, 2006

From Red Hot Jazz