In moving the website to a new CMS and a fresh design I decided I’d hire a few amateur graphic artists to create a new logo for the site.¬† They were given this website and the MBS Twitter page and little else. Sadly some designers didn’t look at page but their contributions are represented anyways. Please comment and let me know what you think.

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This video was shared with me on Twitter. I was surprised at how velvety¬†Henry’s tone was compared to what I’ve been listening to recently. Henry Put together a lovely chart with a modern sounding progression and deliciously sweet tone. I hope that this isn’t the last we’ll hear of Henry Solomon.

Henry Solomon – Baritone Saxophone and Composer
Tevan Goldberg – Piano
Solomon Gottfried – Bass
Andrew Grossman – Drums
Mida Chu – Recording and Video

SBJ

For decades young jazz musicians have had the Jamey Aebersold VHS and eventually CD recordings to practice the fundamentals of jazz and to learn tunes. Thousands of musicians have grown into great artists with the help  of these recordings and associated books. Ten’s of thousands of music teachers have prescribed practice sessions with an Aebersold recording adding context to their lessons. This sufficed well for me until I advanced enough to feel that I needed a different type of tool.

A tool which allowed me to focus with laser like accuracy on a specific chords or tonalities. I felt the need to do this in the context of a jazz combo. Of course it would be quite easy to ask the pianist to play G sus 13 chord as I play through the arpeggios outlining the chord movement between Dm7 and G7. But how long could I expect the piano, bass, and drums to keep playing 1 chord as I improved my musicianship? Enter the app SessionBand: Jazz. With this app I can program in a single chord and the recorded pros will play a musically interesting accompaniment on just that chord indefinitely and the sound is fantastic.

What exactly is SessionBand?  It is a loops based sequencer app. If you are familiar with the iRealB app then you know how easy it is to insert chord symbols into the chart and hear it played back in all its MIDI synthesized glory. What SessionBand, which I will now abbreviate as SB, does different is that it plays those chord symbols with high quality samples. All of the rhythm and solo tracks are played by actual musicians and sampled at very high audio quality. The samples blend seamlessly from one chord to the next creating a near live musical experience. So live that you conceivably perform live shows using the app.

Another option guaranteed to expand the apps usefulness is the styles options. Changing styles alters the rhythm section phrasing, voicing, and as expected rhythms. This can add tremendous variety to your practice regime. Want to practice All of Me as a Bolero or maybe  In a sentimental mood in a Hot Jazz style you can and you don’t have to explain the essence of the styles to a player who’s never played it before. Changing styles also includes change the meter, including: odd times like from 5/4,  7/8 or a 6/4 and others depending on what SB music pack you are using.

If you’ve used modern music recording software in the past few years the interface will feel familiar. It is a blend of the Apple aesthetic and Fruity Loops in my opinion. The controls are a real treat as it is easy to move between options and for the most part finding the option you want is simple. That’s not to say there aren’t room for improvements. The piano keyboard used to chose what chord you want in the sequence is beautifully animated but feels a little clunky. Simpler user selection options have been used by other apps and should be considered now.

Interestingly, SB apps are divided into volumes, for example the SB Jazz 1, SB Jazz 2, SB Jazz 3. Each of these volumes has its own loops, styles, and demo songs. This subdivision is pretty unnecessary and serves to make living with multiple apps within the same grouping more cumbersome. I would have gladly payed $30 for a single app that included the contents of the 3 SB Jazz apps. This would mean fewer icons on my already well populated pages.

The app comes pre-installed with several demo songs. They are fantastic examples of what the app can do but they leave you wanting more. It is plain to see that the software wasn’t crafted to be a replacement for iRealB but they have an opportunity to really open this software to the community. The iRealB community took the steps to convert thousands of jazz standards to the iRealB format for playback in the app. The files are little more than text files. This app should have the  capacity to import that file and make thousands of jazz standards available to the user. Perhaps if we ask nicely enough we can get the option added in future updates.

Following along with the importing of standards is the exporting of completed  arrangement. The inability to export multi-track wave files for mixing is sad. I prefer to record myself playing along to the track with my vintage RCA ribbon microphone into a Propellerhead Balance interface and mix in Reason. This setup isn’t really doable as you have to record the mixing in the SessionBand app and then export a file through a 3rd party app that has all the tweaks you want then you can drop that into a new track in your audio software and add your performance tracks over top of that mix. The problems is what if you feel like you have too much bass in a section? They you rerecord that background and re-import it. Multitrack wave or export each track individually would make on the fly mixing in other tools much easier.

Before you haul off and download the app be certain you’ve got the space for it. With thousands of audio loops this app is a hog. But rightly so because if you want a slimmed down bare bones midi based software then get ChordBot. It works well but doesn’t have the rich analog sound that properly recorded instruments have in this software.

TAKE AWAY: I like the software and intend to continue to use it in the rehearsal room but there are some limitations that make it hard to use live. I recommend this product for everyone who plays an instrument.

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In an effort to make my views on mouthpieces easier to compare I’ve created this series of quick reference charts. These charts represent the basic playing characteristics of each mouthpiece.  The scale is from 1 to 10 with 1 being the least amount of a particular feature and 10 being the most. Of course all of these characteristics are intertwined. For ex. You can’t really have a mouthpiece with high brightness and very low projection.

The four characteristics are:

Flexibility: how easy is it to alter the base tone. Very flexible pieces have tones that are easily bent and techniques like lip bends and squeeze tones become easier. The more flexible a piece is the harder it is to keep in tune, as a general rule of thumb.

Core Tone: This is a measure of how many harmonics are present in the base tone. Less core means more harmonics and thus a more “color” tone. Whereas more tone means the piece will blend better into ensembles.

Brightness: This is a measure of how prominent the high harmonics are in the tone. The brighter the tone the more it cuts through the ensemble and is considered more contemporary.

Volume: How loud is the piece? Can it be heard from space?

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Warburton Baritone Saxophone Mouthpiece J series

Now i wouldn’t be surprised at all if you didn’t first think of Warburton when you came to this site. In fact Warburton hadn’t crossed my radar until a few years ago when a few brass friends mentioned in passing that they make a woodwind mouthpiece in addition to their brasswind pieces.  Curious about this development I went to their website to view their saxophone offerings. To my dismay at the time they had baritone mouthpiece in development but not ready. Rather than invest in a tenor piece I decided to wait. After a few years I forgot about Warburton until an offer I couldn’t refuse crossed my email box and then I had my very own J-Series piece at the .110 tip opening that I prefer.

DISCLAIMER/REMINDER: As a general rule, the sound you get from any mouthpiece is dependent on a number of factors. These include the players physiology, the horn, the reed chosen, the mouthpiece and most importantly the players sound concept. The sound concept is the internal tone each player hears in their head. If you prefer a darker tone then no matter what your body will find a way to darken the tone. Consider how Don Menza can sound like Webster, Coltrane, and Hawkins just by hearing the sound in his head. His well practiced body then makes changes to give him the desired tone.

Construction: The material is a traditional hard rubber with a gentle sloping baffle and slight rollover. The sidewalls are straight and the tip and side rails are thin. I’m not certain of the chamber size but I do find that I have to pull the mouthpiece out off of the cork more than any other mouthpiece i own. that suggests that the chamber may be more medium than large.

Mouth feel: The piece has a traditional hard rubber baritone mouthpiece feel. The beak is slim so it would work well for any size mouth. Personally I prefer a bit larger a mouth feel as I feel like it opens my airways a bit more.

Reed friendliness: Reed friendliness  is normally a function of how evenly and precisely the facign curve is and whether there is damage, even slight, to any portion of the facing. The facing of this piece was almost perfect when I dropped a .0015 feeler on it. Because of this and the layout of the curve it played well with most reeds I had. Though, I did have to move down a half strength from the RPC Rollover I had been playing prior (more on that later).

Sound: This piece has is marketed as “designed for the contemporary player that wants maximum flexibility and a traditional hard rubber feel.” Without defining contemporary this leaves a lot of room for interpretation. In my opinion contemporary players sound much brighter than those of yesteryear. They tend to value the brightness and edge of modern pieces. If this is the measure that you use as well then this mouthpiece is not “contemporary”. It can be brighter if pushed but I wouldn’t call it bright at all but it’s not tubby either. It has a great blend of core tone and edge that when pushed can blend with almost any non-amplified group.

Warburton J-Series Sound Experience Chart

TAKE AWAY: This piece can be found for around $200 new. This is a steal for what I now consider a good do almost anything mouthpiece. You can anchor the sax section in the big band or blow a few ballads in a small jazz combo. This piece will fit the bill. It’s easier to play and has more core tone than a Link and intonation is more spot on than you’d get from a high baffle Berg.