Woodvines upcoming performances

Sunday March 15th in duo with Stefan Van den Bossche 7:30 - 9:30 Waters edge restaurant BougainvilleaHotel

March 28th and 29th Harrison College Mosaic II at the Frank Collymore hall

Monday, 17 June 2013

(The dreaded) Berklee woodwind proficiencies

During the mid 1980's, while earning my music degree from Berklee College of Music,   woodwind students and I had to pass a number of "proficiencies" or practical exams. Those of us who learned and mastered the material in these proficiencies achieved a great improvement in our technique and fluency on our instruments. Consisting of a mixture of scales and arpeggios, the proficiency levels became progressively challenging, For performance majors such as myself, there were six levels in total, all the levels had to be completed by the end of our eight semester program. They started with basic major and minor scales and progressed to some very exotic varieties of scales and arpeggios that would have made the Spanish inquisition proud!

(Nobody expects the Spanish inquisition)...

Here are two scanned pages of the Berklee woodwind proficiencies as of 1986...

Page 1
page 2
In addition, at the end of each semester we were required to prepare both a classical etude and a Jazz solo to be performed in front of a panel consisting of three faculty members. The classical etude would typically be something by Klose or Marcel Mule and the jazz solo was usually a Charlie Parker solo from the Omnibook. This was a very nerve-wracking experience to say the least!
Today Berklee's woodwind department seems to be using the same material except that it is spread over eight levels for performance majors.
I still occasionally refer to these documents and practice the material. It is essential to use a metronome, (Don't just turn it on and ignore it :)) and always play the entire exercise at a uniform tempo. Having a chromatic tuner in front of you and referring to it often can help keep your scales/arpeggios in tune. Playing these levels using the full range of your horn is important, it helps you to get comfortable with all the areas of your range. 
Why practice scales and arpeggios? At the end of the day we all want to be able to play a melody smoothly and accurately, all melodies are made up of steps and leaps - so it makes sense to spend some time with these!

Happy practicing!

Monday, 10 June 2013

Masterclass on improvisation, courtesy of the Wayne Shorter Quartet

Today's masterclass features saxophonist Wayne Shorter and his quartet performing his composition "Footprints" at the 2003 Montreal jazz Festival.
Wayne first recorded Footprints on his 1966 album "Adam's Apple". The song has become a standard jazz tune, one that is well known and often played by both professional and student musicians.
What I really enjoyed about this video is the manner in which the quartet move away from the traditional performance style of a jazz standard. In a typical jazz quartet performance the lead player would state the melody reasonably close to how it was originally conceived while the drums and bass would share responsibility for the rhythmic pulse while getting into a consistent tempo and groove for the duration of the song.
For example, here is Wayne's 1966 recording of Footprints;
And now, below, in astonishingly sharp contrast, is Wayne's masterful modern performance from the 2003 Montreal jazz festival. Here the pulse or groove of the song is anchored by bassist John Patitucci, allowing drummer Brian Blade to play almost like another lead instrument. The group freely changes rhythmic styles, tempos and harmonies based on the suggestions made in the moment by the ensemble's members. 

You can feel them listening to each other!
Wayne Shorter allows himself to explore his melody, to rhythmically displace it, add or subtract notes from it and repeat sections where they wouldn't normally be repeated.
Pianist Danilo Perez does a wonderful job of both re-harmonizing the composition and constantly suggesting new rhythmic directions, giving Shorter a generous supply of ideas and directions for his solo.
Wayne's sense of humor and playfulness is evident in the melodic quotes that he infuses into both the melody and his improvisation;
@ 00:34 he plays the nursery rhyme 'Rock -a-bye baby' which seems to fit nicely within the melodic structure of the tune.

@ 04:04 during his improvisation he quotes the Sonny Rollins composition 'Oleo', Brian Blade responds by changing to a swing feel for a while. Here is a nice example of the original Oleo.

@ 04:45 Wayne shows us how important it is to listen to as many different musical styles and sources as you can when he quotes 'If I Loved You' a beautiful show tune from the 1945 Rogers and Hammerstein musical carousel, (my mum used to play it on Piano, - thanks mum!).

After an inspired and inspiring drum solo from Brian Blade, Shorter states the melody and once again much to Danilo's suprise and pleasure, twists it, displacing it in time at 06:54. The 'Rock a bye baby' reference returns at 7:37. Wayne and Danilo conclude the piece by putting it through a classical melodic and harmonic filter.
I hope this is interesting and inspiring for all students and fans of improvisation out there - check out the rest of Wayne Shorter's incredible contributions to music.

Phew! what a performance! - time to go practice some more :)

Saturday, 8 June 2013

L'Atrium - a look Inside Martinique's centre for the arts

Like everywhere else in the world, I'm sure that the French Caribbean island of Martinique has it's good and bad, and that some Martiniquans may enjoy being a part of France and others might even lean more towards independence. In my opinion however, there's one thing that France and Martinique really get right, and that is their commitment to the development of arts and culture.
Nowhere is that more apparent than in the splendid Martinique cultural centre called L'Atrium.

Completed in 1998 and conceived by Fanny Augiac the Directrice of Martinique's national cultural agency (known as CMAC - Centre Martiniquais d'Action Culturelle) this multipurpose facility contains two concert halls, an art gallery, rehearsal spaces, a cafe and large open corridors for exhibitions.

All of this is surrounded on the upper floors by CMAC's administrative offices.

A panoramic shot taken from my position during sound check for a recent Fal Frett concert

The larger of the two concert halls is called the Salle Aimé Césaire and has 957 seats arranged on a ground floor, side 'boxes' and balcony. The smaller hall, called the Salle Frantz Fanon has 270 seats.

What I find very clever about the building's design is that the two concert halls are situated on opposite sides of a huge shared central stage. The Atrium's official website  lists the hall's stage areas as 420 and 225 square meters respectively, however I've observed that there are huge movable walls dividing the stage that can be set to create different stage depths on each side. The Larger hall has excellent wings, (The stage doors could probably accommodate a cement truck!), plenty of room for sets and the lighting can easily be adjusted by lowering the lighting rigs located above the stage. The stage's dividing walls are acoustically treated allowing events to be staged in each hall simultaneously.

A panoramic view taken while undergoing sound check

In the downstairs foyer of the L'Atrium is a ticket office, an art gallery, a cafe, open corridors for exhibitions of large sculptures and elevators to the offices above.
On many occasions I have had the pleasure of both performing and attending concerts in this hall and I've always found the acoustics to be very pleasing.

There are a few areas where the building needs some attention. Some of the seats need reupholstering and the dressing rooms are in a sad state. Parking can be a challenge in Fort-de-France even for performers trying to use the L'Atrium's facilities.

Whenever I return home from a performance in L'Atrium, I can't help but wonder when, if ever we might create a similar structure in Barbados. After hearing for the past 25 years, the empty words of successive Barbadian governments promising the creation of a reasonably sized performing hall, I no longer think that any government in Barbados has the motivation or vision to create a Barbadian "Atrium". If we in the arts wish to see this happen then we can't wait on a government initiative. We need a Barbadian "Fanny Augiac", cooperation between the private sector, government and all those involved in the arts, and of course a significant financial investment.

Who knows maybe one day in the future, a musician in another island will blog about his visit to a wonderful center for the performing arts in Barbados 

Wednesday, 5 June 2013

Woodvine is possessed

Back in January of this year, (January 26th to be precise) I had the pleasure of presenting a concert titled 'One Night Only with Andre Woodvine and The Original Unit' at the Divi Southwinds Hotel. You can see a video from that performance here. In the audience that night was vocalist and Barbados Community College faculty member Dionne Lashley
Dionne recently sent me a few thoughts on her impression of my performance that I felt were worth sharing...
 Dionne wrote;
"It's almost like he is a man possessed. You know what it's like - well, what movies say it's like - when someone is possessed. That other being takes them over, and they have no choice but to channel its message, its thought and feelings. Andre's like that - he takes that horn up and it's like he's possessed. You can see his entire body is taken over, and out blurts the music like a foreign tongue, like a divine seizure. It appears involuntary, as though he couldn't stop it from coming out if he wanted to. And it's mesmerizing - you have hardly an idea of what's going to come out next, but once it does, it's as though it couldn't have come out any other way. I am spellbound."

Dionne included this comment with her quote;
(Note: I'm not into the whole spirit world business, but somehow this is the analogy that came to me at the time.)
Phew, thanks Dionne, that's an interesting analogy! I'm only sorry Dionne doesn't write reviews for our local paper!

Monday, 3 June 2013

Branford Marsalis and his saxophone teacher Harvey Pittel

While perusing the internet late last night, I came across this wonderful YouTube video of a masterclass featuring one of my favorite saxophonists Branford Marsalis (Courtesy of Amsterdam winds). You can see the video below or follow this link.
This masterclass is valuable for anyone interested in performing jazz regardless of your instrument...


Branford speaks on a variety of subjects in his usual down to earth manner. At one point an audience member asks him if he currently has a teacher to which he replies "Yes, Harvey Pittel". So of course I had to stay up even later and search for Harvey Pittel on You tube and I found a treasure trove of videos from this interesting and highly accomplished teacher.
Here they are!


I've only posted the first 4 parts of the full 14 part series - obviously if these are useful to you then you can check out the rest. I'm still trying to digest them all myself...happy viewing!

Sunday, 2 June 2013

Financial realities of the Barbados "music industry"

Here is a scan of a page from the first financial accounts I ever kept. The year was 1988, Keyboardist Roger Gittens and I worked together in a duo called Double Exposure. In that year I had been out of music school for 2 years or so, Roger and I were relatively new to the scene.

I find it interesting to note that nearly 25 years have passed since I wrote these accounts.
Today's pay on the local Barbadian restaurant/hotel circuit has seen some changes - but have these changes followed rises in the cost of living? What would the $300 pay of 1988 be worth in today's economy? The following year, (1989) my duo was earning Bds $400.00 at the Kings Beach Hotel, and in 2001 my duo regularly earned $500/night in hotels around the island.
In the past year I've heard of local musicians earning Bds.$100.00 to play in a quartet!! There is a well known jazz venue in Barbados that offers $400.00 for a duo and $500.00 for a trio!

A music degree from an American university or college can now cost as much as BDS$200,000, what is the financial sense in pursuing a music career as a local musician? Can local instrumental performers really expect to make a living playing music locally under these conditions?

I don't think so.

Guest appearance on episode 27 of Freethinking Island

I made an appearance on episode 27 of "Freethinking Island" a podcast committed to promoting the virtue of reason over faith. Below is an introduction written by the podcast co-creator David Ince.  

"Episode 27 of 'Freethinking Island' is up and ready for download. This week it was jazz and freethinking, as we had the pleasure of welcoming Andre Woodvine, leading Barbados and Caribbean jazz saxophonist to the 'island'.

It was fascinating to sit with Joy and listen to a person whose music we grew up hearing in Barbados, talk about his atheism and his personal background. Interestingly, Andre was also our first Barbadian guest to 'Freethinking Island' and he give us some details about his experience in Barbados surrounded by Christianity of all types.

Andre spent time talking about his family and gave some entertaining stories of how he has been able to get his children to think critically about the religious beliefs so prevalent around them. He also went on to reflect on the various reactions he has received in Barbados both personally and professionally as a result of being public about his atheism.

Andre as a guest, is every bit as 'cool' as the jazz he seems to play so effortlessly on his instrument. Listening to his personal story and his outlook on life is a great illustration of how a person can live an enormously happy and fulfilled life without belief in any God or higher power.

From a personal perspective, it was a thrill to have someone who I admired as a musician and who gave me so much inspiration to become a saxophonist myself, now giving support to myself and others in our efforts to promote freethinking in the Caribbean.

Hope you enjoy both the discussion and the music on this Episode. We open with a taste of 'Fix it on Monday' which is a sweet jazz track with a distinct Caribbean flavour. Make sure you listen right to the end of the episode as you get to hear the extent of Andre's musical range, with one of his most popular tracks, 'Citronella'.

You can download Episode 27 and all previous episodes from www.freethinkingisland.com, through iTunes or from the Blackberry podcast system. Don't forget to check out all of Andre's music on iTunes as well."