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Now for a blast from my past. In 1989 I was a live-in assistant to composer and jazz musician Lasse Färnlöf, the man many know from his composition Grandfathers Waltz. We played music, checked out the latest in music tech and worked through his compositions. He taught me a lot. One day Lasse said: "we" have a gig this afternoon do you have any tunes?" "Sure I said." That's King Eriks Blues.
It's Lasse on fluegelhorn, me on piano and sorry to say I've forgotten his name on bass. Just listen to Lasse's soulful horn! Man I miss him.
Jazzwee: Your questions are way above my pay grade, but I'll offer this. As my summer jazz camp, the drum instructor talked about how different drummers play on different parts of the beat. He compared Elvin Jones, who divided the beat into triplets and played on the third part of the beat, with Jimmy Cobb, who divided the beat into four parts and play on the fourth part. This is mostly heard on the ride cymbal. They also play right on the beat; he was talking about the not they hit after hitting two and four. He said Elvin's choice made for a more open sound. I may be butchering his point, but it's what I recall.
#1998491 - 12/12/1206:22 PMRe: Jazz Study Group 2: Advanced Players
Joined: Apr 2007 Posts: 7,203jazzwee
7000 Post Club Member
Jazzwee: Your questions are way above my pay grade,...
LOL - It's above mine too. But I'm beginning to appreciate the subtleties.
For example, I feel that my drummer's triplet eighth (ding-ding-A-ding) is in the wrong spot. That it needs to be dragged just a tad.
Absent that, I've just asked my drummer to play 2 & 4 (like Art Blakey) and play the rest open because I don't think he's feeling that swing eighth on the triplet. I realize now that EVERYONE, and I mean EVERYONE must feel that triplet eighth ( the -A- ) exactly and precisely or you don't swing. It has to be the exact position of the upbeat eighth.
Now I don't know about the rest of it. Obviously someone has to mark or imply the exact downbeat or you can't have an exact triplet.
umm ... my 2 cents about in front of the beat, etc.
IF you're listening to recordings and you can't tell, that may indicate that right now it's not a concept to work with. having said that, if you practice with the metronome on 2 & 4 and if you're comfortable with it on those beats, then you can experiment and see what happens if try "rush" the metronome w/out losing your connection to it. that's in front of the beat. trying to lag way behind it is behind the beat. IF you can control that with the metronome you could probably begin to bring the concept to your band.
HOWEVER. and this where it gets verrrrrrrrrrryyyyyyy subjective ..... even really accomplished jazz musicians don't always agree on where the beat is and if it's being pushed or not. for example, i read an interview with ron carter recently and the interview said something about how tony williams (ron carter) played way in front of the beat. and ron carter told the interview, basically, that while he understood why he would say it, it nevertheless WASN'T correct! rc said that tc was simply anticipating 16ths notes which to him wasn't pushing the beat.
dexter gordon, among others is famous for playing behind the beat. maybe the king of behind the beat is the vocalist "little" jimmy scott.
another way to see these kinds of things is that older (extremely experienced) jazz musicians become very adaptable - they can play on or in front or behind as the situation requires.. younger (extremely talented) jazz musicians often push the beat relentlessly. and as they get more experienced they often then sit more on the beat. but these are generalizations. really first rate musicians are capable of treating time like a rubber band. literally!
in your band, if your bassist is pushing the beat, it may be because he knows (whether consciously or not) that your drummer has no 2 & 4 feel (as you say). so your bass player may be trying to compensate. that's also a pretty common scenario. if the bass player is strong enough it's a scenario that can pretty much work. but that's a big hypothetical if!
you might try at a rehearsal getting everyone to play with a metronome on two and four and also on all four beats. a lot of musicians don't think that's helpful AT ALL, so that's something to consider. all of musicians, particularly in beginning stages, can't keep that steady sense of time that a metronome requires. but metronomic time isn't always what you want ....
you could try playing along with whatever recording it is that hits the style that you'd like to be playing in. that can get interesting because, if you play along with, say miles davis at the black hawk, you'll find that that band rushes like crazy! on that recording at least.
same with bill evans and his trio once the tempos start to move past medium fast. bill tended to rush rush rush! in his trios. with miles davis and others where he was a sideman, you don't hear that at all from him.
. ... another strategy is to try to get everyone to focus on the kind of groove they want and they like. discuss it, talk about it ... see who can clearly demonstrate it.
so, hope this is helpful ... oh! and one more strategy. if everyone in the bands tries to play softer that'll automatically make it easier for them to hear everyone else in the band. when everyone's really listening TOGETHER to EACH OTHER that's when the magic starts. ... the magic stops when everyone's listening in their head to what they think it should sound like without listening to each other in the band. and of course, there's everything in between ....
Hey printer1, obviously you're a very experienced jazzer with the deep level of these comments.
I draw a distinction between the soloists dragging the beat and the rest of the rhythm section. I realize that various feels can be made with dragging vs. not. For example, Oscar Peterson is likely right on top while modern players swing with a consistent drag. Certainly Herbie dragged, though I can hear him change his position.
My problem though is just with the rhythm section. It is really hard to get a good swing feel yourself (as a pianist) if you're not convinced the rhythm section has a good groove. Now it's up to me to add or subtract from this groove. I know I can enhance the swing feel from the way I comp. I'm having a better understanding of how to do this.
But I've got to start with the rhythm section. I hate doing medium to slow swing with the band because we don't do it well. So we have a tendency to play swing tunes up. That way it's easier to hide the deficiency.
I think I've isolated the issue as being with the drummer and I've started the fixing off with just asking him to do a nice 2 & 4 feel. I think it's the simplest to implement.
I've noticed a lot of drummers not accent downbeats at all so then the swing eighth triplet is the accented note. The downbeat is played softer. I just noticed it with this video of Mel Lewis. Also I noticed an occasional drag on the downbeat on the drums (sounds like very slightly behind).
Anyway, I'm searching for answers...I've even asked my teacher to listen to recordings and other than saying it doesn't swing, I haven't had much of an answer other than have the drummer focus on Ding-Ding-A-Ding. That made it worse (which is why I'm going the opposite route and focusing on 2 & 4).
Thank you to EVERYONE for answering my question on whether you can play a LH root where there's a bass. That was really helpful and I will read your answers in much more detail tomorrow. Nice experiment Al with your recorded bassline.
Hey Chris That was fun. You two had a modern sound even back then.
jazz wee .... just that you're identifying the problem and putting things in place is well, the right thing to do.
in making my comments about in front of the beat and behind the beat, etc, it's in a context that we can hear those things. because that's an advanced level of playing. you see, i wouldn't say that HH drags. i think it's more that he knows how to pull way back on the beat BECAUSE he knows that his bassist and drummer (RC & TW) know how to respond when he does that. "know how to respond" as in explicitly responding with a musical, rather than a "corrective," effect.
i do know exactly how you feel about trying to swing when a rhythm section isn't. some tough advice i received a long time ago that i really try to apply as much as humanly possible is (and this is a paraphrase): "Consider Charlie Parker (Bird). He always sounded great no matter who he played with and no matter what the level of the players around him." Of course, some would say there are places where he doesn't sound so great because of personal stuff, drugs, (bad recording, bad whatever ... etc.) but that's well, besides the point. As to Bird always sounding great, the goal is to reach that in our playing w/out having to feel that the rhythm section (or anyone in the band) puts up a block that was so strong that it can't be overcome. One of the things that can happen when one person in the band is really "playing" and others aren't is that that one person who is "playing" will sometimes inspire the band to reach a higher level than they might otherwise. think michael jordan winning titles with a lot of support from limited role players!
well, this is idealistic i, know. and it can be quite frustrating at times (and that's understatement!). but ... focusing on what we're doing and how well we're doing it (and how we can improve) when things aren't (musically) going well is a really good way to make a lot of musical progress. ... the reverse of the charlie parker anecdote is pretty much ANYONE can sound fairly good with a great rhythm section! .... well, there's always the exception to this too ... ... but i think you know what i mean.
anyway, one last idea that might help when playing slower swing tempos is to focus on the triplets. making those triplets as big and as round as possible can define the beat and then the 2 and the 4 will just start to pop. (eventually, that is!)
... but for sure you're going to make progress in the situation you describe if only because (a) you've identified a problem and (b) you have a definable solution - one that makes sense to you - to address it ... those two things are KEY!!!!!
Great words printer1! I think something triggered in me after discussing this last night. I was listening to a bunch of videos and I realized that I'm not being aggressive rhythmically with my comping and blowing. What I mean is that I wasn't implying a strong rhythm on my own with sharp stabs that swing.
Perhaps I haven't really noticed exactly before but as I watched this lady play I noticed she was really implying the rhythm strongly in solo piano.
I practiced emulating a little bit of this and I thought I sounded different overnight. I bet if I actively imply the rhythm on my end, the rhythm section will feel it. Hopefully, this will overcome the weakness in the swing feel overall. Since I'm actively trying to solve a problem, I listened to a recent recording after I told the drummer to give me a strong 2/4 feel and I really thought it worked on slow swing. It's an improvement from the stiff ding-ding-A-ding that he had. I said to him that I wanted a strong 2/4 feel with open feel on the fills. It was after listening to that that I realized I became the new problem again because it became my duty to provide more rhythmic direction.
Regarding HH, I know he can drag because my teacher pointed it out and had me practice it. He mixes it in all the time. It's a very precise drag, not some random loss of time. My teacher drags too almost all the time and leads to a straight sound. A lot of horn players drag and it's more common than piano and then it seems to me that modernpiano players started copying that.
Talking about articulation on slow swing, I'm liking really rounding out that sound with an upbeat accent and then letting the downbeat just fade. I'm practicing this too. Unfortunately, I've spent most of my time practicing in mid to up tempos and have neglected slow swing.
Maybe I'll record something and see if it comes out correct. If not, I do have a gig tomorrow so I'll know if I finally fix this nagging band swing issue.
Hey Chris That was fun. You two had a modern sound even back then.
Thanks. Lasse was a forerunner and an inspiration to us all. He studied at USC in the 60's, wrote symphonic works, did studio sessions w Quincy Jones, jammed w Don Ellis, talked about songwriting with Johnny Mandel . . . man the stories he could tell! This is a Swedish band he had in the 70's.
Hey Chris. Kool clip. What an awesome band Lasse had, so I'm kinda concluding that European jazz fusion was thriving in the '70s.
Oh yes. There was also the Prog Rock scene with some marvellous keyboard players; Emerson Lake and Palmer, Gentle Giant, Genesis, Exception, Yes, Brian Auger, etc. Before moving to the States (to play with Miles) John Mclaughlin had a great band in the UK. In Scandinavia there were several bands like Lasse's. That's how I started out, playing a Wurlitzer (and then a Rhodes - oh I was so hip ) in a sort-of-fusion band. Then moving up to include a mini-moog and an organ . . long hair, tight satin trousers, the works. I got to do loads of studio work being the young one with the know-how of synths, being able to read music and no fear of cables.
custard apple ... making the triplets as big and as round as possible ... one way to think about that is subdivide a beat (a quarter note) into triplets and make sure all the triplets are equal in duration.
you can practice this by repeating a word or a name with three syllables - or just counting to three - 1, 2, 3, 1, 2, 3, 1, 2, 3). as you say (actually as you chant) the triplets, try to really get them to flow and roll. then you can accent the third one in each group ... but not too much! over articulating the triplets doesn't sound all that great.
now, having said that, if you're a pianist (which i guess we are on this forum!) you can even make the notes in the triplet slightly larger by holding them so that each one overlaps the other by just a little. This particular technique (making the notes overlap) is more or less the same technique that classical pianists use to play a really singing legato melody.
if you listen to recordings with slow swing tempos, you'll hear how drummers work this stuff out. pianists who play a lot of triplets ... recordings of wynton kelly and early bill evans are another good source. and early herbie hancock playing standards where he sometimes plays a lot of triplet figures, one after another. another way to get the idea is listen to music (swinging jazz) at HALF-SPEED. you can really hear how exactly and how cleanly a lot of soloists articulate their eighth notes ... cannonball adderly, for example, at half speed is pretty amazing.
a few last things .... usually swing eighth notes are discussed as the first note having the duration of two eighth note triplets and the last one being equal to the one remaining eighth note. HOWEVER, not usually discussed is how a lot of players break this up with combinations so that the first note is a single triplet and the second note is equal to two triplets.
... if you have the charlie parker omnibook (which is a great resource if you haven't already found it .. and even if you have found it!) and if you play the solos in it at a fairly slow speed - articulating them as did charlie parker - you'll probably know all you need to know about how triplets work in a swing feel.
one more source ... fred hersch, in a lot of interviews, talks about being able to recognize pianists by the sound of their eighth notes. maybe another way to say this is everyone has signature feel to how they articulate their lines. ... among contemporary pianists, brad meldau is someone fred mentions as having a great eighth note signature.
ahhh! one more place to look for clarity! listen to drummers - like art blakey - who have a great shuffle beat. that shuffle must usually is pure triplet feel.
this is A LOT easier to demonstrate in person than it is to describe so i hope this helpful ..
HOWEVER, not usually discussed is how a lot of players break this up with combinations so that the first note is a single triplet and the second note is equal to two triplets.
OR...the other scenario of the second note being close to 1.5 of a triplet or close to a straight eighth. And the issue that the length of the second eighth (the swing eighth) determines the feeling of drag since it moves the first eighth/beat AWAY from the downbeat in varying degrees.
This is what I was talking about earlier.
And Brad Mehldau is supreme example of this. His second eighth ALWAYS starts in the exact right spot but will vary the length.
I suppose this can also be measured as a subdivision in 6/8.
Talking about swing eighth signatures, it is clearly quite difficult for someone without the chops (like me for example) to time those notes perfectly. No wonder it takes so long to perfect this. I see people who've played jazz for 40 years and still don't have very controlled eighths. Lots of technique required. Clearly changing the length of that swing eighth offers a lot of change in texture and shape of the phrases, while keeping its starting position fixed.
jazz wee ... you're right . there are a lot of scenarios in there ranging from one extreme to the other. BUTm what we want to avoid early on - and of course you're not suggesting it - is overwhelming the learning process w/too much detail. so it's the BASIC pattern that you want. from there, the other stuff flows.
in terms of how to get that control, it's really not even a technical issue. just practice SLOWLY. very slowly! - think tai chi!). i hear you about some who have been playing for 40 years and still don't have it. but let's leave that group out of the discussion!
.. one the serious lessons that came from the lenny tristano side of things was slow, slow exact practice. if you slow a recording down 50 percent or even further, you can really hear the amazing articulation skills that master musicians bring to the art. his recording of his own own "lineup" is pretty amazing in this regard. he did slowly and then doubled the tape speed for the final recording. his phrasing and articulation is amazing in that recording.
so not to beat a dead horse! but the key thing is learn to control the simple swing eighth pattern at some slow tempo.
hope this isn't beating the horse that's already dead! but w/out the foundation, the decorations that flow from the foundation likely can't exist. "likely" because there's always SOMEONE who finds a creative way around it!
find ANY WK transcriptions on the web. there are a whole bunch out there (just google "wynton kelly transcription". you could just choose one or two phrases w/triplets from any of the solos you find. then practice those few phrases until you really like the feel you've developed. you'll know when you have it! if you can find a freddie the freeloader transcription, that's one one gem among many ....
actually, you could do the same w/passages from the omnibook. charlie parker has unbelievable ways of playing triplets. so, again, just find a passage or two that you like or and practice the phrases until you like the way it feels. much more important to master something small than to play something much longer without mastery!
it's also good to transpose whatever phrases you choose into all 12 keys. but if that's difficult to start, don't worry about it. maybe just transpose PART of the phrase ... the important part, again, is gain mastery over something, no matter how small! over time, that expertise with something small with lead to expertise with something just a little larger. and if it seems like it's taking a long time, well, that's just the way it is!
these little tiny gains, one at a time, slow at first but faster and faster as you keep at it all add up.
one more thing about speed ... hal galper has a great book called "forward motion." in that book he talks about dizzy gillespie who said something like the faster you play the slower you should think. which is to say, all the slow work you're doing now does translate to faster tempos late ....
BTW printer1 -- I just finished a gig tonight and I came to it with the sense that I'll force the rhythm from my comping. But let me tell you, the rhythm section was TRULY OFF. No groove. So I may have been only one suggesting the groove. Bass was pushing. Drummer reverted back to a stiff Ding-Ding-A-Ding pattern. Maybe they followed me after awhile but it took some strong pushing.
So it proves the point that it's very hard to swing when the rhythm section does not swing. it's like swimming against the current. Part of what I have to do to swing is to hit the swing eighth exactly. Except....where is it? When it is a moving target, it's impossible.
Maybe I'm just to hard on myself. I have to listen to the recordings but I didn't feel good about it.
jazzwee! sorry to hear of that pain! i do know it well! ... try and keep in mind that deep learning doesn't happen overnite ... the irony of your post is if YOU read it, you'll see that you recognize that you should go easier on yourself! all you can do is the best that you can do to get that groove in the band to be where you know it should be.
another way forward is to talk with the bass and drum guys. ask them what they think they're hearing. be honest and constructive in your response.
the key is: develop trust so that you're all trying to work together. ... wish i could say more but really the facts are (a) you know what the issues are and (b) you have a plan for your own self-improvement and (c) as you improve and get better, bit by bit someone will hear you somewhere and say 'i want HIM in my band!'
but it all take time which is why it's good to remember that story about charlie parker who sounded great regardless of who he was playing with.
one more story from the vaults : i was in a band eons ago (and i mean EONS!) ... where the drummer was lazy, not committed, and not responsive unless massively prodded. i won't mention names except to say this guy disappeared for a while. and showed up on the scene again a year or so later. and from that point on, it wasn't long before he was recognized as one best drummers in jazz (and he still is recognized as such).
be kind and sympathetic to yourself (and patient too!) as you learn. stay focused on YOUR goal.
i think you can pry out the general gist from this .... yes ... and sorry! am not trying to be mystical!