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Modern Sounding Ballads for Pizz...

Discussion in 'Jazz Technique [DB]' started by PocketGroove82, Mar 4, 2008.

  1. PocketGroove82


    Oct 18, 2006
    Hey Everyone,

    I'm putting together an audition/scholarship video that shows me playing in a bunch of contrasting styles, and I'm having a little trouble finding a ballad that really speaks to what is happening now. I made a couple demo type recordings of me playing the head/solo/walking...etc of a couple Real Book classics like Body and Soul, but I can't help but notice that I'm coming across like Milt Hinton or some bassists from the 30s-40s (suitable for the typical, ignored jazz combo dinner music gig, which I happen to do a lot of), but as a showcase, it's really not working for me.

    Can anyone recommend some more modern sounding ballads?
    I'm looking to convey that I'm forward thinking, but currently the ballad feature seems very stuck in the past. Any help or suggestions would be greatly appreciated! MY best choice at the moment is Bill Evan's "You Must Believe in Spring".

  2. Sam Sherry

    Sam Sherry Inadvertent Microtonalist Supporting Member

    Sep 26, 2001
    Portland, ME
    Euphonic Audio "Player"
    Three suggestions:

    I adore "Long Look Back" by Mark Kleinhaut (and Bobby Watson).

    "Away" by Drew Gress off Ravi Coltrane's In Flux is breathtaking.

    "In My Never Mind" by Scott Colley, on Portable Universe, stays in heavy rotation at our house. Really lovely, "open" harmonies.
  3. It doesn't matter when a tune was written. Modern vs. old and corny sounding is all in the way you approach it. Check out Coltrane playing Body and Soul on Live in Seattle.
  4. Marc Piane

    Marc Piane

    Jun 14, 2004
    Man. I heard EST play 'Round Midnight as the 3rd encore at a show here in Chicago. They really made it their own. So modern. So individual. So killin'.
  5. christ andronis

    christ andronis

    Nov 14, 2001
    One of my faves is "Farmers Trust" by Pat Metheny. The melody is very simple but I'm a sucker for those kind of tunes anyway. I think there's a couple versions out there; I'm partial to the one off the Travels album. "You Must Believe in Spring" is also a great choice...and a great album.

    How about taking a pop tune and turning it into a jazz type ballad (in terms of instrumentation)? Lots of Beatles tunes lend themselves to that kind of interpretation; even (dare I say it) some Dan Fogelberg tunes :bag: have some really nice thematic material. There are a bazillion others but you get the idea.

    Okay..I'll shut up now!
  6. Dave Speranza

    Dave Speranza Supporting Member

    Mar 28, 2005
    Brooklyn, NY
    why not do a reharm?
  7. there's a really beautiful ari hoenig ballad called for tracy that I have a chart for from the man himself. I could send that to you if you'd like. pm me?
  8. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY
    I like Kenny Kirkland's "Dienda", first released on Branford's "Royal Garden Blues". You can find a chart in one of the Chuck Sher New Real Books.
  9. Ed Fuqua

    Ed Fuqua

    Dec 13, 1999
    Chuck Sher publishes my book, WALKING BASSICS:The Fundamentals of Jazz Bass Playing.
    I'm wit CrackHouseKey on this one; don't let the material dictate your approach to the material. If you had NEVER played Body and Soul before, never HEARD it played before and somebody came in and said "let's keep this real open and loose, kinda Bill Frisell meets Herbie" you'd just play it that way, right? The only thing that's keeping you in a "30s and 40s" time frame is YOU.

    This was a tune that got called on a Silverbush gig while we were waiting for Jeff to get there (he was running late), and that's a pretty out bunch - Jacob Sacks on piano, Jacob Garchik on bone and Jon Bollinger on drums. And the layout was that everybody would just use melodic material from the melody (everybody plays only melody notes), you could play them with different rhythms than the melody, you could only play the same melodic "phrase" that every one else was using (so you only switched phrases when the weight of the next phrase reached the tipping point). And it was great, cause everybody on the stand was listening REALLY CLOSELY to each other and working the phrases and worked on developing movement and propulsion through consensus.

    That's only one approach. There's only twelve notes and how you imbue them with meaning and intent is up to YOU.
  10. PocketGroove82


    Oct 18, 2006
    Many thanks for all the suggestions, everyone. Now that I'm home from work, it's time to do some downloading!

    I totally agree with you guys. That's why I'm wanting to hear some more recent approaches to ballads. I spent a good bit of time transcribing the earlier players so I would have roots in the traditional, but it's working against me at this moment. I am willing to try reharmonizing a standard though.

    Thanks again for the suggestions and comments, I look forward to doing some critical listening.

  11. ding_man


    Dec 24, 2006
    Celina, OH
    Blue In Green
  12. Mike Arnopol

    Mike Arnopol Supporting Member Commercial User

    Jan 4, 2005
    Owner of MAS Soundworks
    On my main gig (jazz vocalst Patricia Barber ) I have the opportunity to play unaccompanied ballads regularly. I think that the material is less important than your concept. I had a great teacher when I was a kid that would make me play tunes unaccompanied outlining the melody and harmonic movement together. You really learn a tune that way. We did a Cole Porter concert a few years back where I played "Every Time We Say Goodbye " These days I've been playing Jimmy Rowles" "The Peacocks " and recently Gordon Jenkins' "Goodbye" The reason I chose these is that it's very challanging to play the melody and arpeggiate the harmony. The modernity of concept comes in how you deal with the harmonies against the melody. I chose the previous two tunes because they are soooo hard to play because I'm jumping all over the place between melody and harmony. I heard one of my FAVORITE bassists Michael Moore play Coltrane's "Wise One " solo arco. After hearing this I was struggling with the choice of giving up bass or working my ass off to learn this. Took me 2 years before I felt comfortable enough to play it live. The bass solo ballad thing (especially arco ) will force you to really learn the entire fingerboard and really expand your working knowledge of harmony.
  13. jweiss

    jweiss Supporting Member

    Jul 5, 2007
    Park City, Utah
    How about Tears in Heaven by Eric Clapton. Listen to Joshua Redman's version on the album "Wish".
  14. One of my profs at university used to say "Anyone can learn to play fast. The real test of true jazz musician is how they play ballads". BTW, Art Pepper's version of "Goodbye" on Thursday at the Village Vanguard is one of my favorites.

    Dave Holland does a couple of ballads ("Goodbye Pork Pie Hat" and "God Bless the Child") on One's All. If I remember correctly he plays them in keys where he can utilize open strings to reinforce the harmony. Here's a video him performing "Goodbye Pork Pie Hat" (mistitled "Pork Pie Head") -
  15. Harmony isn't the only thing to consider. If you want to sound modern you have to phrase modern too, syncopate differently, and play over the bar lines, etc. You could play all the most modern harmonies in the world, but if your rhythm and phrasing is corny it won't matter.

    David Murray's _Sacred Ground_ has a couple of beautiful ballads (I really dig the whole thing a lot).

    "I want to talk about you" on Coltrane's Live at Birdland is awesome. Not only do you get Trane's stuff, but the rhythm section playing is phenomenal.
  16. Ed Fuqua

    Ed Fuqua

    Dec 13, 1999
    Chuck Sher publishes my book, WALKING BASSICS:The Fundamentals of Jazz Bass Playing.
    I know it's MY problem, not yours. But there's so much about this statement that bothers me. First, a quote form my teacher's article here:

    looking within
    At the risk of sounding like a child of the sixties, which I am, I would like to speak for a moment about the mystifying process of self-realization, self discovery that ultimately governs one’s evolution as a jazz improvisor. This is usually the last thought on a new student’s mind. To him or her, being able to improvise a solo or walking line on ALL THE THINGS YOU ARE appears much more as a puzzle to be solved, a maze that must be negotiated than as an opportunity look within oneself. But for those of us who have been working on
    it for a number of years have a somewhat different viewpoint. Improvising, after all, means creating music that is spontaneous, of the moment, and uniquely your own. Unlike the music of Bach or Beethoven, this music has never been played before. It will not get played if you yourself don’t play it. Another bassist can come along and play the Bach Suites or the Hindemith Sonata for Bass, but no one else can create your improvised line. No one else can play it but you! So in the end, this process of getting those great solos out of your head and onto the instrument becomes a process of self-discovery, finding out what your music really sounds like. That is, your daily practice time has to be a period of looking honestly within, stripping away the licks, gimmicks, and formulas that we have all collected in our attempt to sound like we can play, and listening for the simple melodic voice that really is our own. It’s there, if we really listen for it. And discovering it and developing it make years of doing it the slow way worthwhile.

    It's really tiring, to me, being on the stand somewhere and be playing with some guy's record collection.
    Again, I know that this may just be me, but what is so great about this music is that it can be an extremely nuanced communication between a group of people. And the ONLY way for that to happen is for all involved to be genuine in trying to communicate what they are hearing. Don't tell me what somebody else said, tell me what YOU want to say. That's the only way we can have a conversation.

    Being "authentic" is not about recreation, it's about being true to self. It's not about playing modern or traditional, it's about injecting YOUR voice into the conversation.
  17. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member In Memoriam

    I appreciate all that's been said - but on the other hand teachers often sell me the value of transcribing basslines from stuff you like and really see why you like it - rather than anything else...?

    I just wanted to say that Charlie Haden for me is the modern (dare I say that? :ninja:) ballad guy - so I really like "Silence" - but there are many more - I always find what he's playing interesting when it's very simple - as I find that hard!
  18. Right on, Ed. I'd like to add that I think what you're addressing here is one of the problems with jazz ed. The ideas of sounding "authentic" and playing in different styles is originates in academics. Great players go through stages of sounding like others. Coltrane sounded like Sonny Stitt. Ray Brown was nicknamed Slam Blanton. But sounding like those other individuals was part of their unique self-discovery. For me, transcribing helps sort out and make sense of stuff.
  19. Ed Fuqua

    Ed Fuqua

    Dec 13, 1999
    Chuck Sher publishes my book, WALKING BASSICS:The Fundamentals of Jazz Bass Playing.
    Sure, baby steps. yes, you have to hear how a language sounds by listening to those who speak it. The thing that gets me is not having a way to play something unless you hear somebody else do it first.
    I've talked a million times about why I think the Tristano method for transcribing is a valuable one, you guys prolly don't need to hear it again...
  20. christ andronis

    christ andronis

    Nov 14, 2001
    1 million one wouldn't hurt!! :meh:

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