More from the mailbox: Not knowing what to practice.

Posted by: Dave Douglas on May 2, 2013 @ 9:20 am
Filed under: Dave Douglas (Artist Thoughts), Education, Workshop

Thanks to all for writing and for your questions and thoughts. Always appreciated. For this recent one, I am going to paraphrase the question:

“Dave, I’m having trouble knowing what to practice. I feel like I am working a lot but not moving forward, and I’m a little frustrated at not knowing where to look for inspiration in my practicing and playing. Help.”

I have a few thoughts about what you’ve said. I broke them up into a few avenues of inquiry that you might find helpful.

First: Presence. A part of any activity in the arts is like meditation or simple awareness, depending on how you look at it. The meditative mind is a huge part of the practice of practice. Notice what’s going on around you and inside you. I’m reading a book right now called Rebel Buddha, which I wholeheartedly recommend. I am not a Buddhist (last year I actually reaffirmed my identity as a Christian, just… not the kind that believes in killing people… oof!). I feel like some quiet sitting and focus might sharpen your musical instincts. Add that as part of your eight hour day. Lots of manuals are available if you look. You probably already have at least one in your house. This is a way of focussing your presence so you can be more aware of what you are working on.

Second: Absence. Music is a subtle devil. So much of the power is in things we never think about or talk about. The power of absence in music — a quick concrete example is when you release a note as opposed to when you attack it. Your release creates an absence and is almost half the power of the note itself. Think about where and how your notes end. Think about how the silences in your rhythm make the music stronger. Think about how the wake of your notes makes the metronome swing.

Third: Tone. Profound element and how often do we work on that? Sit around playing long tones and tinkering, in a microscopic way, with the sound of the one note. Vibrato, dynamics, timbre, harmonics, articulation, smears, multi-phonics, growling, etc. all found in holding that one note. Listen to Billie Holiday and think about how many different ways (and how expressively!) she sings the same note every time it comes around. In some ways I feel like this is the development of taste, in a good way. When you get on the stage you want every note to be beautiful and powerful. Loaded with meaning.

Glad we talked.

1 Comment

Dave Douglas Jazz Workshop, Part Three

Posted by: admin on April 17, 2013 @ 10:23 am
Filed under: Dave Douglas (News), Education, Events, Workshop

This Sunday, April 21, from 3pm to 6pm we will gather again at Shapeshifter Lab in Brooklyn. The main focus of this workshop will be reading the music from my sextet album Soul On Soul, dedicated to Mary Lou Williams. The Workshop will also consider elements of composition and performance, with plenty of time for questions and discussion. Come join us, you can play or just listen. Contact for more information. We will also be looking to preparations for the final concert on May 30 in the same space.

No Comments

UCO 5th Street Jazz Collective with special guest Dave Douglas

Posted by: admin on April 9, 2013 @ 5:21 am
Filed under: Dave Douglas (News), Education, Events




Dave Douglas masterclass
at USC JazzLab
Free and open to the public

Click image for more info


No Comments

CMS Workshop Announced. Deadline to apply is April 15.

Posted by: admin on April 5, 2013 @ 5:02 am
Filed under: Education, Events

Kendal-BarnWhen I was ten my Dad took me to an afternoon concert at Creative Music Studios. It was down the road from where we lived in Woodstock, NY. It was violin and drums in duo, and after talking to Karl Berger and others about it, I am almost positive I heard Leroy Jenkins and Ed Blackwell. Of course I had no idea what I was hearing, but it opened me up to the idea that music could be so expressive of the moment, and so free. Thinking back, I was incredibly fortunate to have been exposed to that.

For that reason I was proud to be invited for this new iteration of the CMS 40th Anniversary Workshop from May 20-24. Lots of great musicians participating and lots to share. Here is the link to their site.

UPDATE: Bob Sweet sent me info about this site related to CMS as well.

No Comments

Dave Douglas Jazz Workshop: Three Sundays at ShapeShifter Lab, Brooklyn

Posted by: admin on February 20, 2013 @ 8:13 pm
Filed under: Dave Douglas (News), Education, Events, Workshop

Dave Douglas Jazz Workshop

Sign up by sending contacting us at

No Comments

Dave Douglas Jazz Workshop

Posted by: admin on February 12, 2013 @ 3:20 pm
Filed under: Dave Douglas (Artist Thoughts), Dave Douglas (News), Education, Events, Workshop

Dave Douglas Jazz Workshop: Three sessions in small ensemble playing and writing.

Deepen your compositional understanding and make new musical connections at these semi-private sessions in small ensemble playing and writing.

Download the Workshop PDF

Three Sundays, Feb 24, Mar 17, Apr 21 from 3pm to 6pm the Dave Douglas Jazz Workshop will meet at ShapeShifter Lab in Brooklyn. Sign up will be through Dave’s label, Greenleaf Music, at The sessions will be limited to a small handful of players. We will be reading through and playing the sextet music from the albums In Our Lifetime, Stargazer, and Soul on Soul. Once you have signed up and been accepted you will receive PDF versions of your part so you can look at it in advance.

The cost will be $50 per session. All those who enroll for three sessions will get a free copy of the Dave Douglas Sextet book and possible invitation to perform in the Workshop concert on May 30 on a bill with the Dave Douglas Quintet.

All instruments are welcome. Trumpet, tenor saxophone/clarinet, trombone, piano, bass, and drums are encouraged. The workshops are also available for auditors and those who would like to listen in.

Spread the word and contact us to join in.
Thank you.

No Comments

Be Still Book Announced.

Posted by: admin on February 6, 2013 @ 4:32 pm
Filed under: Dave Douglas (Artist Thoughts), Education, Listening, Video

Very happy to make the new book available. It has lyrics as well as clearly detailed voicings and arrangements. It’s a nice complement to the other sheet music in the shop, which you can find here.

I had a few questions for Dave as we proofed the Be Still Book. A brief discussion ensued. Warning: this gets really muso nerdy.


JT: Such a cool chord sequence on Be Still My Soul. Love reading through these charts with my axe.

DD: Thanks! Felt like I hit on something there. Originally there was no repeat around the bar of Ab7. Adding it made the whole chart come together.

JT: Yeah, a nice little breath. That bassline just sounds so weird on it’s own. Speaking of, first bar you note a Cmaj7#5 but the middle voice of that chord goes to an A natural. Typo? Or just over my head? Sounds cool on guitar anyway.

DD: Aha! Love it.

OK so the natural 6 on a maj7#5 chord creates a half step (between the raised fifth and the natural sixth). But it sounds ambiguous and bittersweet (in my opinion) because it can remind you of an Aminmaj7 chord. But yes, the natural sixth on that chord is kosher in my opinion.

Also the fact that the tonic chord of the tune is E major adds to the ambiguity, Cmaj toggling between the function of #5 and b6 in the key of E.

I like the movement from the G#7 — you think it’s going to go to C#min. But it goes to C#min with an E in the bass. So you get a triple confusion because of the tonal function: Not only are you deceived into a false resolution, you also tricked your ear into hearing the tonic note (E) as an inversion of the natural 6th degree minor chord. Also, you have been hearing up until now the flatted 6th degree of the scale (as in Cmaj7#5) so you’re basically hearing a triple deception by suddenly getting the natural sixth. Also that at the same moment the melody goes back towards E major, the bass finally hits an open low E, and the progression from that point moves back up to the b6. That’s why I cry right there. Don’t know about you. Dig?

Hey I wrote all that while Finley was trying to get me to play with her new toy squirrel. Anyway. Enjoy it. Thanks for asking.

While that wasn’t completely over my head, I had to reread that paragraph a few times in front of the piano. Pick up a copy of the digital or printed book and play the chart to find your own sequence to nerd out with.

No Comments

Redux: The Practice of Ear Training

Posted by: admin on October 12, 2012 @ 6:41 pm
Filed under: Dave Douglas (Artist Thoughts), Education, Perennials

There’s been some action on Twitter recently revolving around an older post here at the Greenleaf blog. Thanks for all the shares and comments. Feel free to chime in on this, or any of the great posts in the Perennials category.


You can’t deny the power of raw talent in music, but it is possible there is an even greater strength in the human capacity for self-transformation, growth, and genius. Some people have enormous natural talent and ability. Some have to work really hard. One way or another we’re all striving to find a true expression in sound, one that touches on something universal, and we all have to strive to find our own path, no matter how gifted or challenged we may be…

Read the full post here.

No Comments

Beyond The Music.

Posted by: Dave Douglas on September 26, 2012 @ 7:41 am
Filed under: Education, Perennials

Dave Liebman shares deep thoughts on the value of music and art. Enjoy. -DD

Question: What values does a jazz education offer beyond the music itself?

Artists have always had a supply and demand problem. Since time immemorial there have been more people with creative ideas than an audience to communicate them to, especially if the art demands more than a cursory attention span. In the current world of jazz education, the situation vis a vis graduating more and more of the most equipped musicians in history (every year more so) in stark contrast to the scarcity of paid performance and recording opportunities has assumed epic disproportion. To deny this would be like ignoring global warming. Serious educators are and should be concerned. Discussions on the subject are sometimes uncomfortable, but are nonetheless taking place worldwide. Notwithstanding that this situation might differ in degree from country to country or even regionally (all trends have their own natural ebb and flow), it is incumbent that responsible educators address this issue.

The standard response has traditionally been that it is not our responsibility to be concerned with the vocational aspects of an arts education. Our job is the transmission of knowledge, peripherally, if at all, addressing matters concerning the ramifications of making a living pursing one’s art in the “real” world. This viewpoint does not hold up under scrutiny and is at the minimum a matter of principle and ethics, let alone economics if one considers the rising cost of a college education worldwide and the financial debt that a young person will be straddled with from the onset of their “real” life. Obviously, the situation in America vis a vis the cost of a college education is the most glaring and outrageous example of this part of the problem. Responsible educators should have something to offer these young men and women beyond cliches that is relevant and specific, at the least enumerating proven attributes of a jazz education that go beyond the music itself and will enrich their lives. Yes, Coltrane (and other artists) offer a high aesthetic and spiritual plane, but what about the here and now?


No Comments

Dave Douglas at the Royal Academy of Music [via London Jazz]

Posted by: admin on January 31, 2012 @ 3:37 pm
Filed under: A Single Sky, Dave Douglas (News), Dave Douglas (Updates), Education

photo by Hana Zushi

Last week, just after posting some in-depth thoughts on the workshop and mentorship process, Dave started working with students at the Royal Academy of Music in London. Lucky for all of us on this side of the Atlantic, guitarist Alex Roth gives us a detailed account of the week at the London Jazz blog.

Congrats to the Royal Academy of Music as well for receiving the composition archive of Kenny Wheeler who was in attendance for the final big-band concert. For those following Dave on Twitter, perhaps you saw that on top of playing repertoire from the A Single Sky big band album, he debuted a new piece for Kenny titled ‘From Thin Air (for Kenny Wheeler)’. Hoping we can all hear it soon.

No Comments

Older Posts →