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Free Jazz Bass Playing

Discussion in 'Music Theory [DB]' started by Confucius, Jan 17, 2005.

  1. Confucius


    Dec 27, 2004
    New York
    Anyone have any insight or advice other than the typical cliches on how to approach playing free jazz. Compared to the amount of information out there on bebop, standards and modal tunes -- there is very little "nuts and bolts" type instruction on how the great bassists who play free jazz (creative/avantgarde) do what they do. Obviously you can learn from the music itself. But beyond that can anyone share any methods/systems/approaches that have helped them? Thanks in advance!
  2. Marc Piane

    Marc Piane

    Jun 14, 2004
    I just try to clear my mind and open my ears. I try to lose any idea of role and just let the situation dictate what I should play. I always keep my bow handy.

    Free jazz takes every bit as much facility on the bass as any style. Many people think that free jazz just requires that you know how to play funny noises and be abstact in how you think. Wrong.

    I could go on for days. I'm actually starting to write down many of my ideas. I can email you the stuff I've written so far if you'd like. They are just musings but you might find them interesting. Plus I'd like some input.
  3. Aaron Saunders

    Aaron Saunders

    Apr 27, 2002
    Hey, Fingers, would you be able to e-mail those to me too? I'm just starting to get into free jazz...very cool stuff.
  4. chimp


    Dec 4, 2004
    South Africa
    yeah could you email me that stuff aswell
  5. Marc Piane

    Marc Piane

    Jun 14, 2004
    Sure. They are just journal entries more than anything with my thoughts and experiences with free playing. I started to write them down to help my own thought process. Let me clean them up a bit then I'll send them out.

    I'd also welcome any input on them also. I am a college trained traditional jazz player trying to make it in a free jazz world. I have done a fair amount of free playing and these are the thoughts that I have when playing.

  6. Good luck!
    Sorry, I had to come back and ask you...when you say traditional, surely you don't mean TRAD JAZZ as in dixieland...you know, New Orleans kinda stuff. Surely you don't mean that.
  7. Matt Ides

    Matt Ides

    May 12, 2004
    Minneapolis, MN
    Hey Marc, if you are comfortable would you be willing to post a thread here, for all to read and learn from? I would loved the info as well.

    Also, have you worked with Tatsu Aoki, your in Chi-town right?
  8. Matt Ides

    Matt Ides

    May 12, 2004
    Minneapolis, MN
  9. Marc Piane

    Marc Piane

    Jun 14, 2004
    No. We did big band to bop in school. I have been playing mainly standards in Chicago but have always had my toes in free jazz and do a fair amount of composing utilizing the things I have learned.

    I am by no means an expert. By no means. I am more than willing to share my thoughts, however they are just that. I think it is our journey as musicians to continue to constantly learn. I will post my thoughts but I would like to generate a constructive discussion. I would like to learn too.
  10. Confucius


    Dec 27, 2004
    New York
    Thanks for all the replies. Jason - taking lessons with William Parker sounds incredible. You can not do any better than that in terms of connecting with a true master. I am also in the NYC area but think I need to get more fundamental stuff together before even thinking about contacting someone of that magnitude. Was the book he gave you by Hazrat Inayat Khan? I want to read it also and anything else he recommends. I am going to order that sound journal he wrote -- looks interesting.
  11. Thanks, Jason you're right on the money and to be perfectly frank, the reason IMHO, that you can't explain why it's kinda funny is that the genre of jazz called traditional is just that; traditional jazz....Dixieland. Going from Trad jazz to free jazz is funny. Going from Mainstream or Straight Ahead Jazz isn't so funny.
  12. godoze


    Oct 21, 2002
    Shoot me if you like...

    William Parker is not my cup of tea...

    Anyhow. I play a lot of free music. I think the worst thing to do with free music is record it; the essence of the performance is generally lost in the process.

    I didn't really become comfortable playing free until i had played the music of the canon for many years...

    That old saying of "learning the rules before you break them" applies here.

    On the other hand i know people that just play free with no deeper understanding of the music and they are happy with that.

    One of the most important things i'd say is to be extremely comfortable on your instrument. being merely proficient will not cut it; you have to be one with the bass...that sounds silly i know but i truly feel that is the case.

    you also need to be an excellent communicator. not so much in the call and response situation but being able to accurately percieve and assimilate what the other cats on the stand are doing.

    You also need to remember Bass Function...

    and you need to be comfortable in your own skin and have some knowledge of self.
  13. Monte


    Jan 9, 2001
    DFW Area, Tejas
    And this gives me a chance to bring up my favorite quote from a friend, Oscar, a B3 and tenor loving dude.

    We were at a listening session at a friend's house who was playing some sort of out (but not really free) stuff.

    Oscar wrinkled up his nose and said: Free jazz?!? It oughta be free!!

    Second fave quote from him was when we were listening to some Dolpy and he said: He sure was out to lunch when he made that one!! (a reference to one of Dolphy's most famous recordings.

    Don't really agree, but it still cracked me up.
  14. Confucius


    Dec 27, 2004
    New York
    Steve Lacy went straight from playing mostly Dixieland to playing Free Jazz with Cecil Taylor. He skipped right over all the jazz that came between those styles apparently. Roswell Rudd also went straight from Dixieland to playing free jazz. There are others as well but those two come to mind.
  15. You got it.....I guess it ain't so funny! :oops:
  16. Confucius


    Dec 27, 2004
    New York
  17. perytojie


    Dec 2, 2004
    Nancy, FRANCE
    Free music, what a subject, huh?

    First of all i'd say there are two different approach to free music ( large picture ) : free choruses & comping on pre-established chord charts. That's what Eric Dolphy, Ornette Coleman (early years) did most of all. This happens a lot in weekly jam sessions over here. It happens ALL THE TIME on modal stuff & blues. You couldn't tell a blues is beeing played two minutes after the music's started... We just go out & in of the structure depending on the music being created.
    The way it usually happens is the rhythm section substituting chords and/or rhythm, and substituting the roles of the instruments, that's why i don't agree with that :

    The chord substituting process can go pretty far. I remember playing "Solar" with a pianist playing those really ambiguous chords ( lots of melodic minor ones). I almost never played any root, fifth, only sparse thirds but a lot of 7th, 9th, 11th chord tones as "roots". The way he played gave me space to recreate a different harmonic structure -i would say road- The same thing happens with rhythm i.e switshing between 3/4, 4/4 etc. or play stops every 5 or 7 bars in a straight 4/4 anthropology for example. You really need to be aware of the structure cause you always relate to it anywhere you go...

    The second approach to free music is the totally free one (cecil taylor). The way i ever played it is someone starts playing something (melody, riff, chords etc...) & then the music stops when it has to! It's the most complicated form of free music i think. It's then important to give structure to the improvisation & think about colors, atmospheres rather than harmony. The instruments' roles usually extend to much vaster ones.

    Once another pianist (Jean-Michel Albertucci who played with Archie Shepp) asked me before the jam "do you wanna play the soundtrack of our new movie later on?" and we did. That was really my best free music experience because it was so subtle, intense, irritating, calm, sad, thundering, stupid , thrilling, shameful, forbidden, erotic, so the reflection of life.
    What he really meant was he didn't want me to play music but to tell a story...
    Just come & visit us in Nancy, France. Unfortunately, this happened only once. free music that's subtle is so difficult to play (it shouldn't be) it happens so rarely...

    I found it easier to play that kind of music as duets or trios as well because the communication's easier.
  18. Leco reis

    Leco reis

    Sep 2, 2004
    Astoria, NY
    How do you meet guys that want to play free in NY?
    Anyone knows of jam sessions?
  19. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    Yes - isn't it annoying when people say let's do some "Free Jazz" and it's like a cue for people to make strangulated or scraping noises and generally the most disgusting sounds they can, on their instruments!! ;)

    Each year at the Jazz Summerschool I attend, the tutors devote a session where they get together in a quiet environment and form into small unplanned groups and play "Free" for the audience of students.

    These sessions have produced some of the most beautiful, delicate music that I've ever heard and personally I think it's a shame that more Free Jazz isn't like this.

    Although I can understand that virtually all commercial Jazz clubs are noisy, rowdy places with audiences drinking and chatting (at least!!) - so a performance at "chamber music" volume levels aint gonna "cut through"!! :D
  20. godoze


    Oct 21, 2002
    Dresser is at UCSD now..Turetsky retired.