American Vs European rhythm section?

Discussion in 'Jazz Technique [DB]' started by Howard K, Feb 6, 2006.

  1. Howard K

    Howard K

    Feb 14, 2002
    I'm not sure where this belongs, so technique seemed as good a place as any :)

    In class, my tutor commented that myself and the drummer were playing as a very 'European' jazz rhythm section. He went on to elaborate on a number of really valid technical points for the drummer, and then to summarise that, in his opinion, the American swing rhythm section will really push the beat, really driving the music forward, wheras the Europeans will often sit right on top of the beat which feels less driving, less exciting.

    Firstly, does anyone else think this is the case? Any examples, opinions, comments? I'm intersted to understand this.

    My tutor asked me to play a couple of choruses solo for the class, which I did. He pointed out that I was physically feeling each beat 'up and down', either with tapping my foot or actual physical 'bobbing' movement, rather than feeling the pulse and the forward momentum. He was dead right and it felt different when I concentrated on 4 bar phrases and stopped doing marking each beat with movement.

    Now, I'm pretty sure I dont do this all the time, I usually feel the pulse moving sidewards slightly in half time, but recently I've been putting an hour or more a day with the metronome (on 2 and 4) and I'm convinced it has added to my feeling each seperate beat. I use the click because it some how adds to my sticking to the chart rather than going back and 'fix mistakes', of course it is helping my ability to hold a tempo.

    I plan to go back and ask my class tutor about this in more detail, and to consult the head of music who is a (great) bass player, but you guys could be of some help also..

    So, what do I do? How can I practice to really work on making myself swing really hard, really driving? Can and should I do this with a metronome, or without? How should I practice to work on this? I want to get myself on the right track :)

  2. dhadleyray

    dhadleyray Guest

    Dec 7, 2004
    I will DEFINITELY comment on this..

    I agree with your tutor. I have been living in the United Kingdom for 11 years, I've been playing in Germany, Belgium, Holland, Turkey, Ireland, and I'm scheduled to spend 3 weeks doing session work in South Korea.

    I've played 7 days a week, 4 hours a night for 3 years in Spain. I've been around the big blue marble, and here's my 2 cents..

    I personally dislike the European concept of "swung" time. The Americans do naturally "lean on" the beat more, and that gives a feeling of excitement. It's a number of factors, cultural upbringing, mindset, and attitude. An example of what I'm speaking of is, when I'm in America, I usually find myself playing in the horn players keys (E flat, A flat, b flat etc), but I can guarantee that in the U.K. I'll always play in E, A, and ESPECIALLY G major. The guitar keys, so to speak... That, I believe is due to the influence of the guitar heroes that came out of England.

    The influence of Keith Moon, John Bonham, Ginger Baker and those guys can't be ignored. IMO, these guys had a positive and negative influence, because, as a bassist, I find drummers want to play with whoevers playing the melody, and I find the pulse or groove we"ve established at the beginning of the song winds up being ignored. I think they get bored and discipline goes out the window. There is a "look at me, I want to be noticed too" mindset that will never be broken. Also, the drummers have a tendency to "delay" the snare on the two and four. In rock , it makes things feel "phat and heavy", but in funk or R&B, it feels like the groove is dragging.

    There are exceptions, but I believe your odds are 17 to 1 AGAINST finding a drummer that will "lock it down. The discipline is lacking..

    In Europe there is more discipline, and a better attitude towards musicians. You are generally treated as an Artist. In England especially, you are guaranteed to hear "it's not a proper job." In Germany, you can have a nice car and a nice apartment just playing music, but there's a glass ceiling. In Britain you either make alot of money or basically no money. There's very little in between. You'll also find the musicians very little help "in general", because there are soo many amateurs playing that they are fantasizing about what the music "business" is about. Playing is not enough.

    There is definitely a difference. Of that, I will swear to God and Heaven above. :bag:
  3. anonymous8547j7d7b

    anonymous8547j7d7b Guest

    Jul 1, 2005
    Hey man. Where in the UK are you based & what college do you attend? Are you a total beginner in jazz? I don't mean to try & put a downer on things, but, being realistic, this IS the UK and decent jazz courses can be few & far between. I say this because I've had some serious bum steers in my time from seasoned "educators". There's folks running/teaching on courses etc that myself & colleagues would rather turn up to a gig minus a man than book! Anyway, begone with the pessimism. You can play time on the beat, slightly behind, or "on top" (pushing). The trick with the last two is not to drag or rush! It's a feel thang, and if you look out for it when you're listening to albums you'll soon dial into the idea. With any luck your tutors have told you all this and more & also suggested how you can learn to play it:eyebrow: . As for "on the beat", I do think it is quite a British thing - you know, nice & safe & conservative, that kinda thing - like the BBC English of rhythm section timekeeping;). In fact, if you listen to an album like "Manhattan Symphony" by Dexter Gordon its a great example of a laid-back horn player backed by a pushing rhythm section - which a lot of British pundits didn't like because "he wasn't playing with the rhythm section":rolleyes:
  4. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    Yes to Rock music - but I can't believe that they have had anything but a very minimal effect on Jazz players in the UK! :meh:
  5. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    Howard and I have been to the same Jazz Summerschool at University of Glamorgan - the best!! ;)

    This topic has come up a few times - I spent a week with Stan Sulzmann and he gave me a lot of advice on this subject (Stan has of course, played with European and US rhythm sections :) )

    But a lot of it was him playing and showing me stuff - singing it and all sorts of non-verbal methods of communication, that are very difficult to talk about in a forum like this ....:meh:

    In the end I think it's just down to listening.... a lot! But this is a pretty boring answer and I 'd be very intersted in the replies from any US-based Jazzers!! :)
  6. Howard K

    Howard K

    Feb 14, 2002
    I live in Reading, Berks. My course is part-time adult ed in Richmond. My ensemble tutor is a drummer called Paul Cavaciuti (sp.), he studied at Berklee, I guess in the mid to late 80's?, and then studied privately, lived and gigged in NYC. The head of music at the college is a bassist named Dave Jones. Both are fantastic musicians and great teachers - I have gained an aweful lot of great advice and inspiration from both.

    Generally, the course is great, I learn a great deal and it gives me invaluable focus to build repatoire and practice, but - and this is the only downside - the classes are mixed ability and, to be brutally honest, some of the lead players 'just don't sound good'.

    Anyway, back on topic, well, sort of..

    I want to work on get away from this seemingly rigid UK approach to time, any advice welcomed!
  7. dhadleyray

    dhadleyray Guest

    Dec 7, 2004
    I think my opinion can be summed up as...

    People analyze the sh*t too much in the UK. Just groove and swing.

    Analyze the stuff afterwards and be honest with yourself, not delusional.
  8. Howard K

    Howard K

    Feb 14, 2002
    Err, what do you think I am doing?! I've been out playing and praticing and now I'm asking about how I might practice more effectively. I feel like my recent work with the nome has encouraged me to play more so in the way I described above, dead on the beat, and I'm being told it makes me drag rather than drive.

    It is patrionisnig to just say "you either swing or you dont, just get on with it". I understood that the US has a wealth of jazz education in schools, colleges, and universities, to push musicians all in the right direction? I'm asking for advice and I see nothing wriong with that, actually, you could see it as a compliment if you wanted.

    Plus, I hate the way all you Americans generallise about us Brits ;)

    EDIT: assuming you are amercian and only based in the uk that is..
  9. Howard K

    Howard K

    Feb 14, 2002
    re: drummerless settings - is there a terrified emoticon? ;) That is a good idea, thank you. I may get the opportunity this weekend actually.
    Playing acoustic is a toughy, I've had the opportunity but I find it hard (nigh on impossible) to make myself heard above drummers, so this is clearly an area of technique I need to work on.

    re: listening, OK, back the beginning. I admit it is easy to get swept up in the more 'out there' sounding stuff from the late 50's onwards and to ignore the stuff that came before it because it sounds all 'old fashioned' in comparison.

  10. anonymous0726

    anonymous0726 Guest

    Nov 4, 2001
    The ampless thing works in the right room with the right band, so don't worry about it too much -- my pennies on that.

    I do notice a difference with players of all instruments coming from all over the world. It's kinda like an accent in English. I really love to hear people flower when they get here and spend some time.

    The best, BEST way to get rid of the feel-accent is to spend some time in the states. You have to eat our food, drive our streets, hear us talk, play with us. And even then, there are different feels regionally. East Coast, West Coast, New Orleans, Midwest/Detroit, North Texas State, etc., etc. The same would be for one of us to play flamenco properly, we would learn so much faster by going to the source. This is above the normal stuff -- live concerts, recordings.

    I think maybe the biggest thing that would help to remember that groove is EVERYTHING, first and foremost, and then try to get your imagination around what it would be like to be here with us. Take a trip over here some time, spend a week or two and get a feel for the place.

    Further, I'd like to add, as I'm as far from a Bebop Nazi as you can get (for general reference) and I really love all of the different flavors that come into this music from players around the world. The English tend to be polite, hard swinging. The Australians are aggressive and tenacious, the Italians are hard-edged and passionate, etc. But all of these flavors are much better soup as the players make the hang here.
  11. dhadleyray

    dhadleyray Guest

    Dec 7, 2004
    My wife is british, and I've been here 11 years. I was a researcher for awhile, so I try not to "colour";) my opinions.

    I know that there are schools that teach jazz and such, but I also know that people are overly sensitive to criticism. ESPECIALLY the British. :)

    I respect your wanting to improve your ability to shape time. I think that by realizing you may have a problem is the first step to fixing it!

    Just play bro, Think of time as a series of "V'S" (Ex. "VVVV") and you can either play in front of the beat, the middle or behind.

    Play from records and copy where they're putting the groove. The school thing is good from a technical standpoint, but alot of teachers are just collecting a check. I believe your teacher must genuinely care about your playing to even mention this topic! It usually bears the fruit of indignation from the Brits.:bag: NOT as much from Europe from my experiences.;) Just have good listening habits and watch your audience, if they're wiggling, or patting their feet, you're probably doing something right. If they look bored, then that should be considered too.

    I think groove and swinging can be taught, but, it won't necessarily be understood. That part is up to you, but listening is the key. I really believe people will give you hints what's working and what's not in your career. All you have to do is be sensitive and open. You seem to be on the right track!
  12. Howard -
    I wouldn't get caught up in the whole US vs. UK or anywhere else thing. Sure you can make some generalisations, but I don't think that will really help your playing. I'd recommend you find some recordings that make you tap your foot, get deep inside them, and try to create that same feeling when you play. Also find other players in your area that swing, and try to play with them. You could try to find a top level pianist or guitarist or saxophonist, pay for a lesson, and tell them you just want to play tunes for an hour. Even a drummer, and just play time for an hour! Like in competitive sports, playing with people who are "better" than you, forces you to try to elevate yourself.

    Regarding the metronome, the work you're doing is important. What may be happening is when you practice, you condition yourself to rely on the click. You are playing WITH the metronome. Then when you go to play with a horn player who is laying back with the time, you want that same feeling of playing WITH someone (or some thing) and you go with what you hear EXTERNALLY. That's where the feeling of sluggishness can creep in. So the trick is, to take the work you're doing with the metronome, and the listening of great swinging records, and make it INTERNAL. So you have such a strong concept of time, (tempo and feel) that you can establish and maintain it all by yourself sometimes in spite of what else is going on in the band. And here's the real challenge - to do this and still sound like an accompanist! You've got to straddle the line to both lead and follow simultaneously!

    And you thought all you had to do was play quarter notes...:meh:
  13. Howard K

    Howard K

    Feb 14, 2002
    No, of course, the UK/US thing isnt something I will allow to occupy my mind, it just intregued me as it was something I'd heard other people say before (perhaps from the same source?)

    That's a very insightful point about playing to meet something external, I do that habitually and I think I always have, I 'latch on', and I find it very hard to not get 'dragged in' when people play with poor time or feel, or play out/free on purpose.

    Great idea about paying someone to play with too, very good idea in fact!

    dhadleyray, cheers, and yes, this teacher is very passionate about music, almost to a fault of you catch my drift ;) the last class had it;s painful moments i must admit! :D

    many thanks all
  14. Sam Sherry

    Sam Sherry Inadvertent Microtonalist Supporting Member

    Sep 26, 2001
    Portland, ME
    Euphonic Audio "Player"
    Yeah, TBal.

    When I first read this thread it struck me as a more sophisticated version of the "black player/white player" bull**** which occasionally rises from the sewers. Or the similar "old guy/young guy" line. NOT, Howard, that I am accusing YOU of prejudice -- your inquiry makes it clear that you are not necessarily buying this line.

    There's an old joke: "There are two kinds of people -- the kind who divide people into two kinds, and the other kind."
  15. Ed Fuqua

    Ed Fuqua

    Dec 13, 1999
    Chuck Sher publishes my book, WALKING BASSICS:The Fundamentals of Jazz Bass Playing.
    I always thought it was " There are 3 kinds of people in the world, those who can count and those that can't."

    I dunno, one of the hardest swinging drummers I ever played with was from Finland. he listened to a LOT of Louis Hayes, Philly Joe, Jimmy Cobb etc.

    It's a language, for better or worse, that came into being in this country (and not ANY of the other countries that were part of the African diaspora), so (for better or worse) this is the accent you kind of got to speak it with.
  16. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY
    + Many.

    This needs to be matted and framed.
  17. Aw, shucks.
    You know, saying how to do it is one thing. Being able to do it at a high level on a consistent basis is quite the other! Too much adrenalin, fatigue, or a momentary mental distraction, and all bets are off!
  18. anonymous8547j7d7b

    anonymous8547j7d7b Guest

    Jul 1, 2005
    Ain't that the truth!!! Hero to zero in an eighth note:crying: . Doesn't matter that we've managed to put up with 8 choruses of " 'Omnibook' meets patterns for Jazz' " & only just nodded off blahx3;)
  19. jazzbass72


    Jun 26, 2003
    New York, NY
    I second Ray's opinion... move to New York City, or spend a few months here! You'll be absorbing tons of information (just like a sponge) when you go check out live shows in NYC, and play with fellow musicians who've been here for a while. When it comes to swinging hard, there's just something about NYC that you can't find anywhere else. You'll be learning a lot especially from the drummers here. When you go back to playing in the UK, you'll be turning heads around!

    -Marco (living in NYC, born and raised in Sicily, Italy)
  20. Howard K

    Howard K

    Feb 14, 2002
    I love this, it makes me feel genuinely optimistic somehow. It might sound it, but I'm not being ironic here. Makes me reaslise it is actually feasible you know, one day I'll do it, even if it's just for a short time. Cheers
    Right now though, it's not an option, I'm needed elsewhere :) I'm an amateur musician with a day job, a mortgage, and more importantly I have a 7 month old daughter who I miss just while I'm at work sometimes! :cool:

    I will however approach my tutor - a drummer who spent a lot of time in NYC, about paying him to play for an hour or so every now and then. When he plays in class, it swings. This is a good plan!