Joel Frahm Jazz Improvisation Clinic

I emailed Joel Frahm the other day and asked if I could post this great masterclass he did in Prague years ago.  He said “No problem” which I was very excited about.  I have been a great fan of his going back many years.   I went through a stage where I was listening to a lot of Brad Mehldau and one day saw a Duo recording with Brad and Joel Frahm.  I bought it and loved it.  Since that day I have bought all of Joel’s recordings as a leader including Don’t Explain, Sorry No Decaf, The Navigator, We Used to Dance,  and many more with him as a sideman……….


Joel Frahm Jazz Improvisation Clinic

 Here is a short history about him from Joel’s website:

Joel Frahm’s May 1st release, We Used to Dance, places him in the company of master musicians Kenny Barron (piano), Rufus Reid (bass), and Victor Lewis (drums).  Frahm more than holds his own in showing both the chops and lyricism that has made him an irreplaceable part of so many sessions in his two decades on the jazz scene.   Surrounded by jazz legends, Frahm makes this recording a true “coming out party” for his maturing artistry. It is his most ambitious CD to date,  featuring six of his original compositions that come to life in beautiful and variegated ways in the hands of this remarkable band. “It was an honor and a watershed experience to make this record with these incredible musicians” he says. Having made a name for himself through his associations with singer Jane Monheit and boyhood friend,  pianist Brad Mehldau,  Frahm hones his own voice on this breakout recording. Joel has also worked with a vast array of musical peers and jazz legends including Maynard Ferguson, Betty Carter, Matt Wilson, Larry Goldings, Dewey Redman, Lee Konitz, Kurt Rosenwinkel, Andrew Hill, Ben Allison, Pat Martino, Ingrid Jensen, Dena Derose, The Village Vanguard Jazz Orchestra, Kyle Eastwood and many others. Born in Racine, WI in 1969, Frahm attended the Mason Gross School for the Arts and earned his B.A. in Jazz Performance at Manhattan School of Music. He released three highly regarded CDs on Palmetto: The Navigator, Don’t Explain (with Mehldau), and Sorry No Decaf. Don’t Explain, his latest, was the number one jazz release for radio play in the United States for two consecutive weeks in 2004, according to airplay chart and also reached number one on college radio for one week, according to College Music Journal’s airplay chart.  Joel was also recently selected in DownBeat Magazine’s Critics Poll as a Rising Star in the category of tenor saxophone.”

This masterclass is on playing melodically and creating a story with your soloing.  Joel offers many great conceptual tips and demonstrates by playing a great solo on “My One and Only Love”.  His tone is just gorgeous!!  Dark, round and full.  Listen for the melodic phrases he uses when he starts his solo.  Try to hear how the phrases lead and connect to each other.  Listen for the tensions and releases…………

After the solo,  Joel starts out by talking about playing in 10th’s which is totally cool! (A 10th is a 3rd displaced by an octave).  He also talks about thinking of a melody or idea to start out before he even starts playing.

I love his quote at the 26:00 minute mark where he says “You don’t need a ton of vocabulary to start improvising”.  Listen to that section closely.   Give yourself time in your practice session to just improvise.  Forget the licks.  I love at 27:38 where they just play freely based off of 3 notes.

Check out 46:18 and the conceptual idea to play more rhythmically.  His playing as an example is so cool there.  Just thinking a slightly different way can really alter and open up your playing in a major way.  That is what jazz is all about

There is so much great advice and insight being communicated in this masterclass that it is worth listening to over and over…….………  Enjoy!!

PS.  Make sure you buy Joel’s recordings!  I have most of them and they are terrific!

Joel Frahm Jazz Improvisation Clinic

Steve About Steve

Steve Neff has been playing and teaching saxophone and jazz improvisation around the New England area for the last 30 years. He is the author of many effective jazz improvisation methods as well as founding the popular jazz video lesson site


  1. This is a super Christmas present.
    Thank you so much Steve.

    • No problem Marc. I’m surprised more people haven’t said thank you for this. I took the time to post it but Joel gave me permission to post it which was so nice of him. I hope people will say thank you by going out and buying some of his albums or seeing him in concert………

  2. Steve, I hadn’t checked your site lately and just saw this post. Amazing stuff. I only discovered Joel’s music about a year ago. You’re right; a tremendously talented player, with a gorgeous tone and great grasp of melodic playing.

    Thanks to you and especially Joel for allowing this to be posted!

  3. Avatar Mark Brown says

    Joel is absolutely amazing. I used to always go listen to him at La Lanterna in NYC with his trio with Joe Martin and Bill Campbell. It was ALWAYS on fire. Bill and Joel have a special bond. One of the highlights of my musical life was touring with Joel in Germany and recording the album with Tim Sund’s band back in 1998. I was playing bass.
    Thanx a million for posting this, Steve!

  4. Avatar Steve Mann says

    I see him around NY all the time ..most unassuming guy. But wow ideas and tone like no one else always different and just a very mellow person to meet.

  5. Thank you for this Steve – a lot of very motivating material within – Jonathan

  6. Thanks for posting this Steve! A great class indeed!

  7. Avatar Jim Metzendorf says

    Thank you for posting this, Steve, and thank you to Joel for sharing his knowledge. His playing is steeped in tradition, yet remains fresh and unique. I’m especially impressed by how well constructed his solos are. He always takes the listener on a journey, no matter how long or short the solo may be.

  8. Thanks for posting! Tremendous!!

  9. This is indeed wonderful. Thanks!!!!

  10. Avatar utku vargi says

    This is marvelous thank you so much.

  11. Avatar Tomasz Wendt says

    Awesome, thakn you for posting this, lets listen to it one more time!

  12. This is so great. love it. I need to listen to more of these clinics. I will listen to it again soon.

  13. Nice!

  14. Avatar Glen Johnson says

    This is fantastic. So much to absorb and to try out.

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