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How to play jazz without piano/guitar?

Discussion in 'Jazz Technique [DB]' started by Snufkin, May 12, 2019.

  1. Snufkin


    Dec 26, 2013
    I´ve been asked to play with a quartet - me, sax, trp and drums, so neither piano nor guitar. Any advice/hints/records to check out?
  2. Dave Holland - Triplicate (with Steve Coleman and Jack DeJohnette).

    Anthony Cox - Factor Of Faces

    And I’ve never heard them but there’s a band called BassDrumBone which is just that- bass, drums, and trombone.

    My advice would be to not think about it too much. Play solid lines and if anything, embrace the freedom- it’s you who’s implying all harmony without anyone necessarily playing it.

  3. Snufkin


    Dec 26, 2013

    (But musical freedom gives rise to anxiety :/ BassDrumBone was nice, though!)
  4. Don Kasper

    Don Kasper Supporting Member

    If you'll be playing "tunes" with a Form, Harmony, (i.e. not "Free Jazz"), I would (continue to) listen to and emulate recordings where there IS a piano/gtr, as you wouldn't necessarily want to play any less "definitive" without those Harmonic Instruments being present.
    If anything, you'll need to be Extra Harmonically Diligent (tm), as the whole Form/Harmonic structure can implode if YOU become ambiguous or Dog forbid, "lost".
    If it is a Free Jazz situation...I have nothing for you.
    My 0.03.
  5. JRA

    JRA my words = opinion Supporting Member

    for me it would depend on the set (tune list) + setting.
    - standards for a 'conservative'/average audience = keep it simple with plenty of roots to anchor.
    - 'outside' repertoire for an 'anxious' jazz audience = no limits!

    and of course, anything in between.

    i prefer a piano or guitar for harmonic blend/mend, but gigs without them can be fun (and instructive!). have a good time on your gig! :thumbsup:
  6. Tom Lane

    Tom Lane Gold Supporting Member Supporting Member

    I really enjoy the Arthur Blythe Trio. I enjoy how freely the harmony is implied by the bassist and melodist. Here's a clip:

    As for advice, I play duo a lot and I enjoy how far away we can get from the original changes while still maintaining the form. I've found that I have to be careful because if I'm playing with other players who aren't used to playing without a harmony player then it's easy for me to confuse them, and getting them lost, by not being predictable enough. I think it's a lot of fun to be less predictable, but not if it confuses the other player because we've lost the form. The first time I play with someone in a setting like this, or when we pick up a tune we haven't played together before, I do my best to restrain myself and play mostly roots on one until it seems feasible to start using more subs. Also, I've found quite a few fairly developed players who don't enjoy hearing bassists play anything but roots on one. I'm not sure why, but I'll usually get a comment like, shouldn't that be a "C Minor there?" when I played an Eb for the root. They seem to have a strong preference for hearing the harmony played the way they know the tune.

    Not a quartet, but a duo, and I think Chris and David do a great job following the line between the form and keeping it interesting.

  7. turf3


    Sep 26, 2011
    I'm surprised no one has yet mentioned the most famous of all "pianoless" quartets: The Gerry Mulligan Quartet:

    Mulligan - sax
    Chet Baker - trumpet
    Bob Whitlock - bass
    Chico Hamilton - drums
  8. Seanto


    Dec 29, 2005
    Here is all the answers to your questions:

    Note that Ray Brown is largely just playing good time and clearly outlining the harmony, while occasionally filling some of the space a piano player might between what the sax is doing melodically.
    Last edited: May 12, 2019
  9. BrotherMister


    Nov 4, 2013
    PVG Membership
    This. It's all too real...

    Way Out West is maybe one of the best records to get your ears into. Ray just plays great time and the lines state the changes strong enough that you don't miss any harmonic instruments. Sounds easy, but actually fairly challenging I find to play that simple with that much authority.
  10. MikeDavis81


    May 24, 2012
    I used to play fairly regularly with the same lineup. With good players who are listening it can be a blast. I agree wholeheartedly with Don Kasper’s advice about being EHD (tm DK).

    FWIW, two of my favorite records without a chordal instrument:
    Lee Konitz, Motion
    Sonny Rollins, Freedom Suite
    Ed Fuqua and Don Kasper like this.
  11. Ed Fuqua

    Ed Fuqua

    Dec 13, 1999
    Chuck Sher publishes my book, WALKING BASSICS:The Fundamentals of Jazz Bass Playing.

    gerry grable likes this.
  12. Zimmy Jazz

    Zimmy Jazz

    Jun 4, 2014
    Yeah! My main gig is with a tenor sax and drum set, and it is FUN. It took some figuring out to really feel comfortable being that exposed all the time and soloing on every tune. That freedom is exciting. I would say the secret is to overprepare. Know all the tunes so you could play them as solo arrangements (memorized heads, harmonies, substitutions, styles). I might sing a couple if I have too. I've grown a lot in this setting. Have a great gig!
  13. Jason Hollar

    Jason Hollar It Don’t Mean A Thing... Supporting Member

    Apr 17, 2005
    Pittsburgh area
    When I do a “chord-less” trio I’ll add a bit more 10ths when tasteful to help outline the harmony.

    If you have any say in the setlist, consider adding some bossa novas / and maybe lean on keys that allow more open strings to make the 10ths a little easier to pedal on.

    And yes this is the DB forum, but sometimes I’ll bring a fender bass guitar along to facilitate easier chording & chord melodies & solos. Good luck and no matter what - keep swinging!
  14. I can't believe nobody's mentioned this track or album yet...

    gerry grable and oren like this.
  15. Sam Sherry

    Sam Sherry Inadvertent Microtonalist Supporting Member

    Sep 26, 2001
    Portland, ME
    Euphonic Audio "Player"
    Little visit with the most influential Tpt/Sax/Bs/Drm band everrrrr . . .

    And a personal favorite . . . Ron Carter, setting out The State Of The Bass on Joe Henderson's "State of the Tenor"

    Tom Lane likes this.
  16. damonsmith


    May 10, 2006
    Quincy, MA
    The gold standard for straight ahead jazz with no piano is this, hands down:
    marcox, Chris Fitzgerald and Tom Lane like this.
  17. Seanto


    Dec 29, 2005
    I just remembered that Christian McBride's New Jawn has this exact config...

    Sam Sherry and Joshua like this.
  18. Guitalia


    Jun 7, 2008
    Baltimore, MD
  19. GutJazz


    Mar 5, 2019
    Roma - Italy
  20. marcox


    Dec 10, 2007
    The scatting on "You'd Be So Nice to Come Home To" nearly made me rescind my "like."
    Sam Sherry and damonsmith like this.

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