Archive for Jazz

Simplicity Sells — One Note Samba

Here’s another example of how simplicity sells, and how a pattern with variation makes things interesting.  This One Note Samba really does only have one note, but what makes this song interesting is how often that note is played.  By changing the rhythm, even one note can be interesting.

Not everything has to be complicated to be masterful!  I think there’s something to be said about that in advertising too.  Don’t overwhelm your audience with things to try and “wow” them if you don’t have to.  Be creative with what you have–spice up the rhythm, or how loud you play your one note.

You’ll be surprised at what you can do if you stick with what you’re good at–even if it’s one thing!

My Favorite Things

Here’s another great jazz song by Dave Brubeck called “My Favorite Things”.  This is a great take on the song made popular by The Sound of Music.


What I like about this is how he makes non-linear connections between an almost folk tune, blues, and a waltz to come up with something completely original.  This song helped Dave Brubeck reach the top of the charts in the jazz world, and it’s all because  of a pattern and some variation.

Building a Fire–Business Survival 101

I am an avid outdoor enthusiast, and I have about 6 years of experience around fire as a Firefighter.  I have learned that doing a project, starting a business, or coming up with something creative is a lot like building a fire.  To build a fire you need 3 things; Heat, Fuel, Oxygen.

Heat = passion

You have to be passionate–or at least motivated–to do whatever it is you’re planning to do.  Without that spark of excitement and energy, it will be very difficult to turn that log of a project into something bright that people will notice.

Fuel = stuff to do

All of the passion and energy in the world means nothing if you have nowhere to put it.  Even the hottest sparks will burn out if there’s nothing around it that will “catch”.  It’s also a game of how much you put on the fire and when.  Add too much, and the spark won’t be enough.  Add too little wood, and the fire will quickly die out.  As the fire grows, be prepared to throw on bigger sticks on it.  This means you need to have done enough planning beforehand so that you’re not scrambling for things to do once you’ve got momentum going!

Oxygen = time to relax

The final thing needed for success is time to step back and take a breather.  If all you do is add heat and fuel, you’ll make a really hot fire but waste a lot of energy and wood in the process.  Figure out how high  you want your fire, and once it gets there, take a step back and enjoy the fruits of your labor.

Avishai Cohen

Here’s a great jazz video my jazz guitar buddy showed me the other day.  This is Avishai Cohen and his trio; Cohen is the bassist here.  What I like about this original is how it pushes the edges of what we normally hear, but doesn’t sound weird.  This song has a driving feel because of it’s odd time signature (it’s in 7/8).

Comment, Listen, Enjoy!

Jazz of the Day!

Today’s jazz feature is Blue Rondo A La Turk by Dave Brubeck.  This is another one of Dave’s songs with atypical rhythms.  This song happens to be in 9/8.  Enjoy!



Dave Brubeck applied to Design

One of my jazz heroes is Dave Brubeck because of how he challenges the typical format of music, but does so without completely throwing western civilization out the window.  Dave Brubeck knows that the key to any good design (or anything creative) is pattern with variation.  There’s a fine line between having good discipline and getting attention.

A good example of Dave Brubeck’s masterful creativity is in his song “Unsquare Dance”.  Most songs have about 3 or 4 beats per measure.  In this song, Dave uses 7. The song is in 7/8 for all my music theory junkies out there.  It is incredibly hard to play with an odd number of beats like this, but Dave “phrases” his song in such a way that it sounds almost normal.  This work is just different enough to grab your attention, but not so outlandish that you have to think about it too hard.

Make your work stand out, but not in a way that detracts from the message you’re trying to send.

Problems with being creative?

I have noticed that there either people who are super creative with crazy ideas and who make tons of non-linear connections but lack discipline, or there are people who are very hard-working and smart, but can’t come up with a good tagline to save their life.  I’ve noticed this in the musical world too with jazz vs. classical musicians.

To the creatives: almost anyone can push keys on a piano, but if you have discipline and become an expert at your craft, your ideas will have even more possibilities and you will be able to back your ideas yourself.  People may not notice if you fake it, but they will notice if you know what you’re doing.

To the hard-working: don’t be afraid to make mistakes.  It takes a lot of courage and thick skin to put yourself out there.  You will fail and sound foolish at first when you start “improvising” or “creating”.  It’s just like when children first learn how to talk.  First you learn basic sounds, then some essential words, and after a while you speak full sentences.  You will never learn how to speak with your mouth shut.  Listen to the pros in the industry, and then try it for yourself.  My jazz prof in college said there are two things that will make you an improv pro: listening and playing.  Put your hard work to good use and don’t be afraid to fail.  Everyone starts somewhere.

The Creative Process and Jazz

How do we create?  How do we take random things, and make them into something interesting and useful?

Creativity is intelligence having fun.

I have a small jazz trio, and at one of our first gigs we had about an hour’s worth of music “prepared”.  We played well, and people loved us so much that the guy who asked us to play at his restaurant wanted us to play for two more hours!  We were excited that they wanted us to keep playing–but we had run out of music!  So we did what humans do best: improvise.  We took some basic chord progressions and quickly decided on the right “feel” for the next song, and decided on some basic ques, and went with it.  It worked.


Granted, we are all experienced musicians (so we weren’t just making noise), but for all intensive purposes we created 2 hours completely new music without “practicing”.  We were able to do this because we had that foundation of experience and a decided form to go off of, and decided on a “lead” (someone who would take-point) for each new song.

I think the creative process boils down to:

  • Decide on a leader who can complement the group
  • Think through what you want to communicate
  • Have a form (the chords) and then forget it as the song dictates
  • Have the technical ability to back your ideas