Jump to content

Overplayed Tunes, from The Real Book


Rooster_Ties
 Share

Recommended Posts

Interesting. St. Thomas is a tune that I've always hated soloing over. For me the rhythm tends to trip me up--having a drummer play that West Indian thing every chorus can get old quick. Also, the last four bars were a bitch to run through lyrically rather than sounding like I was just mechanically trying to make every change. Will have to revisit this one again.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Interesting. St. Thomas is a tune that I've always hated soloing over. For me the rhythm tends to trip me up--having a drummer play that West Indian thing every chorus can get old quick. Also, the last four bars were a bitch to run through lyrically rather than sounding like I was just mechanically trying to make every change. Will have to revisit this one again.

Well, Big Wheel, I was more or less talking about the harmonic content, but you are absolutely right, I can see where the groove can get repetitious. I know sometimes rhythym sections will go into a walking swing groove on this tune, but there must be more options than that. I always am happy when a drummer playing this type of groove gets interactive and plays more soloistically than repetatively- know what I mean? Actually what you said brings up a good point- playing on a tune like St. Thomas should be about more than changes/bop playing- the rhythmic content should be just as important.

I'm not citing this tune as a example of an ultimate improvisational vehicle (in Missouri that word is Vee-Hickle)

but more a tune that is simplistic harmonically and requires somes creativity to keep interesting.

BTW, Big Wheel, what instrument do you play?

Try playing St. Thomas in a whole buncha keys. I thought that was a fun thing. Try modulating chromatically, by fourths and by random key changes. That's what breathed new life into the tune for me. But I'm an idiot who's easily entertained- your mileage may vary. B)

Edited by Free For All
Link to comment
Share on other sites

I'm getting a little tired of Sugar myself. (I've no doubt now that Jim will call this at our next gig... <_<  :P )

Oh I'm calling it in every key now, motherfucker!

:)

Okay, Jim of course played this tune yesterday, but it turned out to be kind of fun. I took the same approach Free For All mentioned, that maybe what I'm really bored with is what I'm playing rather then the tune itself. A lesson re-learned...

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I'm getting a little tired of Sugar myself. (I've no doubt now that Jim will call this at our next gig... <_<  :P )

Oh I'm calling it in every key now, motherfucker!

:)

Okay, Jim of course played this tune yesterday, but it turned out to be kind of fun. I took the same approach Free For All mentioned, that maybe what I'm really bored with is what I'm playing rather then the tune itself. A lesson re-learned...

It could be worse...just think how Stanley felt about playing "Sugar" every gig for the rest of his life. :rolleyes: Has suicide been ruled out in his death. ;)

Joe, just modulate down to B natural for your solo everytime ya'll play "Sugar," double the tempo, and let Jim stroll for 20 choruses. That should make it interesting for Jim as well. :D

Edited by Soul Stream
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Well, Big Wheel, I was more or less talking about the harmonic content, but you are absolutely right, I can see where the groove can get repetitious. I know sometimes rhythym sections will go into a walking swing groove on this tune, but there must be more options than that. I always am happy when a drummer playing this type of groove gets interactive and plays more soloistically than repetatively- know what I mean? Actually what you said brings up a good point- playing on a tune like St. Thomas should be about more than changes/bop playing- the rhythmic content should be just as important.

I'm not citing this tune as a example of an ultimate improvisational vehicle (in Missouri that word is Vee-Hickle)

but more a tune that is simplistic harmonically and requires somes creativity to keep interesting.

BTW, Big Wheel, what instrument do you play?

Try playing St. Thomas in a whole buncha keys. I thought that was a fun thing. Try modulating chromatically, by fourths and by random key changes. That's what breathed new life into the tune for me. But I'm an idiot who's easily entertained- your mileage may vary. B)

I play piano, which adds an interesting wrinkle to the discussion. This thread was another reminder to me that you don't have to comp EVERY chord as you're soloing (or comping behind a horn player, for that matter). This opens things up and lets you focus more on playing lyrically. It's amazing how underused the left hand is in straight-ahead piano playing, and sometimes I feel like my feel gets thrown off just because I'm trying to give my left hand something to DO, when it doesn't "need" to be doing anything at all. It's one reason I dislike playing lots of tunes that have a quick harmonic motion, especially ones like rhythm changes where the key center isn't changing much...I feel like I have to make EVERY change instead of thinking about what simply sounds good. Right now I'm listening to Ray Bryant comp behind Diz on "The Eternal Triangle" and it's just so simple harmonically speaking, but it works perfectly. Lots of I, V, I, V, not worrying about wedging every VI and ii chord in there. The soloist can imply that by themselves. Less really is more in cases like this.

Playing in all keys is one thing I've been really lazy about, but I guess simple tunes like St. Thomas are the best place to start, right?

Edited by Big Wheel
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Learning tunes in all keys is one of those things that we are told we "should" do. I certainly don't obsess on it, but I do enjoy playing tunes, esp. familiar ones, in alternative keys. It can be as simple as splitting the tune in half, like Bill Evans did with Days of Wine and Roses, doing the tune in F and Ab. Or you can alternate keys for the whole chorus- I sometimes play My Shining Hour by alternating the keys of C and Eb each chorus. Or you could do a pattern like C-Eb-Ab-Db, or whatever you like! One issue with this is communicating your intentions to the rhythm section, since part of the fun in doing this is the element of spontaneity. Or you can simply plan it out in advance. Sometimes (as I said before) I'll simply play with the drummer alone for a while so I can create my own little harmonic world. That's what I envy about pianists- they can compliment their solo lines with the perfect accompanimental choices. Think about it-when a pianist solos, he's playing only w/bass and drums; you see why horn players like to do that sometimes? Of course when you develop an affinity with a rhythm section they can learn to read your mind, which is often a beautiful thing. Sometimes not....

When I practice in other keys I feel the rewards exist on multiple levels- I feel like the original key has a new clarity for me, and finesse in multple keys certainly comes in handy when employing substitute changes or chromatic side-slipping.

I'm so tired of playing Rhythm changes in Bb- this of course is my problem and not a fault with the music. But it IS fun to play in some other keys- I like F, Ab or Eb, for starters.

I also think you can divide tunes into phrases- for example you can play pretty much whatever you'd like on the A section of a Rhythm changes as long as you create some sort of rhythmic or harmonic cadence to seperate the sections. Or you could "take it out" all the way to the bridge. It's just the concept or tension-and-release. For me, too much tension w/o release gets as tiresome as too much consonance- everyone has their own threshold regarding this area.

I also like it when rhythm sections "pedal" (usually on the V) on the A section of Rhythm tunes- it gets away from the repetative cycle of chords, and when you return to the changes they are fresher sounding.

While none of these things are earth-shaking revelations by any means, they ARE some little things that help to create at least a little variation in the sometimes stagnant world of changes. :wacko:

Edited by Free For All
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Actually, I really like it when changes become stagnant. You get the building of tension that the continuing flurry of chords never seems to provide.

And actually, when you get down to it -- that's probably my biggest problem with pure 'be-bop', is that (for me, anyway) there isn't much tension created by the harmonic context of fairly traditional performances in said style.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Actually, I really like it when changes become stagnant. You get the building of tension that the continuing flurry of chords never seems to provide.

And actually, when you get down to it -- that's probably my biggest problem with pure 'be-bop', is that (for me, anyway) there isn't much tension created by the harmonic context of fairly traditional performances in said style.

I've never been enamored with bebop. I think Rooster's explanation here typifies the reason. I was never able to quite put it into words, but the overall lack of tension probably describes it best.

I'll still listen to Charlie Parker though. :rhappy:

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Actually, I really like it when changes become stagnant.  You get the building of tension that the continuing flurry of chords never seems to provide.

Actually, Rooster, what I meant by "the sometimes stagnant world of changes" didn't refer to the number or frequency of chords in a given tune, but more the type of playing where one just incessantly "runs the changes", which often results, IMHO, in less interesting listening. This can happen in modal (less harmonically "busy") tunes as well as more complex bop-type tunes. I think THAT is the complaint many have w/bebop- the solos are often mechanical and workmanlike, lacking in melodic content or rhythmic variation. Obviously, bop heavies like Bird were exceptions to this, although I've heard recordings of even the big stars who seemed to be "phoning it in" at times. Don't get me wrong- I'm a big bop fan and some of the most important development in my own playing came about from a summer long ago I spent playing w/the Bird play-along. The heads are like jazz etudes and dealing with the changes led to some harmonic revelations to be sure.

Bebop was "music for musicians" to a great extent, a huge contrast to the Swing era styles, and alienated the audiences to a degree by excluding them from the "inner circle". As I've said before, I think it's important to have a balance of "entertainment' and "education" in any performance. I think there has to be an element of accessibility to "pull the audience in" that co-exists with the spirit of exploration which serves to artistically satisfy the players. Of course, things that fall into the "accessible"

category certainly don't have to be void of artistic satisfaction. Connecting w/an audience is obviously a HUGE source of inspiration- I just think that once you establish a level of "trust" you can slip in something maybe they haven't heard before and they might be more inclined to listen with an open mind and open ears.

Edited by Free For All
Link to comment
Share on other sites

  I was never able to quite put it into words, but the overall lack of tension probably describes it best. 

I'm inclined to think of it not as a LACK of tension, but more as a lack of VARIATION in the tension-release way of thinking. There is often little to differentiate between head and solos on bop tunes, and the solos can contain little or no variation in texture/density. If a bop era player approached solo construction the same way as a post-bopper (more pacing, use of space, periods of less activity) they probably would have been ostracized by their peers and the public. I try to look at the bop period as something that was a reaction to swing; I think the perceived lack of textural contrast in the bop solo style takes a back seat to the importance of the increased level of harmonic awareness that came about. Bebop wasn't perfect by any means- for a "revolutionary" type of music it was defined by fairly conservative parameters- but I think it was an integral step in the evolution process. I think of the influence of the bop style as one element of my playing- I don't want to be a "Bird clone" (not that I ever could) but since studying bop was an integral part of my musical education, I don't want to deny or overlook its influence. Plus, it's fun to play! With all that has happened since it's easy to look back on the bop style as one-dimensional; it sure would have been interesting to live in that era and see how we all reacted to it initially!

Edited by Free For All
Link to comment
Share on other sites

This is usually from every time I go out to the Lost Dog to enjoy local gigs played by cats I know. they play these tunes almost every week:

All Blues

Stella By Starlight (the guitarist Taze always calls this)

You Don't Know What Love Is (they always have fun with this though)

a funked up Footprints

Softly As in A Morning Sunrise

Tenor Madness. These are all from the Real Book the way they do them, so even non musicians like myself are getting very familiar w/ these Real Book treatments of tunes. I agree with those that said it's not the tune that's boring, it's just the nature of the improv on it that makes it so.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I find playing "On Green Dolphin Street" at jam sessions EXTREMELY tedious. That whole alternating swing/latin thing is VERY tired, IMHO.

I'm with you on that one.... Last night I played that tune and told the bass player to vamp the "daa-de-daa-dot-daa"

rhythm while I stayed on brushes, doubling the rhythm on the bass drum w/the bass the way Miles did it, kind of Ahmad Jamalish...

It ended up being a little more interesting.. :unsure:

Edited by randissimo
Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 3 weeks later...

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

 Share

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    • No registered users viewing this page.
×
×
  • Create New...