Renata Bratt, cellist and clinician
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Resources to get you going

 Jazz and Improvised Music on CD


The most important first step is to LISTEN to jazz - on CD or live at performances.


Here is a list of seminal jazz or other improvised performances on CD from all over the world who have touched our hearts or changed our lives.


·        Turtle Island String Quartet album (so named, from Windham Hill Jazz)

·        Saxophonist Lester Young’s the Complete Small Group Sessions, especially Volume 3 (Blue Moon).

·        Violinist "Symphony" Sid Page, "I Scare Myself" on Dan Hicks and the Hot Licks’ Striking it Rich.

·        Trumpeter Miles Davis on Kind Of Blue, Miles Davis’ Quintet,  My Funny Valentine live in New York 1963. (with Four and More)

·        Saxophonist Johnny Hodgeson “small group recordings”

·        Trumpeter Lee Morgan's Sidewinder.

·        Pianist Art Blakey's version of Moanin'

·        Rock Group The Allman Brothers Live at the Fillmore East
Violinist Sugarcane Harris' violin solo on Frank Zappa's Burnt Weenie Sandwich.

·        Electic Guitarist Jimi Hendrix Electric Ladyland

·        PFM , Photos of Ghosts

·        Violinist  Stuff Smith sessions ca. 1936, including Ise a'Muggin'

·        Violinist Stéphane Grappelli and guitarist Django Reinhardt in the mid-30s

·        Violinist Stephane Grappelli, "It Don't Mean A Thing" on the album, Stephane Grapelli.Grappelli and Eddie South's version of the Bach Dm concerto for two violins, around 1936, with Django's amazing accompaniment. To Django

·        Violinist Jean-Luc Ponty's recording Sunday Walk.  The LP is no longer available but many of the tracks are reissued on Compact Jazz: Jean-Luc Ponty & Stephane Grappelli MPS 835 320-2.

·        H L P ( Humair Louis Ponty) in their interpretations of standards

·        Violinist Stuff Smith,  Stuff Smith and his Onyx Club Boys (Classics 706). This CD and the rest of the french label's recordings (including more Stuff, E. South and early Grappelli) are easily available on the net.

·        Svend Asmussen - Musical Miracle Vol. 1 (Phontastic PHONT CD 9306)

·        Violinist Zgibniew Seifert's Passion (Capitol, ST-11923) this LP is hard to find.

·        Philippe Catherine, Christian Escoudé, Didier Lockwood Trio (jms/(cream) records

·        Saxophonist Sonny Rollins, Saxophone Collosus, Way Out West, and The Bridge

·        Pianist Herbie Hancock is a brilliant soloist and accompanist.

·        Saxophonist George Coleman

·        The Bassist Oscar Pettiford

·        The Cellist Akua Dixon

From cellist Renata Bratt, violinist Randy Sabien, cellist Jeffry Mcfarland-Johnson, cellist Chase Morrison, violinist Nicole Yarling, violinist Andy Arleo, violinist Mark Chung, violinist Martin Norgaard, cellist Matt Brubeck and violinist Daniel John Martin.

Q: Hi.  What books would you recommend to start a young cellist into jazz?  She still wants to play classical, but I do not see why she can't do both -- wind players do it all the time!
She has been playing the cello in school for 3 years and has had private lesson for 2 1/2. She is currently taking hour lessons and is well into in Suzuki book 3 as well as playing in a number of Matz books.  She has ensemble experience.
She also plays the flute and her flute teacher is a strong jazz player - he plays the sax, clarinet and flute and plays in a number of jazz and blues bands.  She is starting jazz with him as well.
Her cello teacher is willing to explore jazz with her, but is not sure what books to use as he has never had anyone else ask.  I am not sure what his background is in jazz, if any.    I know she will get a great jazz base from the sax/flute player as he also teaches my son alto sax. 
I am considering encouraging her to try out for jazz band next year rather than Chamber Strings (7th grade).  The jazz band has an excellent string bass this year -- and he will be there next year too.  So I think they could incorporate a cello (and they get a bonus flute player...)  
A: Absolutely, she should learn both styles on cello - that's what makes for great musicians later - learning how to improvise creates composers and musicians familiar with music theory. Classical music makes musicians who are technically advanced and can tackle any musical genre.
Number one - make sure that you are listening to lots of jazz music. Just like Suzuki and classical music, it's important to get the sounds of jazz in your ears to become a proficient player.
One useful starter method for jazz on string instruments is Martin Norgaard's "Jazz Cello Wizard Jr." from the publisher Mel Bay. It has an accompanying CD and the student learns to play jazzy rhythms and phrases in string friendly keys. I would recommend that she occasionally  take her cello with her to her flute lessons, also - OR find a jazz bass player to help her learn to play bass lines on the cello.That's the first step to learning how to accompany  other players. Bass players are great for cellists to work with. They enjoy working with us, think of us as cousins, and don't play too fast for us to keep up. It's a nice experience for all.
If she eventually goes to a teacher other than her own cello teacher, she needs to be clear that she should be playing in string friendly keys - like D, G, E minor, A minor, C. On the cello, we should be responsible not only for learning the jazz tune, but also how to accompany other musicians. Many shorter standard jazz tunes can be transposed into nice keys for our instrument. Some are already in nice keys - Duke Ellington wrote several which are standardized in the key of C (Take the A Train, Don't Get Around Much Anymore and C Jam Blues). She can work on those friendly tunes after working with her cello teacher for a while with "Jazz Cello Wizard Jr." Another nice method - though not quite as clear-cut, is Randy Sabien and Bob Phillips' Jazz Philharmonic for cello from Alfred Publications. This is really meant more for a group setting, though.
Once she gets to Suzuki book 5, she can easily start to play in more adventurous keys. The problem is that wind players like keys (Bb and Eb!) which are often difficult on the cello (because of the shifts involved) for intermediate players.
I am all for strings in jazz band. Again, the flat keys are tricky on the cello,  but I used to play baritone sax parts on my cello. The Eb part can be thought of as being in the bass clef (the spaces and lines are the same) and then add three flats to the key signature (yipes). The sound of the cello is very similar to the sound of the sax. Many directors place cellists into the trombone section, though our sound is not similar. The advantage is that the parts are written in our bass clef.
If you do this, she should get some sort of amplification system. The wind players tend to overpower the string players otherwise. I use an LR Baggs pre-amp with a Realist cello pick-up. Then get a decent amplifier - keyboard amps are fine for cello - guitar amps aren't quite as good as they are not so resonant for the lower strings (we have a very big sound wave on the C string).
Good luck with this!