• New songs for 2021: Cecil McBee

    I've known Cecil McBee for a long time, and I've always greatly admired his bass playing. In the past, Cecil was the bass player on several albums that are important to me, that I arranged and produced: Charlie Rouse's "Social Call" and Freddie Hubbard & Woody Shaw's "Double Take."

    At that time, I didn't know that composing music was Cecil's real passion. If fact, it wasn't until we had a lengthy discussion in the parking lot of the Van Gelder Recording Studio, with our masks on during covid times, waiting for the other musicians to arrive, that I discovered his devotion to composing. I immediately started checking out his music and realized that he is a major composer.

    Cecil’s compositions are extremely diverse, ranging from lyrical, romantic ballads to advanced avant-garde workouts. We’re kicking things off with three of his most accessible and most recorded songs. "D" Bass-ic Blues is just what the title says: a bass-driven blues head in D minor, which appears on recordings by pianists John Hicks, Stanley Cowell, and Larry Willis. Close To You Alone is a tender ballad that’s been recorded in a variety of settings and arrangements; we have bass transcriptions of Cecil from several versions. The second ballad, the wistful Song Of Her, is Cecil’s classic early composition, which he first recorded with saxophonist Charles Lloyd in 1966 on Lloyd's important "Forest Flower" album.

    Some of his early bass recordings already on jazzleadsheets find him in the rhythm section between Herbie Hancock and Tony Williams (Thandiwa - Grachan Moncur III) and on Dee Blues and Promise (Charles McPherson).

    Cecil’s wife, singer Verena McBee, is also a talented lyricist and has written lyrics to many of Cecil's songs. Just Close To You Alone and Thoughts Of Her are her lyric versions of Close To You Alone and Song Of Her, respectively.

    Enjoy learning and playing music by Cecil McBee. There's more to come!

    Don Sickler

  • Hank Mobley's 90th livestreamed from Van Gelder's

    Celebrate Hank Mobley's 90th birthday year with us while we re-explore the 60th anniversary of his classic recordings "Soul Station," "Roll Call" and more, in the studio where they were created.

    At 9pm on Saturday, November 14, come inside the legendary Van Gelder studio. For the first time, you can hear and see the musicians in that magnificent room, playing into Rudy's microphones, their sounds being captured by his console. Experience being in that studio as the musicians explore Hank Mobley's music.

    Enjoy the artistry of our "Soul Station" quartet: Ron Carter, Joe Lovano, Isaiah J Thompson and Kenny Washington.
    Don Sickler is the host of the evening.

    The link is:

  • New Song & Album from Charles McPherson

    September 25, 2020, was the release date of Charles McPherson’s ambitious new album, “Jazz Dance Suites.” Recorded at the Van Gelder Studio in December 2019, this album is dedicated to his daughter Camille McPherson, who is a dancer with the San Diego Ballet. Charles has written three suites for the San Diego Ballet, and this album contains two of them and an excerpt of the third. One title from the album is now available on The Gospel Truth is the final movement of Charles’ most recent suite, “Song Of Songs.” It’s a joyous, gospel-infused song with swinging rhythm section figures throughout the head. In composing for dance, Charles has put special emphasis on articulation and phrasing, with detailed parts for the rhythm section. More movements from “Jazz Dance Suites” are coming to very soon, so stay tuned!

  • Two new Minus You ballads

    Two beautiful ballads are now available on in Minus You melody formats. This is your chance to work on your own personal melodic interpretation in a ballad setting. From baritone saxophonist Cecil Payne we have Full Moonlight And Stars Made Of Silver, a song just as romantic as its title implies. Cecil originally recorded it on one of his last albums. Our Minus Melody track is only one chorus long—a great opportunity to practice embellishing and improvising around the melody, but in a different key from Cecil's. Don Sickler’s Lost In You is a duo recording with piano legend Ray Bryant. This is our first duo Minus You track; it’s a chorus and a half in length, with space to solo on the bridge after the in head. Recordings, as usual, by Rudy Van Gelder.

  • Some July fireworks from!

    We’re excited to announce that four songs by saxophonist Wardell Gray are now available on jazzleadsheets. Though often overlooked due to his sadly too brief career, Wardell was one of the most important musicians of the original bebop scene. He was among the first to develop an original voice on the tenor sax in the bebop style, and he became a mentor to many younger musicians including trumpeter Art Farmer.

    Dell’s Bells and One For Prez come from Wardell’s first recording as a leader. Both are exciting, intricate, unpredictable bebop heads based on standards - Dell’s Bells uses the changes of What Is This Thing Called Love?, and One For Prez is over How High The Moon. Also available is Southside, another uptempo bebop swinger with its own unique changes. Finally, for a much simpler example of Wardell’s elegant, swinging style, check out his riff blues head Grayhound. Our lead sheets also detail his stylististic scoops and falls.The intros of all these songs from the recordings are notated in our lead sheets.

    We also have one more Freddie Redd song available now. Nica Steps Out (written for his friend Baroness Pannonica de Koenigswarter) is a lively “rhythm changes” head with a pedal point intro, originally recorded on his album “San Francisco Suite.”

  • New Minus You, Ray Starling, and more new arrivals

    Just in time for Father’s Day, we have a message from Justin RobinsonLove Thy Father is a ballad with colorful harmonies, which Justin recorded both in 1997 and 2017.

    We have more new titles up on Two of them have exclusive “Further Explorations” audio available in Minus You format. The first of these is May Moon, a dreamy, lyrical 3/4 song by pianist/vocalist Dena DeRoseLost In You is a warm, impassioned ballad by’s Don Sickler. This song is available in a unique duo Minus You setting accompanied only by piano. Now’s your chance to work on your ballad playing with legendary pianist Ray Bryant!

    We’re welcoming another new composer to Ray Starling was a trumpeter, mellophonist, and pianist who played in several big bands in the ‘60s. He wrote Mellophobia and Four Of A Kind to feature the mellophone section of Stan Kenton’s big band, which he both played in and wrote for in 1961-62. Our lead sheets for these songs show the intros, codas, and a few countermelodies from the big band arrangements; both songs certainly work just as well in a small group setting.

    Also new to are two easy, laid-back blues heads in a classic hard bop style. Nice ’N Greasy is a funky riff head by Adriano Acea, originally recorded by trumpeter Lou Donaldson. The JAMFs Are Coming is a Johnny Griffin classic; Johnny recorded it many times from the ‘60s to his very last album in 2008. Not a blues but in a similar vein, The One Before This is one of Gene Ammons’ best-known compositions. We have condensed scores and horn parts for the two-horn arrangement from the classic Ammons/Sonny Stitt album “Boss Tenors,” as well as a three-horn arrangement recorded in 1995 by organist Jimmy Smith.

  • Jack Montrose and more

    Two compositions by Jack Montrose are now available on A tenor saxophonist of the West Coast cool school, Montrose is best known for his arrangements for Clifford Brown’s classic 1954 Pacific Jazz sessions. Our two Montrose songs, Quiet Knowing and Long Story Short, come from a big band album; however, they definitely work in a small group setting as well.

    Also now available are five piano transcriptions of Meade Lux Lewis. The Blues, Parts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 are solo improvisations which were recorded at the very first Blue Note session in 1939. Our detailed transcriptions are by Shaye Cohn, who is guitarist Joe Cohn’s daughter and saxophonist Al Cohn’s granddaughter.

    Another, very different slow blues piano solo transcription is now available: Larry Young’s Larry’s Blues. This is the only recording of Larry on piano in a trio setting; our transcription has detailed dynamics and articulations for an in-depth look at his unique style. Larry’s Luny Tune, from Grant Green’s “Talkin’ About” album, is also now available.

    We also have yet another slow blues now up, again very different: Jonny King’s Blues For Andrew Hill. Besides lead sheets, we have a solo piano arrangement which Jonny plays on the recording, a duo setting with Steve Wilson on alto sax.

    Finally, we’re continuing to add Charles McPherson compositions. Promise is a medium-up modal song from his 1977 album “New Horizons," and Dee Blues, although not a blues, is a bluesy riff in D from the same album.

  • Alto Saxophone giant Charles McPherson is also a gifted composer.

    Today, one of jazz's great artists and a real gentleman, alto saxophonist Charles McPherson joins with his own great compositions. Some of you are already playing compositions from that Charles recorded as a sideman with Art Farmer and Kenny Drew. Now you can start exploring Charles' own original compositions from his own albums. He is a gifted composer as well as being one of our legendary Alto Saxophonists. To start with, check out Bud Like, The Journey and Fire Dance, and come back for more soon.

  • A few minutes of peace and beauty . . .

    Listen to SEEK ME by Cecilia Coleman and Bebe Herring, performed by Cecilia on piano with Cassie van Stolk-Cooke, voices. Performed and recorded at the Van Gelder Recording Studio. Rudy Van Gelder recording and mixing, Don Sickler producing, photos & video by Maureen Sickler. On our homepage today. And from Cassie: In these times when we are required to be physically apart from each other, it comes as no surprise that many of us may feel lost.  While we cannot reach out to you with our hands, we can find each other in the miracle of music, and the beauty of our living planet.  If you feel alone, anxious, or afraid, we hope that you will find comfort and courage in this video.  Music existed long before this pandemic, and we will still be singing long after it has passed.  Be healthy, be well, and most importantly, go make some joyful sounds.

  • Three new composers

    These are all seasoned jazz artists whose compositions are new to Alto saxophonist Justin Robinson is the youngest of the three, but he's been on the scene for quite a long time. He started his recording career with The Harper Brothers in 1988; did his own first album as a leader for Verve Records in 1991; among other projects, he played and recorded with trumpeter Roy Hargrove for many years.

    Organist Larry Young, Jr., a major influence on organ in the 1960s and 1970s, brought "free, swirling chords, surging lines, and rock-influenced improvisations." We're starting with some of his early compositions.

    Pianist Billy Lester has his own unique story, as you will hear in his music. Billy is a wildly creative improviser with a sly melodic sense. His playing and composing offer a very personal, modern take on the Tristano tradition. The NY Times reported on Billy's first conversation with Tristano, at the Half Note in NY: “He had this sweet voice,” Lester recalls, “and what he said was: ‘The guys who are out there playing all the time, it just becomes a business.’ When he said that, it resonated with me. I knew that he was playing because he was an artist.”

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