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802 Posts
Discussion Starter · #1 ·
My school never had a jazz band in it's long history, and they won't make one.
One day, I thought, why don't I just create the a jazz band myself, and I did.
I got 2 trumpet players, a bass player (bass guitar), a trombone, a piano, a drum set, and me for saxophone.
I just had a practice session with the Bass and trombone player of my band earlier today and we just improvising with the melody of Misty and Autumn Leaves.
Lets just say that we are all newbies to jazz improvisation except for our piano player, but are pretty good players on our instruments.
What tunes do you think we should learn, and also feel free to give advice also.

Distinguished SOTW Member/Forum Contributor 2011
787 Posts
You might take a look at my jazz combo books. The arrangements are right in line with your instrumentation. the tunes in the series are all originals, but several are based on changes to standards. Here's a link to the info page for the books: Stage.htm

There's also a video, "Danger Zone," on the homepage of my website featuring one of the tunes.

Online Jazz Lessons and Books
New Lesson:
The Shifting Tonal Center
Lesson Series:
Introduction to the Blues
The Arpeggio Circle
Through the Keys
and more...
Lessons page: Improv Lessons.htm
Rhythm Changes Demo:
Rhythm Changes Lesson:

347 Posts
I say start with some blues changes, and MAYBE a modal tune if you can keep up with where you are/the changes without getting lost. Some ideas;

Now's the Time
Billie's Bounce
Tenor Madness
Things Ain't What They Used to Be
Mr. PC
Watermelon Man

So What
All Blues (somewhat a mixture of both kinds of changes)

Distinguished SOTW Member
1,877 Posts
Take the A Train. Everyone loves that
Also vary your program with blues , bossa, latin, swing, waltz tune, modal, jazz rock etc.... make your first 10 tunes be a little different groove wise.

good luck and have fun.

2,397 Posts
Here's a different idea: Do what the original (jazz) players of these tunes did. Pick something contemporary that you like and do a jazz treatment of that. If you intend to play for people your age (instead of people over 60) then they have no idea what any of the "standards" are. Not sure why everyone thinks that it's not jazz unless you are playing something that's at least 50 years old. Try to give a different feel and communicate something through a pop tune (that your contemporaries know). This is what mainstream jazz was at its inception. If your audience (people under 60) don't have a reference point, then it's missing one of the main elements of your solo/variations being a different treatment of something that's popular and known.

If you want to really stretch out, then listen to more modern groups that don't play mainstream but have their own compositions where the music comes first and each contributes to the whole. Mainstream, by comparison is rather formulated in stating the tune (head) then just giving each player a chance to show off their chops (which can be fun for a player, but tends to bore audiences after a short while).

Hopefully you don't fall into the "mainstream is the only real jazz" pattern. It really is museum music and a trip to nowhere as style to play in the 21st century.
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