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Years ago I transcribed Django Reinhardt’s solo on “In a Sentimental Mood” and I posted myself playing it on youtube. Since then I’ve gotten numerous requests for the “tab.” Despite knowing that it would be better for all of these young players to transcribe it themselves, I wanted to help them out because I remember how terribly inaccurate my first transcriptions were, and I worries that they would just find a tab elsewhere with its own dubious claim to accuracy.

The problem was I never really tab things out, and I never got around to creating this oft requested file. Instad, I used to send out photocopies of my terribly illegible original transcription in my tiny moleskine notebook, which I misguidedly decided to use for all my transcriptions.

django in a sentimental mood

Some good Samaritan received my messy note, and sent me back a crisply notated and tabbed pdf of my transcription. So here it is: In a sentimental mood tab.pdf . Enjoy.

No I’m not going to charge for the transcription and tab. I didn’t even write out the tab myself, and if I wanted to make money off of transcribing things I would be doing much more of it.

My real get rich quick scheme involves a new youtube channel in which I teach music theory from the very beginning to hopefully quite an advanced level. If you came here for the tab and feel like paying me back, have a look and subscribe (if you like) to my new channel. The first two videos are posted below, even though they aren’t officially published yet (as of 2/15/2016).

Lisa Mezzacappa’s Glorious Ravage

Posted on September 29, 2015

Lisa Mezzacappa describes herself as “the hub of a wheel, with spokes going off in all directions.” This is in reference to her researching subject matter, collaborating with video artists, writing lyrics and music and rehearsing a 15 piece ensemble for her latest interdisciplinary project: Glorious Ravage. She could just as easily be describing her place in the Bay Area’s creative jazz scene, connecting musicians to each other and to audiences through her work as a bandleader and concert presenter. In addition to leading and co-leading several groups combining the best local and international musicians, she founded the “Monday Makeout,” a monthly series presenting progressive jazz and improvised music at the Make Out Room in the Mission, and Best Coast Jazz Composers Series at the Center for New Music, meant to spotlight the Bay Area’s most creative and prolific jazz artists.

Glorious Ravage is a song cycle with moving images drawing from the writings of women explorers from the Victorian era, and is in many ways a culmination of all the work Mezzacappa has done until now. It premiered at the Angel City Jazz Festival in LA on September 26th, with Fay Victor singing and the incredible cast of musicians, all accompanying fourteen videos by four moving image artists could represent a pinnacle that Mezzacappa has been wanting to reach.

Fay Victor is a powerhouse with a clear, precise and cutting voice, and the dynamic and textural range of any master instrumentalist. Mezzacappa describes an instant chemistry with Victor, who can easily match Mezzacappa’s wide-ranging, groovy, and sometimes frenetic, turn-on-a-dime aesthetic.

The desire to write music for Victor planted a seed that began as a trio premiered in 2012, and grew into Glorious Ravage. Inspired by Victor’s journey westward from New York to play with her in San Francisco, Mezzacappa began researching women pioneers and explorers, eventually using their accounts as source material for lyrics. The rest of the ensemble includes Myra Melford (piano), Mark Dresser (contrabass), Nicole Mitchell (flute), Vinny Golia (winds), Michael Dessen (trombone), Darren Johnston (trumpet), Kyle Bruckmann (oboe), Cory Wright (reeds), Dina Maccabee (viola), Kjell Nordeson (percussion), Jordan Glenn (drums), John Finkbeiner (electric guitar), Tim Perkis (electronics), and Lisa Mezzacappa (contrabass); represent a heavy-hitting cross section of Mezzacappa’s past musical collaborations.

Mezzacappa’s ensemble writing relies heavily on the unique voices of the musicians, providing space and freedom for each to express themselves, all the while providing enough structure to maintain a narrative in the music, or keep synced with a projected video. The compositional techniques she has developed over the years will be thoroughly tested with this group, which is the largest she has yet written for.

Over the course of the last year, Mezzacappa has “co-evolved,” as she put it, the videos that will accompany her songs with four moving picture artists. Though the artists were given open-ended assignments and artistic freedom, Mezzacappa, ever the hub, has kept them and her music connected by exchanging excerpts recorded from rehearsal and song lyrics for video clips and still images as the material developed. All together, the music and the videos will delightfully portray Mezzacappa’s survey of Victorian era women explorers, who were both literal and figurative pioneers: a fitting subject matter for an artist creating incredible work so far off the beaten path.

Lisa Mezzacappa’s Glorious Ravage will appear at the Brava Theater, 2781 24th St., San Francisco, on Thursday October 1, and Friday October 2 at 8pm. Tickets are available at brava.org or in person beginning one hour before showtime at the Brava box office.

This article will appear in the October edition of SFSounds, edited by Chris Weir.

Teaching Music (2): imperfect curriculum

Posted on November 30, 2014

Teaching, to me, involves breaking down the subject into it’s simplest most basic pieces, and finding an efficient, straightforward way to explain those basic pieces in a logical order that builds on itself so that the student eventually understands a complex concept. Basically my goal is efficiency, and it leans on a cumulative approach to explaining concepts.

I think that I came up with this idea while tutoring economics to my peers as an undergrad. Several students depended on my digestible concepts approach to explaining macroeconomics to get through their weekly problem sets (apparently the professor was terrible). I found pride in being able to decipher their homework problems, and then guiding each student logically through what they needed to understand. Students needed to understand supply and demand curves separately before they could find where they intersected. Then they could understand what it means to shift the supply or curve, and from that the concept of elasticity.

I discovered pretty quickly that my ideal of hyper efficient teaching, where the student grasps and understands each concept perfectly before moving on, was impractical in reality (as it turns out, teaching music to complete beginners is very different from teaching the second course of economics to highly motivated Berkeley students). Beginning students, especially children, may not grasp these new concepts immediately. Trying to make sure they understand each one before moving on can get frustrating, not just for the teacher, but for the student (more importantly). Even if this isn’t an issue, most students will not begin with the perfect technique to demonstrate their perfect grasp of musical concepts anyway. Slow perfections have to take a backseat to simply pulling music out of fingers, keys, and strings in any way possible. We can always go back and fix any particular issues… or not. Not everyone is going on to be a highly trained musician, and even if they are, a few mistakes at the beginning are not going to throw them off the path.

Looking back on my musical education, I made several missteps. I would say that I practiced incorrectly and operated under misguided ideas about technique and practical theory among other things for years at a time. It is a painful thing to think about, one that took me a long time to learn not to regret. Now I feel I’ve come full circle. While I am not encouraging my own students to learn “incorrectly,” I see now how it is an inevitability in the process of learning, if not almost essential.

Teaching Music (1)

Posted on November 2, 2014

I remember as a kid feeling that I never wanted to be a teacher. I once tried to teach my friend to play a melody, and I got so frustrated when he did not get it immediately that I swore off teaching as a career choice. I decided that I simply did not have the patience. Even as I finished college, I looked in dismay at my resume, which was loaded with my volunteer work in schools and education, and work as a tutor. By then, however, I was already beginning to enjoy the process of taking a concept apart into its most basic explainable pieces.

Of course, I’ve since changed my mind about teaching. At some point I realized that patience is a virtue that I very much wanted to have if I didn’t already have it, and that a lack thereof would be a terrible excuse not to try something. And it is true, patience is a great tool to have, especially as I have been learning how to be an effective teacher for every kind of student.

The experience overall is gratifying. Nevermind that I’ve become incredibly busy and still am not making a lot of money. Nevermind that I am still learning how to teach effectively, and how to control students and their ever expanding varieties of listlessness, impatience, lack of focus, and aversion to things that are not immediately easy. Turning around and finding one week, that your student suddenly grasps the concepts that seemed as impossible as an elephant doing a backflip is one of the most viscerally exciting experiences that are possible to have on a weekly basis.

That all being said, teaching is such a strangely idiosyncratic experience. More on that later.

Fog City Blues

Posted on October 18, 2014

On Wednesday I and members of Elliott Smith Hour got to be on the radio! Specifically we were on the show Fog City Blues on the local public radio station KALW.

If you want to listen, you can get the high quality stream here: kalw.org/local-music-player until wednesday October 22. Just click on Fog City Blues. or you can check out fogcityblues.blogspot.com where they keep playlists and poorer quality recordings for a longer period of time.

Being on the radio was exciting. KALW is beloved local public radio, which I actually listen to almost every day. Snap Judgment and Philosophy Talks, among other shows, originated from KALW. Even though I held no illusions of it opening any doors, or even getting people to come to the show we were promoting, I felt nervous and was very eager to do a good job. I worried that I wouldn’t be very articulate, and that since Elliott Smith Hour isn’t famous we’d get some general lame questions (imagine having an awkward conversation broadcast live over the radio). I wondered if the mostly silent moments before we played a song would be awkward over the radio, where the audience couldn’t see us flipping through our music and looking at each other making sure we were ready.

I will admit that I wished we could have played better. There were some dubious entrances and endings, and some straight up wrong notes. I felt similarly about the interview portions. Devon Strolovitch was actually a very good interviewer and asked some insightful questions. I only had trouble replying because I usually had several answers that I wanted to explain at once. I felt I rambled a little bit, and said some things that weren’t exactly what I meant. After we left the booth, however, I felt that we did produce some beautiful sounds, said a few interesting things about the music, our inspirations and process, and dutifully represented what I want Elliott Smith Hour to be for any engaged listener. The radio interview is a really interesting performances format, where you can talk and tell stories, and play related recordings in addition to live music.