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Ensembles without chordal backing, or *you* providing chordal backing

Discussion in 'Miscellaneous [DB]' started by Aaron Saunders, Feb 1, 2006.

  1. Aaron Saunders

    Aaron Saunders

    Apr 27, 2002
    Does anyone here do any playing in trios/duos that have no chordal instrument? I've seen a bass/sax/drums setup a couple times and it sounded great. It had a really interesting, really full sound considering there was no pianist banging out 10 note voicings, etc.

    I've talked to a sax player and drummer about doing this in a duo setup and trio setup (me and sax, me sax and drums) with a variety of tunes. So far, we've been thinking:

    Au Privave
    Billie’s Bounce
    Blues for Alice
    Body and Soul
    My One and Only Love
    Stella By Starlight

    I also come from a background of BG playing (including a lot of chordal and solo stuff) and have been playing guitar for about half as long as I've played the slab, so I also want to try playing it and guitar on a few of the tunes. I know most of the fellas over here only play upright, so I guess this particular aspect is focused more on Chris Fitz, or anyone else who has a background in a chordal instrument.

    Any advice from your own experiences with these settings? I've asked both John Geggie and Mike Perlin (who have both had experience with bass/sax/drums trios) and they said that you *really* have to know the song. Other than that, is there any more advice y'all can give?
  2. Chrix


    Apr 9, 2004
    My $.2,

    When playing in a pianoless or guitarless group, be it duo, trio or even larger, the first thing that goes through my mind is to simplify somewhat what you would normally do. When creating bass lines, make sure time is paramount and that you're harmonically staying true to the changes. Now of course this doesn't mean that you can't move in and out when it calls for it, but it helps you and the person/people you're playing with if you keep it a bit simpler.

    As far as chords on double bass, just follow normal voice-leading rules. Thirds and sevenths are usually what needs to be done. This might take a bit of practice and "really knowing the tune" as you stated.

    Plus, check out plenty of pianoless/guitarless/chordalinstrumentless groups. Some of my favourites are:

    Joe Lovano - Trio Fascination vols. 1 & 2
    Sonny Rollins at the Village Vanguard
    Ornette Coleman - Shape of Jazz To Come
    Dave Holland - Triplicate

    Most of all, just remember to keep your ears wide open and your head in the game. You're filling multiple roles in these situations. You've got to be not only the bassist, but the drummer and the pianist as well. But when it works out, it sounds great and actually is a lot of fun. Some of the best gigs I've ever played have been without chordal instruments.

    Best of luck. Have fun.
  3. anonymous0726

    anonymous0726 Guest

    Nov 4, 2001
    Tune choice is important. Pick tunes that stand well with just the two voices. 'Just in Time' is a great pick. 'Maiden Voyage' and 'Naima' are not.

    Don't stretch out forever on the thing. This sort of playing can be ambiguous and anything over about 8-10 minutes will be a marathon for listeners -- which includes you, if you're listening.

    I actually find it a little tougher to play chordless with a drummer, as the drummer can often box you in rhythmically. When you have control of the groove and bottom without having to share responsibilities you have more room.

    Explore on-the-spot arrangements using ostinatos and different feels and so forth. A technique that I like to use is the busy eight-note/bossa thing like what NHOP used to do. If you tread carefully you can lay down the groove, take care of the harmony and play counter melodic all at the same time.

    Most importantly, keep your ears open and do 'structure' maintenance when things start sounding like their falling apart.
  4. I play with singer who frequently "waves out" the rest of the band for at least half a chorus when she comes in after the solos. Definitely my favorite part of that gig.

    When Gerald Cannon was still in town, he did a regular duo gig with a singer at a local restaurant. His sound was so big, and the arrangements were so full, you never missed the piano or guitar.