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Dan Jacobs: Journal


(EDITORS NOTE: This story came from a great bassist, Phil Morrison, (Tony Williams, Hal Galper, Dizzy Gillespie, John Abercrombie, after he read my story of improvising with a car alarm horn during a concert.

His is a story of Keith Jarrett improvising with a bird during a concert! It's a treasure) Hi Dan......great story!

It reminds me of the time I went to see Keith Jarrett at a concert in Lenox, Mass. years ago. It was a solo concert in an open "barn" with a roof (but no sides) and a grand piano on a stage.

Keith came out onstage to loud applause and when the applause subsided he gave no "thank you" or "good afternoon" as one might have expected but he announced to the audience that there would be "no loud talking" or "loud coughing" etc. during the performance....

That set the stage(so to speak) as to what we were in for in terms of stage personality. Of course, I was not overly surprised because Keith had a reputation....even in the early days of being kind of arrogant. Anyway, he went on to do his thing and, man, that cat can play (doggone it:-).

In the middle of a particularly moving ballad, a bird flew into the barn and landed up on a rafter and starting "caw, cawing". Of course it was extremely noticeable and after each "caw..."

Keith would pause before he would play again. We knew the bird was not going to stop until good and ready .....and we expected Keith to react in anger of some kind(based on his verbal introduction)

Well, you guessed it....he just picked up the notes of the bird and built a motif around it as the audience gradually saw what was happening and the whole place burst out in laughter and applause.......even Keith had to smile ......a true story and one I'll never forget.

I'm sure you'll cherish your car alarm adventure.

Take care! Phil ......striving to be of service to humanity by promoting international harmony through music!

ADVANTAGES OF BEING ABLE TO IMPROVISE (with a car alarm!) by Dan Jacobs - July 22, 2006

Something happened during a performance last night that I think you'll enjoy.
I was playing an outdoor concert in Northern Michigan. We were playing in the park, not far from the main street that goes through the town.
During the concert, a car alarm on the street nearby started sounding, just as I started a solo on "Bye Bye Blackbird." The alarm was one of those that just beeps the car horn every second.
As it wasn't stopping, I just started playing along with the alarm, incorporating the sound and rhythm as if it were a natural part of the act. Luckily, the tonal center of the alarm was in the same key I was playing in!
It became more and more interesting as the piano player and I began improvising melodies and rhythms to go along with the car alarm and having fun with it.
The audience quickly realized what we were doing and began clapping in time with the alarm and it got to be great fun for everyone and it become the hit of the concert.
Noone had never heard anything like that before and I certainly had never played a song with a car alarm accompaniment before either!
Afterwards, I had so many people come up to me and say how much they enjoyed that little interlude that I thought I should make it a regular part of the act! :-)

Then on the last song of the concert, I was playing a jazz blues and this guy walks up with a harmonica and wants to sit in.
I said, "sure, what the hell? What key is the harmonica?" He said, "C" and we switched keys instantly and he started soloing. It turned out he's a great player!
Eventually we started trading licks with trumpet and harmonica and it brought the house down again!

I always knew there would be unforseen advantages in being able to improvise! - Dan J.

© 2002-2006, All Rights Reserved.


Review: BLUE AFTER HOURS Artist: DAN JACOBS The world is full of good musicians who work hard in studios and on tours with various bands, playing a variety of music styles flawlessly, yet whose names never become household musical calling cards.

Trumpeter/flugelhornist Dan Jacobs is this type of musician. Blue After Hours is softly seductive without the need for splash, overproduction or flaunting of technical chops. Tasteful is the watchword here! One reason being is the incredibly clean and erudite playing of the rhythm section.

Randy Dorman’s guitar is right out of the Ed Bickert school of playing only what is necessary and no more – perhaps the hardest style of jazz guitar to master. When combined with understated drumming (each of the three rotating drummers does Jacobs well in support) and Chuck Jacobs’ cool bass lines the result is music which serves the style and not the ego.

It’s too bad there’s not more music recorded with this as the aim. At times Dan Jacobs’ beautiful lines and arrangements beg for a loft of string accompaniment. “Like Someone In Love,” for example, would have fared well in the new Sinatra-treatment style ala Chris Botti environment, with the exception being Jacobs’ work brings more extended improvisation to the mix and a much fuller, darker, smoother and more luxurious tone than any mink coat, and twice as shiny.

You won’t want to take the disc out of your player for just this reason. The trumpet/flugelhorn overdubbing on Sting’s “Fields of Gold” is elegant and stylish at the same time. The interplay between Dorman and Jacobs on Dorman’s “Blues d’Jour” is what jazz is all about. The light electronic treatment on “Dream Sketches” is handled just as tastefully as everything else on the recording.

Nothing happens fast and there’s certainly nothing flashy on this recording, “Look for the Silver Lining” does swing a bit, but if you love music for the sake of the music you won’t go wrong with this CD.

Reviewed by: Thomas R. Erdmann for

QUOTE: from "LAW OF THE JUNGLE" by Rudyard Kipling - November 7, 2005

by Rudyard Kipling

Now this is the Law of the Jungle -- as old and as true as the sky;
And the Wolf that shall keep it may prosper, but the Wolf that shall break it must die.
As the creeper that girdles the tree-trunk the Law runneth forward and back --
For the strength of the Pack is the Wolf, and the strength of the Wolf is the Pack.

REVIEW of DAN JACOBS: by Bob James, keyboardist/composer - October 15, 2005

BOB JAMES, REVIEW of a solo by trumpeter Dan Jacobs

"Quite obviously, Dan Jacobs is the man with the experience who can really drive home things in the solo area. He shows how you can start with just a brief statement, which lets people know that you’ve "got the ball" and you're taking it somewhere.

And then it becomes a little miniature composition, which, in the way this arrangement was played out, has to build. Dan took his time. He knew that there was going to be the moment when the background ensemble was going to come in underneath, which is sort of a built in crescendo in his solo.

So he saved some of drama of it for when the background stuff was coming in. I loved that!"

- Bob James, a mainstay of the contemporary jazz scene since the early ’70s, keyboardist-composer Bob James has released 38 solo albums, won two Grammy awards, and topped jazz charts as a member of the super-group Fourplay.

ESSAY: CO-MOTION by Dan Jacobs - August 16, 2005


I've learned a couple of important lessons with this venture of organizing this benefit concert for those affected by the hurricane Katrina disaster that are deeply personal and yet universal in concept. The first is: DON’T TRY TO DO EVERYTHING YOURSELF.

This whole idea started out with one purpose: to help those people who had suffered as a result of the hurricane, doing what I could with what I had available . . . music. My confidence in myself initially propelled me forward.

As a professional musician, I knew that I could perform and touch people with music and if I had to do it alone, that I could and would. And importantly, as I often come up with wild and often unworkable ideas, my wife, Myrna (my sanity touch-stone) agreed that this benefit concert could actually happen! My confidence and certainty seemed to resonate with others and the idea began to gain traction with each passing minute.

Within twenty-four hours of my original proposal, it was clear that a juggernaught was developing. By that time, we not only had three additional bands confirmed to perform but also a great venue and a workable plan. I further realized that it would be bigger than I could handle alone. Interestingly, the exact people that I needed to fill the missing gaps in the team appeared in my universe also by the end of the first day. What started with my wife, soon became a team of six people that volunteered without hesitation and decided to play this game I envisioned.

It was in fact, this co-motion that set the stage for the concert to become a reality in less than two weeks. There were of course, many others who contributed greatly, but the fact remains that without this team of six individuals, each willingly taking responsibility for the outcome in their areas, this event could have easily have become derailed at any one of a dozen points.

As it was, I trusted that each of the people I had helping me, could and would do their jobs once they knew what was needed and wanted. And all of them came through, each one contributing even more than I initially expected. While I acknowledge that I played a part in getting this off the ground, in the end, it was the self-confidence and competence of the individuals making up the team that carried the day. Everyone who helped now shares in the glow of success at having accomplished a major musical event for this area to the benefit of people who desperately needed it. I'm very proud of all of everyone who, without complaint, simply saw what needed to be done and found a way to do it. The second lesson learned was this: LET OTHERS IN ON THE GAME.

While it is commendable to have a vision of accomplishment and purpose, in fact, vital to have such dreams, trying to grab all the glory for yourself will in the end disappoint you and leave others with bruised feelings of resentment, less willing to help in the future. Bringing dreams into reality requires involvement and active contribution of others. You must let them help and let them in on the game. For it is the co-motion and mutual action of the group, pressing forward toward a worthwhile goal that creates the momentum necessary to overcome obstacles encountered on the way.

Often, the only "pay" considered really important comes from this element more than any other. After all, working together, overcoming obstacles, accomplishing a worthwhile purpose with others that you can trust and count on is really what life is all about isn't it?

-Dan Jacobs, September 2005

QUOTE FOR LIVING: - Isiah Thomas - July 31, 2005

I love this quote as it states my opinion exactly. - Dan J.

"I've always believed no matter how many shots I miss, I'm going to make the next one."
-- Isiah Thomas

ON TEACHING: a letter to a friend by Dan Jacobs - June 2, 2005

ON TEACHING: a letter to a friend with notes on motivation
by dan jacobs
june 2, 2005

NOTE: This is part of a letter that I wrote to a friend, a musician and also a life-long teacher. I wanted to share some of my ideas on teaching and thought that others might find them interesting as well. Here is a portion of that letter. - Dan

Regarding the teaching profession in general, there are many things that motivate action in any direction. In my opinion, the primary ones could be summarized in the following four categories:

a) A sense of duty, often seen as moral, legal, financial, family, religious, or military obligations;

b) A feeling of strong personal conviction based upon deeply held belief or opinion of the rightness of an action;

c) The "what’s in it for me?" type of attitude where the person is mainly looking for a benefit for themselves personally;

d) And finally . . . the thing most people are after, the thing that wars are fought over that kingdoms are lost as a result of, the love of which has made men do unthinkable things, filthy lucre, wealth, assets coins, cash, currency . . . in short . . . money.

I’ve observed people who are motivated ONLY by money who are very weak/wobbly people, for they can be bought and sold by the highest bidder. Their personal convictions are shallow and bend like a willow in the first wind.

I’ve known businesses that had every luxury imaginable, fancy buildings, hot and cold running secretaries and vice-presidents, private jets, limos, apparently making money hand over fist. I have also seen these same businesses eventually fold-up, broke, in debt, corrupt and bankrupt because they lost the focus of what they were there for.

They began to fixate ONLY on money. Forgotten were the fundamental principles of fair dealing, customer satisfaction, being of service to the client and making sure they were delivered what was promised. These businesses began to focus only on themselves neglecting what was needed and wanted to the consumer. To be motivated only by money is risky indeed as the route to betrayal, manipulation, degradation and misery often begins with a fixated attention on money!

Others seem to engage in something only if there is a clear-cut personal benefit for them. Even if it is not something they can pocket, it must be a gain that is measurable such as fame, more exposure, a promotion, or their name in the press. If this is not apparent to them, they will often drift off and lose interest.

One step higher on the scale are those who live their lives in a certain way because of deeply-held beliefs and not because of money or personal gain to any significant extent. They normally gain influence, power and position because of the stability these beliefs give them. In the morally wishy-washy, alley-cat society we live in, they are seen as someone to be admired, someone to count on when all around them are falling apart. The result is that they are normally quite successful in whatever they decide to do.

Finally, the top of the scale is to do anything because it is your duty to do so and for no other reason. At this level the degree of responsibility expands beyond oneself to include all others as well. Like following your own internal moral compass, you don’t need others to tell you what is right or wrong. You know what needs to be done and you do it without thinking of how much you’ll be paid, what promotion or medal you might receive, or because you’ve been told to do so . . . you act because your character obligates you to do so for the good of all.

People who can manage a balance of the four points as above will see happiness attained without seeking it. People who short cut or ignore the four points above will discover unhappiness to be their constant companion.

To me, the teacher embodies the best of these four points. A teacher is as a teacher does. There are experts in their fields who are lousy teachers yet others seem natural at it. Teaching is a profession requires training, discipline and experience in and of itself.

The dictionary tells us that to teach is: “to impart knowledge or skill to somebody by instruction or example, to bring understanding to somebody, especially through an experience.”

What greater role can one strive for in life than to impart knowledge and understanding to another? To help another to open the door for expansion, certainty and growth has value beyond comprehension.

Teaching is a calling and a duty that does require a strong personal conviction about its value. A personal gain ensues from the satisfaction of a doing an important job well and competently and one is rewarded financially as well as a consequence.

Regarding teaching in general, I have always held teachers in the highest regard possible in my mind. I've always considered that the lucky people on the planet are those who can be of service to others and teachers definitely fall in into this category. My mother and many of my closest friends have dedicated their lives to this profession and I support them completely. I've always thought of myself as one of that group and though I've not done it to make a living in my life, I've always tried to do it to professional standards when offered the chance to be involved.

Anyone active in the teaching profession is to be very highly commended. The sanity, stability and inspiration they bring to your students, the community, the culture and the environment generally is immense.

Like dropping a pebble in a pond, it affects everyone it touches. They're on the top of my list that's for sure. - Dan Jacobs

© 2002-2006, All Rights Reserved.

ON IMPROVISATION: a letter to a friend, by Dan Jacobs - May 16, 2005

WRITING: This is the text of a letter I wrote to a pianist friend who wanted to improve his jazz improvisation skills. He wanted me to write out some basics for him to think about and work on while he was away during the summer. - Dan


The key to success in this area, is to take it in “doable doses” as the song lyrics sung by James Taylor so aptly state. If you skip a step in the development process and try to run before you can walk, you’ll find frustration to be your constant companion. Start practicing slowly at first, singing the lines (jazz syncopation) that you hear and then play the lines with right hand only on the piano. Time spent practicing the connection between singing and playing (slowly) is more valuable than anything you can to in accomplishing your objective.

I practice piano far less than I do trumpet, but when I do, I may play only 10 minutes at a time, two or three times a day, for a week. And, I may only play five notes, one at a time, during the entire practice, placing the thumb and four fingers of the right hand over the keyboard and playing each note VERY slowly, over and over and doing nothing else for 5 or 10 minutes, focusing entirely on what I am doing in the moment. When finished, I get up from the piano and go about my business with other activities.

The first time I did this, to my surprise, the next time I sit down to play (without other practice) my facility to perform what I wanted was significantly higher than I expected. To me, this proved my theory that playing an instrument is 90% mental and 10% physical.

Now then, as to jazz improvisation . . . here are a few general basics, some of which will be very familiar to you, some you already do very capably already, but all are still worthy of a fresh look.

The first item is worthy of it’s own position above the rest and I’ll take it up first to acknowledge that importance.

Sound is the most important element in soloing on any instrument. Technical expertise is a distant second. The music is always more important than the technique in my mind. As long as you keep that order of importance in mind, you can push your technique up as far as you want and your music will simply come out easier. But above all, a disciplined and professional sound will separate you from the crowd faster than any flashy display of technique.

Following are some of my ideas on the subject generally, perhaps an entertaining, even enlightening story or two as illustrations. Some of this may be somewhat controversial but these are my opinions and experience and they are most certainly true for me.

I once was told the story of the incomparable jazz pianist Bill Evans being at a party where there was an old, out of tune piano. Other good, competent players in attendance occasionally sat down to play and invariably complained that the piano was out of tune. However, when Bill sat down and played, magically, no one noticed the tuning of the piano. His musical intention and the aesthetics of his music was so powerful that it seemed to transcend the mechanical limitations of the instrument almost transforming it to an “in-tune” instrument instantaneously with his unique touch. I witnessed the same phenomena when I attended a “rent party” in Detroit in 1963. The legendary ragtime pianist and composer, Eubie Blake was there and I was lucky enough to see and hear him play piano. There was so much music that came out of that piano that no one noticed or cared about the mechanical tuning! His extraordinarily long fingers caressed the keys like he was in love with every note. Which I’m sure he was!

Not to compare myself to the genius of Bill Evans or Eubie Blake, but when I play a note, I am always aware of the sound I want to create before I play it. The sound I make on trumpet, piano or flute is my inner voice and a reflection of the language I am speaking at that time, further, it changes from time to time depending on my emotional state (witness the difference between my first two albums). I consider my sound the most valuable asset in my music. I really don’t consider that there is a “bad” note. Just notes that sound good to the ear at a specific moment in time. I strongly believe that the sound, emotion and spirit of one note that I play has the power to change an individual and the world for the better. I further believe that music has the power to transcend political, geographic, economic and other barriers to unite people and remind them of their native spirituality for the good of the planet and all the peoples on it.

In 1928 when famed trumpeter, Louis Armstrong first wrote and recorded the hit song, “STRUTTIN’ WITH SOME BARBEQUE,” he wrote a Major 7th note on the 8th note of the melody, many people listening at the time exclaimed in horror that he had made a mistake! For it sounded “wrong” (really meaning unfamiliar) to the ear at that time when listeners were used to concert band cornets/trumpets playing tonic and diatonic notes that fit within a set of familiar patterns and sounds. Yet, the Major 7th of the chord was evidently exactly what Louis wanted to write and play and was the sound (and likely the effect) he wanted to create. He was a musical genius and innovator to be sure as he changed the entire role of the trumpet player from side-man to soloist, but it was his integrity to the sound he wanted to play that made “wrong” notes sound “right.”

Again, not to compare myself with a player of Louis’s stature (whom I had the distinction of meeting personally twice), but only to provide an example of my own - of the many different brands of trumpet I own, no matter which one I choose to play at any given time, I always end up sounding like myself. I even have an old Shepard’s Crook cornet made in 1867 that is very much like what Louie played in the 1920’s, yet when I play it, I only always sound like me and never like Louie. I also have a 1942 Martin Committee trumpet like Chet Baker and Miles Davis both played in the ‘40’s, but it doesn’t make me sound like them. The horn is a mechanical device like a piece of plumbing which does nothing without my input. This is the case with any other trumpet I play, as the sound is formed internally before it comes out the horn, which I feel certain, is exactly what Louie and the others did as well.

Another quick example with a different instrument: I started playing flute in the 1960’s with an old $20 student flute that someone gave me in exchange for a debt. I loved it instantly and could play it the first time I ever put it to my lips. To me it was the most beautiful sound I had ever heard. Held together with rubber bands and love, it still sounded as good to me as a hand-made, solid-silver, 1917 Haynes closed-hole flute that I have dreamed of owning. And from the feedback of others, they shared my feelings about the sound produced on that old first flute (which I still own with fond memories attached).

Finally, and please forgive my philosophical ramblings, but I am certain that my old Yamaha G1 Baby Grand piano, manufactured in the 1960’s, a veteran of many a smoke filled bar gig with the cigarette burns to prove it, holds its tuning because I intend it to do so. I love the way it sounds even if it is “technically” out of tune (which is always someone else’s consideration and not a technical fact anyway). Further, as what is beautiful or ugly is fundamentally a factor of one’s considerations, perhaps the piano is responding to my admiration for it and for no other significant reason in sounding in tune when I play it. At least that is my story . . . and I’m sticking to it!

Now, to address some other elements of jazz syncopation as applied to improvisation. Following are some fairly well accepted tenets borrowed liberally from Jamie Aebersold’s material, of becoming an accomplished soloist on any instrument, given that there is at least some basic expertise on the instrument of choice to begin with.

1. Know where you are in the song at all times. Listen and pay attention to what the rest of the section is doing. If you hit a note that sounds wrong or inappropriate for the moment, move it up or down a half step and you’ll usually be correct. This is where making the connection between singing a solo and playing what you hear is crucial. If you’re singing a line, it will come out like you, not some memorized technical exercise.

2. Don’t be afraid to be obvious and repeat yourself. Repetition is natural in all music and of course in all rhythm. If you can’t think of anything interesting to play, play the melody. Every tune or song has a melody that the composer spent many careful attentive moments designing. Melodic interpretation is a totally valid form of improvisation.

3. The listener needs repetition and sequences in a solo to hang on to what you’re saying musically. It can be as complex as you want it to be, but when you repeat it, it begins to make sense to the listener. Dizzy is said to have stated that when he plays a wrong note or phrase, he just repeats it and it then sounds good! Another aspect of this is that if you are interested in playing the note or phrase, it will sound good to the ear no matter how dissonant you may think it is.

4. Beginning or ending a solo phrase on a chord tone (1,3,5,7 of a scale) give the listener some stability and predictability in what you’re playing. It will make sense to them. Now, having said that, I very often do exactly the opposite of my own advice and intentionally play a note that is not a chord tone and the beginning or end of a solo. But the key factor is “intention.” I’m doing it knowingly, purposely departing from musical convention as a something that I hear in my head and only because I’m interested in playing it, not just because I want to sound hip or cool or anything else. Also, if I want to be right in the pocket, I can do that as well and there are times when nothing else is called for. But, even in those circumstances, if I hear something else, I’ll play it regardless of the circumstance, if only to maintain my own interest and musical integrity.

5. Listen to others that you would like to sound like. Find someone that touches you with his or her music, even if it is a different instrument than what you play. Listen to the musicians that have come before. Imitate them if you like what you hear them play. Your own sound and style will come soon enough. The greatest artists in history were could also write, paint, and perform in the style of nearly any other great artist in their field.

6. Finally, to me the end result of musical performance is to connect with and impact the audience and let them share in the creative process with you. Practice alone. Rehearse with a group. But perform for and with the audience. I never think about what I practiced when I’m performing. My attention is on the audience, the band and my playing . . . in that order. I always seek to keep my attention totally in the present, not in the past or in the future, when I’m playing. In that way, I can respond to the inevitable surprises that are part of any musical experience.

7. Of course, this brief write-up is only a small part of the whole story but hopefully you will find something of use in your quest. May you never be the same!
- Dan Jacobs, May 15, 2005

© 2002-2006, All Rights Reserved.

ON REFLECTION by Dan Jacobs - May, 2005


by Dan Jacobs, May 2005

The occasion of my birthday joined with a natural inclination toward reflection, has resulted in this somewhat spontaneous writing of my thoughts of the day.

I am instantly reminded of my birthday, two years past when I penned an essay entitled, “THE TRUE FRIENDS GROUP” (also available on this site) and presented it as my gift of acknowledgment to my friends.

Little did I know or suspect the immense positive effect this would have on my life and the lives of others. For simply acknowledging that such a group existed and that I was part of it, precipitated changes never anticipated.

It became evident that some powerful influence was at work, apparently acting to strengthen me and facilitate my continuing to help others - something I love to do - as that is what has occurred. Not that I became anything different but that I was able to do much more.

Without enumerating the details, suffice to say that the past twenty-four months have been a whirlwind of expansion and increasing “reach” effecting every aspect of my life, and happily so. Horizons I had earlier only dreamed of are now within my grasp; challenges and difficulties of life somehow have diminished into insignificance when compared to the joy of creating; but most importantly, my attention is more closely focused on doing everything in my power to help others become stronger and more able to expand in areas of their interest.

As I consider it of no small benefit to discover the source of this change - if only to acknowledge and strengthen what has been working - following is my realization of the year 2005 which in my humble opinion could be a benefit for everyone.

My true friends do better when they are connected to me . . . just as I do better when I am connected to them!

And further, it is the mutually created positive expectancy, which creates the coincidence of intention that is virtually unstoppable in achieving worthwhile goals individually and collectively.

So, as my birthday gift to you this year and as a nod to the truth contained herein, I am re-sending the essay, “THE TRUE FRIENDS GROUP,” with little change.

As I have read this little essay again and again and found that it moves me emotionally as much now as when it was written, it is my wish that you may experience the same. What is described is a powerful concept; it has the potential to change your life in profound and magical ways . . . as it has in mine!

With respect and admiration,

Dan Jacobs,

Written on this day in May, 2005

BOB JAMES Clinic transcription - April 29, 2005


Hi, very nice to meet you, Dan. You sound great!

Well, well, well . . . Kevin asked me to be a critic and critics have not always been very kind to me during my career. On one level it’s an opportunity for me to be on the other side of it and temporarily be a critic so that could be kinda cool except that I don’t think I’m going to be able to find much of anything but nice things to say, which is not usually what critics do.

You guys just sound fantastic! I was thinking, is this really a high school level? Students? Most of you are what? 15 - 16 – 17 years old? Fantastic! Wish I had that opportunity when I was in high school. We had a pretty good music program but we had nothing in the way of jazz education in those days. I think things have come a long way and there are a number of places that teach jazz.

I always had mixed feelings about it, like jazz education to me in some ways was kinda a misnomer because what I always loved about jazz as opposed to classical music was the freedom and the fact that you got to do what you wanted to do that is not always written down.

When you’re in a classroom there is a little bit of discipline involved particularly with a big band situation. I was the most impressed with this piece that you did what I like, which was to . . . you had the control over the discipline of the arrangement but you also had the bravado to relax in the spirit of having fun.

You’re playing music that under a lot of circumstances, people would want to be dancing to it. So the biggest thing, immediately for me that I liked was, thank you very much, you were taking care of business right from the first measure. This kind of piece is really hard too because from the count off, instantly you have to get into the groove. He goes 1,2,3,4 and then instantly you have to be in this Latin groove and you did it, you nailed it! And that makes a complete difference with the way the piece is going to come off because everybody is ready to go, sets up the solos and so on. I thought that was very cool.

Dynamics, I love the way that you played with a lot of dynamics and saved your loud stuff for when it’s really appropriate to be loud. Some jazz falls short for me in that area maybe more than any other area because very often you’re playing music that is not completely written down in the sense that you have to play forte here or a crescendo there.

My experience is, even with big band charts, dynamics are usually pretty minimal and you have to work out internal in that you decide for yourself whether you’re going to make a crescendo and whether you’re going to make the music more dramatic. Music becomes so much more powerful in an ensemble when there is a clear sense of where you’re going dynamically.

I felt that in the solos, Dan is quite obviously the man with the experience who could really drive home things in the solo area. I think he showed all of you how you can start with just a brief statement, which, when you’re playing a solo, which lets people know that you’ve got the ball. And then it becomes a little miniature composition, which, the way this arrangement was played out, it has to build. Dan took his time, he knew that there was going to be the moment when the background ensemble was going to come in underneath, which is sort of a built in crescendo in his solo, so he saved some of drama of it for when the background stuff was coming in.

All you guys were playing dynamics behind all the solos really, so that they all built. I loved that. Those are the things that I thought of. I don’t have anything else major to say in terms of being a critic. My short role of being a critic is over. I’d rather be back there playing the piano rather than telling somebody else how to play music, particularly in the jazz area because jazz has a million different ways that it can be expressed, that’s another thing that I love about it. It isn’t just one big style or one individual way of playing it, it’s a very free spirited kind of music and that’s the way all of you approached it. I’m very happy to see that.

I would have been disappointed in a jazz program that was too constricted, too disciplined. Even though you’re high school students when you should be emphasing practicing and becoming disciplined because this is the best time of your life to do that because later on when life gets too complicated, you probably won’t practice.

So just for whatever it’s worth, my own feeling about this genre is that it’s best when it has a very good balance between discipline and freedom.

Too much discipline then it loses it’s feeling of uninhibited, free-flowing, jazz spirit. If it’s too free, without discipline supporting it, then to my ears, it becomes chaotic and an excuse for not being fully prepared. If you have the chops, you practice, if you have the discipline, then there is a great deal of being able to relax and be free and enjoy the free spirit of jazz in that way. I encourage you to do plenty of the practice because the freedom will flow easily out of that.

One other thing. It’s interesting that the improvising part to some people might seem like it’s easy because, theoretically, you can do whatever you want to do. That’s the whole idea of improvising; you can just be yourself and act spontaneously. But at the beginning stages of learning about that, improvisation can be the most mysterious; the most difficult to teach.

I’d like to sit in on one of Dan’s classes because the times when I’ve tried to do anything in terms of teaching it, I find myself tongue-tied. I never had a method when I learned how to improvise. For some of us it’s a kind of an instinctive thing and you feel comfortable with not knowing what’s going to happen next.

A lot of very good musicians, classical musicians are still mystified by the concept. They’ve spent their lives practicing and practicing to perfect something that is a known, written out thing. But, if you just told them to play something without knowing anything about what is going to happen, they would be at a loss to do anything.

I can imagine, without hearing Dan’s classes, that what he will have to offer in that way, is some kind of a foundation, a place to start from so that it isn’t just chaos, so that it isn’t just this unknown situation, so that you have weapon, so you have phrases, so that you have knowledge so that when you have the opportunity to jump out there and start something new, you have all things to work with and it isn’t just a complete random effect.

Response by Dan: "Yes, it’s freedom, but within certain, specific guidelines. As Bob said, "Iit’s best when it has a very good balance between discipline and freedom." 

It may seem counterintuitive but the more discipline you have, the more freedom you can have. Disciplined practice and mastery of fundamentals will allow you to go express what you feel at the moment. Which is what jazz is about anyway, isn't it?"  

Bob James (transcribed by Dan Jacobs from a live clinic given by Bob James and Dan Jacobs to Ithica High School Jazz Band, 2005)

STORY: A LAND CALLED ACADEMIA by Dan Jacobs - April 27, 2005

(Preface: Following is the text of a letter I wrote to a friend in response to same. In the received letter entitled, “A Valid Thread,” my friend described an ongoing situation creating much emotional and physical strain. In my letter, it was my intent to provide an interesting and engaging method of coaxing them to nudge their attention away from the past and thus provide a platform for successful examination of the true source of their difficulties in the present. This is my letter. - d.jacobs)

A story

Once upon a time, there was a far distant place called the Land of Academia. This land was said to be inhabited by a people called academicians, or thinkers who, though largely incapable of honest work in fronting the real problems of ordinary men in day-to-day life, yet possessed a wide and far-reaching reputation of great altitude and special insight into the ways of the wise.

These peoples were called by various names - not always flattering - but in the main, they were known as scholars, intellectuals and philosophers who lived a life devoted to the systematic examination of such lofty basic concepts as truth, existence and reality toward a professed goal of reaching a more enlightened state of awareness and a greater understanding of life.

So the story is told, they walked extensively through the garden of wisdom, engaged in deep thought, pulling a long white beard . . . thinking and thinking and thinking . . . and then thinking and thinking and thinking again . . . in a scholarly, largely intellectual study of all things theoretical.

Many long months were spent following this tried and true method of attaining enlightenment and wisdom, as such was the way of the philosopher in the Land of Academia.

Sadly, the sought-after results of their labors often only ended with them becoming mired in the thickets of significance, as the process of thinking about thought only ending up with dubious insights of no practical relevance or value to the lives of ordinary men and women.

Ultimately this thinking about life became an endless, introverted, introspective, self-abnegating, self-deprecating, and ultimately useless, ineffectual and futile search for the answers - with no end in sight and no applicability to the real world of the living. For, by distancing themselves from life in an attempt to understand life, they were missing the primary ingredient necessary to become successful in their quest.

They were seeking to think about life by looking at the manifestations of life and not by looking at and living life itself.

This is equivalent to examining how a radio is constructed by only listening to the sound that emanates from it. The efficacy of their method is only superficially beneficial. Mostly, it is a pointless waste of time with potentially disastrous consequences by stirring up things unnecessarily and discovering nothing that can be put into use in the real world that lives, breathes, bleeds and dies.

As the centuries passed, ordinary people began to realize that these philosophers, scholars and so called intellectuals in fact produced nothing of any real or lasting value and their influence has largely fallen away from the ken of man.

In their place was developed a system of discovering the truths of life by examination of and experience with the woof and warp of life itself. Honest, hardworking, normal people found that active involvement with the thing being examined and studied was of far greater value than the speculative meanderings and solutions only based upon theories developed without direct observation.

And, thus we come to an address of the situation as put forth in your recent letter, entitled, “A Valid Thread,” where you seek to come to a better understanding of some of the problems extant in your life.

Your statements near the end of your letter, include in quotes below, indicate a native and fundamental understanding of a route toward sanity and happiness that I wish to underscore for emphasis:

To me the following statements contain enormous pith.

“I essentially had a fight with a someone who wasn't even there. It was like I was fighting with my past and not even thinking of who was in front of me"

“I should remain calm, let it happen and not doubt myself. “

“Trusting my heart and not letting the negative voices of skepticism in, is key.”

In my opinion, these statements above resonate with more wisdom and truth than any ivory tower philosopher citizen in the Land of Academia.

Finally, I humbly submit a few clips from my own writings previously published for your edification and possible enlightenment.

The end result of doubt, worry and fear - is always only more doubt, greater worry and increased fear.

Truth is a simplicity camouflaged by the complexity of lies.
Corallary: The complexity of lies mask the simplicity of truth.

Sanity, happiness and power are a direct consequence of living a life of honesty, simplicity, truth and following a worthwhile purpose.

It is my hope that you might find in this short note, a bit of mental balm to help heal the emotional wounds of which you speak, to soothe the harsh edges of miscommunication in interpersonal relationships and open the door to calmness and spiritual comfort as a result of true wisdom, correctly applied.

Humbly tendered as a gift to my friend on April 27, 2005.

- Dan Jacobs

© 2002-2006, All Rights Reserved.

ESSAY: RE-COGNITION by Dan Jacobs - November 13, 2004

RE-COGNITION by Dan Jacobs

I realized that at this stage of the game in building a musical career, the "pay" I was getting for doing all this work (in front of and behind the spotlight) is mostly the "recognition" factor; and translating this into something that the local McDonalds will accept in exchange for a burger or that the IRS will accept as payment for taxes is something else indeed.

Now, I’ve often seen far too many musicians and artists of various types (myself included at times) feel that the only valuable thing was cash. And that if you’re not getting paid for what you’re doing, you’re a loser.

For some reason, I’ve never totally subscribed to that point of view. I’ve always had the idea in the back of my mind that I'm simply trying to create something that I find desirable and If I find it interesting, others might find it interesting as well. That process takes whatever time and energy necessary to make that happen. It’s like creating a brand name product, instantaneous gratification is not part of the equation. You just have to keep putting it there anyway.

It is true that in our current culture, one has to have enough money to pay your debts or one soon becomes the target of bill collectors and other unsavory characters. Yet living life only chasing the “buck” in an attempt to avoid that ubiquitous economic whip makes for a very dull fellow and an equally dull life! Therein lies the rub.

It is almost axiomatic that money is almost magnetically drawn to oneself when you attract attention and interest from a desiring public and deliver a valuable product/service in exchange.

Examples from the sports field, celebrities in the movie business or entertainment field are all around us. We pay to see these people when they perform because they have attracted our attention by their charm, talent, beauty or skill and competence, and we’re willing to pay to see them do their thing. And when they cease to attract our attention or our interest, their income and visibility drops rapidly off our radar screen, doesn't it?

So then, how does anyone, let alone an artist, begin the process of attracting attention in the first place so that one can end up with enough money to continue working on your art? My realization was that recognition was the first important step of this process.

In becoming aware of this point, I began to look at the many ways that I was being more widely recognized as my primary “income or asset” in the beginning stages. It kept my spirits up and my energy sufficiently high to continue the often thankless work required to get to the point where I was getting sufficient money to continue doing what I loved.

This also led to my attention being extroverted, ever on the lookout for a new way that I could get my music or myself recognized. When someone noticed me on the street or heard my music on the radio or from a CD and it came to my attention, I mentally kept a tally of these incidents as part of my “recognition account.”

And as this account grew, I found another door opened on my path. I discovered that my communication to and from others suddenly freed up as though a huge boulder had been removed from a river. The resultant flow was as effortless as it was enormous. I almost couldn’t stop it.

It appeared that the more I was willing to be recognized, the more I was willing to communicate. Further, the more I found myself willing to communicate, the more others were willing to communicate to me.

This “willingness” element somehow seemed to be the key that unlocked the lock. Once I digested this bit of newfound wisdom, a new phenomena occurred. I began to just “be” more of the person and musician I always knew I was. And, strangely, I began to be perceived by others as a success - in spite of the fact that I still wasn’t making a lot of money.

And it was then that the penny dropped! It occurred to me that I may have stumbled upon the key that unlocked the lock . . . and it was as subtle as it was powerful. My willingness to just be there as myself and be recognized plus a willingness to communicate and be communicated to, led to a change in how I perceived myself and more importantly, how others perceived me!

I really hadn’t changed all that much, but others perception of me changed, and I became something more in their eyes.

Further, when this perception of me by others became widely agreed upon, it began to take on a life of its own. I became a larger source of life and energy for myself and for others just by being myself.

And the more I was myself the more powerful I became for myself . . . and for others. Now this sounded like a game I was interested in playing, as the potential for expansion seemed limitless and any success included others as well . . . it was a game where everybody wins!

Sounds easy doesn’t it? Well, it is . . . once you know the right steps to follow. Boost up your willingness to experience anything. You’ve got nothing to lose except your inhibitions that are holding you back anyway.

You’ll soon be recognized and be communicated to. And you’ll be perceived as the successful artist you already know you are!

© 2004 by Dan Jacobs

FEEDBACK on "Taps" from American Legion Commander - June 10, 2004

Dear Dan,

Your recent participation in playing "Taps" for the annual Memorial Day Parade which is sponsored by the American Legion Post 247 here in Bellaire, was outstanding and very much appreciated.

This was the first time that I can ever remember having someone involved with so much professionalism.

The "Taps" at the community building and at the cemetery during the flag raising will be remembered by the membership and the large audience that was available to us on that day.


Bud Hierlihy, Commander
American Legion Post 247

"FUTURE MEMORIES" featured on European Indie music site - September 25, 2003

The CD, "FUTURE MEMORIES" by Dan and Chuck Jacobs now available in Europe online.

This CD, released in 1992 features original music composed by Dan Jacobs and Chuck Jacobs.

Performed by Dan on Piano, "C" flute, Alto flute, Bass flute, and synthesizers; and Chuck on Electric Bass, Piano, and synthesizers. 

One reviewer wrote, "The music on this CD by Dan and Chuck Jacobs, is a welcome combination of "new-age meets melody by two obviously experienced and talented musicians." - Germand Hein, New Horizons reviews. 

It can be downloaded on TURBO- MUSIC, The European Source for Independent Music at:

It can also be purchased online at: 


THE TRUE FRIENDS GROUP, by Dan Jacobs - May, 2003


By Dan Jacobs, May 2003

There is a group that exists which I had not before recognized or acknowledged, yet it has had an influence on me throughout my whole life. Lacking anything better, I have simply called it “the true friends group.”

Members of this group know who they are and simply carry on, often unnoticed without fanfare or flourish. They do not waver in their allegiance, no matter the circumstance or “challenge du jour” that life presents them.

They have sufficient real-life experience to know that hard times are often more temporary than imagined. They also have enough good sense to cherish good times and good friends, as these can often be all too transient. They are willing to share the burden of hard times as well as the enjoyment of the sweet glow of success in good ones.

They possess a depth of compassion for their fellows built upon a firm foundation of understanding of human nature gained from living life as a participant and not simply a spectator. Members of this group simply refuse to change their basic belief in the goodness of mankind in spite of all invitations to do otherwise.

The bond of this true friendship is stronger than anything imaginable, nearly indestructible, founded upon honesty, integrity, loyalty and mutual action toward a better life for all. It is also apparent to me that this bond of true friendship is strengthened as a result of being tested; and perhaps it even needs such a test from time to time, as it grows stronger as a result.

It has also become evident to me that even if the situation is troublesome or stressful, members of this group want to be included; they want to help and would think it an insult were they not allowed to do so.

These are not just “fair weather” friends; for it is when the chips are down that you learn who you can really count on and who really deserves your support in return. I have also discovered that sharing my life experiences with members of this group lessens any burden I may have experienced and enhances any joy of accomplishment.

Finally, I have discovered that being of service to others is the greatest gift I can offer; as it also enhances my own life, thus making me even more able to help others.

This note, written on the occasion of my birthday in 2003 is my recognition of the help and support I have received from so many throughout my life.

For this, I acknowledge and thank you more than words can express. Suffice to say, you and I both know who you are!

With respect and admiration, Dan Jacobs, in the month of May, 2003

© 2003-2030, All Rights Reserved.

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