Music Arts blog

Sax Quartets - Gwyn Reynolds & Ted Meager

26 Aug 2016
Gwyn Reynolds

Sax Quartet - Gwyn Reynolds - Q & A

Tell us about your latest project.

Christchurch jazz drummer Ted Meager has composed and arranged a handful of amazing sax quartets. I’m slowly playing through them, recording all the parts and putting them on YouTube.

Why?

They’re that good, I reckon people need to listen to them. Hopefully some sax teachers might purchase them off Ted and get their students to have a go at them. The versions on YouTube will also help the students hear how they go. There written at a great level for advanced students. And, it’s been really fun to try and get them sounding as good as I can. Learning all the studio techniques is a continual process of discovery, and there’s always a curly line or two in each arrangement, so it’s always a blast trying to find the best take(s) on each sax to hopefully blend together coherently.

How many have you completed?

Five finished with a few more to go. I really love the craftsmanship of the lines and the beautiful addition of the new material in them. Ted’s love of jazz and the depth of his knowledge of the genre comes to the fore in these, and there’s the unmistakable infectious Ted-isms throughout the pieces that just makes me smile. The whole-tone scales and arpeggios, the clever reharmonisations and ‘singable’ melodies to name just a few of Ted’s signature moves.

Challenges?

The biggest challenge has been jumping between the saxes. I try to do the whole piece in one sitting, starting with the baritone and moving up the horns ending with the soprano, crash mixing as I go to ensure it all syncs up. Placing the baritone notes at the front of the beat has been a real challenge, as I’m used to playing near the back of the beat – too much listening and transcribing of the great Dexter Gordon I suppose. Then the rest of the horns can lay back a bit on the baritone track to hopefully make it sound ok.

How do we listen to them, and is it possible to buy the scores/parts?

You can listen to the five I’ve completed on YouTube. Harlem Nocturne, It’s You Or No-One, Dedicated To You, Young At Heart, Apocalypso. If you want to purchase the scores/parts, contact Ara Music Arts and we’ll hook you up with Ted. I’m not sure of the cost of them. I reckon they’re worth their weight in gold, but Ted’ll probably let you have each one for the price of a couple decent bottles of vino. Hope you get as much enjoyment out of listening to them as I’ve had playing them. 

New Manager of Performing Arts - Richard Marrett

26 Aug 2016
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Ara Music Arts welcomes Richard Marrett as its new Manager of Performing Arts.

Richard is well-known throughout New Zealand as a musical director and is also an accomplished pianist, arranger and composer. He has been on the staff of Ara for nine years, and for most of that time was leading the NASDA programme as a principal lecturer; many years prior, he taught the vocalists at Music Arts. He has a BMus from Victoria University of Wellington, an LRSM diploma and recently completed the MA (Music) qualification through Wintec.

A sought-after teacher and vocal coach, Richard has conducted and arranged for Christchurch Symphony, Wellington Sinfonia, Showbiz Christchurch, The Court Theatre, Wellington Musical Theatre, ARTCO, Dunedin Operatic, Invercargill Musical Theatre, The Orpheus Choir and the Choral Federation. Several of his orchestrations have been recorded with the NZSO and he has worked extensively as producer and arranger on a number of recording projects. His musical direction credits include some 75 different shows and his most recent project was a collaboration with the well-known Broadway singer, Liz Callaway.

Modern Etudes for Solo Trumpet - Cameron Pearce

22 Aug 2016
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Ara Music Arts tutor Cameron Pearce talks to us about his recently completed project ‘Modern Etudes for Solo Trumpet’.

What is an etude?

1. a piece of music for the practice of a point of technique.

2. a composition built on a technical motive but played for its artistic value.

Merriam-Webster

Encyclopedia Britannica

Idea

My aim was to compose a collection of solo etudes carefully crafted for jazz trumpet. These etudes would be published as a brass text. The text would come with recordings of each etude and it was my hope going into this that I could secure some “big names” in the jazz trumpet world  to get involved in this  project and record these etudes for me.

The plan was to compose etudes that were completely practical throughout for the jazz trumpeter. These new compositions would not only be technically demanding but importantly, the etudes were to be based on and inspired from jazz harmony. This was the key point of difference between my project and the many classically influenced etude books currently available and I felt that if everything came together there could be significant interest in the outcome of this project.

Writing stage

I composed the etudes off and on over a period of about six months. I found this to be a really enjoyable process which involved plenty of analysis of existing solo etudes which were predominantly classical but I was also able to look at what was already on offer for jazz musicians under the banner of “jazz etudes”. These nearly always ended up being written out improvised solo lines which could be played along to a backing track. These are a great resource but quite different to the type of pieces that I intended to create and it was encouraging to see that my compositions, once completed would be relatively unique to the jazz trumpet community.

Big names

While I was still in the middle of writing the etudes, I began contacting potential trumpeters to see if they might be interested in recording an etude or two for me. In a couple of cases the musicians were in the  “friend of a friend” category but essentially I was contacting them out of the blue and so I went into this stage with not overly high expecations but at the same time I figured I had nothing to lose.

As it turns out the response was very positive and I soon ended up with a stellar lineup of with internationally renowned, New York based, jazz trumpeters who were keen to be involved including Dave Douglas, Ingrid Jensen, Scott Wendholt, Terell Stafford and Nick Marchione.

The Bunker Studio – NYC

Once the etudes were completed and the performers confirmed, I flew to New York to record performances of the etudes at The Bunker Studio in Brooklyn.

This was an amazing studio to record in and is co-owned by New Zealander Aaron Nevezie who I played with in the New Zealand Youth Jazz Orchestra back in 1997 – sometimes it really is a small world.

That recording session was something I’ll never forget. I did my best to “play it cool” as one trumpet hero after another walked in the door to play my original compositions. It was all a bit surreal.

With the recordings all completed I returned to Christchurch where I tidied up the tracks before sending them off for mastering with Dave Cooper.

At this time I also put the finishing touches to the scores for each etude and sent them off to Michael Story who did a fantastic job designing the book.

Sher music 

With the design work complete and the audio tracks edited, mixed and mastered, all that remained was to contact potential publishing companies to see there was any interest in publishing my work.

As with the trumpeters who had come on board, I decided that I had nothing to lose and that I should aim as high as possible in regards to the quality and reputation of the publishers.

The name right at the top of my list was Sher Music Co.

Sher Music are one of the top (if not the top) publishers in the world of jazz and latin publications. Many, many key resources used at Ara Music Arts and in countless music schools worldwide come from Sher Music including the Real Book Series, the bestselling ‘The Jazz Theory Book’ by Mark Levine, ‘The Jazz Piano Book’ by Mark Levine and ‘The Jazz Musician’s Guide to Creative Practicing’ by David Berkman to name just a few.

Within a couple of hours of emailing Sher Music, I received a reply from Chuck Sher expressing interest in my book. He was going to send it around to a few people to get their opinion on it and then he’d get back to me. Chuck emailed a few days later to say that the response had been very positive and that he’d like to publish the book. I was pretty rapt.

The book ‘Modern Etudes for Solo Trumpet’ is due to be released in October, 2016. You can keep an eye you for it at www.shermusic.com

I would like to thank all of those at Ara whose support made this project possible, in particular those at the Ara Research office.