The Solo Sessions trial

Tuesday, 14th November 2017

I've been in the studio quite a bit over the last week or so, playing with ideas for a new project that I'll be calling 'The Solo Sessions'.  All being well, I'll be aiming to release a new video in every month of next year, with each video featuring a studio performance of a different track from my solo repertoire.  There's no videos this month I'm afraid as I'm still experimenting with equipment, setups, angles and software, but here's some of the audio that I ended up with.  Enjoy!

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Check Your Sax At Home (DIY guide)

Tuesday, 31st October 2017

A good repair man is worth more than his weight in gold!

For ages I've known that my sax has been in need of a little TLC but I've been putting off checking as it's such a logistical nightmare to be without it whilst it's serviced.  For the eight-ish (maybe more?!) years I've owned it, it's only ever been patched up and bodged as I've always needed it back quickly for the next gig in a day of two.  So last weekend I decided to bite the bullet and see just how bad it had become.

If a sax isn't working properly then you find yourself having to try really hard to produce the notes, especially at the low end.  Larger jumps in pitch (especially down to the bottom) become extremely hard work and the whole thing just starts to misbehave.  The problem is, it happens little by little and you gradually find yourself compensating without thinking about it, until one day you realise how much effort you're having to put in, even to produce something basic!

To check for sure how a saxophone's feeling, you take a strip light (I've just got a cheap strip of LEDs like you might put underneath a kitchen cabinet, but Christmas lights work as well!), remove the sax's neck and feed the light down inside the body of the sax.  Then you press all the keys down as if you were playing a low note and look to see if there's any light showing through from underneath the pads.  Of course, if there's any light leaking out then there'll also be air leaking out and that's when you start to have a problem.  A little bit of leakage usually isn't a huge issue, especially for a reasonably capable player, but you certainly wouldn't want a lot.

I put a light down my sax last weekend and it looked like a Christmas tree!

After a week away at the Health Spa for Overworked Saxophones, it's like a new instrument!  It made me wonder how many other saxophonists are putting up with an instrument that's in need of a little TLC, and I felt that a 'check your sax at home' guide might be helpful.  I'm definitely not recommending trying to carry out any actual repair work yourself (such things are best left to the professionals!), but the ability to give it a DIY check up is really handy.

Massive thanks to my repair man Phil at www.thesaxsmith.com for doing such a blinding job of getting things back to how they should be.  Rumour has it he put quite a lot of work into this one!  Phil's been looking after my gear for years (as much as I let him, with my gig schedule!) and I wouldn't take my horns anywhere else.  Thanks also to James at Your Music School for lending me the music school's spare tenor sax whilst mine was in pieces!

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Marici Saxes

Wednesday, 18th October 2017

I'm not going to write a lot about these fantastic ladies as I think their music speaks for itself.

I've had an eye on the Marici Saxes quartet for a while via the wonder of social media and their debut album 'Light' has quickly become one of my very favourite saxophone records.  We rarely get to hear this level of effortless technical control combined with such sensitive and expressive musicianship - in fact, so many musicians seem to see these two as an either-or situation!

The Marici Saxes repertoire choice is brilliantly balanced, with mainstream classics such as Faure's 'Pavane' and Rachmaninoff's 'Vocalise' combining beautifully with a Piazzolla tango, four country dances, a suite of Irish folk music and others, to create a rich, colourful and yet still cohesive selection.

I can't recommend this album enough and I haven't been able to stop listening to it.  Please do check out their promo below.

Links:
www.maricisaxes.com
itunes.apple.com/gb/album/light/id1272223927
soundcloud.com/ariciaxes

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Another Before Tomorrow video!

Monday, 11th September 2017

I hopefully won't just resort to writing a new post only whenever there's a new video to show off, but then again, this blog was always intended partly as a showcase for media updates.  So anyways, here's a little clip from a recent gig.  Enjoy!

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Swinging by the sea

Saturday, 12th August 2017

A really quick blog today, just to let you guys see a few clips from the latest Before Tomorrow gig at The Belle Vue Tavern in Pegwell Bay.  It was a beautiful day to play swing tunes overlooking the bay and we had lots of lovely comments from those who came to see us.  I hope you enjoy the video!

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Becoming a musical chameleon

Tuesday, 18th July 2017

The best thing about what I do for a living is the sheer variety!  One minute I'm teaching a beginner flute lesson, next I'm working with a seriously motivated up-and-coming sax player, then I'm on stage with a jazz/pop/funk/etc. band or even just playing some chilled solo dinner music with some backing tracks.  I never loose sight of how lucky I am to be able to do what I love for a living, especially as no day is ever the same as the last.  And I'm always preaching to my students about the importance of being a chameleon and fitting into every genre of music as if it were your home.

One of the latest trends in sax playing is DJ collaborations, performing dance, deep house and cafe del mar music reminiscent of the clubs and beach bars of Ibiza.  This is becoming a more and more popular request for weddings and parties, and it's actually a lot of fun to do.  There are some particularly well known tunes (at least, well known to fans of the style!) but it's more about the vibe than the individual tracks or specific melodies, giving the player huge freedom to explore ideas and make each show totally fresh.  It's certainly not something that I would have set out to do, but it's grown on me hugely over the last year and I had a lot of fun playing two shows last weekend.

One sax player is so far to the forefront of this style that her name is almost interchangeable with the style itself.  'Lovely Laura' (otherwise known as Laura Fowles) is an honours graduate of the jazz program at Leeds College of music who's made such a successful carrier for herself in Ibiza that she's since bought a home there.  Holiday makers travel from all over the world to see her live shows, playing alongside world famous DJs at some of the most prestigious clubs on the island.

I've been aware of Lovely Laura (and been inspired by her playing) for quite some time but I only recently discovered her own jazz album whilst looking her up on spotify.  Blown away by it's sheer contrast with everything I've heard from her before, I can't help but see Lovely Laura as an amazing example of what I spend so much time preaching about.  To fit so seamlessly into such contrasting styles takes some serious doing (and what a beautiful voice as well!).

Her album is my latest "album of the week" and I've got a feeling it'll be in the playlist for a little longer than just that!  See what you think.

Main sources:
www.laurafowles.com
thump.vice.com/en_au/article/xypn7j/lovely-laura-is-the-winged-saxophone-player-thats-soaring-through-ibizas-nightlife)

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Who's job is it?

Thursday, 29th June 2017

I remember my grandparents used to have this poster up in their house in wales, and then a few years ago my genius wife found one in a shop and bought it for me. It's been on the wall in my studio ever since and from time to time I stop and read it again.

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Listen to my radio interview!

Tuesday, 20th June 2017

Here's a recording of my radio interview that aired a couple of weeks ago.  Thanks to KMFM for having me on and giving me permission to post it on my blog.  Unfortunately they had to cut out quite a bit of what I said (it seems I talk too much ... who'd have thought it?!) but it was a real privilege to be on the show.  That's one more ticked off the bucket list!

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Taking opportunities & doing things properly!

Wednesday, 14th June 2017

This week has been an interesting exercise in taking opportunities as they present themselves, and always putting your best foot forward.

The parent of one of my students recently recommended that I get involved with a new website which had been created by a friend of hers.  The website is called Quirky Kent and is essentially a directory of small businesses in the country which are all in some way out of the ordinary.  I suppose my student's mum felt that my solo sax performances and Before Tomorrow might fit well into this category!

As a rule I tend to always make time to pursue these opportunities.  I don't expect a flood of extra business to come my way, but I do it largely out of respect for those who make the effort to actually set something up!  If someone's had an idea and then actually made it happen, then they are just the sort of person I want to connect with!

About a week or so later I got a call to feature on a radio show on KMFM, Kent's local radio station.  This came directly out of my involvement with Quirky Kent and proved to be a fantastic opportunity.  It was pretty daunting to record a telephone interview knowing it was going to be aired to thousands of people, but I did it and it was really fun!  Hopefully I'll be able to post a recording soon.

Then on Sunday, my YMS student flute and clarinet group Double Take performed at a local church fete.  We were playing after the Canterbury Brass Band and I always go out of my way to meet and become friendly with the organisers, promoters and anyone else involved in events that I take part in.  I therefore made a point of greeting the director of the brass band, being polite and positive, and also offering to be flexible about times to try and help the afternoon flow smoothly.  Only afterwards did I discover that the brass band's director was in fact the father of my current most advanced clarinet student!  I was aware that this particular student's dad was a prominent figure in regional wind and brass ensembles, but had no idea that he would be there at this small, local event!  He was very complimentary about my students' performance and it was great to get to know him a little.

This last couple of weeks has been a real lesson in how important it is to approach every opportunity with the same level of enthusiasm and professionalism, however big or small it may seem.  There's no way to know where things may lead and it's impossible to know who you may be working with.  And a little reminder is never a bad thing!

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What a stressful week!

Wednesday, 31st May 2017

It's been a little longer than planned since my last blog (which I hope people found useful), largely due to a combination of insane teaching and performance commitments and frustrating IT problems.  Both my macbook pro and my tablet are currently being serviced and/or mended (I hope!) and so I'm stuck using my old PC laptop which I'm fairly sure runs on coal.  As I said, add that to a full teaching schedule and six gigs in nine days, and the end result is a fairly stressful week!

Having said that, it was great to run another jazz improvisation workshop on Sunday, giving students of all ages and abilities the opportunity to play with a live rhythm section.  There are some really promising students coming through and it's great to see them develop and grow in confidence.

This week should be hopefully a little less stressful ... until I get the macbook back in a couple of days and suddenly the race will be on to get everything done that I should be doing now but can't!  In the meantime, the old laptop is teaching me how to take life at a slightly slower pace!

I'm looking forward to playing at Port Lympne Hotel on Sunday.  Live music starts at midday.

#keepmusiclive

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Practicing a pentatonic scale

Wednesday, 17th May 2017

Here's a few top tips for how to go about practicing a pentatonic scale, to ensure you get comfortable playing, hearing and (most importantly) being creative with it as quickly as possible.

As an improviser, I inevitable teach a lot about strategies (and reasons) for practicing scales.  I'm always aiming to make sure my time feel and tone is as even as possible across the range of my instrument, and I'm focused on keeping my finger movement as small as possible as I press and release the keys.

I talk a lot with my students about 'using the scale to practice your instrument and not your instrument to practice the scale'.  I might blog a bit more about this idea over the next few weeks.

Let's use the example of a basic A minor pentatonic scale ... A, C, D, E, G.

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Ex. 1: invert the scale (start on different notes)

Practice one complete octave of the scale but starting on different notes (e.g. go from A up to high A and back down, then from C to high C, then D to high D and so on).  Make sure you include an example which starts as low on your instrument as you can and also one that goes up as high as you can.

This exercise stops you from getting stuck improvising on one area of your instrument and encourages you to explore the full range.  It also helps you to feel comfortable starting improvised phrases from anywhere within the scale.  Finally, it encourages you to listen and hear the scale played differently from how you would normally expect.

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Ex. 2: three note sequences

Play the first three notes of the scale in a run (e.g. A, C, D).  Next, play a three note run starting from the second note of the scale (C, D, E).  Then, play three more notes starting from the note above the one you started from last (D, E, G).  Carry on with this pattern until you get to the top of your range ... then turn around and come back down again (for example, G, E, D, E, D, C, D, C, A, etc.)!  

Check out the tune of Horace Silver's latin jazz standard 'Song For My Father' for a great example of a musician using this pattern in a melody

This exercise encourages you to develop your improvised ideas.  The three note pattern is essentially a very small musical phrase which you can then develop and evolve by starting the idea on higher and lower notes.  Also, experiment with different rhythms, making some notes longer and some shorter.  Alternatively, if you play all the notes as even quavers (eighth notes) then you'll find yourself playing a cool rhythmic pattern with one repetition starting on the beat and the next starting off, then on and off and so on.  Finally, why not try runs of 4, 5, or more notes, each time starting the repetition on the note above where you started the last.

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Ex. 3: scale in thirds

This is very similar to the last exercise except you miss out the middle note of each run of three.  This creates a stepping effect where you jump over a note and then come back to it.  In this example, you would find yourself playing A, D, C, E, D, G, E, A, G, C, etc.

This pattern helps you to get away from always improvising 'stepwise' melodic ideas that seem limited to moving up or down one note at a time.  If you can become comfortable playing with bigger intervals (jumping up and down by more than one note at a time) then your melodies can quickly become much more interesting.  Why not practice the scale with larger jumps as well?

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Please let me know if you've found this blog helpful, as there are many other ideas and exercises I can share with you too.  Equally, please get in touch if anything wasn't clear.  Happy shedding!

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Sax Quartet

Wednesday, 10th May 2017

Here's the latest little media update - something I've been working on quietly for a few months.  It's mainly just for the reading challenge (I do very little with paper these days) and its great to work on group skills such as tuning, dynamics (volume) and musical texture.  This quartet features some great players including an ex-student of mine who's since been to music college in London and has come out as a fantastic saxophonist.

The quartet is still very much a work in progress (and as yet, unnamed) but its a lot of fun!

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Let's catch up!

Wednesday, 12th April 2017

It's definitely been a while since I last blogged, and there's been lots happening in the meantime.  I've got a whole load of new things to share over the next few weeks, not least of all this video I made after The Night Before Tomorrow's first gig at the end of February.

We're back at The Hand and Sceptre on the Saturday 29th April.

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The Night Before Tomorrow

Thursday, 26th January 2017

I've been working on a new project for around 9 months and its finally ready to launch!

My jazz and swing band The Night Before Tomorrow (or just 'Before Tomorrow' for short) has its first gig at the end of next month and we're now ready to take bookings for private and public events around the south east. We play a mix of classic tunes such as Have You Met Miss Jones, Come Fly With Me, Fever and Fly Me To The Moon, alongside 'jazzy' versions of songs by Ed Sheeran, Bruno Mars, George Michael, Otis Redding and more.

I hope you like our pre-launch video, but you can never beat the real thing. Our first gig is at The Hand & Sceptre in Tonbridge Wells on 25th February ... maybe see you there?

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Active Listening

Tuesday, 10th January 2017

I've decided I don't do enough active listening. I mean listening to music with a real purpose, to properly try and get stuck into an album and get what it's about.

So here's the new plan (call it a resolution, if you will). I'm setting out to listen to a new album every week. It could be a vintage record by a jazz master or something straight off the press, but I'm going to listen to it every chance I get for a whole week. I'm going to read about it and learn about the players on it, and eventually aim to choose one or two standout tracks to form a compilation of great music as I go along.

Utilising the wonder of spotify, you can follow my efforts, using the links on the right hand side of your screen to check out the last two albums I listened to and follow my compilation playlist. I hope you enjoy!

Last week I started out by listening to an old live album by English born bass player Janek Gwizdala. I've been following his vlogs on youtube recently and he's got a lot of amazing stuff to say, both verbally and musically. Choosing two tracks to go in the compilation was really hard work, but I eventually went with a beautiful ballad called P.K. and the title track Mystery To Me. Definitely both worth a listen.

Finally, I'll leave you with a few shots from the weekend's wedding show at The Old Kent Barn. Until next time.

A post shared by Dave Brazier (@davebraziersax) on

A post shared by Dave Brazier (@davebraziersax) on

A post shared by Dave Brazier (@davebraziersax) on

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Resolutions

Sunday, 1st January 2017

The tradition of making resolutions at the start of a new year is something I touched on briefly in my last blog, but I've given it a little more thought since.

Contrary to my earlier statement, I don't think blogging, vlogging, scoping or anything else really counts as a worthwhile resolution. It may be a good thing to do (debatable, perhaps!) but to me, a resolution is supposed to be something that can somehow make me into a better person. I'm not going to become healthier, stronger or a better husband, father, son, brother, friend or musician as a result of writing more blogs.

And why is it that we only think about these things at one time of year? What about the other 364-or-so days? Surely its worthwhile to be thinking in these terms all year around if we're actually serious about any of it, especially as the expectation seems to be that a new year's resolution will have a shelf life similar to that of an already lit firework!

So here it is: my new year's resolution.

This year, my annual resolution is to make a new resolution every month (every day just doesn't seem practical!). Each small resolution will aim to make me into a very slightly better version of me, and I hope to continue every tiny change to the end of it's month and beyond. Perhaps I'll blog about them, perhaps I wont. Either way, that's not the point.

And for January - this month I will no longer keep my phone in my bedroom at night. A random resolution, I know, but have a think about it next time you're checking your work emails from bed within minutes of waking up. I'm just really not convinced that's healthy.

On a final side point, apparently they (I don't know who ... the wizards?) added an extra second this new year in order to somehow make the calendars add up. So how did you spend your extra second?

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