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Thread: Is there much point to an electric jazz mandolin?

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    Registered User SincereCorgi's Avatar
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    Default Is there much point to an electric jazz mandolin?

    A brief survey:

    I've been playing in a little string jazz combo, the guitarist of which sometimes likes to plug in. Now...

    Seeing as how the mandolin's place in jazz is already barely justifiable, and how most electric mandolins sound like electric guitars capo'd halfway up the neck, should I feel enticed by, say, a Phoenix jazz mandolin, or is it just going to sound like a higher and less satisfying extra guitar voice? Is the sound of a mic'd acoustic mandolin preferable to maintain its identity?

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    Registered User Pete Martin's Avatar
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    Default Re: Is there much point to an electric jazz mandolin?

    Because of what the mandolin is (fretted stringed instrument played with a pick), it will always have some "guitar like" qualities in an ensemble.

    I play about 50-50 electric and acoustic with various instrumentation. When I play electric, I shoot for a sound like Wes Montgomery, so I use a Mann EM4 and appropriate amps. What I don't like is the acoustic 8 string to sound "electricified" so I mic it and use a Shertler dyn pickup and Unico amp if needed. Both work fine.

    Most of the time I like to know what instrumentation I'm playing with, then decide which sound will go with that best. Lets say the other instruments are bass (upright amplified), piano, horn, drums, I almost always pick the 4 Mann and use the amp that will give me the desired sound and volume. The "electric guitar" sound fits in fine with that.

    If I'm playing with acoustic guitar, violin and unamplified upright bass, I'll always go to the 8 string, as its sound fits that ensemble better.

    Try to determine what you want to sound like and find gear that does that for you.

    I like the sound of an oval hole instrument more for Jazz, so I use a Gibson A2. My Gil is for when I play fiddle tunes and Bluegrass.
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    ISO TEKNO delsbrother's Avatar
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    Default Re: Is there much point to an electric jazz mandolin?

    Quote Originally Posted by SincereCorgi View Post
    Seeing as how the mandolin's place in jazz is already barely justifiable
    Wow.

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    Registered User SincereCorgi's Avatar
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    Default Re: Is there much point to an electric jazz mandolin?

    Quote Originally Posted by delsbrother View Post
    Wow.
    Hey, I'm just saying: you show up to play jazz with a mandolin or an oboe, you're going to get funny looks.

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    Registered User Pete Martin's Avatar
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    Default Re: Is there much point to an electric jazz mandolin?

    It's the musician, not the instrument...
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    Default Re: Is there much point to an electric jazz mandolin?

    I have to say since jumping into the jazz idiom four years ago I have encountered only one person who expressed anything but complete acceptance and enthusiasm. The very best sax player in town (who teaches jazz at the local university) once said "It's so refreshing to hear the mandolin." Maybe I've been lucky - the most talented players have been the most encouraging. Playing now with a young trombonist from the university; he digs it and so do I.
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    poor excuse for anything Charlieshafer's Avatar
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    Default Re: Is there much point to an electric jazz mandolin?

    All I can say is listen to Jason Anick. We just had him at our series for a show with his brand new quartet, and while he spent half the time on violin (he's exceptional there, being John Jorgenson's violinist) the other half was on his new, electric Paul Lestock Arrow Jazzbo. It's a hollow-bodied instrument, just like, gosh, most all jazz guitars. The voice is decidedly different than a guitar. The chord voicings are different. It's different, and a great sound. After hearing it in a virtuoso's hands, you'll wonder why more players don't use it. You'll also wonder why more players don't play jazz. His new cd, Sleepless, is great, but doesn't do justice to his live performances. We filmed the heck out of that show, so as soon as we do a little editing, I'll get some youtubes up.

    It really is a "great leap forward" for the instrument in jazz. But, think hollow-bodied instead of solid-bodied. The jazzbo is essentially a little Gibson jazz box, with it's own humbucker-type pickup, just plug and play. With proper tone control, it has that great round 3-dimensional tone. Waaaaaay cool.

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    Default Re: Is there much point to an electric jazz mandolin?

    Quote Originally Posted by SincereCorgi View Post
    Hey, I'm just saying: you show up to play jazz with a mandolin or an oboe, you're going to get funny looks.
    Unless your name is Jethro, or Grisman, or...

  12. #9

    Default Re: Is there much point to an electric jazz mandolin?

    It would be more odd to show up at an old time picking circle with a trumpet. But it could certainly work. Dixieland jazz seems to accept a whole range of instruments, except the poor hurdy-gurdy. I don't think Charlie Parker ever jammed with a hurdy-gurdy, but who knows, he might have had an open mind to it. I'll bet Coltrane would have. I think it comes down to open mindedness.

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    Registered User SincereCorgi's Avatar
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    Default Re: Is there much point to an electric jazz mandolin?

    Quote Originally Posted by Charlieshafer View Post
    All I can say is listen to Jason Anick...
    I'd be eager to hear that Jason.

    (As a side note: please, don't let's nobody think that I am against mandolin as a jazz instrument- I think the fact that it isn't is basically an accident of history. My problem is to figure out how to approach playing alongside an electric guitar without sounding like I'm doing the same thing, just smaller.)

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    poor excuse for anything Charlieshafer's Avatar
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    Default Re: Is there much point to an electric jazz mandolin?

    Quote Originally Posted by SincereCorgi View Post

    (As a side note: please, don't let's nobody think that I am against mandolin as a jazz instrument- I think the fact that it isn't is basically an accident of history. My problem is to figure out how to approach playing alongside an electric guitar without sounding like I'm doing the same thing, just smaller.)
    Very true about the history/accident thing. Just die to the timing of jazz, the banjo, of all things, was a major contributor to the early Preservation Hall sound, as well as most all the early jazz orchestras and speakeasy shows.

    Anyway, back to playing... what Jason, and other mandolin jazz players, do really well is to exploit the tuning in fifths thing. Chord arpeggios can sound different just due to the nature of the way the chords are fingered, and the obvious tone of the shorter string length. I'd love to see more arch-top 8-strings, just so one could take advantage of the tremolo potential.

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    Registered User Perry's Avatar
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    Default Re: Is there much point to an electric jazz mandolin?

    Quote Originally Posted by SincereCorgi View Post
    My problem is to figure out how to approach playing alongside an electric guitar without sounding like I'm doing the same thing, just smaller.)
    I suppose listening to "two-guitar" jazz records would shed some light. It could only be easier to stay out of each other's way with a mandolin and guitar. Bill Frisell and John Hall had a recent duo record. I'm sure there are others examples as well.

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    Registered User Mandobart's Avatar
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    Default Re: Is there much point to an electric jazz mandolin?

    I suggest listening to Jethro Burns or Tiny Moore. I think you'll get the point.

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    Registered User SincereCorgi's Avatar
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    Default Re: Is there much point to an electric jazz mandolin?

    Quote Originally Posted by Mandobart View Post
    I suggest listening to Jethro Burns or Tiny Moore. I think you'll get the point.
    I've heard that one... hopefully I 'got the point'. This is all sort of getting away from my original idea, which was to ask in particular about the tone of electrified mandolin and whether it gets lost beside an electric guitar. (The Tiny Moore and Jethro duets record, for example, would sound pretty different if they were both playing electrics, and I think casual listeners would have no idea which electric sounds were Moore and which were Shamblin.) There's been some very good suggestions, though. That Jason Anick guy's got monster technique, Jason.

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    Default Re: Is there much point to an electric jazz mandolin?

    Quote Originally Posted by Charlieshafer View Post
    Very true about the history/accident thing. Just die to the timing of jazz, the banjo, of all things, was a major contributor to the early Preservation Hall sound, as well as most all the early jazz orchestras and speakeasy shows.
    I love Danny Barker--when I first heard PHJB do Mood Indigo I was hooked (on tenor banjo) as serious as anything





    The guy I'm most familiar with is John Abercrombie. if you want to explore a modernist approach like this--an e-mando (like John's) is evocative

    I presume you're talking about post be-bop, sincerecorgi? Like Charlie says, there's been a lot of (trad) "jazz" been played on banjos, tenor guitars (and a mandolin or two)...I play some Jelly Roll Morton tunes--and of course Duke, and all the other standards--on TB (and mando, when I have to)
    Last edited by catmandu2; Nov-15-2012 at 11:05pm.

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    Registered User SincereCorgi's Avatar
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    Default Re: Is there much point to an electric jazz mandolin?

    Quote Originally Posted by catmandu2 View Post
    I presume you're talking about post be-bop, sincerecorgi? Like Charlie says, there's been a lot of (trad) "jazz" been played on banjos, tenor guitars (and a mandolin or two)...I play some Jelly Roll Morton tunes--and of course Duke, and all the other standards--on TB (and mando, when I have to)
    Yeah, the main stuff we're doing is '10s-'30s, but we've been branching out to some later period things... out came that big guitar amp and it got me to thinking about electric mandolins and their place.

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    Default Re: Is there much point to an electric jazz mandolin?

    no less point than 2 guitars playing together . If you want to sound very different from guitar then stay acoustic with 8 strings and use lots of tremolo . otherwise just do not worry about it and consider yourself to be playing a very similar instrument as the guitarist .

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    Registered User DSDarr's Avatar
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    Default Re: Is there much point to an electric jazz mandolin?

    Check out the second half of this Austin City Limits from 1980 with Johnny Gimble, Tiny Moore, and Jethro Burns for various combinations of electric and acoustic mando jazz.



    -David

    p.s.

    Check out the first half of this show for an early incarnation of the DGQ with Mark O'Connor on guitar.

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    Default Re: Is there much point to an electric jazz mandolin?

    I got two words for you: Paul. Glasse.

    Seriously, if the real question is why have an electric mandolin if there is an electric guitar, listen to Paul Glasse and Mitch Watkins. There's your point.
    Bobby Bill

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    Martin Stillion mrmando's Avatar
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    Default Re: Is there much point to an electric jazz mandolin?

    Glad Jason got an instrument he likes! I brought him a Bacorn and an Earnest Swamp Cat to try out a while back, but I guess they weren't quite up to his expectations.
    Emando.com: More than you wanted to know about electric mandolins.

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    Default Re: Is there much point to an electric jazz mandolin?

    Can't wait to look (listen) to that clip David

    Maybe in addition to Martin's, Bobby's and all the other suggestions...perhaps it's been suggested already. if you DON'T hear space for you, then, don't play. It possible the other guitar isn't leaving space, or context, for your mando. If.nothing else, listen and see if you can't add an embellishment, a harmony line, a weird extension to a chord. Remember a blues feeling (lyrical), or a Latin feel (rhythmic...it worked for jelly and Danny B). The acoustic mandolin will always be able to create a rhythmic/percussive element; the 'lectrik--a lyrical or harmonic, inherently

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    Default Re: Is there much point to an electric jazz mandolin?

    I agree the mandolin's place in jazz music is not assumed as it is in other styles. I always point out that there are well established traditions of jazz violin and jazz guitar. The mandolin being a mashup of sorts of those two points to it being a perfect instrument for jazz, just as it's all fifths tuning and symmettry make it easier to access improvisational ideas..

    One of the first things I saw at the Jazz History Museum in New Orleans was Freddie Keppard's mandolin. The great Wild Bill Davison of Milwaukee/Chicago/NYC also allegedly played mandolin. The Charlie McCoy sides now thought of as "blues" mandolin are in large part early jazz records.

    Johnny Gimble himself refers to Western Swing as "Dixieland played on string instruments"..

    The more I listen to Tiny and Johnny on their electrics, the more mandolinistic it sounds. This in spite of both of them being influenced by electric guitarists such as Charlie Christian, Junior Barnard, and Django Reinhardt..Maybe it's the fifths tuning always allows for note sequences unique to our instrument.

    Jethro recorded every which way--acoustic round hole, F-hole, Fender electric, Gibson eight string electric(solid body and hollow body with floating pickup)He liked them all, liked being heard. You always knew it was him. When I got into five string electric playing I remember him saying "if I need to sound like that I'd just play guitar". I remember thinking "yeah, Jethro I would too if I could play guitar like you!" He was great on guitar and again you always knew it was him.

    One legend has Glen Campbell learning to play guitar by transcribing Tiny Moore solos off Bob Wills records(thinking they had been done on a guitar), then blowing peoples' minds by being able to play stuff that seemed barely possible on the guitar..

    I like Pete's comments above, as usual. All these instruments have a place. Jazz is about individual expression so the instrument and sound that allows you to react to the tune and the ensemble in your own way should work fine. But sure enough don't expect everybody(even fellow musicians) to "get it". Favorite humorous or poignant memories here include the man who came to the stage and asked about my five string electric. "It's an electric five string mandolin" I said. "Like a mandola and mandolin together in range, with a kind of electric guitar timbre". "OH NO IT ISN'T!" he said. Then the jazz DJ to whom I handed my CD...when I asked if he might play it, he said "I gave it to the folk DJ". Hmmmm...Stella by Starlight and You Stepped Out of a Dream, folk favorites I guess...

    Volume is a factor. If there's a drummer you'll almost certainly need to amplify. Same with horns. The amplification can come from a mic, pickup, board, amp, whatever..

    Rhythm role to play? Can you play rhythm on a single-string? Sure, it's just different. If there's a guitar or piano or drums or horns around you're probably already lightening up on rhythm..

    Do guitar players play(chunk-chunk) rhythm guitar anymore? Not too many, save the gypsy guys..

    I wish I had more opportunity to play electric five string. When those chances come I set mine with a warm tone and embrace the similarity to guitar tone..single notes with the thumb a lot, four note chords behind the guitar solos..

    Truth be told though I usually play an amplified or mic'd eight string, since that's what most folks recognize as a mandolin.

    Listen to Paul Glasse for sure! That will answer a lot of questions. Also not to be missed is Jason Roberts with Asleep at the Wheel (!) and Doug Dalton, the unsung swing-jazz hero with The Whipporwills(Roy Lanham on guitar). The aforementioned Jason Anick is terrific. I love his mandolin playing because it is mandolin playing. Sure he bends strings, but he doesn't sound like he's just doing his fiddle stuff on another axe, he meets it where it is. Bryce Milano is another who speaks the jazz language on both eight string acoustic and five string string electric..Oh hey Michael Lampert too on the solid five string. Great! And Barry Mitterhoff uses his electric a fair amount with Hot Tuna..different style there but more evidence that the mando doesn't necessarily lose it's identity in the company of guitars...

    Mandolin. Greatest. Instrument...any style, any band..right?

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  32. #23
    poor excuse for anything Charlieshafer's Avatar
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    Default Re: Is there much point to an electric jazz mandolin?

    Quote Originally Posted by mrmando View Post
    Glad Jason got an instrument he likes! I brought him a Bacorn and an Earnest Swamp Cat to try out a while back, but I guess they weren't quite up to his expectations.
    Yeah, not sure what the issue was with anything else. He said he'd been looking for a while, but I'm thinking he was shooting for that fat hollow archtop sound, as we spent a bit of time on the check getting the tone just right...

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    Default Re: Is there much point to an electric jazz mandolin?

    Don,
    That's pretty funny about the DJ stuff. Your point about volume speaks volumes. Last night we saw the NIU jazz ensemble, which is a world class group. Amazing musicians. Mostly brass: saxes, trombones, trumpets. Great bass player, drummer, pianist, and archtop guitar player (electrified). And I mentioned to my wife that "the guitar player can't be heard when doing rhythm at all, and even when he gets the rare solo you can still barely hear him". I guess a lot of it has to do with who's in charge of the group.

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    Notary Sojac Paul Kotapish's Avatar
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    Default Re: Is there much point to an electric jazz mandolin?

    Quote Originally Posted by Perry View Post
    I suppose listening to "two-guitar" jazz records would shed some light. It could only be easier to stay out of each other's way with a mandolin and guitar. Bill Frisell and John Hall had a recent duo record. I'm sure there are others examples as well.
    I think you mean Bill Frisell and JIM Hall. Jim Hall was one of Frisell's mentors, and they have recorded a CD (Hemispheres) and a few other sides over the years.

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