Jazz Mandolin

  1. Barry Mando
    Barry Mando
    It seems to me that the Mandolin is extremely underrated in the world of Jazz. There have been and there are great mandolin players in jazz but why hasnt it taken off? What do you think?
  2. gonzograss
    I particularly wonder why it hasn't become more popular in Gypsy Jazz. I would hate to think the only reason would be that Django and Stephane didn't use a mandolin player. Seems to me the mando is made for that kind of music.

    My recent experiences with a jazz guitar player have pointed out that when he's playing rhythm with all those luscious jazz chords, the mando sounds great playing lead. But when he solos and I'm the only rhythm instrument, it's painfully obvious that the mandolin doesn't have the capabilities of a guitar for covering all that range. Well. . . I don't have the capabilities any way. I guess this will stimulate some discussion.
    Certainly you could point to Grisman and Don Stiernberg (just to name the most obvious masters) as being world class jazz rhythm players, but to an intermediate player like myself who has spent many years chopping bluegrass chords on the offbeat, I find myself really challenged to give the guitar player an adequate basis, either harmonically or rhythmically.
    Anybody out there have helpful ideas or similar experience?
    Joe Hannabach
  3. dmahling
    so that is where the jazz cittern comes in I guess;
    with the cittern you have 5 strings C,G,DAe, you have a mandolin and a mandola wrapped into one. You can play solo mandolin up the neck - on a 19 inch scale cittern that is - to maintain your violin fingering.

    and when it comes time to comp, you go to the mandola, voila!
  4. MandoJZ
    I play an electric 8 string mandolin in a community jazz band. Since it's a volunteer organization, we play in a new combination of instruments almost every time. Most of the time I'm sitting in the rhythm section ,with drum kit, percussion, basses, piano and guitar. I'm pretty much left up to my own devices and turn up the amp. Occasionally the rhythm section is the drum kit and me , or a bass and me, and sometimes it's just me. On those occasions the texture and density of the combo sounds a bit thin to my ears. We play jazz classics, bebop, blues, Coltrane, Davis, Hubbard and Harris. When I'm playing with the bigger bands, I get to think more about what combination of tones the composer was trying to highlight/accent, when I'm playing in the smaller combinations I find I should be thinking about groups of tones that gives a fuller more broad spectrum of the chords written, and I play out of 1st position more. I wish I could tell you that I have mastered that, it's more theory than practice at this point. I have thought about going to a 5 string, to potentially have access to a few more lower notes.
  5. Barry Mando
    Barry Mando
    Wow! Great responses guys. Lets see... Gonzo, it seems to me that Gypsy Jazz gets most of the mandolin attention. When I look up "jazz mandolin" on this here internet I mostly find the gypsy genre as apposed to standard (a very close second if not tied) and definitely modern jazz. I will say that there should be more and I think we will see some more gypsy mando in the future. If you havent seen this video you should. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wXhynVqy9_I Fantastico!!
    What I think is cool about the acoustic mando is the incredible chord voicing it can produce. If your clever enough with inversions and voice leading, I think, you can be as strong as any guitar player.
    dmahling, I havent tried the cittern but sounds like fun. I have played the Octave acoustic mando for jazz and it works really well. I feel, though, you lose a little of the percussion attack that the standard mando gives but the lower register is fantastic and is more in the guitar range.
    MandoJZ, Sounds like you guys have a great thing going on with the community jazz band. in regards to using a 5 string I definitely love the potential of the electric 5 string baritone mandolin. It is my main instrument and in the jazz world it is perfect. It rivals guitar in every way and I have made it my life's work to show just how versatile that particular instrument can be. Check out my website and you tube videos and see what I mean.

    Thanks everyone for joining and discussing with y'alls help will make sure everybody knows the potential of the Mandolin.
  6. Tom Morse
    Tom Morse
    Hi...I'm just going to wade in here with a thought: I'm not convinced that the jazz mandolin belongs in the rhythm section. I play in an acoustic trio of bass, guitar, and mandolin. I find that trying to play rhythm like a guitarist would comes through rather reedy and doesn't add a lot to the overall sound. I tend to play chords tastefully but sparingly, more painterly if you will, and let the bass carry the tempo duties. If you listen to some of Don Stiernberg's recordings with John Carlini, Don basically puts his mandolin away when John's taking a lead break...which is exactly what the solo instruments in a jazz band do. The alto, tenor, trumpet don't honk on as the trombone takes a solo. As Miles told Coltrane, sometimes you should just take the m....................g horn out of your mouth. What do you guys think?
  7. Chip Booth
    Chip Booth
    Backing up a guitar is tough, because a typical mandolin voice gets right up there in the same register as the solo guitar and can clash. I use a 10 string that allows me to get a bit lower, and that helps, it also has a mandola sized body so the tonality is a bit rounder and warmer than a typical F hole mandolin. Even so I back up sparingly or I play swinging chops when I can. I have less problems backing other instruments. I work with a pianist/giuitarist and the guitar is tough but the piano is joy to play with.
  8. Tom Wright
    Tom Wright
    The main jazz voices are the big sounds of brass. Piano is not useful for marching bands, but it is plenty audible without amplification. String bands are a special case of jazz, mainly gypsy-based in Europe, folk and ragtime-based here. Brazil has its won version of string jazz, choro. But the guitar can do anything an electric mandolin can do, and more. So the player would have to overcome that handicap.

    If it is a player with his own band, that is not an issue, and if the player is more adept on the mandolin, its ease of melodic expression might be an advantage. An advantage a 5-string mandolin might have is the wide range of low to high, allowing solo performance like 7-string guitar players. That instrument is 2 octaves plus a 4th. The 5-string is 2 octaves plus a major 3rd, only a half step less, and in a very useful range, right in the melodic sweet spot. That large range is also easier to reach, physically more compact.

    I think more as a solo voice, from playing violin/viola. But my time as a guitar player in rock days taught me the pleasure of laying down the groove. I can do a lot of that with a 5-string, but I'm still not going to get a gig being a backup guitar player.

    We have to make our own bands, like other rare jazz instruments such as violin or viola. Or go solo, the route I'm taking after having spent enough money on sidemen.
  9. Tom Wright
    Tom Wright
    Here's the way I'm using my 5-string for jazz, an original slow samba:
    Right-click to download if your browser can't play it.
  10. Simen Kjaersdalen
    Simen Kjaersdalen
    Hi, there Guys.

    I think this is a historical question. That the mandolin has not made it as it should in jazz, has in my opinion nothing to do with it's range, sound, chord-abilities etc., but that the jazz-society simply hasn't taken the instrument in proper use. It wasn't "there'" when it happened, simply, when the basics were established. I think many in jazz think of the mandolin more as a bluegrass instrument, and the mandolin has no real jazz profile. To give it that "all" that has to be done is that some really good players profile it, to give it that unike touch and voice and personal feel that matters so much. For me your way of playing jazz, Tom W., has those qualities, but the question is of course how much you wish to sacrifice for this music. The main rule in jazz is the same as in all other styles: Total liftime devotion. And of course, stay
  11. Tom Wright
    Tom Wright
    Don Stiernberg is doing a lot for keeping acoustic mandolin jazz alive, and David Grisman is seminal for extending the range of styles available. But I think the main jazz players on guitar are using electrics, like John Scofield, so electric mandolin is the thing to watch, I think. Of course, jazz in general is now down to a tiny sliver of the music business, less than classical music. Mainly it is about teachers making a living, and students learning to be teachers. Not really a bad thing, I guess.
  12. mandolinfox
    I'm struggling right now with the best way to comp on the jazz mandolin while others are soloing .This discussion has given me several things to think about, and more importantly, to try. I started out doing off-beat chop chords, and that didn't work at all. Then I studied Jethro's Mandol in Method and started using his three note chords. That helped a lot and I was able to comp on up-tempo swing tunes in the style of Freddie Green (my band does a lot of Benny Goodman/Charlie Christian). But it didn't work on the ballads. So for the ballads I'm going to take the above suggestion and just lay out.

    Looking forward to more discussion!
  13. Pasha Alden
    Pasha Alden
    Hi there a new mandolin player, but absolutely love jazz. Would agree. The mandolin lends itself to jazz. Someone in this thread mentioned some good mando jazz players. Are their any well-known names? Would love to try and purchase their music.

    I have a few compositions in my head, but I need to grow on the mandolin a bit more before I can call myself a mandojazzer.

  14. richieb
    As a converted guitar player,I've always thought my dream instrument would be a doubleneck: mando on top, 6 string guitar on bottom. Love the mando for soloing, but miss the "extra texture" and the low end of the guitar for comping. What do you think?
  15. Tom Morse
    Tom Morse
    Couple thoughts: One. In the nearly three years since I last posted here, I've been giving the jazz mandolin more focus as a drum (snare/high hat) as well as a solo instrument. That syncopated chop can add a ton.Keep the voice simple and true and the soloist of the moment will appreciate the metronomic favor. Even though Don S. still sits back. And two. VanillaMando asked about jazz mandolin players: David Grisman, Mike Marshall, too (track down Mike's Coltrane-inspired "Giant Hornpipe"), Jethro Burns of course, Tiny Moore of course (5-solid body elec.), Don Stiernberg (Jethro's protegé), Paul Glasse (Tiny Moore's protegé), Gary Lambert, Don Julian's blues mando should be included, Aaron Weinstein, Andy Statman, dig up some Dave Appollon, Will Patton, and Chris Thile, who must be a mutant! (Check out Mike Marshall and Chris tearing up Charlie Parker's "Scrapple From The Apple" here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bvf3JIQyEnY) And learn your iiVIs.
  16. crisscross
    "when he's playing rhythm with all those luscious jazz chords,"

    When I play Gypsy Swing style rhythm guitar I restrict myself to 4note chords, that could also be played on mandolin.
    Grisman does that on "Russian Lullaby" while Garcia solos
    Sounds quite full, and they don't seem to have a bass player.
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