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Interaction in jazz

Posted By: etcetra

Interaction in jazz - 04/28/09 08:08 AM

I am noticing that a lot of people just don't like having musical interaction when you play gigs with them. the drummer is expected do the high hat on 2&4, and the bass player is expected to just walk. It's extremely rare to hear bass player something as simple of pedal point let alone metric modulations. its frustrating because you felt like what you play doesn't matter and you might as well have band in the box play accompaniment.

I did meet people who actually listened to what you play, and it was really fun, you can actually pass ideas back and forth, and go out harmonically with them. They told me they felt the same kind of frustration and they were even discouraged when they did try something different.

I realized that this does not necessary have to do with level of musicianship.. i met a lot of people in US who were solid but they really didn't pay attention to what everyone else was doing.

my question is why is that some people are so oblivious to this regardless of their proficinecy?? when i hear bass player do pedal point or do a sidestepping thing where he plays ii-V half step above and back, for me its exciting and i try to make sure i catch that next time it happens. And playing ballads came be very magical if people listened to the dynamics..and its rare to hear drummers really pay attention and play softer when needed.

Isn't part of the fun with music the kind of interaction you have with other musicians?

Isn't part of the fun in music the
Posted By: majones

Re: Interaction in jazz - 04/28/09 02:35 PM

Originally Posted by etcetra
Isn't part of the fun in music the......

....interaction with each other?
Yes. However, I've found this interaction does depend on the length of time the musician has played with others and specifically with others in this group. Takes a band awhile to work out who does what.

Too often; me, me, me and not we. Being able to augment the efforts of others sometime slips between the chairs.

I chalk it all up to inexperience or ego. Time to, first, understand how to play with others and then time to anticipate how the other members of the group will handle specific situations. Now -------

That and $1.89 will get you a gallon of gas in East Texas -- today.

Posted By: jotur

Re: Interaction in jazz - 04/28/09 05:05 PM

Do I think the fun is in the interaction? Definitely. But I'm with majones on this one. It depends -

I play in an amateur band - traditional tunes mostly - all with day jobs, all pretty committed to doing a good job on gigs, but in it precisely for the fun of playing music. But it took us literally years (3 or 4) before we really even started being able to hear each other - competent enough on our own instruments to spare the attention, sophisticated enough in listening/hearing, familiar enough with each other, all those things. For us it will be a never ending learning experience.

On the other hand my brother is a professional bass player who learned the band's repertoire from cds, on the plane out to join them for a try-out period, and from the beginning he and the drummer knew who was playing stylistically a little ahead of the beat and who was simply rushing the tempo laugh , he and the lead guitar knew exactly who was playing 7 chords and who wasn't and were communicating about whether those actually fit the band's style. My brother was playing without being able to hear himself on some tunes because they were working out the sound mix, and on and on. It's a never ending learning experience for him, too. But some of it's a level to which I'm not going to get.

I also think it's like any other skill set - the more experience one has the more one can do this with more subtle music, and the more nuanced one can be with any music. So even gigging musicians are going to be doing it at different levels - maybe they're already maxed out with the repertoire they're playing at gigs, and can only be spontaneous during a practice or a jam. That's certainly the case with us most of the time. So if you're mostly subbing in with a group on an actual gig, maybe you got the job precisely because you're at a skill level that allows you to do that, and they're at their max during the gig itself. Not really an ego thing, maybe.

So, like Malcolm, I don't think it is mostly an "attitude" of don't want to, not mostly an "ego" thing. I think it's inexperience, ignorance maybe, not realizing that playing with others is a skill set in addition to playing your own instrument, and the lack of time for a group to gel. Of course the more experience a player has the more they can at least approximate this with a new group as well.

There are always egos, of course, in any endeavor. But for me it's not a good idea to make that my first assumption about what's going on laugh because, IMHO, it's not what's going on the majority of the time.

Posted By: etcetra

Re: Interaction in jazz - 04/28/09 05:16 PM


I thought it was inexperience at first, but i realized that there are working musicians much more experienced than me who just don't like to interact. For some people doing things a little different makes them uncomfortable. I understand that some people can go a bit too crazy and other musicians might get lost, but when everything is so safe its so boring.

I think it really comes down to just listening to each other... i know some drummers who play loud no matter who they play with.. there are some drummers that i play with that actually pay attention to dynamic on my solo and come down in volume when necessary.. they are both proficient, its just that one choose to pay attention to details while the other doesn't.

It also depends their style too too.. for example the musicians i mentioned above who gave instructions not to interact play mostly bebop. They are not into the more modern stuff and they don't care for, stuff like miles davis quintet stuff with tony williams. They rarely play post bop tunes like ESP and other wayne shorter tunes
Posted By: jjo

Re: Interaction in jazz - 04/28/09 06:18 PM

Over the years, I've read a ton of interviews with the jazz greats. When they are asked why they asked someone to join their band, or why they like a certain player, they almost invariably respond "because he knew how to listen."
Posted By: etcetra

Re: Interaction in jazz - 04/28/09 06:47 PM

i guess its combination of a lot of things.

I try to give what the music needs, sometimes its cool to stretch out, but at one point you go back to just laying down the time, because you feel like its time to do that. I d do get lost sometime, but when it happens with the right people we start laughing in the middle of the performance.. there's something funny about that, we usually manage to get back once we realize we're off.


I agree its a skill set to a certain extent, but I also remember doing far more interaction than other experienced students even when i was starting out, and the musicians i'm talking about are much older than me..so I agree that its experience, but its a different kind of experience/ability than knowing your tunes and scales..

In some ways it has to do with your taste and what you appreciate in music. I feel like what Keith Jarrett's trio does is the pinnacle of interaction and i absolutely love how they work together, but i've heard some people complain about how they want to hear more high hit on 2&4..

I also remember watching Miles Davis DVD with tony Williams, and i was glued to every second of the performance, but i noticed other musicians being turned off at one point because it was just getting too abstract.

For some playing with someone like Jack Dejohnette is a fun challenge, but for others it may drive them mad.
Posted By: etcetra

Re: Interaction in jazz - 04/28/09 06:58 PM


btw by i attitude i didn't me correct/wrong attitude, i guess what i really meant is taste and preference. if your idol is bud powell chances are you don't want someone like dave holland playing behind you.

I wonder what is it that makes some people more attentive and listen than others.. i am noticing that there are musical skill set that you learn at school, like technique, theory and all that, but there are the meta-musical skill, like listening/interaction, playing with character/attitude that are seldom touched upon..I guess the former is skill, and the later has more to do with musicality.. In some ways it feels like some have that more than others, but in some ways the problem is that you rarely pay attention to that in music education.
Posted By: Emmery

Re: Interaction in jazz - 04/28/09 07:00 PM

In an episode of Northern Exposure years ago a famous rock star visited the town in Alaska and played the guitar with the local native rock band. He just took over the bands music slowly and the players stopped playing one by one until he was the only one left playing. One of the natives commented to him afterwards that in their culture they would name someone like him "Pebble.." to which the rock star smiled, that is until the native continued with ..."Pebble in your shoe". Ego has much to do with a musician not listening to the others or the idea that the other members are focused on them that they need not respond in kind.
Posted By: jotur

Re: Interaction in jazz - 04/28/09 07:09 PM

Originally Posted by etcetra
but its a different kind of experience/ability than knowing your tunes and scales..

I agree, and when I was talking about it being a skill set I meant that experience with that particular skill set - the experience/skill of playing in a group and listening to the other musicians and interacting. That particular skill set gets better with time, if one is aware one needs to get better. And, as you noticed when you were playing in school, for some people it originally comes more easily than it does for other people. But other people *can* learn it.

There's an interesting thread in the pianists corner right now about an accompanist to a bunch of vocalists and what a terrific job he did of staying with/helping out/enhancing the singers. It seems to me that musicians playing in a group *all* need those kinds of skills, and that the better they are at them the better the group is.

I don't know about your observation from your experience that it doesn't happen as often with the bebop musicians you've played with. You kind of added that information later smile But I think all ensemble players, from chamber music to the kind of traditional music I play, to jazz, are better the more they develop that interaction-with-each-other skill.

I also think, except maybe at a very high level of musicianship, it's probably not going to happen that everyone in the group is at the same skill level. So - part of what those with more skill have to do is - make the ones with less skill look good smile And if one *is* the one with less skill, then part of what you have to do is - support the ones with more skill and learn from them. It's always a mix, IMHO.

And I still suspect that if you are talking about the times you are subbing at a gig, that it may be that the musicians with whom you are subbing are at their max during gig time, and you were hired as a sub precisely because you have the skill set to be flexible and step in at the last minute.

Posted By: etcetra

Re: Interaction in jazz - 04/28/09 07:30 PM


Well, what you're saying in the last paragraph may be somewhat true.. i remember the drummer playing more conservatively on one gig because he wanted to sound more 'proffesional'.. he was the same person who complained how he has to just keep time on most gigs. Ihe wanted to make sure everything was right at the expense of losing some of the creativity.

also part of the reason/problem may be because I don't mind getting lost trying something .. i do admit that sometimes i do too much lose my place, maybe my impulse to try things is too much.. but then again my logic is "how do you know your limits if you don't actually test it?"
Posted By: jotur

Re: Interaction in jazz - 04/28/09 07:42 PM

Originally Posted by etcetra
but then again my logic is "how do you know your limits if you don't actually test it?"

LOL My sense, too. I do try to make sure I don't mess up a whole set or everyone else at a gig, but we like to stretch. For us, too, since we play for dancers who are dancing patterns, it's a courtesy to the dancers to not totally hose up a set, although we still do about once a gig. But we're always stretching something.

Posted By: jotur

Re: Interaction in jazz - 04/28/09 08:39 PM

Originally Posted by etcetra
also part of the reason/problem may be because I don't mind getting lost trying something .. i do admit that sometimes i do too much lose my place, maybe my impulse to try things is too much

I also have to say here that I sit in sometimes with other groups. I am very aware that it is "their" gig, "their" band, "their" music, and "their" possibility of a return engagement, and if I "too much lose my place" it's "their" reputation I'm jeopardizing. And not only do I care about them, because I'm just that kind of girl smile , it is also true that if I jeopardize them "too much" I won't be asked to sit in with them again smile And then the word will get around and I won't be asked to sit in with anyone else, either laugh So a little judiciousness to see that I don't do things "too much" is a good thing. When I'm with other musicians I know and they know my tendencies, so that *they* are the ones with more experience and can make *me* look good or get me back on track, and they're willing to do that, well, that's fine. But I think there's some useful attention to context that can be had here smile

Posted By: etcetra

Re: Interaction in jazz - 04/29/09 03:54 AM


You're right, and I probably would have played more conservatively if it wasnt for the sax player on that gig. we were having a blast. but we also had to be careful not to do too much for the sake of other band memebers. I guess we walked away with the feeling that we could do so much more with the right band.

I was listening to a recording i did with my friends from school couple of years ago.. i was having tedonitis problem and i couldn't play much, but there was something magical about the interaction in that group.. music can be so magical when you are playing with the right people.

thanks so much for all the response your post have been very helpful smile

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