More Tales from the Pantry & Other Jam Sessions

Many Centuries past, (Pre Covid) there was a Queens Festival held every year at the Castle. Many merry Bands flocked to join in the usual jam tasting sessions. Each band was given an allotted time and a venue so that the musicians could a get a taste of all the fruit on offer.

There were many Knights of Jazz seen jousting for positions to play. The music of the Duke was heralded throughout the halls.
The usual cool chicks, Henrietta and Cordelia were heard warming up their instruments down in the kitchen ready for the “Bake off.” The celebrated knights were in the main drinking hall scoffing ale and wailing out some great treats.

Sir Roger wielded his mighty sax and blew what can only be described as jam that had so many notes the “bake off” judge was left with a sinus condition that blocked all senses. The waft of honey dripping from his instrument caused the chicks to throw their quills in the air and faint.

Meanwhile out in the backblocks of the Castles Stables, Princess Donna had been given the short straw again. Her tickler of ivories had left her in a pickle.

Then out of blues corner of the stables wandered a dark horse. He was fired up ready to cook up a storm. He was an old hoofer from ‘way back when’. In Grappelli style his “fiddle” did the talkin’.

There was no need to peel his grape. Wine flowed. The sweet sounds complimented Princess Donna’s penchant for exuberant embellishments, especially the finale. The music overflowed her cup and spilled onto the straw floor, turning the performance into a meal to behold. The Judges swooned at the tasting.

Moral of Tale.

The Band that rocks the stable, rules the Weekend, and, there’s many a tasty tune still played by an old Fiddler.



Tales from the Pantry & Other Jam Sessions

In the Kingdom of Jazz land, before ISO, there were places called Clubs that held Song Competitions.
It was a chance for Singers to win money to stave off starvation, and to be given a recording contract that would open the gates and drawbridges of other famous Clubs.

These Competitions were live and fiercely contested. Singers had to arm themselves with ‘Charts’ to navigate the mind stream of jazz musicians who were lined up to play for you. Respect for them was key component of your success. A smile of acknowledgement didn’t go astray in this “dog eat dog” world.
I sat waiting on the bench with my friend “Singalot.'”

I came to provide her with my support and encouragement. She had a beautiful pure voice, but was prone to nerves. It was my job to occasionally give her sips of water and mop her brow with my hanky. A few minutes before it was her turn to go on,”Singalot” turned to me and exclaimed that she needed a cough lolly to clear her throat. Of course it was the one thing that I did not have in my purse.

“I have some.” declared a sweet looking contestant sitting on the other side of her.’ Would you like one of mine’

“Oh yes please!” said ‘Singalot’ who took the cough lolly and popped straight into her mouth.

I could see the look of gratitude on ‘Singalots’ face as the lolly worked its magic.

“Next!’ called the stage manager and up onto the platform went ‘Singalot’. She graciously handed her ‘charts’ to the musicians and took the microphone.
They began her Intro and then, to ‘Singalots’ horror, nothing came out. Her vocal chords had dried out and all she could do was make a rasping sound.

No musician with shining instruments could save her.

Moral Of the Tale:

You can’t have your Cough Lolly and Sing too.



Home Recording – “Just how good can it get”

By Mike Hirsh Esq, audio engineer at Tel 041738-3583, 9312-7391

Well actually, quite good results can be achieved at home if you have a good quality microphone, and a decent A/D to D/A audio interface. Of course the interface can have one, two or multiple inputs of 8. It all depends on your needs and experience. So let’s imagine you want to just record a vocal, piano or guitar in your loungeroom and put in on Spotify or Soundcloud.

The Interface

Should have at least 2 mic / 2 line inputs, like the SSL 2 & 2+ or the Focusrite scarlett-2i

Both are around the same price and are pretty good quality. They both come with software, but the SSL 2+ has additional plugins samples and loops for your computer to get you started.

However, if you have a friend who gives you software like Protools, or Logic Pro, then that’s a bonus. Note. Don’t buy an Interface and mic bundles. Why? – the mics are usually crap and the sellers want you to come back again and spend more money on a decent mic later. So you have been warned 🙂


I am not going to beat around the bush here, but using your Shure Beta 58 mic is not going to cut it. Why? because it’s a dynamic mic, and what you need is a condenser mic.

At MCS Recording Studio we use a few Neumann condenser mics for vocalists, but unless you can afford a $3,500 to $7000 mic, I’d stick with a good, but under $150 mic like the Audio Technica AT2020. Or, for under $280, the Rode NT1a

By the way, the Rode is designed and built in Australia and comes with a Shockmount and Pop filter and will last a lifetime. Pop Filter is for eliminating S’s & P’s in ya vocals, so don’t forget it…!!!

A word on Stereo mics, please oh please, don’t bother unless you are at the Opera house recording a bloody choir. Why, because you want your single vocal mixed in the centre of the stereo field. I could go into this in greater technical detail as to why, but that’s for another day.

Suffice to say, I know a singer who recently recorded her vocals with a stereo/mono mic and couldn’t work out why the vocal was not dead centre. The answer is, yes you guessed it, she wasn’t standing dead centre of the stereo mic field.

She was moving around getting into the groove etc, poor lass and didn’t realise she had a MONO switch on her mic as well. She switched the mic to mono and to her astonishment, the phase issue was corrected.

Oh and if you record Bass, or Guitar, please do yourself a favour, always record in mono as these instruments are in MONO. Again, I could explain why, but that topic is a technical issue and it’s boring for some. However, for electronic keys, the outputs are Mono Left and Right (Stereo) so use them mono or stereo, depending on your needs live or studio. Check your keyboard manual, and by the way that’s not Manuel, as in Faulty Towers.

“May Your Efforts Achieve the Success They deserve” – Max Abrams 1907 -1995

Instrumentalists Language……..

As seen from a vocalist’s perspective
‘Double time’, rhythm bridge and ‘then do fours’ take the head and ‘vamp’….

….lets go through a few standard terms.

Bars – Measures of time. Most tunes have an intro and may be 32 bars long.
Blues – Style of music. Often meaning a harmonic 12 bar form that many tunes are based on.
Changes – The song’s harmony…Chord changes.
Double Time – Everything is twice as fast.
Head – Melody of the tune.
Form – Construction of the song typically AABA (Stormy Weather, with a two bar
intro) or AB (Autumn Leaves – 8 bar intro then 32 bar form)
1st 8 bars = A
2nd 8 bars = A
3rd 8 bars = B (different harmony & melody than the A sections)
4th 8 bars = A ( same as the first A section.
Intro – usually 4 bars and may be 8 bars A Night In Tunisia has six bars, followed by a 16 bar AABA form with a 16 bar interlude thrown in…
Style or Groove of tune
Vamp – Measures that repeat over and over.

All love Ebonyrose x

Some listening references

Autumn Leaves (Bill Evans)

Stormy Weather: Ella Fitzgerald with the incomparable Joe Pass Listen for the tricky little 4 bar extra turn around at 1.20 (which she scats)

A Night in Tunisia, Charlie Parker. Shows what musicians like to get up to when the vocalist is away getting a drink…


Looking for some increasingly edgy scales to play over that D7 chord?

John Curtis

It can be helpful to think in this case in terms of the C lydian mode as the basic scale (instead of the conventional major scale) and then look at its increasingly altered cousins as improvisory substitutes. All of these contain a #11 from the tonic (i.e. a F# based on a tonic C for the scale). These show themselves as a 3rd and b7th in a D7 chord.

Why the lydian mode I hear you ask? Continue reading →

France : The Jazz Summer School Experience

By John Curtis, pianist

In August 2009 I was fortunate enough to participate in the Advanced Improviser’s Course with the Mediterranean Jazz Summer School held at a beautiful old chateau (Chateau du Bijou) near Chomerac in the Ardeche department in southern France about midway between Lyon and Marseille just to the left of the Rhone River. There was a singers’ course running in parallel and we all lived at the chateau for the week of the courses. In the food department we were exceedingly well looked after by a French family who normally ran a small restaurant in Chomerac I think. Whatever, it was great French fare with wine on tap. Breakfast of course included coffee and croissants. Dinner was usually quite comprehensive.

The school was run by Clive Fenner, an excellent drummer from East London and a very nice person. He has been running the course every year for quite a few years now as well as a sister course in Havana for Cuban music. He was ably assisted by a number of excellent musicians from the UK working as tutors on the course including two pianists, a saxophonist, a bass player and two singers. The students included about twenty singers, two pianists, two drummers, three saxophonists and two guitarists. We had people from the UK, Holland, Spain, Belgium, Ireland, Poland, Switzerland, Sweden, Germany and, of course, Australia.

As part of the selection process you were asked to outline your jazz experience including the instruments played, length of time playing jazz, music qualifications, individual lessons taken, courses/workshops attended, band experience, reading ability, improvisational ability, how easily you were able to learn new material, repertoire, strengths as a musician plus what areas you thought you needed to develop in your playing and what particular things you were hoping to learn or get from the course.

Each day first thing after breakfast we started with some physical movement exercises which sometimes included timing-related activities. Then typically during the day we would participate in small group workshops learning to perform assigned pieces as a group, choir workshops (which included the instrumentalists), listening workshops designed to facilitate transcription and learning by ear, specialist workshops (for example the two pianists had specialists sessions with the principal piano tutor Simon Purcell), big band workshops and, in the afternoon after lunch, rehearsals with individual singers. The pianists were in demand for these rehearsals, so the afternoons were a lot busier than I expected. They were nominally for individual practice but who’s complaining.

After dinner each evening, we had a jam session which, as often as not, went well beyond midnight. The tutors also participated and there were some great performances helped along by a liberal supply of beer and wine. The catch was we had to get up quite early in the morning so by the end of the week you can imagine we were all a bit ragged.To round out the course we put on a concert for the Chomerac locals. The audience was fortunately very appreciative and the jam session afterwards concluded a great week. We all parted company the next morning and I took the train back to Paris to meet Lynne who was arriving there that day.

I have to thank Ray Hood for putting me onto the course. Some will know Ray as a regular attendee of our jam sessions in the past. As I recall Agus Batara has also attended the course. Unfortunately, Clive Fenner has been sick (1) and I don’t know whether the course will continue to be offered. I would certainly be happy to recommend it if it is. The one-week immersion was a very enjoyable experience and it definitely helped me to further my jazz objectives.

John Curtis

The debonair Curtis returned from this course a different piano player, bursting with new ideas and I had to steal all his hottest licks all over again…

(1) Clive Fenner died in 2019 but the courses in France continue.


Clive Fenner 1949 to 2019

Tales from the Pantry and other Jam Sessions

Along time ago before ISO, there were two chooks who would free range the local pub scenes.

One was known as Henrietta. This afternoon she was hoping to lubricate her vocal chords and strut her stuff on the stage.
The other, Cordelia, loved to display her talents on the guitar. She was a mean plucker and picker with a plectrum.

Both smart chicks would always come early to the venue and set up their equipment.

This particular Sunday the talent scouts were out and the house was packed with music lovers and jammers.
The chicks did a quick sound check and then launched into a well -known country/blues song called “Chickens in the Barnyard” They were singin’ an pickin’ an’ the whole room were jiggin’ along.

Suddenly out of no -where, the sound equipment failed: but, the band, bein’ a roost of ole time troopers, kept a mimin’ a strummin’ and a drummin’.

The Sound guys tried a fiddlin’ and a pokin’ but still they could not get electrified. There were cries of it’s not “our” equipment, it’s not “our” fault, why don’t you check yours? Hey!

The two chicks muttered and apologized. They were not used to having their feathers ruffled. Wildly embarrassed they packed up their stuff and retired to the bar.

Moral of the Tale:

Hens should never leave home without extra batteries.

Signed: “Cookin”. Classes from the Pantry.

Drummers Lies


Hello fellow jammers,

Mr Hirsh here,

It has come to my attention that the Jammers news backroom copy boy, (thrice removed), has been struggling to find credible contributions due to the pressure of this wretched pandemic.

So to lighten the load, here is for your enjoyment are the top 20 lies that aspiring drummers may tell you, in an effort to get some urgent attention.

Top 20 Lies Told By Drummers

  1. I can play that
  2. Metronomes hurt your “Feel”
  3. I wasn’t fired; the producer just likes to work with his own people.
  4. The album/CD is doing really well
  5. I practice 5 hours per day
  6. I never practice
  7. I’m doing tons of sessions
  8. I played on the record, but I wasn’t credited
  9. I never play Top 40
  10. It’s not what you play, it’s what you don’t play that counts
  11. Your girlfriend/partner is really cool
  12. I’ll put you on the guest list
  13. Sure, I know that tune
  14. I’m really good friends with him
  15. He’s totally cool
  16. We are huge in Japan
  17. I recorded every track on the 1st take
  18. The drum sounds were amazing, but the engineer screwed up the mix
  19. He really likes my playing
  20. I’m gonna be in Modern Drummer next month