Nicolas Lira's blog

"Blues in C Minor" - Aaron Diehl and Warren Wolf

This week we will listen a different take on the blues. The vibraphonist Milt Jackson composed "Blues in C Minor," for his combo, the Modern Jazz Quartet. Unlike musicians such as John Coltrane, Miles Davis, and Charlie Parker, who embraced the night club image with its sense of cool, and associations to alcohol and drugs, the Modern Jazz Quartet established a very polished image by wearing fashionable suits, and performing in concert halls.

The Blues - "Stormy Monday"

This week we will listen to a standard blues. Thousands of songs have been written in the blues form. Most commonly the blues uses 3 chords and is only 12 bars long. In C major, a blues will use the C major, F major, and G major chords. The typical form looks like this (4/4 time signature):

CM  |CM  |CM  |CM  |

FM  |FM  |CM  |CM  |

GM  |FM  |CM  |CM :|

"Virginia Moon" - Dave Grohl and Norah Jones

For the first part of 2021, I will focus on aspects of style and form in this blog. I will continue to draw on the music of performers from a wide range of genres. This week features Dave Grohl's song "Virginia Moon," featuring the singer and pianist Norah Jones.

Musical style describes how the harmony, rhythm, texture, and instrumentation come together to create a composition. Heard together, these individual parts create an identifiable genre.

Musicians of "Soul"

On December 25th, Disney/Pixar released the movie Soul, about a musician's journey to realize his dream of working as a jazz pianist. Pixar was intent to capture the diversity of the performers active in today's jazz world. To accomplish this, the animators based the movie's musician characters on the performers who recorded the sound track. Pianist Jon Battiste (piano) led the group of artists, including Tia Fuller and Eddie Barbash (saxophones), Phil Kuehn and Linda May Han Oh (bass), Roy Haynes, Marcus Gilmore, and Joe Saylor (drums).

Happy Birthday Beethoven!!!

Beethoven was born in the middle of December, 250 years ago, in Bonn, Germany. No record of his birthdate exists, but he was baptised on December 17th. Happy birthday, Beethoven!

"Love for Sale" by Cole Porter - Cyrille Aimée, Roy Hargrove, Joel Frahm

There are very few videos of contemporary jazz musicians with hundreds of thousands of views. This week's video is an exception. I seldom find a video that captures the energy and excitement of all the musicians like we see here. This performance was filmed live at Smalls, a popular jazz club in New York City, that features the world's greatest jazz musicians. Even if you don't live in NYC, you can enjoy their club's shows via livestream from their website.

The Cat and The Mouse - Aaron Copland

Aaron Copland (1900-90) was among the most successful American composers in the 20th century. Orchestras continue to perform his music, which is said to capture the open expanses of the Western United States with its widely-spaced harmonies, and hymn or folk-like melodies. Classical music audiences are familiar with the music that Copland wrote during the middle and later parts of his life, including Fanfare for the Common Man, Appalachian Spring, Rodeo and Billy the Kid, however, during his 20s, his music sounded more experimental.

Practice Tips for Auditions

In North Carolina, students prepare every fall for all-district and all-state auditions. In many cases, the pandemic has made it difficult for public music teachers to reinforce good practice habits with their students.

"My Man Benny" featuring Phil Woods

Phil Woods (1931-2015) was one of the preeminant jazz alto saxophone players to follow in the footsteps of Charlie Parker and Julian "Cannonball" Adderley. He mastered the language of Parker, mirroring the ornaments and enclosures characteristic of bebop, and mixed it with the blusey, bold sound of Adderley, and the scoops and vibrato of Johnny Hodges. After growing up in Massachusetts, Woods moved to New York to attend school at Manhattan School of Music and Juilliard.

"Ghost Waltzes" - Morton Gould

For Halloween, I chose to feature a late work by the American composer Morton Gould (1913-1996). Gould was among the prominant American composers of the 20th century, writing music for orchestra, chamber groups, film, and Broadway. Born in New York, critics deemed him a child prodigy in composition when he published his first composition at the age of six. At Juilliard, he studied composition and piano and worked performing in vaudeville and movie theaters. In the 1940s, he began working in radio and receiving composition commissions from symphony orchestras across the United States.

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