Author Archives: dougoconnor

Upcoming concert with Percussion Ensemble!

  • Fri

    Gradient 2.0 with Towson Percussion Ensemble

    8:15 pm

    Kaplan Concert Hall
    Towson University Center for the Arts
    4400 Osler Drive
    Towson, MD

    Admission $5

    Featured works:
    Baljinder Sekhon's Gradient 2.0 with saxophonist Doug O'Connor
    Tan Dun's Elegy; Snow in June, with cellist Cecylia Barczk
    Ivan Trevino's Almaty

    Directed by Dr. Michelle Humpheys

16 ii/V Paths, inspired by Herbie Hancock

Ok jazz nerds, I have SSG Michael Kramer (guitarist, Army Blues) to thank for this little project. He told me about this great idea, and I’ve decided to blow some time at BCT cataloging its results. Behold:

2-5 Matrix (Herbie Hancock)

1. This first item is matrix of standard ii/V7/I’s, separated by minor thirds (repeat this matrix for the other two transpositions). Your standard jazz changes building block.

The theory here is that, due to the tensions and tendencies made possible by dominant/diminished scales (half-whole) and their limited transpositions (sharing content with similar scales built on roots an m3 away), one can draw any 3-chord path across this matrix from left to right as a substitute pathway for a typical ii/V/I. Using such substitutions instead of the half-whole scale should add tension, harmonic interest, and additional options in jazz improvisation or composition. It’s a way out of the ii/V jail cell, without totally leaving the complex.

This leaves a lot of possibilities, and some paths across this matrix will be redundant. Therefore, the matrix is of limited use when really approaching this idea in practice.

So, in an attempt to reduce the theory to a more readily usable form:



2. This second pic shows all the prime (reduced) forms of paths across the matrix, and is organized by root motion contour (or shape). For cleanliness’ sake, I’ve excluded the work I did cataloging all products of the matrix, and organized the paths into 6 basic shapes. One can see that regardless of starting point, we are left with a total of 16 possibilities, including our basic ii/V/I motion. Each of the 16 paths will has a signature sound and feel, though some have special relationships to each other (i.e., the nonlinear paths are all retrograde-invertible). Some paths are well-trodden, like the basic ii/V, the tritone substitution, and the “back door” ii/V. Some are not as common, and should provide some exotic alternatives.

3. Here’s a quick couple of PDF exercises with all 16 pathways, strung together in order by shape class, and then in order of net harmonic shift:

16 ii-V Paths By Shape Class Exercise (Herbie Hancock)

16 ii-V Paths By Net Shift Exercise (Herbie Hancock)

I wish I had a horn to practice these with, but I think I’ll have to wait until BCT is over (unless the 399th decides to toss me an ax: standby to standby). I hope it’s useful to the rest of you. Again, thanks to SSG Kramer (and Herbie Hancock) for the killer idea!

Boot Camp 2.0

In a freak occurrence of red tape, I will be attending boot camp for a SECOND TIME as I transition from the Naval Academy Band to the Army Band (Pershing’s Own).

I’m happy to report that my last artistic activity before signing off was a complete honor and a pleasure: performing with Liz Ames in the premiere of Greg Wanamaker’s new work for saxophone and piano, “of Light and Shadows,” at the Navy Band 38th International Saxophone Symposium. Greg and Liz are both class acts, and I look forward to working with them again soon.

In other news, Cliff Leaman and Joe Rackers gave the first performance of the new Global Premiere commission from Baljinder Sekhon. It’s been amazing watching this project take off.

I look forward to grabbing the torch again in early April: can’t wait to be a musician again!

Theoretically Informed Intonation

As I update the Blackboard content for my students at Towson University, I came across a paper I wrote during my graduate study at Eastman School of Music and have decided that it’s worth sharing. If you are interested in how music theory might influence choices you make about tuning, especially in chamber music performance, then please read, comment, and share. Of particular interest is an experimental model of a hybridized tuning theory applied to the opening movement of Beethoven’s gnarly Op. 131:

Theoretically Informed Intonation

New download available: J.S. Bach’s Concerto for Two Violins, BWV 1043

I recently arranged the Concerto for Two Violins, BWV1043 by J.S. Bach for two soprano saxophones and chamber ensemble (flute, oboe, clarinet, bassoon, french horn, trumpet, contrabass, and optional continuo), and this arrangement is now available for purchase in the Store section of this website. Although this particular arrangement is for a specific group of instruments, please email me if you are interested in an adaptation for a different orchestration and I would be happy to work that out as well.

Catholic University Single Reed Symposium 2015: March 7

Single Reed Symposium 2015

Join Dr. Bob Beeson and Dr. Ben Redwine as the saxophone and clarinet studios join forces to present the CUA Single Reed Symposium 2015 on March 7th. Guest artists include Dr. Noah Getz from American University, Dr. Doug O’Connor from Towson, Mr. Robert DiLutis from the University of Maryland, and Mr. Pedro Rubio from the Royal Conservatory of Music, Madrid, Spain. The day consists of informative master classes and performances culminating in an all-participant saxophone/clarinet choir concert. Leading music industry companies will also be on hand with impressive displays for equipment testing.

Register for free at:

I will be playing David Lang’s Press Release on baritone saxophone at the final evening concert (7:30pm), as well as delivering a lecture on intonation physics and applications (2:30pm).

There is no charge, please be in touch if you can make it and I look forward to seeing you there.

Global Première Consortium Commissioning Project Launch

Baljinder Sekhon and I are excited to have just launched a new platform for commissioning new music, which we call Global Première. By inviting just one performer or sponsor from each US State and foreign country to be a part of each consortium, Global Première keeps a low commissioning fee, preserves exclusivity and première rights for all of its members, provides marketing opportunities for its performers, and promulgates professional level performances of new works throughout the world within the first year after a piece is composed.

The first Global Première commission is for a new work by Baljinder Sekhon for saxophone and piano, 3 movements, 15-20 minutes in length. Future projects will branch out to other instruments and composers. Please visit the website often to watch the interactive map fill in with some of the world’s most esteemed saxophonists: