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It is audition season! Across the country, high school seniors are preparing to audition into various undergraduate music programs. There are a TON of great schools out there for the aspiring musician. Here are some tips for students, educators, and parents about how to navigate this process: 


You might have your heart set on a certain school or institution, but it is worth your while to check out multiple schools. There are a lot of differences between a conservatory, a…

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Kanye West: Not a Gospel Virtuoso 

So, a couple of thoughts about Kanye's show on SNL last night: 

You can watch the video here.

The concept is really good, however Kanye has not developed his voice well enough to execute it. 

West's shortcomings as a singer are highlighted by the sparse texture of the arrangements, and the virtuosity of his collaborators. For example, the beauty, virtuosity, and expressive quality of Kelly Price's vocals in this clip from SNL (Seriously, she crushes it!) underscore West's vocal shortcomings. Furthermore…

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Keith T. Karns 

January 2016 


            Big band jazz has been engaged in a quiet renaissance over the past several decades. A host of composers have been consistently pushing back boundaries in the field of jazz composition and arranging. Press reviews of recent big band and jazz orchestra records describe the music as possessing “extravagant…

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Current narratives on the history and development of jazz education imply that formalized jazz education is an entity beginning sometime after 1950. While this perspective captures the development of the jazz publishing industry, the expansion of collegiate jazz studies programs, and a host of camps, clinics, and other resources that have sprung up in the last sixty five years, it also seems to imply that opportunities for jazz education prior to 1950 were nonexistent. 

From a twenty-first…

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Postbop and Early Fusion

This paper will summarize the musical development and output of Miles Davis during the mid 1960s through early 1970. It will focus on the development of postbop and fusion and the various musical, personnel, business and cultural issues that led to the music’s development and reception. Live recordings will be discussed, however the primary musical documents will be drawn from the studio recordings during this period. 



Miles Davis’ output in the mid nineteen…

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Group Interaction: a new strategy for understanding the music of Woody Shaw 

            It is no secret that I am a fan of Woody Shaw. More than any other trumpet player, Shaw’s solos, compositions, his fiery aggressiveness, have always captivated me as both a listener and a trumpet player.
            While Shaw’s impact in jazz is well established in pedagogical circles, only a few writers have taken interest in deeper study of Shaw’s work (Gavin 2005), (Prouty 2004) (Richardson 2006), (O’Donnell 2009). The result is that while Shaw’s position in history is unassailable, it is…Read more

Deciphering Structure: Form and elements of the avant garde in Ambrose Akinmusire’s “Richard (Conduit)” 

     This year Ambrose Akinmusire has positioned himself as a new leader in modern jazz. His sophomore record for Blue Note “The Imagined Savior is Far Easier To Paint” has received overwhelmingly positive reviews from the jazz press (Barton 2014) (Woodard 2014, 26) (Chinen 2014). Since the release of “The Imagined Savior”, Akinmusire’s quintet has been headlining concerts and festivals across North America and Europe (Wilkins 2014). In addition, Downbeat Magazine has included “The Imagined Savior” in their…Read more

Composer Profile: Clare Fischer 

            I have long been an admirer of Clare Fischer’s music. Fischer is perhaps one of the most influential yet least well-known arrangers of the twentieth century. His influence is wide and far-reaching and he has made significant contributions not only to modern arranging techniques, but also to Latin jazz, and jazz piano harmony (Jazz Times 2012) (Martin, 4) (Farris 1964, 46).
            While his contributions to jazz are far reaching, this study will focus on his contributions as an arranger…Read more

Music History as Part of a Jazz Curriculum 

Music History. No two words seem to inspire more dread in music students than these. The battery of music history courses can often be among the most challenging and least rewarding in undergraduate and graduate curriculums alike. Among jazz students these courses are often more problematic because they require prolonged study of material only tacitly related to jazz topics. This is compounded by a general attitude among musicology professors that our music--jazz--does not deserve as close scrutiny as say…Read more

Make Me Smile: A brief look at Bob Brookmeyer and the modern big band 

            Bob Brookmeyer is an integral figure in jazz both in his role as a composer and performer as well as an educator. (Stewart 2007) (Robinson, 2002) (Argue 2009) Along with other pioneers of composition for large jazz ensembles such as Gill Evans, Brookmeyer has been integral in developing the modern jazz compositional style (Schneider 1998). Despite near universal acclaim for Brookmeyer's contributions, scholarship has been slow to recognize him and the modern big band as a viable source for…Read more

A Summary and Critique of Neo Reimanian Theory as Applied to Post Bop Jazz 

Keith Karns

The article “Jazz Harmony After 1960” by Keith Waters and Kent Williams from the 2010 Society for Music Theory journal endeavors to use modern work in Neo-Riemannian theory to describe harmonic gestures indicative of post-bop jazz in the 1960’s. Both Waters and Williams are uniquely qualified for the task and their skills in the field are complimentary. The paper utilizes recent work in Neo-Riemannian theory to analyze harmonic conventions that saw their genesis in the 1960’s.

You can find…Read more

News transformed, and the magic of Woody Shaw! 


Many of you may have noticed that I haven’t been keeping up my blog/news feed lately. I have been doing a lot of traveling, gigging, teaching, composing, and therefore not enough typing! I have been thinking a lot about this blog however, and I have decided that instead of a semi regular news update I will be using this space to deliver a semi regular exposition on topics that I am interested in. Don’t worry, you can still find info on upcoming projects on this blog, but that material will be…Read more

New Clip! 

So, since my last post a month ago a lot has happened! As I'm sure you've all noticed, I have a sleek new look to the website as we prepare for this CD release. I've gotta give a shout out to Steve Kriesel and the Torpedo Bag company for coming out and taking pictures at our session last month. They look great and they really make the site look awesome!

The upcoming album is probably the most exciting thing I am working on right now. I was really lucky to record with such talented people and even more…Read more

K2B Recording Session 

This weekend has been one of the truly amazing musical experiences of my life. I've been in Wisconsin for the past three days recording with some of the best musicians in the Twin Cities, Indianapolis and Eau Claire. The level of sheer virtuosity and incredible interpretation of my music in this band is astounding. Last night we played at the Grand Little Theater in Eau Claire Wisconsin and we had a truly transcendental experience. I feel so fortunate to be able to play with such beautiful people. Keep an…Read more