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Is time flexible?

Discussion in 'Miscellaneous [DB]' started by Marc Piane, Sep 12, 2004.


  1. Marc Piane

    Marc Piane

    Jun 14, 2004
    Chicago
    Can jazz time be flexible? I recently had a conversation with a fellow musician and he swears that music is just math and that time can only have flexibility within that construct. Thoughts?
     
  2. Lyle Caldwell

    Lyle Caldwell

    Sep 7, 2004
    Memphis
    He's obviously never heard Mingus or Willie Nelson.

    Yeah, music can be described by mathematical terms, but it's not always 8th grade level linear stuff.
     
  3. anonymous0726

    anonymous0726 Guest

    Nov 4, 2001
    You can have great feel and imperfect time, or perfect time and bad feel. Best yet is great time AND great feel.

    If it feels good, then a graduation in tempo, particularly if slight, isn't going to bother anyone.
     
  4. Mudfuzz

    Mudfuzz

    Apr 3, 2004
    WA...
    Very well said.
     
  5. Ed Fuqua

    Ed Fuqua

    Dec 13, 1999
    NYC
    Chuck Sher publishes my book, WALKING BASSICS:The Fundamentals of Jazz Bass Playing.
    Hmmmm. I've got to wonder how much intent and emotion get conveyed by someone for whom music is "just mathematics". That kind of falls into the same category, for me, of somebody who doesn't play songs or tunes, but plays over progressions. Or picks notes based on what scale is going to work over what chord.

    There's plenty of those folks out there and whenever I hear them it just doesn't mean anything to me. As I like to say, they aren't playing any wrong notes, but they aren't playing any right ones either. If all you are doing is standing up there trying to solve some puzzle, why even bother?


    Time, though, time is deep. We've had plenty of arguments here about metronome usage, what "good time" is etc. Time is certainly as malleable as harmony, for some folks. They can play around with the time (just like they can with the harmony) and still be (ultimately) in the same time "flow" as when they started the tune. Everybody should be able to keep good time. You should be able to put on the nome and play solo, duo, trio, quartet whatever and still maintain a loose open swinging creative approach. And you should be able to that if instead of a nome, you have an actual person playing a kit.

    Sure, time is going to breathe. I don't get real concerned until we actually start staying where the time moved to. If we start at 128bpm = quarter and we end at 128bpm = quarter, then the time stayed put. Sure, if you go back through the recording with the click, you are going to hear where the group pushed through sections or pulled through sections and you may have to re-start the click. But you don't have to adjust the tempo setting.

    I know what Ray's saying, the reality is that you sometimes have to make a choice - do you try to bang out the time or do you go with where the drummer ( or the tenor player) want it to be? Like most folks, if I feel that everybody's leaning on me for the time, I'll try to stay strong. If I get the feeling that there's a fight going on, I'm going to opt for moving to where most of the cats are feeling it.

    But the greatest feeling in the world is NOT having to make that choice. Being able just to play in the moment without worrying about carrying anybody around.
     
  6. anonymous0726

    anonymous0726 Guest

    Nov 4, 2001
    What I've been working in is establishing MY groove and making people play with ME. But -- and this is very important -- doing so by making it feel good.

    It's hard to do when you have people rushing on you consistently -- hard to get a real fat feel in relation to everyone -- but you can really rein in the tempo and still give a solid foundation for their escapades. When people are dragging it's almost easier (if they listen at all) because, for me anyhow, you can kind of ignore their time feel and make it bounce. All of this is possible where your note-to-note ratio is pretty even. In slow ballads and slow 2/4 feels, boosa novas, etc, if the band has 3-4 notes or more to your one then there is little to do in the audible plane to keep them together. Then I resort to a little foot tapping :)

    Feel/time is also something that you can communcate in a more 'aural' sense as well. If you're really feeling a groove down to your spine, then other people -- if they're open at all -- will tune in on this as well.

    If your feel is strong enough, then people want to play with it.
     
  7. Ed Fuqua

    Ed Fuqua

    Dec 13, 1999
    NYC
    Chuck Sher publishes my book, WALKING BASSICS:The Fundamentals of Jazz Bass Playing.
    Yeah, thats' definitely what I been working at. Being the "black hole" that everybody's time gravitates toward. Working on time so that it becomes that "visceral" feeling, feeling so good that that's where everybody wants to stay.

    That, and not playing the Chicken Dance....
     
  8. Matt Ides

    Matt Ides

    May 12, 2004
    Minneapolis, MN
    When is the book going to be published? Hard to put that sentiment into words but I think Ed did it justice. Now if I can ever get there.
     
  9. Marc Piane

    Marc Piane

    Jun 14, 2004
    Chicago
    I also think of groups in history like the Bill Evans Trio, or even Brad Mehldau were time seems very flexible.

    I am currently playing in a group with piano player that is very much from that school. Right now it feels that different players in the group are trying to muscle time in their own direction rather than that loose almost telepathic vibe. We're all new at this (including me) so we're trying to learn.
     
  10. Ed Fuqua

    Ed Fuqua

    Dec 13, 1999
    NYC
    Chuck Sher publishes my book, WALKING BASSICS:The Fundamentals of Jazz Bass Playing.
    Not that I am totally on top of what Brad and those cats are doing but - my approach is very similar to what happens when you are deconstructing the harmony of a tune. You can pick "points of resolution" for the time just like you can for the harmony. Just like 6 bars of the bridge being reduced to an Ab7 because that's how the soloist is hearing it and can communicate that's how he's hearing it to the rest of the band and then BANG you're back into the changes, you can do that with the time. Everybody floats over this sea of time (that is passing at exactly the same tempo as it was at the start of the tune) until BANG and every body nails the time for a few beats or measures or sections and then opens it up again.

    You have to REALLY know the tune, have REALLY good time and REALLY REALLY listen to everybody else so you can hear how they are hearing the tune. In order to be open and break up the time you definitely can't be "muscling". You might want to be a little mechanical about the approach at rehearsals or sessions. You know, "hey how about in this tune we can't all 3 play together for more than 6 bars" or "why don't we start the tune at the bridge with just piano and drums, no melody" or (a personal favorite) "why don't we play BODY AND SOUL using only melody notes? Everybody can play any part of the melody at any time, in any rhythm. But ONLY MELODY NOTES."

    And the more you guys work at listening to each other, getting away from 4 on the floor, the closer you're going to get to having it happen on the stand. It ain't easy, but it shore is fun.
     
  11. Savino

    Savino

    Jun 2, 2004
    nyc
    playing bass in a group context can sometimes mean laying down the beat, but never at the expense of the music. when all the musicians insist that their beat is "the" beat. the music will suffer. this is a sensitivity and listening issue, providing that your playing with experienced players. Ive been in many situations when the soloist is kicking a** pushing the beat hard, and the drummer stays where he is, making an otherwise great solo lack luster. in the words of yes, Tori Amos. nobody f**ks to a metronome.
     
  12. Ed Fuqua

    Ed Fuqua

    Dec 13, 1999
    NYC
    Chuck Sher publishes my book, WALKING BASSICS:The Fundamentals of Jazz Bass Playing.
    I thought that was how we got KRAFTWERK?
     
  13. Savino

    Savino

    Jun 2, 2004
    nyc
    Ok, a few mistakes have been made.
     
  14. Marc Piane

    Marc Piane

    Jun 14, 2004
    Chicago
    Man I really like that quote. We are human after all.

    I'm finding that there are times when it is very important to keep the groove right on and other times to let it flex. I play almost exclusively straightahead and there are soloists that I know I have to push or pull so the tempo doesn't drag too much.

    A friend of mine and I have been working on the theory of time that I want to run past everybody. This is what I feel makes jazz so unique and fun.

    OK, using the example of harmony, any player in a group makes a decision about what part of a chord they will play and what they will leave out. Other players in the group have the choice to fill those holes or leave them be and let the listeners ears fill in the blanks.

    If you take that same idea over to rhythm, it again is not necessarily what you play but whether and how you play it. By that, swing or groove comes from the juxtoposition of two or more notes. The example is that if someone is playing behind the beat, someone else has to be ahead of the beat for the middle of the beat to be implied to the listener. It then makes it possible for people to play ahead or behind the beat.

    Thoughts?
     
  15. Reminds me of what a teacher once told me about Jim Hall. Someone asked him to define swing. He answered with one word - 'camaraderie'. From my very limited experience, I've found that working with a metronome helps me to be able to achieve a time feel, not necessarily to be a stopwatch. So time may be absolute in some sense, but time feel isn't.
     
  16. This is a good discussion. To add my dos pesos, I have held the belief that time and feel are two separate elements which don't necessarily have bearing on one another. IOW, I have played with people who I thought had good time, but the feel wasn't happening. And I've played with some who have a good feel, but the tempo fluctuated (like more than just a little bit). But the guys who have the steadiest time and a great feel, now that's what I'm talkin about!

    I think the issue of feel is tricky also. You could have two or more guys with great but different feels, (the degree to which eighth notes are swung can vary alot, as well as playing on top of or behind the beat) so there needs to be some flexibility.

    I find this to be the case, too. But it is a dangerous mindset to let your previous experience with certain players dictate or even suggest how you approach the situation now. For example, you are playing with a horn player who consistently plays behind the beat or drags, and you have conditioned yourself to always push the time when he's soloing. One night he comes in and he's playing on or ahead of the beat, and you're so used to the relationship where you're ahead of him, it could really throw things out of whack. So it's always a balancing act of knowing when to lead and when to follow, when to lay it down and when to go with the flow.

    There's a thread from a while back on this subject, which erupted into a maelstorm when someone asked if Ray Brown rushed.
     
  17. I don't think so. Swing or groove, as you put it, results from people playing together. Someone playing behind the beat will create tension within a groove (if one exists). You still got to play the beat.
     
  18. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member


    This reminded me of a (fairly?) funny incident at Jazz Summerschool.

    So, Martin Speake, the tutor was talking to us about transcribing and he got us to transcribe a few things off CD - then one day he came in with a new CD he had just bought - it was Miles Davis quintet live at Black Hawk, 4CD boxed set of two 2 hour perfomances.

    Anyway - he was really enthusiastic about this - so he's like - this is a chance to hear a complete performance from a really great rhythm section - Paul Chambers, Wynton Kelly, Jimmy Cobb. - that's never been released before.

    It's obviously a long set and so he picked a tune at random from the middle and was insisting we really listen to it - but it was actually pretty terrible and what was most noticable, was that during Miles' trumpet solo, the whole thing slowed down dramatically, until it was dragging like anything!!

    So Martin Speake got out his metronome and it was considerably slower by the end, than how it had started out!

    So, I think we decided that Miles' must have been pretty astute about what he released and what he didn't - as far as live sets and no wonder he'd left this one on the shelves !! ;)
     
  19. anonymous0726

    anonymous0726 Guest

    Nov 4, 2001
    Jimmy Cobb always seemed to slow down -- but it didn't feel like it.
     
  20. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    We checked this by playing the CD and holding up a small digital metronome and the brisk opening tempo had definitely slowed considrably by the end, compared with the intital metronome mark - mostly it slowed during Miles' trumpet solo.

    Although we didn't need to do this, as everybody in the class (6 or 7 of us) noticed what had happened - it was only Martin Speake who was really surprised, as he was trying to demonstrate to us, what a good rhythm section should sound like !! :D

    He started saying things like - well Paul Chambers might have been drunk, Miles always said that Mobley didn't inspire him and didn't move the music forward...etc. etc.

    But in the end it was clearly just a case of the band not working very well...maybe why Miles moved on to his next much younger quintet...?