Raise your hand if you play JAZZ

Discussion in 'Miscellaneous [BG]' started by jazzbo, Mar 14, 2002.

  1. jazzbo


    Aug 25, 2000
    San Francisco, CA
    Okay, how many people here play Jazz? Raise your hand.

    Keep it up.

    Okay, now how many people here really play jazz?!

    That's what I thought.

    I'm curious. I started this thread not to get into a debate about what jazz is or how should jazz be played?, but rather to say, I think a lot of people are full of it. I'm not just talking about this website, (and I know that not everyone here has ever made the claim to play jazz), but also in day to day life. I meet so many people, and here at TB I also encounter a number of people, that profess to "playing jazz", (and this could be amongst other styles they play), but they don't know what Rhythm Changes are, they don't know the difference between Dorian and Aeolian.

    The reason I bring this up, is because I've been studying jazz intensely, (daily), for over 2 years, and I fell that I have SO FAR to go to simply become good, not great. I couldn't invision myself sitting in at any legitimate jazz jam without being cut after one chorus. (This isn't even to mention the more casual jazz studies and listening that has taken place for countless previous years). I gotta tell you, this is not an easy style of music to develop, or even become adequate at.

    Establishing an interesting, moving, breathing, and harmonic walking bass line through just ONE CHORUS of a jazz tune is not easy. Now, I recognize that jazz has many styles, (bebop, swing, straight-ahead, fushion, etc.), but how many people here can walk through a lead chart chorus after chorus?

    Sometimes I think that people say that they're playing jazz because the music is "light" or "mellow" or simply contains more than 5 chords. I'm not sure that some people here have a grasp of what kind of skill and knowledge go into being a successful jazz bassist. And while pissing contests between instrumentalists is unnecessary, I often feel that jazz bassists have it much more difficult than many other jazz instrumentalists.

    I say this for a couple of reasons, but one of them is not to try and establish a feel that jazzbos are elitists. But, conversely, true jazzbos like Ed, Chris, Jon, Bruce, etc. should be respected for their experiences and talent. But, I also say this to bring up the point that you can't simply become a jazz bassist in a manner of days or weeks. I've seen people asking for jazz tabs and the like. This tells me that there is a great misconception of what bass does in jazz. This shows a true lack of understanding of jazz music at it's most intrinsic level.

    Opinions? Is it simply too late and JB's brain is fried?!
  2. What is jazz? There seem to be many varied opinions out there. I'm sure I can find one where I might fit in nicely. I don't do straight ahead, and I have nothing but respect for all the bo's out there - jazzbo, edbo, chrisbo, and the rest. I am an insignificant amoeba when in the presence (be it cyber-presence or otherwise) of the Bo's. Seriously!
  3. jazzbo


    Aug 25, 2000
    San Francisco, CA
    Maybe there in lies the question. I will often hear the term jazz thrown around loosely. Should we be critical of what is "jazz" or just let it be? I think we can all agree that certain artists, (Bird, Miles, Dizzy) played, mostly, jazz. But, is it the song, is the style of play, is it the improvisation? If I take a Gershwin standard and play it with a drummer riding the high hat on 2 and 4, a sax, piano and bass, swing through it, and take turns with everyone soloing, all with a straight-ahead feel, is that jazz? But, if I take that same tune and changes, drop the improv, and play it with an orchestra, is that just an old tin pan alley tune?

    Sure, the definition of the genre can be loose, but I would state that I think that too often a song is referred to as "jazz" simply because of one feature that is usually, either right or wrong, associated with jazz.
  4. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    Well this could be a huge topic and one for a whole board rather than a small section of bass forum! ;)

    I'm one of those who would have to put their hands down when asked the second question - so I know my Jazz tutor really plays Jazz and I don't!

    When I started learning about Jazz I was often puzzled why a lot of really great Jazz musicians are prepared to spend so much time on teaching and education. I used to think - if I was that good I wouldn't bother teaching no-hopers like me!

    But I think the point is that Jazz is a music that you only really understand or appreciate when you try to play it. So the best practitioners have a vested interest in educating their audience and helping as many people as possible to see what it's all about.

    Of course they are all really nice guys but I can see they are trying to keep the music alive and appreciated, so they want as many people as possible to really understand what it's all about, what goes into it and what is actually going on up there. ;)
  5. Pacman

    Pacman Layin' Down Time Staff Member Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 1, 2000
    Omaha, Nebraska
    Endorsing Artist: Roscoe Guitars, DR Strings, Aguilar Amplification
    I play jazz. But, after so many years, I still feel like a beginner. I often feel overwhelmed by the history of the music, and the depth of study involved in becoming a Jazz Bassist . I don't feel I'm there yet. Certainly not in a Fuqua sense of the word. But I can hang for a few choruses.
  6. I've been playing jazz as a drummer for many, many years. I am a total beginner in bass and I aspire to be able to play jazz, real jazz, someday. I've always been in awe of bassists that really know their way around a chart. Ones that can sit in a jam situation and go with the changes and improvise their lines on the spot flat out floor me. First I must crawl before I can "walk" (pun intended). This is a whole new language for me and I am loving it.

    It's good to be humbled by music theory. I makes me want to keep after it and figure it out.

    This site is a great help. When you hit on the right thread, there is a lot of great knowledge and insight here. Thanks to all you players that share your knowledge so freely. It is much appreciated.
  7. Richard Lindsey

    Richard Lindsey

    Mar 25, 2000
    Metro NYC
    I'm with Pacman. Yeah, I *play* jazz. Am I even close to mastering it? Hell no! At 45, I'm more humbled than ever when I listen to the people whom I consider to be really great at it.
  8. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY

    Couldn't have said it better. Jazz is a journey. There is no final destination other than "farther along the path than I am right now". The moment you think you've "made it" is the moment you stop making it.

    As far as what jazz is, who knows? I won't try to tackle that one...it's enough to just be on the path.
  9. JazznFunk

    JazznFunk Supporting Member

    Mar 26, 2000
    Asheville, NC
    Lakland Basses Artist
    I most definitely play jazz, and though I certainly can't consider myself great at it (maybe after about 30 more years or so), I do consider myself competent in the respect that I can walk chorus after chorus and make it reasonably interesting, interact with other soloists, solo melodically, and swing. Most importantly, I've studied the history of the music intently for the past three years in school, along with my other music studies, and that is a HUGE part of becoming a true jazz player. I've made jazz my life ever since I started pretty much, and now with my newfound dedication to upright, I feel more than ever that yes, I am a jazz musician! :)
  10. thrash_jazz


    Jan 11, 2002
    Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
    Artist: JAF Basses, Circle K Strings
    Exactly! Playing jazz is like travelling west - you can always go further west, but you never reach "west"!

    As for me, I played in jazz ensembles back in high school and university. Since then, I've done some projects that could be loosely defined as "jazz".

    That isn't to say I was great at it - passable, maybe. I had to quit jazz ensemble in university because it was interfering with my other studies. How I wish I hadn't done that now!

    Still, those were definitely the bands in which I learned the most about music. I'm trying to get back into jazz these days, but I haven't met many jazz musicians since I moved back here.

    Of note is the fact that Chris, Ed, Pacman, Jazzbo, Bruce etc are jazz musicians AND TB's resident theoreticians.

    As for what is jazz and what isn't, who's to say? Every style of music evolves. As for what defines jazz, I don't think it's a walking bass line or "mellowness" or whatever - I think it's the feel of the music. However, I'm sure many will have a different opinion about that!
  11. I think it's such an intellectually stimulating journey. That old quote "The jounrey is the reward" is so true for me trying to learn the bass.
  12. Gabu


    Jan 2, 2001
    Woodland Hills, CA
    I play Fender Jazz... :)

    I don't know Jazz from Fusion, Bebop from boboop... but I do know that I will one day. :D
  13. Josh Ryan

    Josh Ryan - that dog won't hunt, Monsignor. Staff Member Supporting Member

    Mar 24, 2001
    Does playing Steve Coleman-esq odd ball tunes with a drummer and an alto sax count? I'm not saying I'm any good, just that I do try. I agree with the statement that jazz is like traveling west, and I'm still trying to unfold a map. ;) I like it though, so I'll keep at it. I've always played rock type stuff with the exception of my high school jazz band, but the more great music I'm exposed to, the more I want to go that way.
  14. grovest


    Feb 26, 2002
    An instructor at my university was just talking about this with my Jazz Improv class. I liked what he had to say, so I'll paraphrase it for the group here:

    Too many people say that they 'play jazz.' The problem is that they see jazz as a noun. Jazz is actually an adjective. Jazz is a feeling, a way to play a song (just about any well-written song), not the song itself.

    I think that's a very sound evaluation (pun) of what jazz should be. From my own experience in both an orchestra setting and a jazz setting, I can say that the primary difference is not the songs we're playing, but way everyone is playing them.
  15. beermonkey


    Sep 26, 2001
    Seattle, WA
    I can play jazz. I played in jazz combos all throughout college and studied intensely during that period of time. Since I got out, I've played with a few jazz groups here and there, but definately nothing on a daily basis anymore. I have lost some of The Skills, but I can still get by as long as we're not talking Cherokee at 459,434 bmp... can't do that anymore. I was never really big on soloing, but I could hang for a chorus or two generally if I was forced to take a solo.

    As others have already elluded to, I think you can never really master jazz (or any music style for that matter). It's an ongoing process that will allow you to learn/develop as much as you personally want to digest.
  16. beermonkey


    Sep 26, 2001
    Seattle, WA
    Preach. Get down.

    I can't believe how many people I've met out in the world who make claims like this and haven't got a clue.
  17. Wxp4759cb


    Nov 23, 2000
    Kansas City, MO
    I play jazz.

    I've personally found the key to be modal playing.
  18. JimK


    Dec 12, 1999
    Could be, though...
    Why would you care what others think about how your music may be classified?
    If it's happenin', & it sounds as though it is, that should be enough, don't ya think? ;)
    Then again, I'm not a full-time player & I can say s*** like that... ;)

    About KungFu's comment regarding "rhythmic approach-
    I listen to a lotta 'stuff' that is all about improv...many, many, many purists will state "this is not Jazz; it doesn't swing, there's no this, no that, etc".
    Honestly, I can almost see their point; IMO, a lotta these Free-bos are coming outta a Modern Classical vibe(Cecil Taylor, Matthew Shipp, etc).
    The above artists, for the most part, employ an ensemble using instruments usually associated in "Jazz" combos. Some definite 'cross-breeding' between a couple of heavy genres...is it "Jazz"?

    Anyway, I have played in "Free"-Improv bands; it may have been, at times, jazzy...BUT-
    IMO, "JAZZ"? Not really. So, I'm assuming it hadda do with Ed's notion of "rhythmic approach".
    I dunno...then again, it all goes back to my comment to Blisshead-
    I don't care. Really...

    BTW, I have noticed some guys want to be addressed as "Jazz" musicians...others, take offense when you call(label)them, for example, a "Jazz" drummer.
    Shouldn't musician be enough to suffice?
  19. BassMan2000


    Sep 27, 2000
    I play Jazz for real. One right now for a university :)
  20. jasonbraatz


    Oct 18, 2000
    Oakland, CA
    i study with richard davis
    i play upright (not that i think that counts at all, but i know some people do)
    i play lots of jazz gigs around madison
    i'm a jazz studies major at the UW

    so i would say that i play jazz. but as for whether or not i can PLAY jazz....i guess you'd have to hear me to find out for yourself, but i sure don't feel like i'm as good as i need to be. as in - if i were to sing a bass line or solo without playing over a tune, and then play it, they'd sound totally different.

    i don't think that reading charts in your high school big band is really playing jazz. my high school went to the essentially ellington competition (15 selected bands from around the country go to new york and compete at lincoln center) 3 years in a row and we did really well each time. the band sounded almost exactly like the ellington band on the tunes we competed with.

    but for solos, there were myself, the piano player, the guitar player, a trombone, and a sax who could even marginally solo or play in a combo setting. and sight reading? forget about it.

    i think that to say you "play jazz" you have to be able to walk and solo over any song in the real book, and sound like you know what you're doing.