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Playing Standards with Pianist

Discussion in 'Jazz Technique [DB]' started by bass81800, Jan 14, 2012.


  1. I played with a pianist who did dinner music such as standards, pop, jazzy versions of rock tunes, and Latin feel tunes. It was difficult because he just was not giving up using his left hand to play some bass lines, roots, and the rhythm/pulse seemed off at times. I was working hard to follow his timing, vs. just taking command of the timing.

    When I play with a quartet,trio, and a bass/guitar duo, I easily get the pulse going. With this I was walking on eggshells trying to adjust to his playing.

    So, I was thinking about what makes a good duo gig. Are there some pianists that are great to play with, and why? What makes this different from quartet, trio playing?

    Obviously cannot compete with piano bass lines, for starters. Could live with roots at times. I suspect that he is so used to doing solo gigs that hid style is more I lead, you follow.
     
  2. Greg Clinkingbeard

    Greg Clinkingbeard

    Apr 4, 2005
    Kansas City area
    KC Strings
    I play with a pianist some that does this and it is very frustrating. I have mentioned it a few times and that has seemed to help. Your last point is valid as this guy has done a fair amount solo.

    My advice is to talk to him about it. Be sure you know the tune and take charge of the bass line and force him to fight with you! He's the one stepping on your toes, not the other way around.
     
    Groove Doctor likes this.
  3. +1, this is the correct diagnosis based at least on my own experience. Usually talking w/them helps. Then it winds up being a liberation for them and then you're both off to the races with arrangements etc ;)
     
    Groove Doctor likes this.
  4. bejoyous

    bejoyous

    Oct 23, 2005
    London, Ontario
    I recall someone once told me Oscar Peterson used to have his students place the felt keyboard scarf on the keys so that notes below the C-below-middle-C were covered and were told to not to play below that.

    It forces the pianist to think of their left hand differently - to play chords in rhythmic ways rather than provide the bass notes.

    Unfortunately, some pianist can't get out of the "I gotta do it all myself" mentality and stomp all over the lower end.

    He explains a bit of this in the first minute of this clip.

    Here's another great clip of OP playing with the excellent Toronto bassist, Dave Young (who often solos arco, btw). There's several shots where you can see both hands. You'll notice when the bassist stops, OP plays lower but when the bass comes back in, he reverts back to comping in the middle range.
     
  5. +1000 for that! I play duo with a sax player so we're cool but I played with a certain pianist who had no experience doing duos so half way through a song I went to the toilet! Some of our mates were there to tell him that just do chords, substitutes, outlines but not bass lines with left hand, that is why I was there!! Because I know all the heads I started doing the head with him all the time to see what he'll say! At the end he got it and realised that duo requires a little team work that goes both ways :) Put your foot down otherwise your frustration will affect your thinking while playing.
     
  6. Roger Davis

    Roger Davis

    May 24, 2006
    England
    If you're lucky and get an experienced piano player he'll probably start by treading on your toes but very quickly get confidence from your playing and back off. He'll use his left hand more chordally.
     
  7. Jazzdogg

    Jazzdogg Less barking, more wagging!

    Jul 29, 2006
    San Diego, CA
    My worst experiences playing duets with pianists have been with solo/piano bar players who weren't used to playing with a bassist. They've typically had worse time and infringe on bass territory more than players used to playing with other instrumentalists. Few, however, have been as infuriating to play with as organists! ;)
     
    DrayMiles likes this.
  8. Thanks all, much good information here. This playing experience was just an audition for possible gigs. If we play music again, I will talk with him and will be more familiar with the charts, as now I have done a run through of the material.
     
  9. It's nothing to do with you adjusting to his playing.... it's vice versa. If he was worth his salt he would know that his left hand gets tied behind his back when playing with a bassist. (not literally! :D ) You have to tell him he's treading on your toes.
     
  10. tkozal

    tkozal

    Feb 16, 2006
    New York City
    I used to play with a piano player like this, he was left handed, and had a very strong left hand, and was used to years of solo piano gigs.

    I started bringing my electric bass guitar strung E-C and did my Steve Swallow imitation, he loved it, I became a bass lutenist instead.
     
  11. raypfeiffer

    raypfeiffer Accounting Prof/Wannabe Professional Jazz Musician

    Jan 3, 2012
    Fort Worth
    This is fun reading... I have been playing piano --- mostly solo --- for about 33 years and can relate to exactly what you're talking about... I'm very guilty of this behavior when I have the (unfortunately rare) chance to play with a bass player. I started learning bass 11 months ago, and now am seeing the other side of the story. Very interesting!
     
    delta7fred likes this.
  12. fdeck

    fdeck Supporting Member Commercial User

    Mar 20, 2004
    Madison WI
    HPF Technology LLC
    Tell the pianist: "Play like you're wearing handcuffs."

    But seriously, the pianist needs to work on ensemble skills, starting with getting out the old phonograph and listening.
     
  13. robgrow

    robgrow Supporting Member

    May 1, 2004
    Cincinnati, Ohio
    I think it depends on how much you want to work with this piano player. If someone is sending me a lot of good-paying gigs, I tend to see things their way.

    Sometimes a busy piano player will relax a little after they get comfortable with your playing, while others will never change. Then you have to make a decision if its worth it to you to keep working with that person.
     
    Keyser Soze likes this.
  14. On the other side of the coin, sometimes you can pick up some really great things from a talented pianist's left hand lines - and learning how to make a part that works with them without stepping on *their* toes!
     
  15. gerry grable

    gerry grable Supporting Member

    Nov 9, 2010
    Ha, ha. . . Welcome to the bass players world. Wait till you play with an organ player that keeps using the pedals--with both feet!
     
    delta7fred likes this.
  16. Since you mentioned it, I also have an upcoming jam session with a pianist who is also a very good organ player planned for later this month. I think that will be interesting.
     
  17. This is an old thread I started 4 years ago. Since that time, I have moved into being a jazz pianist and have worked hard to learn rootless voicing patterns, and play in registers that do not conflict with the range of the bass. It certainly can be done and it is a part of basic instruction in methods for jazz piano. But, being a bass player, I guess I am biased in a way to think in of terms of how I want to keep the bass player happy. Its possible the non bass playing pianist gives little thought to any of this, at least in the beginning of their learning path.

    But today the tables turned. I ended up playing bass with a jazz pianist, and totally felt myself stepped on musically. I kept thinking, sheesh, this guy is stealing my bass lines, playing the root note I am playing. I wouldn't play that with a bass player, I would leave some space. Also, no invitation to play any bass solos, until I asked. He is a nice person, it was just a casual jam session, and I am LOL just writing this. My conclusion is he just does not have experience playing with bass players. He does a few gigs, but mostly solo piano. What I have learned in my studying and practicing jazz piano is that this is that solo piano playing is a distinctly separate technique from the techniques playing in a ensemble. I am going to talk to him I we play music together again. Just was not the right setting today.

    I guess some of you can relate to this happening to you.
     
  18. Jeff Bonny

    Jeff Bonny Supporting Member

    Nov 20, 2000
    Vancouver, BC
    I like your long term solution of becoming the kind of pianist you'd like to play with.
     
  19. Steven Ayres

    Steven Ayres Supporting Member

    Mar 11, 2007
    Northern Arizona
    It's not just pianists, either. A guitarist who can't break the habit of full barre chords can wreak havoc with a big-band rhythm section. Last time I told him if he couldn't get out of that sixth string I'd cut it off.
     
  20. Sam Sherry

    Sam Sherry Inadvertent Microtonalist Supporting Member

    Sep 26, 2001
    Portland, ME
    Euphonic Audio "Player"
    Fundamentally it reflects a lack of listening. And listening is the difference between music and noise.

    It's frustrating to try to make music while someone else is trying to make noise at the same time.
     

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