Welcome to the Educational Resources page.

We will be posting various educational material here on an ongoing basis. Some “snippets” of things to practice, links to videos with interesting information, and some more substantial guest posts from our friends and colleagues in the musical community. Here are a couple of links to get things started. First of all, a video of a legend in saxophone education Joe Allard. Here he is talking about his approach to sound production and breathing (for both saxophone and clarinet). Mr. Allard taught many of the saxophonists considered to be masters of the last 40+ years. This includes David Liebman, who I had the good fortune to study with at the Banff Centre, and in New York, in the early 1980s. Here is “Lieb” carrying on the Allard message in his inimitable style. And, one more link. This one from Steve Neff’s excellent website. The interview with David Dempsey that Steve’s article links to is very interesting. After reading it I realized that a lot of the stuff I do must have been implanted in my brain as a result of my time with Allard students like Lieb, and Steve Grossman. Hope you enjoy the material that is posted here. Phil Dwyer.

Hardest-working man in show business…

Playing that is both intense and under control, breathtaking precision, magnetic stage presence, refreshing original compositions: that’s the formidable package offered by Rémi Bolduc, one of Canada’s best jazz saxophonists.

Acclaimed at the most important venues from New York to Paris by way of Geneva, Tokyo and Beijing, Rémi Bolduc captivates the audience with the dazzling virtuosity and stunning maturity that have made him a most accomplished musician.

With his band, the Rémi Bolduc Jazz Ensemble, he composes and plays numbers that convey his formidable energy and spontaneity, allowing his organic sound to breathe freely.

A versatile and dynamic artist, Rémi Bolduc performs regularly with some of our most renowned jazz musicians such as Kenny Werner, Ben Monder, Seamus Blake, Lorraine Desmarais, Vic Vogel, Thom Gossage, Ralph Bowen, Jerry Bergonzi and others. He teaches saxophone, improvisation and ensemble classes at Montreal’s McGill University.

My friend and colleague Rémi Bolduc might be the hardest-working musician that I know. His dedication and commitment to his craft are second to none and this is apparent when you hear him play. For the past few years Rémi has been posting instructional videos in a number of topic areas. He graciously allowed me to share on here. There are lots of videos on improvisation, and also a wealth of transcriptions that I will try and link to in the future. For now, something that we could probably all be more diligent with. Long tones. Take it away Maestro!

Sonny and Trane

I must have listened to the Tenor Madness recording a thousand times; it’s the only time that Sonny and Trane recorded together. Here is an interesting short documentary that I came across recently that talks about both of them.

Jeff Antoniuk – Educator

In the last couple of months I have been enjoying some great educational posts by a few saxophonists/teachers for whom I have a great deal of respect. I have done a lot of teaching over the years and, for the most part, very much enjoy it. However, as I have alluded to in previous posts, it is a challenge for me to quantify my improvising “process” because I tend to be a pretty intuitive player. So when people who are great players are able to break things down in ways that facilitate a new perspective I really appreciate it. A while back Jeff Antoniuk posted a video called “Scales Suck”. Notwithstanding the provocative tone of the post’s title, I thought that Jeff’s assessment had a lot of merit. In my improvising I’ve always been a lot more oriented towards focusing on chord tones, and that seemed to be the thrust of Jeff’s thesis. He has tempered that position somewhat more recently, but the way that he has built the series of videos has been really thoughtful and makes good musical sense, to me at least.

Anyway, Jeff has a YouTube channel with a wealth of great educational material for all instrumentalists interested in improvising. You can find it here. I would encourage anyone interested in improvising to spend some time checking out these videos. (I think the “Scales Suck” is #2, but I have watched several of the others and they are all fantastic. Thanks Jeff!!

In upcoming posts I’ll be talking about some other colleagues who are doing equally interesting work, but in the meantime enjoy what Jeff Antoniuk has to offer.

All the best! Phil Dwyer

Don Thompson

Back when I was 16 I went up to the Banff Centre for the summer jazz workshop. That was the first time I ever met Don Thompson, as well as Kenny Wheeler and Dave Holland. Over the years I have the chance to play with Dave on a couple of occasions and with Kenny fairly often. Don and I on the other hand, almost from the time we met, formed a pretty special bond that has been central to my life for the last 35 years or so.

My formal study with Don was minimal, my informal study intensive and ongoing. Don epitomizes the idea of complete devotion to learning and practicing the craft of music. Much has been made of his ability to play piano, bass and vibes with equally remarkable skill, and this is certainly not something to be undersold. For me though it is more about his complete immersion in the musical process and how, despite being at the top of the game for a long time, he is constantly looking to improve and refine his skills. That is pretty inspiring. Don stayed at my house for a week once and practiced Young And Foolish every day for about 2 or 3 hours. Unreal.

We have played together in pretty much every format from duos up to orchestra. Lots of amazing gigs with Kenny Wheeler over the years. Once particularly, for me, amazing night in Toronto with John Handy, Dave Holland, Terry Clarke and Jim Hall. Not sure what I was doing there but I’ll take it!! Here is a track from a recording that I did with Don’s quartet. It won a Juno when it came out…around 2005 I think.

Don and I used to teach at a cool summer camp in Victoria…he also taught at my PDAMCA camp several times. Anyway, he used to hand out this “things you really have to know” sheet and I always thought it was pretty cool. Take a look and, as always, take the time to really consider what he is saying and play through the examples.

Don Thompson Educational

Woody Shaw!!

Back when I was in about grade 9 in high school I discovered the music of Woody Shaw. He made a record on the Columbia label called Woody III which spent a lot of time listening to. One of my favourite tracks was a tune called Organ Grinder, which featured a great band consisting of George Cables, Victor Lewis and Buster Williams. The rest of the album was great too, but I think this tune stuck with me because in the intervening years I have played it a few times, mostly with Ingrid Jensen. Actually, way back in the day I gave Ingrid her first Woody Shaw album, which I’m pretty sure she listened to because I can hear some Woody in her playing (along with a lot of Ingrid Jensen!). Anyway you can take a listen here.

That album was released in 1979, and around that time Woody was on tour a lot with his working band. I found a video of a complete concert they did in France that year. Here it is. Woody is KILLING!! Also, Woody’s front line partner, Carter Jefferson, is a monster. These guys were definitely going for it and you can tell that the band was road-seasoned.

The reason I got on this trip down memory lane was because I came across a website where there was some interesting analysis of Woody’s approach. Check it out…but only after you have listened to the music a bunch of times!!! Solo analysis is cool, but it’s way more important to get the sound of the music embedded in your musical brain first. Anyway, there are some good ideas about approaching “outside” playing through the use of “side-slipping” pentatonics etc.

Finally, apropos of none of the above, but just because it came up on YouTube after the Woody Organ Grinder track…check out Eternal Triangle with the 2 Sonnys (Stitt and Rollins) playing with Dizzy Gillespie. Bebop master-class to the nth degree.

Enjoy – Phil Dwyer



Inspiration from a master

I had the pleasure of spending some time with Lee Konitz at the Banff Centre in 1982. I was too young (16) to really appreciate the depth of his offerings, but enjoyed it immensely  nonetheless. The first time that the saxophone master class met we went around the room with each student playing for a little bit, and after I had played Lee looked at me and said “Phew, that’s great….someone that plays sharper than I do”! Anyway, over the years I have occasionally reflected on one idea that Lee presented to us: the 10-step improvisation method. Even at my young age I recognized that this was something of great value and I’ve tried to keep it in mind as much as possible. I was pleased to see if posted on saxophonist Mel Martin’s website recently. Here it is. If you have an interest in becoming a more coherent improviser I think this is a great approach. And here is a link to a video that I absolutely love, Lee playing Melancholy Baby, with Bill Evans.

Phil Dwyer


…one more thing

Pursuant to the last post, and the “do as I do, not as I say” one here is a final thought. I used material by Sonny Rollins, Bud Powell, and Freddie Hubbard in those two posts. I also used the Oxford comma in my lists, but that is beside the point. What I would like to mention is, if it’s not obvious, is that you have to work with the material that really gets your blood pumping. I always had pretty wide ranging tastes in saxophone players: I enjoyed listening to everyone from Stan Getz to Albert Ayler to the guy from Supertramp (John Helliwell). There is probably more Getz in my playing than Ayler or Helliwell but I learned something from all of them.

Depending on what kind of music you like you will gravitate towards certain players and maybe use some of ideas in my last two posts to build up your vocabulary in the style of music you are most interested in. Everyone is a product of the people who came before them, I was listening to Shotgun by Jr. Walker yesterday and was struck for the first time by the fact that David Sanborn must have, at some point, internalized that tune; or, he listened to whoever Jr. Walker listened to. Anyway, off to my gig right now, but I’ll be back.

ps – I always wondered if Steve Jobs transcribed the “one more thing” lick from Peter Falk?

Further thoughts on Toot Toot Tootsie – by Phil Dwyer

Phil Dwyer is has been a leading musician and educator in Canada for over 30 years. He founded and operated the ground-breaking Phil Dwyer Academy of Musical and Culinary Arts and is entering the final year of a degree in law. He plays SeaWind saxophones exclusively. In 2013 he was made a Member of the Order of Canada, and in 2015 was named an Honorary Fellow of the Royal Conservatory of Music.


A while back I posted on a particular Sonny Rollins phrase and how it related to my approach for developing technique, style, and vocabulary. A few further thoughts on that topic. If you want to be an improvisor you have to practice improvising. So, if you were to take a look at the Sonny thing discussed previously and wonder what you could do next here are a few ideas that involve taking one simple idea and, by exercising your creativity muscle, transform it in different ways so you get maximum value. For example you could do this: ; this ; or this.

Those are just examples off the top of my head, obviously there are a lot more possible variations. Along these same lines, here are a couple of other fragments that I use as warmups but which are also – in various forms – part of my vocabulary. The first one is a bit of a Freddie Hubbard tune called Happy Times. Here it is as it appears in the tune. And this is a variation that I use as an “all keys” warmup. Once again, as with the Sonny phrase, use your own imagination to see what kind of variations you can come up with and how you could apply them.

Finally, the opening phrase of a great Bud Powell tune called Wail. If you took a half-dozen phrases from Bud Powell tunes – Dance of the Infidels, Bouncin with Bud, Parisian Thoroughfare for example – and put them through the ‘theme and variations’ process you would be well on your way to developing a great bebop vocabulary.

Another great transcription…

Back when I was about 16 I used to go to Vancouver and hang out with some of the players who were making there mark on the professional scene there. Perry White, Patric Caird, Tom Keenlyside (who was more established) and Campbell Ryga were all very encouraging and they turned me on to a lot of music that I might never have found on my own. I remember hearing John Coltrane play But Not For Me at Pat Caird’s place and having my mind completely blown. Cam was listening to a wide variety of stuff, I heard Eddie Harris, David Sanborn, and Bunky Green for the first time through Campbell. Another recording that Cam played me was the first Michael Brecker/Claus Ogerman collaboration. One track in particular really stands out in my memory, so I was happy to see what appears to be a very accurate transcription show up on the intrawebs. Check it out here.

Do as I do, not as I say…Phil Dwyer

A lot of times when I’m teaching I find myself expounding on things which don’t necessarily reflect how I approach music or my general philosophy. An example would be teaching someone scale theory, or modes (although I rarely mention the latter unless it’s in the context of something to put on ice cream). That’s all well and good, but teaching someone the ‘bebop’ scale is somewhat akin to handing a medical student a scalpel and saying, “here, we use these…have at ‘er.” The resulting butchery in medicine and music is likely to be similar, albeit with varying degrees of danger to the patient. I think part of the reason for defaulting to this approach is that I find it really hard to quantify how I learned things. Over the next little while I am going to try and decode it a bit, if only for my own edification.

I was never much of a theory guy when I was learning – at least not in terms of how much time I spent thinking about theory relative to the amount of time I spent playing. However, one thing that I did find very helpful over the years was to extract short motifs from recordings and use them as the basis for my practice. I think the reason I was attracted to this method is that I would get the dual benefit of improving my technique and, by emulating the phrasing, articulation, etc., from the recording I would improve my time feel and other conceptual aspects of the improvisational process.

I was pondering this the other day while I was playing my horn and just kind of randomly started playing this particular phrase that I learned from a record called The Sound of Sonny (Sonny being Sonny Rollins). The tune was a kind of a silly tune called Toot Toot Tootsie but as usual Sonny made the most of it. Near the end, after the piano solo there is a solo break where Sonny modulates up 3 semitones with a repeated phrase going up chromatically, with the last phrase leading beautifully into the top of chorus. Here is it is.

Toot Toot Tootsie

I’m not even sure this is 100% accurate, but that’s not even the point exactly. It’s certainly close enough to get the benefits. If you took this 12 bars of music, played it along with the recording many times until you had it embedded in your brain, and then worked it through a bunch of different keys then you would really done something of value to your saxophone playing and overall musicianship. More on this later, but for now I have to get back to studying legal cases! Best, Phil Dwyer