Jazz Trio Audition - I Don't Play Jazz...

Discussion in 'Band Management [BG]' started by Lesgo, Jun 5, 2017.

  1. Lesgo


    Jun 20, 2016
    Bass Guitar Brothers and Sisters,

    I have an audition tomorrow night with a jazz trio (+ the occasional horn section). They have a couple weekly restaurant gigs, plus two members busk during the day. The audition is for the gigging portion (hard to add a body to the busk budget).

    The way I understand it is there are a few bassists they play with, and they use a backing track when no one is available. I'm thinking it is low-moderate volume dinnertime jazz.

    I spoke with the guitarist/band leader for a while last night. He said he has 150+ songs that he and his drummer (and wife) maintain, plus they work through whatever jazz standards any other player calls out during a gig. It's an exciting prospect, and a regular weeknight gig is ideal for my situation at this point.

    PROBLEM: While I have experience improvising and playing with blues bands, rock bands, and party bands, I've never entered a strictly jazz band setting (I take it back - I threw together a jazz trio for a friend's bridal brunch back in college, but it was more a low key jam). I've worked through Ed Friedland's excellent "Building Walking Bass Lines," but that is the extent of my jazz experience/training. I have lots of experience playing 1-4-5 variations, but these are gonna be more complicated. My knowledge of jazz standards and my walking vocabulary are both incredibly limited.

    I was upfront with the guy, but he was still interested in getting together. He said he would meet me where I'm at, and if I show a commitment and dedication to getting my chops up to snuff, then we would be good to go. I asked him for a list of songs, and he balked. Said he wants to "just see what happens." He has chord charts for most of their regular songs.

    I have found that I learn best when I'm thrown into a situation I'm not totally prepared for, but it looks like I've taken quite a large bite here. I'm listening to well known jazz standards - Sinatra, Satchmo, Duke, etc, just to get my ear there. Anything else meaningful I can do 36 hours out? I'll probably have a solid hour with my instrument after I put the kids to bed tonight.

    Thanks in advance for any advice!
  2. skwee


    Apr 2, 2010
    Don't worry about the improvisation factor at this point. You can get used to that over time, and bass solos would be few and far between anyway!

    Just worry about ways that you would be serving the songs--consistent pulse, tasteful playing, supporting the harmony. Follow the chord charts the same way you would on a blues or rock gig, just recognize that the progressions will be a bit more intensive. Doesn't mean you can't keep it simple underneath.
  3. PauFerro


    Jun 8, 2008
    United States
    Great question, great opportunity!~!

    The BL sounds like me, except I'd give you a list of songs in advance to make it easier. He's trying to increase his pool of musicians he can call on, if he thinks like me. Unlike my own approach, there might be a bit of arrogance or laziness since he won't tell you what he wants you to site read.

    I think Building WAlking Basslines is a hugely good book. There are 10 songs in the back. Figure out which standards they are, as he disguised them, if you can, and learn them.

    The BL will likely have gigs at different rates of pay, and some musicians will refuse pay rates that are too low. Newer musicians like yourself will go out for less, normally. Plus, your depth chart as a BL is always changing due to people moving, dying, or getting out of the scene, so you've always gotta be fielding new players. So he wants to get together with you.

    So, first off, don't make it about money if he asks. Indicate you just want to be a a killer jazz player with a big repertoire and gig as much as possible (if that is your goal). Look like you want to break into the scene and this guy is one way of achieving that goal. You've already been honest with him about the level you are at, so I don't see that as a problem. I actually like it when people say they are hungry because it implies they will be easier to work with.

    In terms of preparation, I would

    1. Show up with your own copy of The Real Book. That to me, sets apart the newbie from the person with more potential. And it saves me as a BL from having to copy and scan charts. It shows you also have made an investment in the genre.

    Get one here on one or two day shipping.

    Amazon.com: The Real book Volume 1

    Also, buy IrealB through a download and have it on your phone and tablet. Get really fast at looking up tunes when they call them.

    iReal Pro - Music Book and Play Along

    2. Learn these tunes that will give you a feel for a lot of typical jazz songs

    a) Ladybird
    b) Mr PC
    c) Autumn Leaves (I would be embarrassed if I didn't know that song).
    d) Wave (more complicated bossa tune)
    e) Song for my Father
    f) Blue Bossa
    g) One Note Samba
    h) Angel Eyes
    i) Cantalope Island and Watermelon Man
    j) Footprints
    k) Summertime

    3. At the gig, bring out your Real Books so they see you have it without calling attention to it.

    4. When they call tunes, don't be afraid to ask how they plan to start and end the song. This varies from group to group, and even when I play with pros we do talk about it. Normally we just vamp on an opening chord, play two heads , solos on cue, two heads out, and dhen to a tag on the last four bars. We call it a three-peat (tag the last 2 or 4 bars three times and end). If they don't comment on how to end it , watch and listen and do what the band does.

    5. Don't be afraid to ask if you can do some of the songs you've prepared from the list above. Ask if you can do Blue Bossa -- suggest you vamp on Cm to start, and tag the last 4 bars. Have a solo prepared and in the middle of the song, signal to the leader (probably the KB player) you want to take a solo after he does. Have one prepared.

    6. Be really comfortable with watching all the guys in the band and listening. They may signal you to take a solo without even asking you before hand. You have to be ready. And if you have to, simply outline the chords with some kind of rhythm so at least you are following the changes. If we were face to face, I have a better way of doing it but there is no time.

    7. Suggest that you trade fours in Blue Bossa, or Mr. PC -- this is where the band plays the first four bars of the melody, the drummer takes 4 bars where the next 4 bars of melody should go, and then the band takes the next four. Do the head twice this way if it's short. This will make you seem experienced. don't do it if you are not sure what I mean.

    8. I have a list called "The New York Ninety" that a musician sent me, attached. it's the core repertoire that every jazz player in New York knows. Scan it over and don't be afraid to mention it if it feels right and offer to send it to the BL in case he want's to see what New York is doing...that'll add value and how you're hungry.

    Essentially, I'm getting you prepared for what a typical jazz trio does. By suggesting tunes and coming up with an intro and ending, having your real book and irealB software on your phone or tablet, you set yourself apart. You'll gain some control over the audition too if you suggest a couple tunes you'd like to do. They will likely know them, and if they don't that's not always bad cuz they are sight reading too!

    Also, Yardbird Suite is in the back of Building Walking Basslines, I think, along with All of Me, I think...you might put those two on your list since you've got basslines ready to go, but don't read the basslines at the gig! Get used to picking off the root, third fifth and seventh and outline the chords. That's your basic job and the core of it. Good luck!! I hope you tell us how it goes!!!

    Attached Files:

    Last edited: Jun 6, 2017
    n4vgm, fdeck, monokuro_bass and 22 others like this.
  4. ahc


    Jul 31, 2009
    No. Virginia
    Just go for it. What do you have to lose? At best you get the gig. At worst you'll pick up some knowledge about that type of gig.

    Another chord progression found in lots of standards is the IIm - V - I. In the key of "C" this would be Dm - G7 - C. Examples are "Autumn Leaves" and "All the Things You Are". And you should also be fluent in "flat" keys like Bb and Eb. Horn players and tunes that would feature them are very often in those keys. Best of luck and tell us what happens.
  5. Lesgo


    Jun 20, 2016

    Thanks for the detailed reply! This is exactly the kind of advice I was looking for. Just ordered the real book. I'll make myself familiar with this song list. The goal at this point is to become a proficient all-around player, not the money. The weekly gig is for tips at a tourist trap, so nobody's getting rich.

    Again - thanks for spending so much time helping me prep.
  6. PauFerro


    Jun 8, 2008
    United States
    No problem -- don't forget IrealB either....exciting opportunity for you!!!
  7. sean_on_bass


    Dec 29, 2005
    So it's hard to give advice with what to expect for this group, because playing jazz standards can be approached many ways by different people. Some folks play everything off a provided/Real Book/iReal B chart. Some play everything off the cuff and expect you to already know alot of standards. Some do a mix of both. Some might even expect you to transpose a tune to a new key on the fly, if a soloist/singer wants it that way. More hardcore/experienced players do more off the chart. Considering these guys are using backing tracks, i can't imagine they are too hard core.

    This is high level, but you should be able to do these things:

    -Sight read chord changes and be able to play multiple styles under them to include quarter note walking, half note rhythm, waltz(3/4), and latin. You should know all the notes in all chords in all keys on the neck of the bass, but can get by just knowing the root/3rd/5th/7th and leaving out the upper extensions.

    -Solo over chord changes in any key

    -Know common rep and be able to play it in multiple keys(advanced skill). Listen to alot of classic recordings to understand the "norms" of how certain tunes are played.

    -Know the jazz blues in all keys.

    -Understand common forms used for intros, outros, and solo sections

    -Sight read notes on the staff if you are expected to read melodies(less common for bass)

    -Understand the "rhythmic scheme" that the drummer is doing to match them which may vary from section to section of certain tunes(might switch between half note and quarter note playing in same song). Might have to talk about it with him for his approach.

    But most importantly, you need to listen to a ton of jazz daily to become proficient. Knowing the techniques is required, but applying them tastefully can be tough without having the music deeply ingrained in your head. Jazz is best learned through audible example, and the "theory" of it is simply support to that.
  8. DirtDog


    Jun 7, 2002
    The Deep North
    +1 on the RealBook. I'm coming from a place where I've sat in on jazz jams in an educational setting at various points in my life on top of playing/gigging in rock, country and blues settings for three decades. I'm still pretty novice to that so I know how you might feel! Take this advice with an appropriate grain of salt!!!

    But the RB charts will only help you decode jazz tunes to a limited extent. You'll need to understand how to unpack jazz arrangements (or, more correctly, interpret the charts) aside from the obvious tempo and feel issues. That's a skill in itself. Aside from lessons, a quick way to teach yourself this is by downloading and using Band-in-a-Box. That comes bundled with a ton of jazz standards and it's not too difficult to find the BIAB libraries for those that are not included. Hit play and you'll see how a tune's arrangement plays out and how it's related to the chart. Start with Autumn Leaves and Blue Bossa.

    There's a short list of typical arrangements (AABB, ABAB, etc) and there's some go-to chord progressions (e.g., ii V I) that fit into those arrangements (kinda like a I-IV-V 12 bar blues, but different); understanding chord theory is the third piece of the novice jazz player jigsaw puzzle that will allow you to walk and make chord changes more effectively - moreso that just hanging on the I and the V, anyways.

    YMMV and all that. Again, coming from a novice jazz jammer.
    Lesgo likes this.
  9. Lesgo


    Jun 20, 2016
    Thanks - I'll check out that app after work today.
  10. sean_on_bass


    Dec 29, 2005
    iReal Pro does alot of the same stuff that Band in a Box does. I would go straight to iReal Pro, it's more so the new standard.
    Last edited: Jun 6, 2017
    SteveC, Amano and Lesgo like this.
  11. Lesgo


    Jun 20, 2016

    Thank you. I'm listening to as much of the master material as I can in between responding to the ad last night and audition tomorrow night. I recognize that developing the ear is important, because my fingers look for familiarity when I'm improvising in other styles. Thanks for that tip.

    I don't know what their approach will be. I'm trying to prepare myself as much as possible and get nice and loose. Thanks!
  12. PauFerro


    Jun 8, 2008
    United States

    Don't just listen though -- get some of those tunes in the list above under your fingers...there is two parts, the listening part and the kinetic, doing part. You need both.

    I am pretty sure they will throw tunes at you to sight read. If they are like some of the guys I started with, they will start out with easier tunes and keep pushing you until you can't do it anymore. Probably ending with a fast one like Cherokee. I hated the way those guys did that to me -- I thought it was inconsiderate and arrogant, but that is what happened in my first audition with hardcore jazzists.
    Lesgo likes this.
  13. 40Hz

    40Hz Supporting Member

    May 24, 2006
    Good learning opportunity. Nothing ventured, nothing gained.
    Lesgo likes this.
  14. You'll be fine with the chord charts. Good luck!
  15. punchdrunk

    punchdrunk Inactive

    Jun 22, 2013
    Not sure one can fake their way through a strict jazz gig without a background in the forms. But, you may just knock it out of the park. Do keep us posted.
  16. Lesgo


    Jun 20, 2016
    Great Reply!

    Terrible Reply! (j/k)
  17. interp


    Apr 14, 2005
    Garmisch, Germany
    Go for it. Take the good advice given by other TBer's regarding preparation, use of the Real Book, etc. You'll be glad you did it.
    Lesgo likes this.
  18. DirtDog


    Jun 7, 2002
    The Deep North
    iRealPro or iRealBook?
  19. devnulljp

    devnulljp Supporting Member

    Oct 13, 2009
    BC, Canada
    Admin on the D*A*M Forum
    RealBook chord charts (I have a bunch on my ipad with igigbook)

    If the chord is minor, play root, minor 3
    If the chord is major, play root, major 3
    If the chord is dominant, try root, major 3 or flat 7 and see if it sounds right. Depending on context, a major 3 might work too.

    That should at least get you through :)
    Amano likes this.
  20. EmptyCup


    Feb 25, 2013
    Nashville Area
    ^Great attitude and solid advice.