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Re: Looking for Jazz chart reading and performance tips!

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Posted by andrew ( on July 15, 2002 at 10:26:49:

In Reply to: Looking for Jazz chart reading and performance tips! posted by moonfunshop on July 14, 2002 at 14:41:55:

: Hi,
: I have an upcoming jazz gig which will involve some chart reading. What are the BIG things to remember when playing jazz? (especially when using charts) I would like to hear how y'all handle it.

: thanks!!!!

It depends...if you are just reading out of a fake book, that's one thing. If you are reading written out bass parts, that's another.

My advice is this. Get to the gig early to look over the charts. If this is your first gig with the band and you are site-reading, I would also advise to remain sober throughout the night. Alcohol WILL kill your concentration.

If you are reading specific bass parts, always check the key, the tempo and the style first thing (is it rock, latin, swing, ballad?.)

Look through and mark any repeats, codas, time or feel changes, key changes, etc., etc....Don't be shy to ask the band leader about things you may be uncertain about.

I've gotten to gigs before where the chart is all marked up to hell and the leader says "play as is!??"

Also make sure you are communicating with the drummer so you are both in synch - ask him about transitions, how he intends to play certain he going to play the head in a '2' feel before going into a straight swing pattern? Your ability to keep rock-solid time with the drummer is the most critical element of your relationship with him....any uncertainty in the rest of the chart can creep in and screw up the tempo.

If you are reading out of a fake book, open your ears. If you have some piano training, it is always helpful to watch the piano player's left hand and listen for inversions. Also teach yourself to transpose. Many times a vocalist wil call up a song you know like the back of your hand, but call it in a key that is different from the key you learned it in.

I would also recommend learning to read in "concert C" so that you can read the melody and see where the melody fits in relation to the changes.

Also, listen to the vocalist. Vocalists are a tricky bunch - they may jump ahead, lose their place, sing in the wrong key, alert to vocalists...if your are with a good piano or guitar player, follow what they are doing. If the piano or guitar player are not very good, you might have to take the lead to catch up with the vocalist.

What if you get lost?

When I was a young bass player, someone told me that if you get lost, casually, but descreetly, knock your music stand over and when the leader looks back at you, shrug your shoulders as if to say "whoops!" Not the best advice, but it works in a pinch!

Seriously, if you get lost, first thing is don't panic. You've still got your ears, and there are certainly clues in the chart as to where the rest of the band is. Look for common transitions that are most times marked by measure numbers. Listen to hear if you are in a solo section. Do the changes sound familiar? Are you at the bridge? A 'shout' chorus?

Listen for the dynamics, and look to see where the dynamics are in relation to the chart.

Is the band playing the melody? If so, you may be close to the end, or the band might have jumped back the beginning as a result of a 'DS al coda' Is the singer singing? Many times charts are marked when the vocalist comes in.

If, per-chance, the entire band is quiet and you are still playing, then the best advice is: STOP PLAYING YOUR BASS - THE SONG IS OVER!!

Overall, the best advice is to concentrate and anticipate! After you've been doing this for a while, you tend to see similar patterns from chart-to-chart and you also are able to identify your own bad habits.



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