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He really swings?

Discussion in 'Jazz Technique [DB]' started by aks_29, Aug 29, 2007.


  1. I'm kind of confused as to what people mean when they say a bassist really swings.

    At first I thought it meant that they just swing really well. But then I was reading the liner notes for a Charlie Biddle and Oliver Jones cd and it said that Biddle was no virtuoso but was very solid and swung very well.

    Now as far as I could tell in the entire cd he played almost nothing but straight quarter notes (as far as I know giving him no opportunity to swing). This led me to believe that it was simply an expression meaning to be solid and have good feel.

    But then what finally pushed me over the edge was when I was on here reading the thread about Charlie Haden when people were saying that he really swings really hard but to me it sounded like they meant it literally.

    So now my question is, what exactly do people mean when they describe a bass player as swinging or say that he/she swings hard?

    Thanks,
     
  2. Swinging (to me at least) is the act/feel of "lagging" the notes that you're playing a bit. Kind of a lose sloppy feel, but this is all IMO. The best way to describe swing is to simply hear it. Maybe someone will pop up with a good track or YouTube video?

    Edit: Kinda like this.
     
  3. damonsmith

    damonsmith

    May 10, 2006
    Quincy, MA
    Swinging to me has to do with harnessing perpetual motion. When the physical effort disappears you know swing is present.
    It is an addictive feeling, I find it equally important to be able to function with and without it.
    The exact formula changes with each combination of musicians.
    In one situation accenting 2 and 4 with the bass will do it, in another straight down the middle does it, and other that swelling from 1 to 4 Ed described in another thread does it, other situations can take combinations of these approaches plus others.

    Judging music solely based on it's pressence or lack thereof is the single most childish and embarrassing aspect of jazz.
    There is plenty of great music that swings and does not.
     
  4. chicagodoubler

    chicagodoubler Supporting Member

    Aug 7, 2007
    Chicago, that toddling town
    Endorsing Artist: Lakland, Genz Benz
    Ray Brown.
     
  5. Tanglehead

    Tanglehead

    Nov 27, 2004
    Boulder, CO
    +1 on Ray Brown. He helps define what I think of as swing.

    The example from the DVD/Book by David Overthrow attempts to define the rhythm of swing, combined with a rudimentary blues bass line in a swing style. I think of swing as something way beyond the rhythm and certainly beyond a strictly arpeggiated bassline.

    The swing I refer to if I say 'that cat really swings...' is not quantitative; you can't define it with a technical answer. It's about creating a feel. As Damon implies, you have to play differently to 'swing' when you're playing solo compared to playing with a drummer, and even more differently with a swinging guitarist or pianist, whether they're comping or soloing.

    I'm not familar with Charlie Biddle's playing, but I can think of tons of bassists who completely swing playing just quarter note - Leroy Vinnegar comes immediately to mind. To me, creating swing with simple quarter note lines requires swinging hard to make it work. So swinging hard would be digging in, leaning on it and creating that propulsive approach to the beat - as Damon aptly describes it, harnessing the perpetual motion of the tune and groove. While Overthrow's example is effective at demonstrating the basic concept of swing for a beginning blues player, I don't see it as swinging hard.

    Interesting question. I have many thoughts, but I'd like to hear someone else's.

    - tanglehead
     
  6. Marc Piane

    Marc Piane

    Jun 14, 2004
    Chicago
     
  7. Damon Rondeau

    Damon Rondeau Journeyman Clam Artist Supporting Member

    Nov 19, 2002
    Winnipeg, baby
    Yes, well, Damon, you've said yourself before that you don't do groove or you don't like groove or something to that effect. Your free bag is a long way removed historically from jazz music's roots in dance music. That jazz focus on swing, and whether a music swings or doesn't, comes from those historical roots. As a guy who's playing standards and trying to work as much as I can from that swing tradition, I certainly don't find it "childish and embarassing". I know you're presenting your opinion in that statement, but there are younger folks around here who respect you, and based on that respect might take your statement as an ontological truth. Which it sure as all freaking hell is not.

    You're right on the money, though, when you talk about swing being present when the effort goes away.

    Swing is the thing on the radio that grabbed my attention when I was about 7 years old. The old Canadian radio show "Gilmore's Albums" used to have all kinds of big band and 30's swing music. I didn't know crap about music but I knew in my gut and my butt that that music killed. Made me want to tap my feet, move my body.

    Just the other day we played a gig where all kinds of people got up and danced all night. The sound of feet swishing to a swinging waltz -- I'll take it over a lot of modern jazz music any day. It's literally what moves me.

    Do I say swing is necessary or sufficent to make jazz? No. That's an ancient argument -- no need to do that again. That would be childish and embarrassing.
     
  8. Damon Rondeau

    Damon Rondeau Journeyman Clam Artist Supporting Member

    Nov 19, 2002
    Winnipeg, baby
    It's not only a jazz thing, either. I find a lot of hip-hop rhythms, personally, to be quite swinging.
     
  9. Marc Piane

    Marc Piane

    Jun 14, 2004
    Chicago
    Its interesting you mention hiphop. I never really thought about it though I do like some hiphop but I started doing a gig from time to time with Dirty (rapper from Liquid Soul) and Jesse De La Pena (dj from Liquid Soul). We sometimes have a drummer, keypoard, sax, other singers, whatever. The more I do it the more I realize that some of that stuff really swings.
     
  10. PB+J

    PB+J

    Mar 9, 2000
    arlington va
    What is swing??

    To me it's a feel that is simultaneously urgent and relaxed, that has a forward propulsion but not a drive. A good shuffle beat on the drums swings because it's both irresistably forward moving and relaxed as Bernard Purdie shows but doesn't quite "splain":



    That cross stick comes in really relaxed feeling while the hi hat is driving and urgent: the snare hits come in with a behind the beat feel while the ghost notes blur it further.

    Most rock drummers don't swing, they drive. There's "the rock without the roll" as Keith Richards put it. Most rock bass players don't swing, they drive. Drive is exciting, I'm not knocking it, just noting the difference.

    To me, the double bass swings more because it has a percussive initial attack followed by a relaxed decay: "thump--ahhh." So you get the urgency of thump thump thump, right on the beat, and the relaxed feel of the note swelling and decaying behind the beat. I can do it on mid tempo stuff; when the tempo goes up, it gets harder to swing, because of the limits of my technique. I struggle to much and the relaxed feel goes. To my ears when you say a guy swings you're partly saying that he has enough command of the instrument to control the attack/decay envelope of each note. It's something you feel

    And the other part of it is note choice. Sometimes my lines really swing, and sometimes they just don't. When they do, it's usually because I'm comfortable playing through the changes, constructing lines that have a momentum that leads you to the next chords. When they don't, it's because I'm basically just arpeggiating the chords: root three five seven etc. A player who swings can move you through the chord progression in a way that creates forward momentum, even thgouh the actual notes fall squarely on the beats.

    In both cases, "swing" is the same thing" a feel that is simultaneously urgent and relaxed

    At least that's how I see it!
     
  11. Marc Piane

    Marc Piane

    Jun 14, 2004
    Chicago
    I really think swing cannot be defined in words. It changes based on the players present, tempo, how much coffee you had before the set and how much beer you had during it. Just listen to the masters and try to emulate. Then start developing your own style.
     
  12. PB+J

    PB+J

    Mar 9, 2000
    arlington va
    Well nothing can--word are never the things they describe, which is the challenge of language. It's a symbolic medium.

    You can try to describe it though, which is what the poster asked for. Did I get close?
     
  13. Marc Piane

    Marc Piane

    Jun 14, 2004
    Chicago
    Yup. And I'm not saying we shouldn't try. The thing is when my students ask about swing I give an verbal explaination then I burn them a cd of some of the most swingest sh** and tell them "but to really understand what I am talking about listen to this."
     
  14. Marc Piane

    Marc Piane

    Jun 14, 2004
    Chicago
    This is the question we are trying to answer.

    This explaination is really good.
    comments like these
    do not help our OP.
     
  15. Damon Rondeau

    Damon Rondeau Journeyman Clam Artist Supporting Member

    Nov 19, 2002
    Winnipeg, baby
    I think this is true, but I think we can BS about it as much as we want. We're bass players, this topic is well within our domain.

    I've been thinking about an earlier thread where we talked about whether you've got to emphasize 2 and 4, or just 1, or swell from 1 to 4, etc. I think a lot of that approach -- defining it by which beat has an emphasis -- isn't really on the mark. It's got more to do with the kind of pulse that's gets going, the relationship of the pulses to each other, within the individual player and then within the relationship of the players to each other. It's a bigger picture thing, not a smaller picture thing.

    In my city, or maybe just my gang, we sometimes use the word "schmeck". I know it as a low German word that means "taste" -- I think it may have a yiddish use too, but I don't know. So, if a music "schmecks", it means that it's happening, it grabs and holds the attention, it creates admiration in other musicians. In jazz, "swing" sometimes has the same sort of broad meaning, but it's more focused on rhythm.
     
  16. damonsmith

    damonsmith

    May 10, 2006
    Quincy, MA
    I love swing, plenty of free jazz swings, I find it very important to be able to do it. I love to walk, too.
    I have Mathew Shipp's new "Piano Vortex" on now with Joe Morris on bass, and it has a lot swing in it.
    Swing and groove are not the same thing, grooves can be ruts but swing can be free. "Free Jazz" generally has an underlying swing, although plenty of other improvised musics do not.
    I have done tons of work with modern dance, and I actually think that has had a huge impact on my work, so my music is dance music, you just have to be a good dancer to deal with it!

    What I called childish and embarrassing is the judgement of music based on swing or lack there of, for example trying to discredit Mingus, Braxton, Cecil Taylor etc. for not swinging (even though those three actually do swing!.
     
  17. Damon Rondeau

    Damon Rondeau Journeyman Clam Artist Supporting Member

    Nov 19, 2002
    Winnipeg, baby
    Yeah, I kinda figured that's where you were coming from, and I certainly agree with you (well, not with Braxton, but that's my taste.) After my post I looked at your use of the word "solely" and realized I fired off one barrel a little prematurely. I always leave the other barrel in reserve.

    But hey -- a provocative statement is gonna get a response! Oftentimes when I respond to something like that, I'm playing to the crowd, thinking of the archives. I'm a loudmouth, what can I say?
     
  18. PocketGroove82

    PocketGroove82

    Oct 18, 2006
    Chicago
    Swing was a style of music popular in the 30s-40.
    "To Swing" is something entirely different, and it can be found in everything from bluegrass to salsa to jazz to rock and showtunes.

    It's so much of a feeling that it is impossible to notate!
    Think about it, we have robots on the surface of mars and we've unlocked the human genome, but we just can accurately write down what "swung" is.

    When a band is swinging, it's a magical feeling to listen to or be a part of.
    When a band isn't swinging, YOU KNOW IT!...and that's when you realize how important and essential swinging is.
     
  19. PocketGroove82

    PocketGroove82

    Oct 18, 2006
    Chicago
    ...many people think it's that it's the 2 and 4 high-hat thing that defines swing...or the "ding ding-a-ding" of the ride cymbal...or laying back all surly behind the beat...or pushing the beat like crazy!

    It can be all of these things, and none of them!
    Listen to any tune with Jack De Johnette in drums (backing Keith Jarrett, is a good place to start) and you will find he rarely actually plays any of the above "standard" identifiers of what swings! The guy just plays...and it swings!
     
  20. damonsmith

    damonsmith

    May 10, 2006
    Quincy, MA
    Well, when they were going after Braxton he had Holland and Altscul in the rhythm section and that stuff swung hard.

    Miroslav looks bored but sounds good...
     

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