From Bob Morgan…

I was privileged to be a member of the Sam Houston State University music faculty, 1965 – 1976.  In the late 60s, I founded/directed the SHSU Jazz Octet, several alumni of which are today very prominent musicians in Houston and beyond.  The octet made significant festival appearances in Austin, Corpus Christi, Mobile, AL, Wichita, KS, and elsewhere, and, in 1970, was chosen as “Best Combo” at the Little Rock Collegiate Jazz Festival.  As a result of the latter honor, the octet appeared at the 1970 National Collegiate Jazz Festival, held at the University of Illinois/Urbana, sharing the stage with groups from the University of North Texas, Indiana University, and elsewhere.  The same year, the octet released a critically-acclaimed album, “Naturally!,” sold internationally via Down Beat magazine.

            Of the original members of the octet, fully one-half remain active musicians today, all very successful and prominent in the Houston jazz community.  The “veterans” will be joined by more-recent Sam Houston alums for this special reunion performance.  Music to be performed will include vintage charts from the “Naturally!” album, plus more-recent material.

            All Sam alumni and followers of the SHSU jazz program are urged to attend!



2011 Kemah Boardwalk Jazz Festival

Sunday, September 18, 2011

6:30 – 7:30 p.m.

Admission free

I 45 south, exit NASA Rd. 1 to Hwy. 146 S

(Allow ample time for traffic, parking, etc.)



(* = SHSU alumnus; ‡ = member of original Octet)

   Bob Morgan, director/arranger

former Dir. of Jazz Studies, SHSU

‡*Kit Reid, trumpet

‡*Reggie Goebel, trombone

Scott Plugge, alto sax

current faculty, SHSU  

‡*Johnny Gonzales, tenor sax

*Gary Zugar, baritone sax

‡*Duane Massey, piano

*Darrell Parrish, bass

*Bobby Adams, drums


And special guest from New York City, *Alva Nelson (piano/arranger),

who is preparing a new composition for the occasion.

            The octet’s Kemah appearance will be dedicated to the memory of alumnus George Honea (1953 – 2009).  George was a brilliant drummer/percussionist, whose impressive résumé includes four years with The Airmen of Note and a lengthy stint with The Judds.  Though never a member of the Octet, he certainly was one of the stellar alumni of the Sam Houston jazz program, and it seemed very appropriate to remember him on this special occasion.


Additional info is available from Bob Morgan:


The Kemah Boardwalk Jazz Festival is a joint production of:

The Landry’s Corporation

Local 65-699, American Federation of Musicians

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Book Review: Technique and Development in Fourths

Title: Technique and Development in Fourths

Author: Ramon Ricker

Publisher: Studio PR
Number of Pages: 59
Difficulty Level: 5 – 7


This book has eighteen pages of explanation at the beginning with the rest of the book being dedicated to exercises in fourths. There are 432 exercises in all.

My Comments:

Quartal melodies and harmony are something of an entryway into the world of modern jazz playing. Fourths obscure the tonality but in a subtle way that helps give the improviser control over the degrees of chromaticism. Fourths have a symmetric sound but it’s a symmetry that also coincides with major and minor tonal centers. So it sounds more diatonic than symmetry of half steps, whole steps, minor thirds or major thirds. 

I began practicing this book in the early 1980s. It took a long time for any of it to show, but today there’s lot’s of quartal playing in my solos. This book was the beginning of that. I have move forward, developing my own exercises and no longer practice directly out of this book. But I have to recognize the tremendous influence this book has had in my playing. 

Another related book is the pentatonics book. The pentatonic scale is built on five notes a perfect fourth apart. Look at stacked fourths beginning on E:

E – A – D – G – C

Invert each of those pitches into one octave and you have the C pentatonic scale:

C – D – E – G – A

So it makes logical sense that a book about pentatonics would go well with a book about fourths.

Available at

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Eric Harland

Here’s a great article about Eric on


Eric is from Houston and attended HSPVA in the 90’s. He is obviously a fine musician and a very humble man. He’s one of my favorite people in the jazz community. I haven’t seen him in years and this article pretty much explains why. He’s probably the busiest drummer on that scene. I think the last time I saw him was at a jam session in the Montrose area. That had to have been about fifteen years ago.

I am so pleased to see that he’s doing so well. Bravo!

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Kris Becker

I just got an email from a pianist who I recorded with about a year ago named, Kris Becker. The email announces his new website and I wanted to share that with our readers.

Kris is a young, up-and-coming musician with an ear for beauty and the daring to cross genre’s and still call the music his own. I first met him at the recording session for his project but then later played a wedding with him at Houston’s Second Baptist Church. A classy player and thoughtful musician.

Join his mailing list, buy his CDs and keep an eye on his career because I do believe he’s going places.

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Student CD Project

This is just a quick note to let everyone know that the student CD project is ready for the final stages.

If you haven’t finished recording yet, don’t worry, this project inspired a fresh idea about using recordings in the lessons. We will be recording most of your major work from now on and you may include any of your future recordings on upcoming student CDs.

The next steps in the process of finishing the CD include:

  1. Mixing (making sure the balance is correct between instruments)
  2. Adding Reverb (which makes the recording sound live)
  3. Mastering (making all the tracks have similar volume levels and things like that)
  4. Cover design
  5. Printing

There’s a little more to it than just that, but this gives you an idea of what work needs to be done.

We hope to have the entire project completed by the end of the month (August) and to send an order for CDs in early September.

We need to hear from each of you to see how many CDs you want to purchase. We will discuss this more in your lessons, but for now, please be thinking about that.

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Andress’ 50th

I am a graduate of Andress High School in North East El Paso. 2011 is Andress’ fiftieth anniversary and I was one of a few musicians invited to perform with a jazz ensemble during the cocktail hour of the event.

This ensemble was comprised mostly of other graduates from Andress HS from different graduating classes. This first picture shows me performing with Ricky Malichi on drums, Jawn Glass on Fluglehorn and Todd Baldwin on trombone. Jawn and I graduated from Andress the same year and  Todd graduated a year before us.

Ricky Malichi was the leader of the Malichi 5, back in the 1980’s. His gigs at Señor Blues were the first jazz jam sessions I ever attended, beginning a long tradition in my life of sitting in with similar bands across the country. In that respect, I owe Ricky so much for giving me the opportunity to grow in public before I even left El Paso.

A lot of people dismiss the importance of sitting in a jam sessions as part of their development as jazz players. That’s not a good thing. Jazz is not a solo sport. I don’t think you can even call it jazz if your concept is one of just playing by yourself over a live Aebersold track. Ricky and his band gave me an opportunity to take what I was learning at home, apply it, and test it with a real living band and a listening audience.

Jawn Glass was a huge influence in my early development. We became friends soon after we met and stuck together throughout most of high school and some of our college days. It was Jawn who first taught me the very same things I teach my students today: “how to practice.” Jawn helped me with the All-State music our Sophomore year and it was because of those thing he showed me that I was able to make it. After that, there was a friendly rivalry between us throughout our school years. This, too, is a big reason why I have been so successful in my career. There is nothing better to motivate a person to succeed than having a friend at your side lifting you up when you slip and fall. I can only hope I did as much for him as he did for me.

The next picture to the right shows Marco Valdez on drums. Marco was a year or two ahead of Jawn and I. What I remember most about Marco was that he played great marimba. If I’m not mistaken, he played with a marimba band that was very popular in El Paso in the 80’s.

As I said earlier, Todd was a year behind Jawn and I. I always looked up to Todd as a player, even after we graduated from high school. Todd was our top bone player and did a wonderful job on the classical and the jazz stuff. I remember a clinician who was working with the band when Todd was playing a euphonium solo. The clinician made a comment about how most euphonium players were either bad trumpet players or bad trombone players who got reassigned to the euphonium. This was his way of distinguishing Todd from the others and to compliment him…..even though he was really a trombone player after all.

I also remember that Todd was featured on a tune in the jazz band called Portrait of a Lady, a wonderful ballad if I remember right, composed originally for horn? Not sure if my memory is getting foggy but that’s how I remember it.

Today, Todd is a member of the Army band called “Pershing’s Own”. You can read more about him at his profile page for American University HERE.

There were two players in the band who were not from Andress, both of them named Curt. Curt warren, our guitar player, was the teacher for a jazz improv class I took at UTEP and an all-around mentor on things like playing changes and learning how to study a player’s style. Many years after I left El Paso, Curt gave me a copy of his CD and I transcribed his solo over Wave. I’ll try to post that here some day.

It was a great honor to play with Curt again after all these years. I tell people that the most you will ever learn from someone is when you play a gig with them. Curt Warren was on the only steady jazz gig I ever had in El Paso. Being on the gig with him like that, after having learned from him in a classroom environment, made a great impact on my playing.

The one person I didn’t get a picture of was Alan Chavez. Alan was not only an Andress graduate but also played in the UTEP jazz band while we were there. It was Alan who contacted me to perform with this group and it was a pleasure to see him and have a chance to hear him play again.

The one person who was not able to attend that we all missed was our band director, Al Mendez. Al had family business out of town and couldn’t make it.

I am not the type of person who goes to reunions. I was a nobody at school and there’s really no point in attending any of those things. But given the opportunity to play music with some old friends, I just couldn’t pass it up! The room was noisy and I think the music would have sounded better if we weren’t competing against people chatting, but it was still a precious moment.

And last but not least, I should also thank my wife, Pearl, for taking the photos from the event. She’s wonderful that way!

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What Defines Us?

It is a common saying among trumpet players that it is our sound that defines us. Although I do consider sound to be a very high priority, I disagree with the saying. Sound does not define us nearly as much as the literature we know.

I came to this revelation after decades of believing the traditional saying. It is from my experiences as a professional player that have given me this rather contrary idea that it is our repertoire that defines us and not our sounds. I remember when I first came to Houston and an older, more established player criticized me saying, “Players like Eddie Lewis sound fine, but they don’t know any tunes.” He was wrong. I knew plenty of tunes. I just didn’t know the same tunes as he did. But his comment is what stimulated my thoughts in that direction.

Think about it….

If a trumpet player has a beautiful orchestral sound but only literature he knows is dixieland music, is he an orchestral player or a dixieland player?

If a player has a rich Harry James sound but only knows brass quintet literature, is he a dance band player or a brass quintet player?

In my line of work, I don’t have the luxury of making those decisions myself. The people who hire me are the ones who decide what kind of player I am, and I can tell you with 100% certainty that they hire me more because of my repertoire than they do because of my sound.

The same thing is just as true for brass quintet gigs as it is for jazz stuff. Most of the brass ensemble gigs I play are sight reading gigs. The fact that I know those charts and know the style they are written in makes me an asset to the ensemble. I could sound one way or another, it wouldn’t matter. What matters most is that I can do the gig without messing up, and I couldn’t possibly do that if I didn’t know the lit.

I don’t teach serious orchestral students. There are a lot of wonderful teachers in the area who teach that style of music and have many years of experience at it. But I spent ten years of my life training to be an orchestral player. And yes, a lot of effort goes into producing a good sound. I agree. But that is a given for the orchestras today. If you don’t have a great sound, you won’t get in, PERIOD! From what I’ve heard from my teachers and from the people who I know who are in that line of work today is that it is your familiarity with the literature that makes the biggest difference.

In that sense, this is not an original idea of mine. People in the orchestral world have been teaching the lit this way for years. I am just pointing out that, when it comes to defining who we are, it is the literature that makes the greatest impact.

As a teacher, I take that part of my role in the students’ developments very seriously. Yes we work on mechanics. Yes we work on sound. Yes we work on general musical concepts. But the most important thing we do in the lessons is to work on literature.

A large part of my teaching method focuses on using practice techniques to learn and perfect literature. In the lessons I stress the importance of beginning a constantly growing repertoire. The more rep the student has, the more valuable he or she becomes.

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