Practice Journal Excerpts



An Improvised Life Podcast


An Improvised Life is Jazz Podcast that focuses on the Philosophy, History, and Educational aspects of Jazz from a teacher’s perspective.

*Click on episode titles to view and download episodes. 

Ep.1-Wynton Marsalis

In this premier episode I discuss the book, Moving to Higher Ground by Wynton Marsalis. I also play a track off of Wynton’s seminal 1985 album, Black Codes From the Underground.

Ep.2-From the Woodshed Volume 1

In this episode I discuss importance of keeping a practice journal. I also read some words from Saxophonist Dave Liebman. I also play “All of Me” off of Liebman’s 2014 album, Tenor +. Click here for Practice Journal Excerpts

Ep. 3-Who’s Overrated? Who’s Underrated? Part 1

In this episode I discuss a controversial article from Jazztimes. I also play selections form Walt Weiskopf, The Art Ensemble of Chicago, and Betty Carter. Finally, I put together a playlist that includes 13 albums.





Random Find #8: John Coltrane Interview November 1966

The Jazz musician, John Coltrane, discusses his art, the meaning of music in human experience, and his particular spiritual approach. This rare interview was done in November, 1966, less than a year before his death. Get your copy of the “The Coltrane Legacy” two-disc set for $28.50 from Pacifica Radio Archives, 1-800-735-0230 -It includes the complete 1966 John Coltrane interview and a 2005 interview with John’s wife, Alice Coltrane. OR order ONLINE AT

Week #4: James Carter/Cyrus Chestnut/Reginald Veal/Ali Jackson: “Gold Sounds”

James Carter/Cyrus Chestnut/Reginald Veal/Ali Jackson: “Gold Sounds” Gold Sounds Original version from Pavement’s “Brighten the Corners” Obviously, Jazz interpretations of popular songs are as old as the genre itself. As far as the 90’s are concerned, I believe Herbie Hancock was the first major jazz artist to take a stab at it when he recorded Nirvana’s “All Apologies.” Personally, I found Herbie’s interpretation to be somewhat flat and conservative. Sometime later, I overheard John Scofield say that Herbie didn’t even know who Nirvana was at the time, so that probably explains it. As the 90’s wore on, major label jazz albums became increasingly gimmick orientated and unadventurous. It seemed like every artist was forced to put out tribute records or feature a popular musician on one or two tracks. In the midst of all this debris, one album that stood out to me was James Carter’s “Conversin’ with the Elders.” Here, Carter paid tribute to the usual suspects: Bird, Lester Young, and Monk. However, along the way he snuck in an obscure composition by experimental improviser, Anthony Braxton. My opinions on Braxton are fairly complex but what caught my attention was the fact that Carter chose to pay tribute to someone so divisive. I would later learn that Carter’s broad-mindedness is actually empirically identifiable in the execution of his sound. For example, one can objectively identify the influences of both Ben Webster and Rahsaan Roland Kirk in his tone. Suffice to say, I have been a fan of Carter’s for some time. I stumbled on “Gold Sounds” a few years ago during a lengthily James Carter Youtube viewing session, which included his amazing “cutting” session with Joshua Redman. One thing the reader should know from the get go is that Pavement is easily one of my favorite bands of all time. Despite Lead Singer Stephen Malkmus’s insistence that he couldn’t sing in-tune or play guitar very well, I don’t think Pavement has put out a single album that is anything less than brilliant. Incidentally, I also think that Malkmus is one of the greatest lyricists of his generation. Of course, I also think that the performances on this record are remarkable but I don’t want to add to any preconceived notions one might already have about it. It’s entirely conceivable that someone who isn’t a Pavement fan might find the collection to be somewhat mundane. I’ve posted two clips above in order for the listener to get a sense of how Pavement’s music is converted to an improvisational medium. By the way, I recently learned that James Carter said he first encountered Pavement’s music while watching an episode of “Beavis and Butthead.” Isn’t that enough to at least garner a little bit of interest in this record?-Tone Track Listing: • Stereo • My First Mine • Cut Your Hair • Summer Babe • Blue Hawaiian • Here • Platform Blues • Trigger Cut Personnel: • James Carter: Tenor and Soprano Saxophones • Cyrus Chestnut: Fender Rhodes, piano, Hammond organ; • Reginald Veal: Acoustic and Electric Bass, Voice; • Ali Jackson: Drums, Voice. Label: Brown Brothers Recordings Year: 2005

Week #3: Archie Shepp/Horace Parlan-Goin’ Home


I had the chance to study with Archie Shepp for a several months in the fall of 1998. At the time I was just a young, inexperienced and generally petrified kid. Not to mention the fact that Archie was incredibly physically imposing and spoke in a perpetually aggressive manner. I also placed an inordinate amount of significance on the fact that he was the only musician I had met at the time who had hung out and recorded with Coltrane. Incidentally, I had no awareness of how the general public perceived Archie Shepp: Non-musician Hipsters relish him as some sort of idealized 60’s avant-garde icon, while some straight-ahead players tend to simply dismiss him altogether.

The real Archie Shepp can’t be compartmentalized within such a narrow spectrum of opinion. The man I encountered seemed to know every single tune in the American Songbook and would accompany me on the piano most of the time. He had long since abandoned “free” playing but still possessed a coarse tone on the saxophone. On ballads, he played with a breathy vibrato that landed somewhere between Ben Webster and Coleman Hawkins. Most importantly, Archie had what was perhaps the most exhaustive blues lexicon I have ever encountered.

Honestly, I could write a book on the advice he gave me. Everything he told me about jazz turned out to be factually correct. I rejected nothing but was too young to really understand what he was trying to put across to me. I could always count on experiencing a huge spike of anxiety every Wednesday due to the oncoming verbal assault I was about to receive at the hands of Mr. Shepp. The only sorrow I have about studying with him was that I wished I were a better player at that time. Regretfully, I never got a chance to show him my progression because he abandoned America for Paris shortly after that time period. Someday I will share some of the stories Archie Shepp told me about other jazz musicians and his life as a whole.

I chose “Goin’ Home” as my Archie Shepp favorite because I think it represents one of his greatest artistic and spiritual achievements on record. This duo with pianist Horace Parlan features a collection of jazz interpretations of traditional gospel pieces. Here’s what Archie had to say about the album in a 1982 Downbeat interview:

“I felt I represented everybody who’d ever sang those songs, and to make the meaning of those songs clear was up to me at that point. They should be truthful, they should have the same authenticity as when they were sung, because that’s the nature of this type of folk song. They were created by people who were in deep sorrow; they’re slave songs. And so it challenged my own ability as modern Negro black man to traverse that historical plain. Could I do that? And I felt I could, and the tears were proof of it – that perhaps my condition hadn’t changed so completely that I can’t still feel what they felt.”


Track Listing:

  • Deep River
  • My Lord What A Morning
  • Amazing Grace
  • Sometimes I Feel Like A Motherless Child
  • Swing Low, Sweet Chariot
  • Goin’ Home
  • Nobody Knows The Troubles I’ve Seen
  • Go Down Moses
  • Steal Away To Jesus


  • Archie Shepp-Tenor Saxophone
  • Horace Parlan-Piano

Label: Steeplechase

Year: 1977