Thursday, June 18, 2009


Patti Maxine, Celina, Stan Parola, Vince Tuzzi, Gary Cunninghan House Band

Photo courtesy of Debi Parola


Tonight my old pal "Uncle Larry" and I took off at about 2:00pm and headed to Santa Cruz for the monthly meeting. Larry is a big fan of Jazz on the ukulele. And he's got a jukebox or two full of songs at his fingertips. Larry was quite happy to see that there was a Jazz Uke class available.

Neither of us had heard of Glen Rose before. But we got there quite early and got seats right up front. I am not sure but I think 40 people came for the class from 4:00 to 5:30. We paid our fees and were handed an extremely professionally produced workbook called Jazzy Ukulele (Easy Jazz Chord Formulas for Ukulele) (How to play Jazz Standards - Jazz Ukulele 101). Glen said he is working on a book of classic jazz standards for the ukulele soon. If you are interested in getting a copy email

The workbook is 21 pages long. He has clear pictograms of common jazz chord fingerings. They are all in closed position, a.k.a. barred. Barring doesn't always mean that the index finger crosses all 4 strings but that the chord shape can be moved up and down the fretboard. I think "closed position" is the term I would prefer for it's clarity.

Glen shows pictograms (or diagrams) of The Most Common Jazz Progression. In algebraic terms this would be GCEA = XXXX. If X where 3 we would be barring straight across the third fret, i.e., GCEA = 3333. There are only two chords in this progression and the second chord is GCEA = (X-1)XXX. Wow algrabraic terminology for a musical action. Cool. Nerds unite. Nerds rule the world. So if we go back to the X=3 thing this second chord becomes GCEA = 2333. The example then is...

FIRST CHORD = 3333, SECOND CHORD = 2333. No this can be done starting at any fret. Glen then goes to the most common jazz progession closed, I will again use the example where we start at X=3. There are now three chords, they are the first two already stated followed by a third chord GCEA = X(X+2)(X+2)(X+2). My wordings are quite mathematical, a bit of a braintwister puzzle. But the reality is that it is quite simple.
I don't want to steal Glen's beautiful artwork and diagramatic clarity so I'll just leave this as a basic starting point. Glen provides a few more common jazz chord progressions MUCH clearer that my mathematics, but not as amusing. I have the theory, which also may be a life theory, but we are all learning at various rates, I felt that this was right in the center of this Humble Uker's wheelhouse, that is, I was ready for it. So the moral is sometimes things just click quite simply because your life experiences and / or hard efforts are paying off. In either case I think Glen's demeanor and approach will endear him equally to experienced-beginners and advanced players.

The sneaky and graceful thing is that learning his jazz progressions will strengthen the left hand skills and sneakily build bar chording / closed position chord skills quite rapidly. Ah, an extra bonus. I am sneaking these in more and more. Glen has a very nicely put together workbook with a color coding scheme to help build an awareness of these progressions in standard jazzy songs like: Fly Me to the Moon, Ain't Misbehavin', Ain't She Sweet, L-O-V-E, I left My Heart in San Francisco.


VINCE TUZZI BAND (Band Picture Above)

(Vince + C-Monkeys + Patti Maxine)

Vince is a man with a beard that would make Santa from the movie A Miracle on 34th Street jealous. A perfect white-gray beard. The band was composed of several Ukulele Club of Santa Cruz's finely polished players including Patti-Maxine, Celina Gutierrez, Stan Parola, and the Bassist Gary Cunningham. Gosh they were quite a treat as the dinner time opening band.

They played quite a full selection, most notably they played the John Prine tune, "In Spite of Ourselves" that he sings with Iris Dement with a gritty panties line. I had mentioned this song on the blog many moons ago I didn't expect any duet to eagerly take on this challenge. But Vince and Celina made a strong performance. Santa Cruz has what it takes for this song. Actually, John prine wrote it as the closing song for a Billy Bob Thornton movie closing song.

I also noted that they played Willie Nelson's Pancho & Lefty, A sweet blend of Roy Orbison's Cryin' into Blue Bayou, People are Strange, Come Monday, and let's talk dirty in Hawaiian. After this set, came the play-along time, and this post is gonna get too long. I am just going to have to share that frolicing event in the next post.


  1. It was a wonderful night. I had a chance to talk with Glen a little after the meeting was over. He told me a fabulous story about the song "I Remember You", by Johnny Mercer. Read it here:
    Who was that hot sax player? and her cousin, I think, on bass. Did they really fly in from Draglandia just for the meeting?
    Thanks for the blog Jeff,
    Celina for the CMonkeys

  2. In the baseball lore there is the Famous Shoeless Joe Jackson. Well in Santa Cruz it's Shoeless Sexy Shufflefeet Celina. Thanks, for the historical info. I am going to see Glen again on Friday he's playing up in Sun City Lincoln Hiils were my mother lives. He's quite the Jazz and History fanatic. Love it!