Frozen Chai and Charlie Parker

I woke up to the most beautifully perfect morning…Oh my, how I love this time of year!

Today is my big sister’s birthday, so I took her out for breakfast at Open City Diner where I ate a huge omelet and drank THE most delicious confection: FROZEN CHAI! YUMMY!

O.K., so anyway, let’s get down to business. :-). Because I was up so late last night trying to get this website finished (I finally got into bed sometime after 2am) and I was up early, I have to admit that I didn’t have a lot of energy to practice but I forged on and got in about 3 hours.

Today’s session started with a review of the opening session of an Estill Voice method workshop I attended two summers ago in Pennsylvania. Mastering this method gives you complete control over your vocal apparatus. I was very excited after finishing the five-day workshop and I vowed that I would become proficient in the technique so that I could not only help myself but also help my students. I recorded all of the lectures on my little digital recorder and catalogued them on my computer. So I’ve set up a nice little study packet for myself. I didn’t really practice any of the examples today. I just listened to the first few topics in order to reacquaint myself with the terminology.

Next I spent about 20 minutes doing some vocal warm-ups with my Anne Peckham and Jay Clayton warm-up CDs before listening to some music to decide what transcriptions I would tackle first. I decided on the Charlie Parker classic “Ornithology” solo and a studio recording of Ella Fitzgerald’s “How High the Moon” (not the classic “Live in Berlin recording). They both use the same changes so the progression will be reinforced by doing both simultaneously.

I’m really excited about having the time to go in and pick both of these solos apart. I’m pretty familiar with them both as I have been listening to them for years, but I basically sing “at” them. I’m not at the point where I know them inside out and would be totally comfortable singing either of these solos without the recordings. 

I have a love/hate relationship with “Ornithology” because I had an ensemble teacher (who shall remain nameless – LOL!) at The New School who made us perform this song and ONLY this song for a WHOLE SEMESTER! The other students laughed at us and called us the “Ornithology Ensemble.” Anyway, it will be nice to fall in love with it again because it is a great tune. Armed with my Charlie Parker “Omnibook,” I went over the melody slowly so that I could practice using good syllables that flowed smoothly when I’m singing the melody and sped it up little by little (Where would I be without iRehearse?). Boy, that full speed is fast! I really gotta work on my articulations. I spent about 30 minutes just on the melody and then the first  few bars of the solo.

I worked on this version of Ella’s “How High the Moon” with my high school students this summer at The Washington Jazz Arts Institute summer program. They learned the whole solo – syllables and all (yeah, they rocked!). It was a very tedious process which involved slowing down the recording, writing out the syllables and singing sections over and over again. I have a pretty good grasp of it but I would like to get it as close to perfect as I can and actually write it out with the syllables so that I can have it as a teaching tool for the future.

Next, I worked on some piano voicings from Michele Weir’s “Jazz Piano Handbook.” My piano playing is pretty solid as far as being able to play basic voicings and bass lines (stepwise motion, roots to the fifth, approach tones, etc.). I also read really well, have a good swing feel and I play well enough to have gotten through teaching my classes at Howard University, but I want to take my playing to the next level so that I can be more confident playing for myself and my students. The goal is to be able to accompany myself on some gigs in the near future.

I was getting pretty tired at this point (remember, I didn’t get much sleep last night) but I pushed on in order to spend some time on composing. I have a tune that I’ve been working on for a couple of weeks and I was able to get a few more bars of it finished tonight (YAAY! Baby steps…LOL!). I’m pretty excited about it and I’m in love with it already. :-)

I finished up by listening to my husband being interviewed on WPFW-FM by Ellen Carter. She played one of the tunes from his CD Secret Handshake and he got to talk about his Dewey Redman project which will premier on October 18th as part of the Smithsonian American Art Museum “Take Five” Jazz Series.

Now…pizza! Good night!