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Dixieland Jazz help!!

Discussion in 'Jazz Technique [DB]' started by violinoscar, Dec 9, 2006.

  1. I recently had a play with some real hard-core dixieland players, and am likely to again as these are the only working jazz musos in my small town. I am replacing a tuba player who has gone to the big gig.
    My problem is that I find it a little tedious, all the 1,5,1,5 etc. I feel like a hillbilly player.
    I am sure that a better and more experienced player could make this role more interesting for both themself, and the other players and I was hoping that I might get some suggestions here on what I could do. Help please!
  2. Uncletoad


    May 6, 2003
    Columbus Ohio
    Proprietor Fifth Avenue Fret Shop. Technical Editor Bass Gear Magazine
    There is great challenge in playing simple. To often busy playing is a cover for lack of depth. Sometimes I miss harmonic complexity on simple gigs but usually only if there is nothing else going on besides the changes.

    Harmonic depth isn't the only kind of depth available in music. There is groove, swing or time, there is tone or sound. There is challenge in perfect execution of the form. Maybe most important is the interplay between musicians. The conversation.

    On simple gigs I strive for excellent tone, intentioned note length and the sound's placement in time to create the correct motion and mood. There is a subtle art in changing dynamics and moving the note around in the groove to create tension and release in response to the melody and or the soloist. There is a wealth of communication available in simple forms that can get obscured by complexity.

    When I'm on my game the song is served, the ensemble is served and the listener is taken on a little trip. We paint with sound. Root five becomes irrelevant and I begin to play music.
  3. jtlownds


    Oct 3, 2004
    LaBelle, FL
    +1 for everything Uncle Toad said. I have been playing with dixieland groups for years. It ain't necessarily all 1 5. One band leader insisted on a walking bassline for every damn song. I don't agree with that, but it does work well on a lot of the tunes. I frequently will go 1 - 5 for a chorus or two and then switch to a walking line to create some tension and release. It helps if you have a drummer who is listening to what you are doing. Have fun with it. There are NO rules.
  4. bassdblr


    Nov 12, 2006
    Southern CA
    I started a thread on this topic a few weeks ago. Could find it by doing a search.
  5. ToR-Tu-Ra


    Oct 15, 2005
    Mexico City
    I've just started playing some old jazz tunes with some friends, I play 2-feel for the head and the lyrics, then start walking on the solos.

    When I'm playing two feel and I feel it's getting boring, I try to play more than root-fifth, but keeping the same feel, for example: If you have the same chord for two bars, you can "walk" in half notes. Also, If youre moving up a fourth, like D7 to G, you can play root-third and it sounds nice, works nice on both minor and dominant chords.

    Keep it simple and enjoy. Seems too easy, but it's harder than it looks like. Specially if it's some really hardcore dixie players, it's hard to get that "authentic" old school sound.

  6. loonj91


    Dec 11, 2006
    i'm playing mahogany hall stomp it has the same 2 feel and is lots of 1 down a fourth to the fifth
  7. Alexi David

    Alexi David

    May 15, 2003
    If I'm playing those bass lines and I'm into the music that is around me, then I get lost in the music - it's great. Maybe it's my ADD; I have no problem playing 3 notes all night if it makes the music good!
  8. endorka


    Oct 15, 2004
    Glasgow, Scotland
    All good advice there. In this type of music, you must believe in your soul, not just intellectually, that simpler is better. If the other musicians are good they'll be doing the melodic stuff that keeps folks entertained. If in doubt, check out the audience - if you're doing your job well they'll be tapping their feet, smiling, dancing.

    While it can be a bit obvious and sometimes naff in other types of jazz, the business about going from 2 feel to walking is a good one in trad jazz, although I am generally careful about when I do it, taking into consideration the style of the soloist who will be playing at the time. Listen for what kind of energy they are contributing, and play accordingly.

    Also, you can use *not* going into walking to build tension. Sometimes it is very effective to walk only the last time you play the head in a tune. You know everyone is wanting, nay expecting you to walk, so you don't. As long as the other musos are putting enough energy in this is fine. If the gig is good sometimes you can just do a 2 beat for most of the gig, saving the walking for the end.

    And of course, there is a kindof inbetween 2 beat and walk that you can apply judiciously also.

    Lots of possibilities here! Once you get playing, try a few things out and see how the band and audience react, and it will all become clear.

  9. natbers78

    natbers78 Supporting Member

    Jun 3, 2006
    Toledo, OH
    Let me start by saying that I don't really enjoy playing dixie music, but when someone calls with a job, I still take it. It's a job, and ultimately more experience for me. My suggestions for you are to do your best to serve the music, and check out some recordings of Louis Armstrong's Hot 5's and 7's. I've never played any dixieland that sounded like that, but it's what I try to think of while plodding through a dixie gig trying to stay positive and musical.
  10. Chef

    Chef Moderator Staff Member Supporting Member

    May 23, 2004
    Columbia MO
    Staff Reviewer; Bass Gear Magazine
    All the tips I had are already covered well by Uncle Toad: 1/4/5 doesn't have to be boring if you bring on the repsect and concentration; there's really quite a lot to interaction dynamics, groove, listening to the ensemble.
    The other suggestion to pitch 1/5 against walking is great too...
    I normally play jazz/blues/R&B, but there are some dixielanders that come trhu town about once every three months; I love it when I get the call to play that stuff. It's so "not what I normally do," and it's really upbeat fun stuff to be around!
  11. Ike Harris

    Ike Harris

    May 16, 2001
    Nashville TN
    What we're talking about is a style of music that has died out, come back, died out again and resurfaced again so many times in so many places that it's hard to get a handle on what exactly is supposed to happen style-wise with it. I've been doing the dixieland -trad festival circuit for the past several years and still am trying to get a handle on what it is I'm exactly supposed to do.

    My best take on it is that early jazz was(and still is) an evolving style and there were many facets of styles from many parts of the country that make up the genre. Your situation of replacing a tuba player in an established band that has been going for many years sounds like probably most surviving bands of that type around the country where the tuba is playing a very simple bassline with an instrument that's capable of doing much more. PLaying dixie on tuba is a very strenuous task- imagine pressing your face against metal for a whole tune, then multiply that for the duration of the gig. You wouldn't want do play 4 to the bar either! I've done that routine too, more times than I can count, although there are guys around now that can do anything a bass player can do on tuba - and then some.

    The history, though, is: in the beginning of recording, when jazz was in it's infancy, string bass couldn't be heard, so tuba was substituted in order to have an audible bass instrument. Of course both instruments were used in various bands, but early jazz is identified with the tuba in place, so that's what concept many dixie players have of the bass part. If you check out the story of Pops Foster, the first jazz bassist superstar, he actually started on bass, learned tuba for recording, was a doubler for a while, then later dropped it and just played bass for the duration. You can go on Youtube and hear him play - much like more modern players - 2 beat for the head and four beat on the solos. A simpler line than you may wish, but that is what fits with the rest of the band harmonically. So that is what I use as a model for when I play this style of music. You should read Pops' autobiography. He started out in the 1900's playing bass, a real history lesson in jazz and our chosen instrument.

    I know you were "asking the time" and I gave a dissertation on how to "build a watch" but that's my take on it.


    PS: I got to know a trad DJ from Melbourne on a jazz cruise a few years back, so there should be some music to check out on the radio "down under" if you look around for it.

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