Wednesday, October 19, 2011

The Art of Jazz Saxophone Improvisation

Well, its 11:19pm past my bedtime, and this is the first post in awhile.
My book The Art of Jazz Saxophone Improvisation is finally finished and can be bought on and soon on the Amazon site for independent publishers called

The Art of Jazz Saxophone Improvisation

I wrote this book over a 3 month period of lucidity when I was trying to put down all of the wonderful ideas I learned in my more than 35 years of playing and studying jazz.
Ideas that i learned in studying at Howard University, hanging out with Wynton and Branford Marsalis, Ken McIntyre(woodwind specialist who recorded with Eric Dolphy) a lesson with Joe Henderson, and info gleaned from a host of other great musicians I played with or studied with.

In the book I cover all of the fundamental aspects of Jazz Improv from a saxophonist's perspective, Swing, II V I, Blues, Major , Minor , Dominant, Diminished, Fourths Patterns and I cover the improvisational style of John Coltrane. 62+ pages of great material for $10 bucks. I am including a free lesson with the book.

I also will send you the draft to my new technique for Memorizing Tunes Overnight called The Sound Image Technique.

What I've been working on since the last post.
I have been studying Slonimsky's Thesaurus of Scales and Patterns. Some point during the next few months I will be sharing some videos and unbelievable things I've learned for one of the main study books of John Coltrane. If you have the 25 bucks Slonimsky's book is something to have in your library. Much of what he talks about is very mathematical, but you can use the patterns especially when looking at the Tritone section.

Okay, if you have questions about the book and you want to buy an electronic copy directly from me email me at

Friday, August 12, 2011

FraFra Sound Goes to Brazil

Here is my recent interview with the Bandleader and Bassist "Vincent Henar" of the Dutch Suriname Group FraFra Sound. FraFra Sound plays a fused mixture of jazz with Calypso, African and Latin Influences.

The present formation of Fra Fra Sound has existed since 1998 and its bassist and bandleader Vincent Henar is as solid as a rock. Guitarist Andro Biswane is unique in his ability to incorporate the fingerpicking-technique styles of Africa and the Caribbean with the jazz guitar.

Pianist Robin van Geerke is a master in harmonic tensions. Saxophonist Efraïm Trujillo and trumpeter Michael Simon, both experienced arrangers and composers, form such a tight duo they often seem as one person.

Drummer Walther Muringen not only provides excellent timing but adds colour to both the soloists and ensembles. Percussionist Carlo Hoop alternates effortlessly between modern and traditional African rhythms. He and Robin van Geerke have been members of the band since the end of the 1980’s.

Studio: Hello Vincent, What’s up! I heard from PlatformaBrasilHolanda that you guys had a great tour of Brazil this past June. is a nonprofit that promotes cultural exchange between Brazil and Holland.

Vincent: Yea, great, the band was very excited about our first tour to Brazil.
I was pleasantly surprised with the high educational level of the music students we taught and played with.

Studio: Before starting on the trip, How about telling me what’s going on with the band? I know you have a new Cd.

Vincent: Well yea , the new Cd was actually recorded last year(2010). Its called Black Dutch.

Studio: Why Black Dutch?
Vincent: First it’s a political statement about some of the racist ideas currently being associated with Dutch citizens who have some Surinamese background or parentage.

Studio: How so?
Vincent: Well for one, the word Negro is being used to label us. Its being used in a negative way, also there are those in the Dutch society who question the right of people of Surinamese heritage to be Dutch citizens.

Studio: I think this seems to be happening in other European countries and is a result of the majority placing the blame for the economic recession on minorities particularly people of color.

Vincent: Thus the title “The Black Dutch”, the album makes the historical and political statement about our right to be Dutch citizens, and acknowledges our South American and African Ancestry.

Studio: Cool , Some things never change. Well lets talk about the trip. What was the one thing that surprised you the most?

Vincent: I was happily surprised to see the proficiency level of the students at the music schools and communities we visited.
We had gone there to perform, additionally to our surprise we were asked to do educational workshops on the music we play. Our music is a merging of Calypso, jazz and African world traditions. We also gave some introductory lectures and workshops on improvisation.

Studio: How was that received?
Vincent: Well I think our guitar player (Andro Biswane) was possibly the most well received, but I think the students enjoyed all the band's musicians, the pianist as well(Robin Van Geeke). We taught children who were mostly string players. Violinists, cellists and bassists. But we did teach some brass and woodwind players and a few guitarists as well.

Our most effective lessons were teaching the children how to play pentatonic scales.
The Brazilian audiences all seem to immediately recognize the rhythms we play in our music. I think that is greatly due to Suriname being next door neighbors to Brazil

Studio: Did you notice any disparity between the poor and middle class?
Vincent: This was kind of shocking and sad. We visited several poor communities and performed or did workshops. We visited the communities of Cubao and Villa Natal. Both favelas in the district of Santos near Sao Paulo.

The favelas we saw were very similar to some ghettos in Africa that we have visited.
Ironically, I was also struck by the great spirit of the Brazilian people. Even those in the favelas still have a certain happiness and a spirit of aliveness.

Studio: I have that experience every day. It is very inspiring to understand and experience those who have little but maintain a sense of happiness and well being despite their circumstances.

What are your plans for the future with regards to Brazil?

Vincent: Well, FraFra sound was very well received in Brazil. The people danced to our music and I think there are some kindred elements in our approach to composition and performing in relationship to Brazil. I feel our music is different than anything that is going on in Brazil right now in my opinion. We hope to possibly be doing some jazz festivals in the fall or winter, but we will need sponsorship due to the cost of the trip.
Its expensive with the cost of flying. Yet, FraFra Sound has the potential for a great future in Brazil.
Studio: Thanks Vincent.
Vincent: No problem. I am going to send you some videos

Studio: Maybe we will see each other at some jazz festivals in the fall.
Vincent: Possibly.


Thursday, July 28, 2011

The State of the Saxophone

Here we Go

Me: What is the state of the saxophone, guru
Saxguru: The state is always changing. Thousands of saxophonists are meditating on Bird, Trane, Dexter and Michael Brecker
Me: Is there progress.

Saxguru: Progress is a relative term, the total knowledge of what can be done with the instrument has not increased much, but the idea of using the creative or compositional idea of what can be done with the saxophone can still be explored.
Me: Im not sure I get that

Saxguru: look at it from the compositional aspect and different settings, the saxophone in contemporary settings, the quartet, quintet , the orchestral element has not been totally explored, nor the idea of playing as much with DJ's and rappers.

Me: I understand now. I will practice accordingly
Saxguru. By grasshopper.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Amy Winehouse Dead at 27

Amy Winehouse, known for her now classic 2006 album, Back to Black, was found dead at her London home.

She was only 27-years-old. Winehouse won five Grammy Awards and changed the face of modern pop with her take on classic soul and R&B. Despite her very public struggles with both drugs and alcohol, her passing has shocked the celebrity community and world at large. It's a sad day in music, and we send our condolences to those close to her.

For a great slide slide show

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Saxophone Repair Disaster

Okay, this is a story that would fit the buyer beware category.
First I live in Brazil , and as an American just gaining functionality in the language and on the ways and workings of a foreign country I was fortunate that my debacle with my soprano didn't turn out worse. (note I've been living in Brazil for 10 months and my language level is now functional which means I can hold a conversation, take the bus, shop, teach in Portugues if necessary, although Im far from being fluent or being able to discuss intellectual stuff.

In A Nutshell
Recently, I had my soprano saxophone repaired.
The horn I was having repaired is a Yamaha YSS 62, not a Mark VI, but a pretty good horn. I've had it for over ten years and I have had it overhauled completely about 3 years ago. Unfortunately, the case is a little roomy, so I have to put a small towel or t-shirt inside to keep it stable.

I had to get my soprano fixed, the alignment was off and due to intonation problems the horn had become unplayable. So what to do? I queried several of my Brazilian saxophone playing friends, and they all recommended repairman number 1. Anyhow I had some suspicions about this individual because he worked from home and he lived nearly 30-40 minutes away, outside of the city from where I live.
However, he came with good recommendations and actually he had helped me out back in Oct or Nov when I had problems with the Bis key.
He came over to my apartment and looked at it, and told me that it needed new pads, 3 years and new pads, suspicion 1?? > (My First Mistake)
The price of the repair would be 200 real which is more or less 100 bucks. (not bad)
Pads don't generally go bad in 3 years, Although I haven't been cleaning it as regularly as I should. I Am now. Now, he ordered pads from Sao Paulo, and it took me a month to get it back. A Nervous Month

Result 1
The horn was playable, intonation was improved but it was far from gig ready, and from low E down the horn leaked awfully bad.
Not a total disaster, but a wasted 200 real.
Lesson 1, Try to find a music store to do your repairs, unless you can meet with the repairman at his shop and see some of his work. In this case I did have recommendations but I didn't visit the guy and see what his shop or tools was like. this was going to be a major repair, not just one key getting adjusted.
Second, keep your horn clean and dry. Using the long fongo swab is a not a bad idea, but the swab must be washed regularly because it carries bacteria from your saliva. The pull through swab is probably a better choice.

Moreover, when I got it back the case smelled like cat urine. I think this repair guy had a cat, and the cat defined my case as his territory if you know what I mean. I was able to get the case cleaned at the local cleaners.

Result 2
About a week later I called the local music store and with my ever improving Portuguese I asked about a horn repairman. The word for repair is pretty easy, Reparar; and they gave me the guys cell number. Repairmen 2 came over looked at the horn and said the alignment was off and intonation( afinacao).

In 3 days I had my horn back, The intonation was pretty good, leak fixed. It still needs some small adjustments which repairman 2 made. But overall on a scale of 1 -10 I give repairman#2 a 8.5

Lessons learned
Music stores are better for repairs. You pay more, but you pay for what you get.
Recommendations can be good, but they don't always work out, especially sopranos which are really delicate.

Godliness is Cleaniness.
Not only does swabbing after every gig or practice session keep the horn clean, it saves wear and tear on pads and thus longer time between repairs.

Good luck and Happy Playing

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Liberation Through Music Therapy

Liberation Through Music Therapy
Great Day

This mornings blog is about the power of healing through music therapy.
I have found a wonderful set of videos on youtube posted by mountainmystic9.
They were created by a company called Unisonic Ascension.

The idea of sound healing is not new, but has become very important with the advent of technologies that are bombarding our aura and electronic fields. The principle is that since the body is made up of over 70% of water; then through vibrational frequencies we can change, heal and reprogram the DNA structure of our bodies using specific pulse frequencies (referred to as Binaural) and music.

Alas Music Therapy
I had the opportunity in 2005 to spend a week at the Monroe Institute. There I studied a Sound Healing technique called Hemi-Sync.
Robert Monroe was formerly a sound engineer for a TV Company and discovered that he could synchronize and facilitate more efficient use of the brain through sound, particularly using sound frequencies (binaural) to better align the left and right hemispheres of our brain.

Weekly I will feature some aspect of healing through the use of examples from Unisonic Ascension. If you are interested in buying the mp3 samples.
The website is

Today's feature is Liberation. Just click on the video above to hear the sample.

Monday, July 11, 2011

An Evening With Joe Henderson

Amsterdam, Holland. Bimhuis Circa 1985.
this was one of the great moments and days in my life. Can't recall the exact day.
I believe it was a Saturday and Joe Henderson was playing with Joanne Brackeen on piano, Keith Kilgo on Drums, and maybe the expatriate Wilbur Little on Bass.

Having been one of my alltime favorite Saxophonists; numero 2 for me behind Coltrane, I wasn't going to miss a night hearing Joe. At the time I was living in Amsterdam not far from the Bimhuis which is near the center of Amsterdam. I had played there several times with FraFra Sound (an Afro-Jazz group composed of Surinamese,Dutch and American musicians), and even had the chance to substitute for the wonderful saxophonist Courtney Pines at the Bimhuis when he was making his debut as a young lion from England.

Joe's set of course was blazing, Joanne's ethereal forays and lush voicings were a perfect complement to Joe Henderson's saxophone gymnastics...playing across the bar line, rhythmic patterns and just incomparable technique.

The biggest surprise was seeing Keith Kilgo on drums. He had graduated from Howard by the time I got there in 1975 and was making a name for himself with Donald Byrd and the BlackByrds.

Keith Kilgo more than held his own that night and after the gig I rushed backstage to congratulate him and renew our acquaintance. He was as surprised to see me as I him.
He introduced me to the band, and everybody was warm and gracious especially Joe.
Keith then invited me to come over to the suite were they were staying since they had a day or two lay over. The hotel suite had a kitchen as well and Keith had planned to cook chili for the group the next day. Music, vittles and Joe, cmon what aspiring saxophonist could turn that down.

I arrived promptly in the afternoon. We talked shop for awhile and I played a couple tunes on saxophone to get some critique from Joe. He liked my ideas and reminded me to keep working at mastering the entire instrument, especially the bottom of my horn.

I will never forget his kindness and moreover his intellect. I remember him saying that when he was coming up, he made cats nervous, cause he was a saxophone terrorist.
This was years before the term was used infamously. This reminds me also of the late trumpeter Webster Young who really pushed me to study Joe's solos and compositions.

I will always cherish you Joe Henderson and Webster Young. RIP

Gig Schedule Na Maceio com BMJQ

Ola Tudos
Meu Agenda sobre isto Semana, My Schedule for this week.

July 12 Coconut Restaurant (Near Ponte Verde)
July 16 Anexo
July 28 Festival , Santa Oregano
July 29 Festival Party, Santa Oregano

Will Post the Joe Henderson Interviews Tomorrow.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Michael Brecker Giant of the Saxophone

Okay, beboppers, hardboppers, trane followers and just straighahead lovers.
Today Im blogging about one of my favorite players Michael Brecker.
March 29, 1949 – January 13, 2007 RIP

As a player of pure energy, unbridled creativity, harmonic complexity and originality there are few tenor players, nonetheless musicians who brought as much pure energy to the art of improvisation. As a young player in the early 80's I first heard Brecker with the Brecker Brothers, he also was on some of the early Steely Dan albums.

For many years I use to listen to one of my good friends and teacher Skip Gales from Richmond, Va.and wonder where he got his inventiveness. Later i figured out that Skip was influenced by Brecker and Im sure he would admit it.

I listened to a recent interview with Michael on youtube and he mentioned two of my influences, the great Joe Henderson and the legendary John Coltrane.
i hear both of their influences in Michael's playing but Michael took the evolution of modern saxophone to another level. He uses chromaticism, pan diatonic harmonies and substitions without sounding like he's playing etudes. i've transcribed two choruses of his solo on Moment's Notice and I will be practicing that one for awhile. There are some good transcriptions of his solos out there. I am including a link here.

But you can also search for more stuff on 4shared.
The pdf includes one of my favorites Confirmation. its about 7-8 pages. I haven't played through it. but i did transcribe the first chorus as ear training.

Brecker worked with everybody from Steely Dan, Aerosmith, Horace Silver and even played on a bossa nova album with Elaine Elias. For years I wondered who was playing those killer solos but with elegance and taste.
Here's to one of the all time Greats

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Musical Integrity by the Jazz Guru

Can we start?
JG : your question is on integrity?
Yes, well their are certain musicians in our band questioning the music (the repetoire) that we play.(too commercial)

JG: Are you honest and comfortable with it?
ME: Well mostly, when I'm not, then I look for other music.
JG: The most important thing is to check your intention and then play the music.
Me: I'm not sure I follow?
JG: Musicians don't live in a vacuum, you have an audience. There is a fine line between playing for an audience and just playing for yourself.

Me: That helps, but what about when the audience isn't listening?
JG: then you need to reevaluate what you are doing, is it,(the music) being played as well as it could be? Does it reflect your values and is it a reflection of the social times.

Miles said social music would be a better name for the music than jazz. I like the idea of performing music that reaches people where they live, in their hearts, minds and their emotions. Cause when you reach them in all the ways, then you have done your job, which is to not only entertain but to educate.

Me: There is so much resistance among jazz musicians to play popular material. When we do we are labeled as sell outs and not real jazz players.

JG: Musical Integrity also involves the idea of entertainment as a job, a means of providing income. When the income of the group, individual or artist is threatened by his choices of what is good and what is bad, then he may have to sit at home to make those choices. The line between what the public likes and what the artists wants to play is a thin line. The best indicator is to check with your audience, strike up conversations with people that you don't know, create a simple poll, ten lines asking for they favorite artists. Get a few people to contribute and see what they say.

Me: I'll try that, any more tips
JG: Don't give up on the conversation with your band mates and continue to choose interesting and popular material that is a reflection of your values even it doesn't swing like Duke Ellington or Charlie Parker. Until jazz musicians can figure out how to bring the social aspect back to the music, it will be relegated to the 5% rule.
If you play a place dedicated to jazz them you have a built in audience.
but if its a audience that doesn't know the music, then only 5% of the people would care. the rest would rather hear something else, or at least something that sounds familiar.

Me: Thanks
JG: I Am Always Here for you.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Brazil Modern Jazz Quartet Passport Cd

Well the band is at the 10 yard line and we about to score our first CD.
I have published two of the 8 songs to be release on our Cd on the website Reverbnation.
Reverbnation is a great site for publishing your songs and generating buzz.
The first song is one I wrote based on the changes My Finest Hour, I call it the Magic Hour

Here is the link to Reverbnation, Enjoy the listening experience

Theme for El Morya and Hercules

Theme for El Morya and Hercules

As I prepare for saxophone study and practice today i decided to post this short keyboard composition I composed on Monday.

I composed this theme earlier this week as an exercise to strengthen my will power.

One of our biggest challenges as musicians is using the active principle of abundance.

However, each day requires a focusing of life’s energies to focus the heart, mind and body.

So I thought why not use the music as well as meditation as a way of strengthening my connection to the Great ”All That Is.”

El Morya was a great Indian Saint who wrote a wonderful prayer version called the Violet Flame, and any student of Greek literature or sci-fi knows the work of the great Hercules.

Interesting that his twelve tasks fit the twelve note scale. Anyhow, here is the link, I joined a cool website called Reverbnation. tell you friends.

I compose this composition on my Yamaha Motif ES6 using Samplitude Recording software. enjoy, it is also a great meditation piece.


Tuesday, January 18, 2011

A Love Supreme

This is my first blog dedicated to the art of Jazz improvisation, particularly saxophone techniques. I am especially in love with bossa nova and samba as I now reside in Maceio, Brasil and play with many wonderful Brazilian musicians.

After many years of playing in different bands, studying and transcribing many great saxophonists I decided to dedicate this site mainly to saxophone playing but to all types of great jazz musicians.

Weekly I wil post articles about saxophone playing,new jazz releases, and especially articles on improving your saxophone technique. As I am singing more and more and improving my vocal technique I will also occasionally post articles on vocal technique as well. My site is not just under construction but I hope that you become a fan of my music and the music of jazz I love so dearly.

Atiba Warren Taylor