Wednesday, January 23, 2008

2+2=5 Music Minus One - Review

2 + 2 = 5
A Study in Odd Times by Hank Levy
Published by: Music Minus One

Its time to –
Improve your Big Band 70s style odd time skills with the Hank Levy Towson State College Jazz Ensemble

Music Minus One is a teaching concept that is designed to be applied directly to real musical situations. In case you are not familiar with this concept, the first step is to learn the music by playing along with the full recording, then on the next CD, your part is silenced and you take the stage. In this case, I am not sure of how many musicians find themselves faced with odd time charts in a big band/ensemble situations, although I wish there were more. But, for the rest of us, this manual has the potential to help you feel the particular grooves and maybe in a way that you haven’t before.

This manual was first published in 1975 and re-released w/CDs in 2001 preserved with the funky 70s 2-color state university band ensemble feel. It is available for alto sax, trumpet, piano or bass and contains 2 CDs and 24 pages of notated (bass) parts (no no no tab here, this is serious jazz) of six compositions, 5 in odd time, and one in cut time. All of the pieces are composed by Hank Levy and performed by the Towson State University Ensemble, where he was a Professor. Compositions in odd time is a trademark of his and he is the author of “A Time Revolution”, a textbook about the exotic meter concept.

Here are the tracks:

Bob City Revisited – 7/4
Poopsie’s Penthouse - 11/4
A Quiet Friday – 5/4
Pete Is A Four-Letter Word - 7/2
Bread & Watrous – Cut Time - fast Samba
(4/4 cut in half - ? that’s not ODD)
Stillness Runs Deep – 11/4

It was cool to play along with these compositions even after being reluctant at first, due to the school like feeling. I had the most fun with the bass solo in “Pete Is A Four Letter Word”. But, it is still a mystery to me, with all the meters to pick from, why they chose to include cut time – it certainly didn’t feel like odd time.

As for educational value, the meters are a basic start to getting the feels into your groove memory. They safely stick to one meter per song and keep in the quarter (half) note groove. Even if you are quite proficient in playing in odd times, this has the possible potential to get you out of a creative rut if you happen to be in one. Also it is beneficial, when your part drops out, to hear loud and clear any mishaps or un-grooving going on that’s nobody’s fault but…. This will further prepare you for real life odd time playing with real players. So, if you feel like hearing what you might sound like in 11/4, 5/4 etc and/or sharpening your big band quarter note odd time feels and/or coming at your creativity from another direction give it a try. These tracks won’t make you meshuggah but have you safely on your way to odd-dom.

Your Oddness,
Countess B
For more reviews go to Odd Time Obsessed - Reviews

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