freebop

Discussion in 'Music Theory [DB]' started by Marc Piane, Jun 12, 2012.


  1. Marc Piane

    Marc Piane

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    I'm not sure how to start this discussion or if 'freebop' is even the best heading as I know that it brings to mind a specific movement in jazz history.

    I've listening a bunch of stuff lately that is a bit more free harmonically but still rhythmic and have been starting to think more about form and harmonic structure of tunes (or lack thereof) both in my own writing and in playing standards or tunes written by others. I did a gig Friday at a wine bar where we did all pretty straight standards but let things 'free up' in the solo sections both in terms of harmony and form in the spirit of Pilc (though it was a sax, bass, drums trio). I've done this plenty in a free jazz setting but it was interesting to do it on a standards gig. It has often seemed almost taboo to go there cats not on the same page look at you like you are from Mars if you even suggest it. It really seemed to make everyone that much more present in this instance.

    Who has experimented with doing this? How do you approach it? Am I nuts?

    I've been doing this stuff for years in 'freebop' sort of settings and feel like I am pretty good at it but mixing it with doing standards is newer to me.

    Anyway. Thoughts?
     
  2. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Supporting Member

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    I have experimented with this at Jazz Summerschool - but never on a paying gig! ;)

    I've talked to people I play with and they find the idea terrifying! I imagine they envisage everybody looking at each other with a puzzled expression, trying to work out what's happening next and how do we get back to the head!? :D
     
  3. isolated

    isolated

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    Yeah, that's pretty much it. If you're going to do something like that, you need to be certain that the people you're playing with are amenable to the concept. And the concept really only "works" if you keep a few principles in mind. One is that you can't force it and still have it be musical. You know, like, "OK, play free! Now!" If you're all on the same page musically, that sort of thing can happen organically. For me, though, you still have to be playing whatever tune it was you started with....

    Another is a concept I like to think of as "whatever happens is cool, but somebody's gotta bring it back (to the form, or the head, or whatever.)" It doesn't matter who, or how. And sometimes, "bringing it back" can just be a tacit decision to end it wherever you happen to be. This requires a certain amount of telepathy that you won't have with everybody, though.

    That's all I can manage now...I'm supposed to be working....;)
     
  4. Marc Piane

    Marc Piane

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    A few thoughts.

    Doing this stuff requires HUGE ears and very engaged listening.

    For me I think about it more as the reconciliation of multiple lines rather than a more harmonic approach.

    Everyone has to be on the same page AND there has to be utter trust in the other players.

    I think about the Del Close thing again here. His 'Yes, And' principle. Taking an idea, agreeing with it musically, and adding to it.

    I think it is important to not abandon the tune. I think you still have to find a way to communicate the sentiment of the song.



    To me it feels like skydiving. Freeing and scary at the same time.
     
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  6. hdiddy

    hdiddy Official Forum Flunkee Supporting Member

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    The Pilc stuff reminds me of some of the stuff Ethan Iverson/Bad Plus does. Iverson has an album where's he's playing over standards and it gets a bit freaky. Pilc is a little be easier to approach. I think this stuff would be one personal goal for me.
     
  7. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Supporting Member

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    I've heard of the Bad Plus - but not Pilc - is that a band name? Hasn't spread across the pond! ;)
     
  8. Marc Piane

    Marc Piane

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    Jean Michel Pilc is a guy. He and Francois Moutin came up in Paris though they are both in NYC now.

     
  9. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Supporting Member

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    Some nice stuff there - to me it sounds more like classical or chamber music - the avant garde end of the 20thC.

    I heard some harmonies from Olivier Messiaen, who was influenced by Jazz and whose Quartet for the End of Time is like the sound world of this type of chamber Jazz..?

    Certainly a name I have not come across before - I will google now I have a start and pick up some recordings.

    Thanks for the links! :)

    PS - Mr PC sounds more recognisable and more Jazz than Nardis! ;)
     
  10. damonsmith

    damonsmith

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    With the right players it is pretty amazing. I have been doing it a lot with Alvin Fielder. He has a "new" album (from '65) out on Delmark with Roscoe Mitchell called "Before there was Sound".

    You read about it here:
    http://www.squidsear.com/cgi-bin/news/newsView.cgi?newsID=1394
    Buy it here:
    http://www.amazon.com/Before-There-Sound-Roscoe-Mitchell/dp/B005G82LQC

    Our quartet should release something in not too long. There are lots of great Freebop albums, the Mike Osbourne Trio made some of the best ones ever, though.
     
  11. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Administrator

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    I enjoy playing this way in a trio setting, most often on the local Nachbar gig with Jacob Duncan. We do a few "free" tunes with heads (Fort Worth, Freedom Jazz Dance, etc), but for the most part we don't play "free", we play "open" (my descriptive). In playing open, it's not about what we play or don't play, but rather it's about hierarchies. Certain things, such as form, never vary, and continue to be written in dark black ink, with lesser divisions mentally written in lighter shades of gray - meaning that while they still exist, they don't need to be explicitly stated, or stated very often.

    In terms of form (let's assume AABA for our purposes here), the top is written in the darkest "mental ink", the downbeat of the second A is written in light gray, the downbeat of the bridge is written in a darker gray, the downbeat of the last A in light gray again. In English, this means that it's a courtesy for someone to outline the top of the form in some small way, and a lesser courtesy to outline the downbeat of the bridge, but beyond that, nothing is required to outline the form (unless there's a common hit in the melody that is fun to reference, especially if it's syncopated). So the form goes from being four 8 bar phrases supported by specific melodic and harmonic references to a 32 bar open field to play in, with a possible line down the middle where the bridge would be if anybody feels the need to draw the line. When the group is really on, it's possible to not outline the top every so often at all, which doubles the space (and along with it, the chance that somebody will lose the thread of the form).

    Harmonically, the same thing happens, so that the first chord or strongest tonal center of each section is honored (at first, later becoming simply a point of departure), with the bridge being secondarily important to the top as it was in the formal description above. All of the functional "progression" chords become written in very light gray mental ink and are treated as optional - and sometimes outright avoided as unnecessary and constricting. The main tonal references (for "Nardis", these would be "E" for the A sections and "A" for the bridge) are left to stand on their own and used as jumping off points. Everything not written in "black" can be substituted for with whatever the soloist and band desire, and eventually even the main points of reference may be subbed out if desired.

    Rhythmically, "open" means "open", with the caveat that we can stretch things only as far as we don't lose the original thread by accident. When it comes to rhythm, I feel it's more about displacement and disguising things than playing free. For me, the whole endeavor can be represented by the analogy of stretching a rubber band attached to a spike driven in the ground. The spike in the ground is everybody's collective understanding of where the tune's melody/harmony/form would be if everyone/anyone were playing it. The game is, "how far can we stretch the rubber band without pulling the stake out of the ground?" At any point, and on a cue from any player, the group can collectively let go of the rubber band and let it snap back instantly to the stake. The only mistake is stretching so far that the stake comes flying out of the ground and impales the person holding the band.

    As far as Pilc, I've never known him to abandon form, and they keep the form very strictly on your Nardis link from the point where Ari comes in after the intro to about 5:17, where the outtro vamp begins. During the few times I played with him, form was always inviolate as described above, although to the listeners it sounded various degrees of free. I'll have to examine more of the tunes on the album, but on Nardis (and on everything I've ever heard/experienced from him before) the form is pretty clearly outlined under the surface if you listen for it.

    This is going to be a fun thread, I can tell. Marc's on a roll these days. :D
     
  12. Marc Piane

    Marc Piane

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    Right on. I was hoping you'd post Chris.

    I really like the idea of a hierarchy. The thing that is fun in the times I've done this is all the players still have the tune in mind so, by default, the form and basic harmonic structure is still in mind. I think it actually does a disservice to the tune if you completely abandon anything resembling it and I might argue that you are NOT playing that particular tune anymore. In an earlier post I said "I think it is important to not abandon the tune. I think you still have to find a way to communicate the sentiment of the song." In an oblique way I guess I was getting at a similar sentiment.

    What I find intriguing about being 'open' is how much more engaged everyone is. Obviously as professionals we try our best to be present all the time. Let's face it though. When we are on the 10th chorus of All of Me and we've had a long day the mind starts to wander.

    So again a quote from Zen in the Art of Archery comes to mind.

    "Out of the fullness of his presence of mind, disturbed by no ulterior motive, the artist who is released from all attachment must practice his art."

    I find that for these explorations to be the most successful ulterior motive is left at the door. It all becomes action-reaction.

    More later.
     
  13. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Supporting Member

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    That's very interesting Chris - I have heard/seen groups do this kind of thing - so taking a standard and seeing if they can stretch it so as to be unrecognisable, while the form is there somewhere. Nardis on the YT links sounds more open as maybe it is more of the kind of form that lends it to that kind of thing and due to some of the unusual harmonies in the left hand..? While on Mr PC, I can hear the form quite clearly all through.

    As a PS - when I have seen bands doing this it aways seems to be trios - quite often horn,bass and drums - not just piano.
     
  14. hdiddy

    hdiddy Official Forum Flunkee Supporting Member

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    I've been playing in a drummerless trio doing this... it think using the word "disguise" is exactly what we're doing. It seems/feels like it's free but it's not. As the bassist, I feel alot more over the control of the band in general. You can play very little and force a more open sound or go into a standard walk and dictate a more traditional feel. It's almost like becoming a real-time conductor except that any of the other players who have a strong grasp of the stake can take cover and lead.

    It no longer feels like a typical wannabe jazz band. It feels very real and something of musical value. How much value is subjective but at least it's better than the run of the mill stuff.
     
  15. Marc Piane

    Marc Piane

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    I've been thinking about this for the past few hours and I'm having trouble with the word "disguise". I know it's purely a semantics argument but at least my goal is more to deceive then to disguise. Disguise implies to mask deceive implies to trick. For me improvisation is all about setting up expectations for the listener and either delivering on them or not. It is a careful balance too if you trick them too often they stop paying attention.
     
  16. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Administrator

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    Semantics aside (I don't care too much about the word one way or the other), what I'm really trying to do in these situations is to loosen the stranglehold of rigid adherence to the divisions of the barlines, harmony, and melody. When I say "disguise", my intent is to make something seem like something other than what it is by displacing or replacing something expected with something else, most often something that resembles what was expected but skewed in some way that makes the expectation only partially fulfilled, so that it leaves a question in the listener's mind. Questions tend to want answers, so asking them tends to make people pay attention long enough to get them.

    Many people when they play free tend to play things that sound like complete musical non sequiturs to me, and I lose interest in that game pretty quickly. When someone give me something I expected along with something I didn't, it makes me want to listen more.
     
  17. Marc Piane

    Marc Piane

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    I agree 100%. I think of a few different concepts here. Unfortunately (or fortunately) I'm at a gig and writing a long reply on my phone is driving me mad. More later.
     
  18. hdiddy

    hdiddy Official Forum Flunkee Supporting Member

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    Ok maybe disguise isn't a good word to use but I think of it as a group approach in creating tension that is working against the form in multiple dimensions (harmony, melody, rhythm). At some point that tension gets resolved but as a group effort otherwise it ends up sounding like musical non-sequiturs.

    Same idea as creating tension within a solo but with a wider scope to make it a group effort.
     
  19. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Supporting Member

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    As a listener I would certainly go along with this - if it's all dissonance and high intensity, then it gets a bit "wearing".
    Whereas if you get some tunes and some beautiful sounds, then the free/open parts, become just another part of the musical canvas and a nice contrast.
     
  20. Marc Piane

    Marc Piane

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    So I tend to think of this stuff in gradations like Chris talked about earlier. A departure can be as simple as displacing count one, a brief cross or polyrhythm, a chord sub, etc. You can take it to things like creating an extended pedal point, a feel change to either a different feel or a related time signature (3 over 4 etc) or you can make a more deliberate departure.
     
  21. damonsmith

    damonsmith

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    Just check out some Paul Bley trios old or new.
     

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