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Elevating oneself

Discussion in 'Music Theory [DB]' started by Alex Scott, Mar 12, 2004.

  1. Alex Scott

    Alex Scott

    May 8, 2002
    Austin, TX
    thanks guys, lots of helpful stuff. I guess I just need to make a laundry list of everything I want to get better at and get with some material and a teacher. Gave my old teacher a call during lunch.

    Here is a link to my first CD, out about 6 months and pretty recent. I take a solo on don't know which is almost Beatrice Changes. I can't say that I was thinking too hard about the harmoy.


    tell me what you think of these songs too, most are originals, some are contrafacts? I don't feel like I learn a lot of stuff from some of these tunes. Thanks.
  2. Peter Dalla

    Peter Dalla

    Feb 2, 2004

    Getting an error message at the cdbaby site.
  3. Peter Dalla

    Peter Dalla

    Feb 2, 2004
    OK, it's up now.

    DON'T KNOW is unfortunately one of the tunes that is not excerpted. So it's a little hard to evaluate.
  4. Alex Scott

    Alex Scott

    May 8, 2002
    Austin, TX

    thanks for trying, that's probablybecause it has a bass solo. I can't remember too much, and apparently have a raging case of ADD. Thanks for your numerous posts. The other info I can tell you is two pairs is not very indicative of the way I play and that February 23rd I thought was pretty good, I don't remember if a cut with my solo made it on the album. thanks for trying, anyone know anyother place I can put something up? Thanks
  5. Phil Smith

    Phil Smith Mr Sumisu 2 U

    May 30, 2000
    Peoples Republic of Brooklyn
    Creator of: iGigBook for Android/iOS
  6. Peter Dalla

    Peter Dalla

    Feb 2, 2004
    On the positive side, nothing I heard made me want to run from the room, screaming and clutching my ears.

    from what I can tell on my cheap computer speakers you get a nice sound. I didn't hear anything with tempos (I mean uptempos) or with what I would say was a walking part. What I could hear in the excerpts has pretty static bass parts, is there anything that moves the harmony around and opens things up a little?
  7. Alex Scott

    Alex Scott

    May 8, 2002
    Austin, TX
    man, thanks for being so nice, I will see what I can find and get up somewhere
  8. Peter Dalla

    Peter Dalla

    Feb 2, 2004
    There's always the TB Sampler and/or XavierG was looking to put together a compilation of TB jazz players.
  9. I always enjoy making analogies between spoken language and the language of music. So let me counter your Bill Murray story with this. 1. Charlie Parker, for example, is to Jazz what Shakespeare is to English Literature. 2. Musical phrases have far less specificity of meaning than do spoken or written words. No less meaningful, however. 3. Now if I were to construct a solo of a pastiche of Bird lines (melodies, solo excerpts, etc. and assuming they made sense regarding the changes of the tune they were being played over), I would argue it would be far more of a cogent statement than the one Bill Murray made.

    Until you get to the point where you're inventing your own language, all of your vocabulary IS borrowed. The point is, borrow it from as many different sources as you can. When you find yourself in a rut playing the same things over and over, change a note or the direction of a phrase on the fly. Or take the fist part of one phrase and combine it with part of another. This way you are beginning to create your own stuff. But you've got to take bits and pieces of other people's stuff as raw material so you have something to combine to make your own. As others have mentioned, of course hear everything first.

    Benny Green's teacher (can't remember his name) told him there are 3 stages in the evolution of an improviser. Imitation, Emulation, Innovation. Few actually get to the 3rd stage, but it is the effort to get ther that (hopefully) keeps us growing.

    Also, I did not intend to imply that harvesting ideas was the only benefit to be had from transcribing. Among others, there is a deeper understanding of stylistic elements, expressive nuances, feel, etc. Nor did I mean to suggest that this was the only path to acheiving one's goals. It is a vital component, however.

    Alex, more for you later.
  10. Lovebown


    Jan 6, 2001
    Yes I've heard of those stages too, and they make perfect sense to me. Most serious jazz artists end up in the 2nd category, the Stylization plateau where you have your own style within a particular tradition...and a few go on to be innovators and truly make out their own paths.

  11. Peter Dalla

    Peter Dalla

    Feb 2, 2004
    T - I've listened to your contributions to the TB/DB and you have certainly gotten to a place where you communicate effectively, through your instrument and composition. And if following the path you outline got you there, then it got you there. All I am saying is that it did not get ME there, what did is the path I outlined. And now Alex has a Column A and a Column B to choose from, and that's a Good Thing (Martha says from the pokey).

    But I still have problems with this approach. I don't think Alex has any trouble sounding like he can play, I think what he has been playing is very akin to what you are talking about and that's why it doesn't sound connected. Not because the notes don't work, but because he's just puttingh his fingers on them, not because he hears that specific note in the context of the harmony of the moment, in the context of the line he is trying to create in the overall harmonic motion of the piece. The reason Ray sounds the way he does is because he means every single note he plays. And he can mean it becasue he hears (well, heard) it and he can make everybody listening hear it, too.

    By way of your example, Alex can take off all the Bird solos he wants to get phrases to play over certain harmonies, he can mix and match phrases so he's not just playing a transcription or even the phrases over the changes to the tune that it's from. But it's still just a way of sounding like you can play rather than actually playing. He's still going to feel like he's not in the driver's seat. Because what he played doesn't MEAN anything to him. Any more than listening to a tape of Chinese people speaking to each other and learning to pronounce the phrases and putting those phrases together in an order other than they were on the tape means that you are speaking Chinese.

    Remember Alex isn't a raw beginner here. He's already listened to the Chinese tapes, he's even looked at some phrase books to learn how to say a few things that actually mean something. What he really needs to work on now is connecting vocabulary to "what do I really want to say". Personally, I've found it more fruitful to work on the "what I want to say" part than the vocabulary part. Because I can communicate meaningfully with the limited vocabulary I have. The deeper understanding I have, the more I work on expanding not just my vocabulary but my understanding, the deeper and richer are the things I can communicate. But "It's funny watching that kitten play" and " I am enjoying infinite amusement observing the antics of that juvenile feline" don't really mean anything different. But either means more than "Funny cats are juvenile play antics", right?
  12. Well, there you have it. Different strokes for different folks. But you still feel the need to tell everyone why the suggestion I made for Alex does not work for you. So we could go back and forth like this indefinately, where I defend this part of my approach, and remind you that it is one aspect of the big picture, and then you disagree with it again, etc. So let's just make our own suggestions, and let Alex decide for himself what he thinks is valid. Although I think it's all valid. I never took issue with any of your comments, except the notion of what vocabulary is.

    Alex, to paraphrase from your earlier posts, you wrote that you endeavor to get away from free jazz, to play in more straight-ahead settings, and that in order to sound convincing doing this you want to play more like Ray Brown, as well as draw more from the tradition overall. I would say this: immerse yourself in recordings that you think represent that tradition. Don't listen to Ornette for a while. You may find it interesting to try and recognise how certain strains existed which fed into the music that you listen to now, as you'll always gain a better understanding of something when you know where it came from. But even if you don't transcribe a note of the "earlier" stuff, it's bound to sink in trough osmosis if you really saturate yourself with it. Also, look for more current stuff that's coming from the tradition, like Scott Hamilton is one who comes to mind.

    You mention that you want to learn cliches, but in a more meaningful manner, like when Ray played them. I don't know if you ever saw him live, but if you did you'll probably understand what I felt when I saw him. Ray had an overwhelming sense of joy (almost euphoria), and pride when he played. He felt it, and he made the audience feel it. I think it stemmed from the fact that he just loved to play, the music was swingin', dynamic, the best s**t on earth. I think it was this attitude that allowed him to play cliches in a way that sounded meaningful. I think all great jazz is infused with that kind of spirit. If you can experience it yourself, on a regular basis, by attending performances of artists you hold in the highest regard, some of that spirit may begin to show up in your own work. It's definately something you can't get from records alone.

    On the other hand, if you're not infatuated with a style or period of jazz, there is no way you're going to perform it with conviction, because it has no meaning to you. Are you on this path because you love it, or because you think you should? Does the mainstream really interest you, or are you just hoping to be more versatile so you can get more gigs?

    If you truly embrace it, all of the other stuff will fall into place. Just think to yourself, "This is what I love, this is what I do, this is who I am". Also, the music is a force of its own. No one person is bigger than the music. I am lucky just to be a relatvely anonymous participant.

    But I ramble.
  13. Ed Fuqua

    Ed Fuqua

    Dec 13, 1999
    Chuck Sher publishes my book, WALKING BASSICS:The Fundamentals of Jazz Bass Playing.
    Ramblin' - now there's a nice tune.

    T- Come on now, I never got the sense that we was arguing for no good reason about something. Being as clear as you can possibly be about something and back and forthing til you are sure that somebody is disagreeing with you because they truly do and not because they are misunderstanding what you are saying is a good thing. And I don't think anybody here is skipping over these exchanges to get to the "really good stuff". You have an informed opinion, I have an informed opinion, Chris and Sam and Paul have informed opinions. And now Alex has the benefit of alla those.

    But don't be so quick to close the dialogue. Because if you don't think I've stated (or re-stated) something clearly, you should be able to push that concept forward with different language til I do at least get what you're talking about. even if I still disagree.

    If you got something more to say on the changes, you get to play another chorus.
  14. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY
    Whatever...I still say your guys are BOTH dead wrong: It's all about SINGING, dammit, SINGING, I say!

    Seriously, I think the two "sides" are not nearly as far apart as they may seem. If, in the course of doing all of the transcribing and absorbing from the masters, you start to absorb not only their lines and cliches but also some of their concept, then you get the best of both worlds. And I couldn't agree more on the notion of Ray Brown's musical joy - it was and is very real. Capture a little of that, and you will have learned more than any book can teach you.
  15. Wow - I'm in a dialogue with Ed! Ain't the beer cold! (that's a Baltimore thing). Anyway, I'm happy to continue, I just didn't want to leave Alex feeling like it wasn't about him anymore. I'd love to do this all day, but other obligations intervene.

    Chow for now.
  16. Sam Sherry

    Sam Sherry Inadvertent Microtonalist Supporting Member

    Sep 26, 2001
    Portland, ME
    Euphonic Audio "Player"
    Yeah! Yeah!

    Thomas Conrad's review/critique of Wyton Marsalis' and Dave Douglas' new discs, from thee April, 2004 JazzTimes, talks about “the quality of immediacy [which is] essential to jazz. That quality originates, not from the assumption that the notes have never been played before, but from a sense that they have come into being, in real time, as urgent creative impulses.”

    That's the ****. That's the foundation. That's the goal. That's the whole friggin' kit & kaboodle.
  17. Phil Smith

    Phil Smith Mr Sumisu 2 U

    May 30, 2000
    Peoples Republic of Brooklyn
    Creator of: iGigBook for Android/iOS
    Perhaps we need to start a thread about a musician's psychological relationship to their playing i.e. how that affects their sound, content of the solos etc.
  18. or even a thread on how to do ear training, transcriptions and other "jazz related" stuff on a better level... not just "banging the bass" as someone putted earlier. I would find that off a much bigger help than this thread already is!

    (sorry for the english. I'm really not sure about all the words... fell free to corect me)
  19. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY
    That's cool, but maybe this already is that thread? I mean, if in the course of the discussion about "elevating" your playing, the thought comes up that perhaps it's maybe less about the notes and ideas themselves and more the notion of the spirit of the thing, then isn't that still on topic?

    FWIW, I think that this is a great topic, but a difficult one to discuss, as it tends to transcend words. In Aikido, the true masters are always talking about "from the center" and "being centered" when the subject of "elevating one's art" comes up. I used to wonder why the discussion always tended toward Zen Haiku at that point, but now I think it's only because there are no real words to describe that feeling adequately. In music, the only things I can cite that tend to lead me toward making better music are "Openness" and "Getting out of the way" of the music. For me, the more I try to impose on the music, the more I tend to **** it up. The real "joy" for me is allowing myself to be swept up in the moment and accepting what comes out at the moment it comes out as where I was right then and there. Which sounds incredibly stupid and "new age" until you factor in what it takes to get to the point where the aforementioned things can actually happen...
  20. I agree with this 100%, despite my endless posting about not playing on the level I want to, I do have moments where I shut up and let the music happen and it's great. IMHO attittude is not discussed enough ANYWHERE!

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