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Thread: Playing with jazz musicians

  1. #1
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    Default Playing with jazz musicians

    For the last year I've been playing here in the Hampton Roads area with a jazz guitarist (elec.) and an electric bassist. I'm playing a mid-70s Givens A-model w/ a very old Fishman pickup, and I'm very happy with it.
    We've sounded pretty good to ourselves and have progressed to the point where we felt we needed a percussionist. I advertised on Craig's list and we got two drummers. Both of these guys are good drummers, but I was worried that we would lose the acoustic-type sound. That's why I wanted a percussionist, rather than a drummer. Well, I'm finding myself turning my amp way up, and of course the other 2 guys did too. The music sounds good but it sounds like it should be being played in a club rather than a living room. Definitely has punch and drive, but the volume is grating on my ears.
    I'm going to stick with it because I haven't found anybody in this area to play choros, dawg, jazz standards, swing, etc. with on a regular basis. I'm traveling 2 hrs. each way to do this each week. Our repertoire includes material like: There Will Never Be Another You, All of Me, Manha de Carnival, St. Thomas, Rosetta, Watch What Happens, All Blues, Indiana, Willow Weep for Me, and several others. I love the tunes and it's a great pleasure (as well as an education) to be playing w/ guys who know "all the chords," so to speak, and can sight-read Realbook charts. Definitely pushing my envelope, having been a bluegrasser for 3 decades or more. My highlight of the year (for quite a few years) has been Galax's Swingtown, but it seems to be withering away - 2 years in a row without Jeff Jenkins, etc.
    OK, I'll stop whining and go grab my axe. Just wanted to share. Anybody else with similar experiences?
    ~~Joe Hannabach~~~

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    Default Re: Playing with jazz musicians

    Way to go, Joe! The move from bg to jazz is a path many of us have taken, with Dawg as the torch-bearer for that sort of thing. I know it has been my muse. I still love the grass, and for some jams, it's still the norm. At one jam I hit, I pull aside a banjo man and guitar man and we do Stumbling, China Boy, Lady Be Good, that kind of thing, which for some pickers, is easy to do. Others, that stuff leaves them in the dust and they have a hard time with it. Another one I try is Desafinado, love that sound/groove.

    The volume thing is tough. Good luck.

  3. #3
    Registered User Perry's Avatar
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    Default Re: Playing with jazz musicians

    I've had the pleasure of playing with a tasty drummer or two. I find good drummers, especially jazz drummers, can play at low enough volumes where we can practice unplugged if need be. Drums are an acoustic instrument after all.

  4. #4
    Registered User i-vibe's Avatar
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    Default Re: Playing with jazz musicians

    ditto w the above post re. tasteful (and considerate) drummers being able to play at "appropriate" volume. have you had this conversation w them?

    it's possible that they might be able and willing to bring the volume down if that conversation is approached in the right way.

    if they're not already using brushes, blasticks, rods, etc......well, that can help bring the volume down immensely.

    no matter what type of music you're playing and no matter what the instrumentation, dynamics should be a big part of the overall picture.....and if everyone is just playing loud all the time... then there's nowhere to go.
    just groove, baby!


    I still need your string labels!

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    String-Bending Heretic mandocrucian's Avatar
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    Default Re: Playing with jazz musicians

    (Personally, I'd much rather play with bass & drums over guitar & bass.)

    The drumming is in the drummer - not the drums.

    If the vocabulary/grroves are in the drummer's head, and he/she has technique/independence of the limbs, it doesn't (or shouldn't) make any difference how stripped down or minimal the "kit" actually is. Brushes on a carboard box in the hands of a real drummer can be just as effective as a full kit. Or stomps/taps on the floor with the foot and tapping/clapping of the hands on various objects can be a "kit".

    Many drummers have more than their "club kit", and often they will take a stripped-down kit, or smaller size (in both the amount of drums and the physical size of drums) to rehearsals or low-paying gigs to avoid having to drag a lot of gear around. Snare, hi-hats, one cymbal and a kick drum will do the job more than adequately, and often the kick drum will be a small one (18"-20" diameter) or one from a Kid's set.

    My acoustic "kit" originally used a small diameter (kid's size) kick drum and a regular snare drum, plus hats and cymbals, but for maintaining a better volume balance with mandolin & fiddle/accordion, the kick drum was replace with a bodhran of similar diameter and a small hand (frame) drum with some snares stretched across it. This 6-piece kit was controlled with just one foot (R), as the left foot was occupied kicking organ style bass pedals. Dragging the kit around became a chore, and I worked on doing a lot of the same stuff (functionally) with just the foot on the floor (or stompboard) to eliminate dragging the stuff around, setting up and tearing down unless it was unavoidable.

    If the guy is skeptical about stripping down, let him listen to some stuff by.....

    The Radiators (tambourine with a kick drum)
    (original) Gjallarhorn (Ranarop CD) (simultaneous didge/tabla)
    Flook (2 flutes, guitar, percussionist)

    A lot of the Nordic folk/folk-rock groups will use an unorthodox drum kit swapping out the usual components for various ethnic drums. Väsen (Sweden) and Värttinä (Finland) are a couple good examples.

    Niles H
    Last edited by mandocrucian; Aug-24-2010 at 9:40am.

  6. #6
    Registered User Tom C's Avatar
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    Default Re: Playing with jazz musicians

    "There Will Never Be Another You"
    Geez, I always thought that was an old sheep herders tune... "There will never be another ewe".

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    Default Re: Playing with jazz musicians

    We had a drummer who used to play with us occasionally. Although he had a full drum set, when he played with us he brought an old metal cookie sheet, threw a few pennies in it, and played his brushes on it. Blended very nicely with acoustic mandolin, guitar, bass, etc.
    Bobby Bill

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    Registered User Pete Martin's Avatar
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    Default Re: Playing with jazz musicians

    The good drummers I've played with always played to whatever volume was being played by the others. The bad ones just played loud...
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  9. #9
    Is there a "talent" knob? taboot's Avatar
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    Default Re: Playing with jazz musicians

    I'm struggling with drum volume issues right now in one of my bands. Let it be known that nobody became a drummer because it's the quietest instrument on stage, and more people came up listening to John Bonham than Joe Craven. In my experience, you know you've got a good drummer when they can throw a groove with limited gear (small kick, snare and hi-hat, for example,) and they really do adjust their volume to the room. My guess is that if you want to stay happy with this guy, you need to have an honest conversation about how it's working and not working, and what to do about it. Good luck!
    Christian McKee

    Member, The Big North Duo
    Musical Director, The Oregon Mandolin Orchestra

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    Default Re: Playing with jazz musicians

    Joe Craven is a good example! I've seen him play a styrofoam cup to great advantage........he just oozes rhythm......

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    Default Re: Playing with jazz musicians

    Brushes on a magazine or paper grocery bag.... Part of playing well with other folks, regardless of instrument, is being considerate about relative volume. That said, some folks get it and with with others it can be an unending battle. Good luck.
    Paul Glasse
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    http://paulglasse.com

  12. #12
    music with whales Jim Nollman's Avatar
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    Default Re: Playing with jazz musicians

    I've been recording with drums lately. All the tunes are from the traditional fiddle repertoire: jigs, reels, hornpipes, waltzes. One interesting revelation, is that bebop accent drumming works splendidly with our basic acoustic music. This stye of drumming (I like to think of Art Blakey or Max Roach) has none of the sharp attack and freneticism of rock drumming. It is very big on tone, with a deep sounding and rather low volume kick, plus bell-like ride cymbals. You can hear one of these tunes by clicking on the link in my signature. I'd be curious if anyone else likes this direction beside me.

    Another way to go, is to get a drummer immersed in software drumming, using something like Ableton Live or any sampler. I did some concerts a few years back with a very talented computer drummer. The sounds he came up with (and which both me on guitar/mando, and the horn player also had a hand in "choosing from a library of hundreds of drum samples and "kits") could be as loud or as soft as we liked, with no alteration in tone. I realize that some purists would never consider going this route. I have to say that it worked really well because the guy was so talented on his "instrument". We also carefully considered that the alternative was finding that one drummer in 10 who can do acoustic music, and who does not automatically respond to an increase in speed by automatically getting louder.
    Explore some of my published music here

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  13. #13
    Is there a "talent" knob? taboot's Avatar
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    Default Re: Playing with jazz musicians

    Quote Originally Posted by SternART View Post
    Joe Craven is a good example! I've seen him play a styrofoam cup to great advantage........he just oozes rhythm......
    Joe's walk-on for DGQ shows, where he'd jam along with Jim playing some random object he found backstage (bag of chips, foam cup, box of tea bags, etc.) was always close to a show highlight for me. Nothing against Mr. Marsh, but I always thought Joe was a *perfect* fit for that band. What a musician!

    His solo records are really enjoyable, too - Django Latino is (I think) nothing short of amazing.
    Christian McKee

    Member, The Big North Duo
    Musical Director, The Oregon Mandolin Orchestra

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    Innocent Bystander JeffD's Avatar
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    Default Re: Playing with jazz musicians

    Quote Originally Posted by mandocrucian View Post
    (Personally, I'd much rather play with bass & drums over guitar & bass.)

    The drumming is in the drummer - not the drums.

    If the vocabulary/grroves are in the drummer's head, and he/she has technique/independence of the limbs, it doesn't (or shouldn't) make any difference how stripped down or minimal the "kit" actually is.
    This seems to be a major difference between jazz drums and rock drums. The rock drummer seems to want a separate drum or cymbol for every sound he wants to make. The jazz drummer can make music with a snare and two mason jars filled to different levels.
    Indulge responsibly!

    The entire staff
    funny....

  15. #15

    Default Re: Playing with jazz musicians

    IT IS, IT IS, a pleasure to play with a goooood drummer.
    And of course not-so-much else-wise.
    But to sympathize with the uninnitiated drummer, many just aren't used to listening to, and picking up a fiddle's groove. I can understand it may not be in their typical sonic range. They really have to dial it back to hear the groove. If they keep trying it's great, if they give up, well, loud is what you get.
    I love everything from Preservation Hall to Spyro Gyra, so when you get amungst some cats that can lay it down, i would burn up miles, money and time too. It's crazy, but it's even crazier to my DW who doesn't see what all the fuss is about.

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