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Starting a Jazz Band, need some pointers...

Discussion in 'Band Management [BG]' started by FunkSlap89, Sep 23, 2005.

  1. FunkSlap89


    Apr 26, 2005
    Albany, NY
    I'm planning on starting a 5-piece jazz band relatively soon. I already have a drummer and sax, i just need trumpet and piano. Anybody have any suggestions to make this band any better? I'm pretty stoked about it! :hyper:
  2. JimmyM


    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    Yeah, I have a couple. Start off with easy charts and play your butts off on them before you move onto Giant Steps. When selecting songs, don't get too esoteric. People want to hear songs they know and love. "All Of Me" or "Take The A Train" will always go over much better than some obscure Coltrane tune. And take it easy on odd time stuff. Lastly, practice once at the very most. It may seem counter-intuitive, but the amount of gigs you land is inverse to the time spent practicing, especially when it comes to jazz.
  3. What kind of jazz are we talking about?


    Jan 25, 2005
    Des Moines, IA
    Excellent question... the type of jazz you intend to play has a great deal to do with how to "make it better".

    For example, if you're playing "old school" classic jazz, I'd opt for keys or (better yet) a Hammond B3 and trumpet over a guitar, for smooth jazz I'd sub those for a rhythm guitar, and for fusion I'd go with a lead guitar and synth....then you need to decide if vocals need to be considered as well.......but that's just me.
  5. Maybe people "know and love" something from Interstellar Space.
  6. FunkSlap89


    Apr 26, 2005
    Albany, NY
    It's going to be like a swing/bebop jazz band. You know, miles davis, charlie parker, that whole scene. I know what you mean about practice as little as possible. I've heard that somewhere before... can't remember where. But i heard that since jazz is spontaneous, you can't (and shouldn't) recreate a jazz performance. It should be different everytime. Thanks for the pointers, keep em comin'!
  7. JimmyM


    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
  8. Well...I agree that Jazz is "spontaneous" when it's at it's best, but that's with "seasoned" players that are used to each other's playing. You guys need to get together and know the charts, form and endings, etc. You also, (I'm assuming you'll be the bass player), need to play with the drummer enough to get tight and be clean with tempos and fills, etc., unless you all want to keep sounding like you're a bunch of guys that just happened to show up for an "open-mic" night every time you play!

    Are you going to play "charts", or are you going to do "fake book" style playing? One's a little more structured and the other is more versitile, but needs a LOT of listening to what each other is doing to keep it cohesive.

    I'm in an 8-piece jazz group with a lead singer added, and we do charts, but the rhythm section is versitile enough to do
    "combo" work during gigs and "fake" tunes if needed. Granted, we don't get to rehearse very much, but the players can read the charts down pretty good and I've been working with this drummer for a couple of years now in 3 or 4 different groups and we've gotten really tight. It takes playing together to form the tight cohesive sound that's needed to be better than a "jam session".

    Rehearse! ;), or gig a lot! :bassist:
  9. FunkSlap89


    Apr 26, 2005
    Albany, NY
    what are these 'charts'? just standard chord progressions used in jazz? or chord structure? Sorry, but im new to the whole jazz scene... :bag:
  10. You are new, aren't ya. :D

    Charts are different than sheet music. It has the form, chords and melody written in a way it can be put on one sheet (mostly). For jazz standards, besides the chords the only thing written is the melody. The bass lines are improvised so they are not written unless it is a specific line or part of the song.

    If you are going to do the type of material you listed above you should get yourself familiar with charts right quick, you are going to run into them.

    If you know how to read sheet music, it should not be too unfamiliar. As long as you know your music symbols, how to follow repeat lines, you know what "coda" means, etc...

    If you know anyone with a "Real Book" take a look at it. If not go down to a music store and see if they have one and take a peak it they let you. Sometimes you can google it and find some. Maybe someone will post one here if it is no longer copy written.

    If you have the chart and want to learn the song correctly you should pick up the original recording. Certain things like rhythm changes usually are not written for the bass.

    So.......this band your starting. Will you all be learning together or will any of them have some experience with jazz?
  11. Tingly


    Jul 16, 2005
    Yonkers, NY
    Okay. Hmm. Suggestions.

    Well, having just gone through something similar myself, here is my "short list" of suggestions. All I can say is, "Benefit from my experience, my son."

    Get a good therapist to talk to once a week. Being in such a band is gonna drive you NUTS!

    Make sure none of your fellow musicians are friends, because you will soon be fighting with almost all of them.

    Carve your initials into every piece of musical equipment you own, with an engraving tool, and watch all your stuff like a hawk, because half of it will be stolen at the first gig.

    Consider getting another job, because being in this band is going to COST you a TON of money.

    Buy a big, new, shiny tractor trailer truck because, whenever you move the band's stuff, you are suddenly going to feel like you are running a moving company.

    Retain an entertainment law attorney and promise him or her your next child, so you are ready to sue when each venue reneges on its promises.

    Obtain a year's supply of Prilosec pills to deal with stomach acid, which you will surely begin producing by the gallon.

    Buy a small printing shop for all the Xerox copies of songs, charts, schedules, press releases, contracts, posters, mailings, correspondence and flyers the band will expect YOU to produce.

    Rent a small office for the file cabinets in which to store all the songs, charts, etc. (see above).

    Learn all about HTML and web design so you can spend endless hours preparing and maintaining the band's web site.

    For promotional purposes, buy 500 blank audio CD's to burn the one half a song you manage to record before someone makes a glaring mistake.

    Make advance reservations for the substance abuse clinic for at least two band members and an anger management class for the rest of the band.

    Ironically, you will probably have to resign yourself to never playing any music anymore, because, now that you are in a band, you won't have time.

    Mentally prepare yourself to give up sex. If you have a partner now, being in a band will end that relationship soon. If you don't have one, you will never get one, because you will always be "busy with band stuff."

    Yeah, that's the "short" list.
  12. Ed Fuqua

    Ed Fuqua

    Dec 13, 1999
    Chuck Sher publishes my book, WALKING BASSICS:The Fundamentals of Jazz Bass Playing.
    I would just like to say that this thread is just what I needed to lift my spirits on such a grey September day; many thanks to EVERYONE involved. I can't remember the last time I laughed this hard.
  13. Please explain.
  14. Ed Fuqua

    Ed Fuqua

    Dec 13, 1999
    Chuck Sher publishes my book, WALKING BASSICS:The Fundamentals of Jazz Bass Playing.
    Well, for the first, the mere juxtaposition of the two statements
    seem rife with comedic possibility. Then we get to "practice as little as possible" and "jazz is spontaneous" and "swing/bebop/ jazz band, you know miles davis, charlie parker, that whole scene."

    Even now, I have to wipe away a tear...
  15. jive1

    jive1 Moderator Staff Member Supporting Member Commercial User

    Jan 16, 2003
    Owner/Retailer: Jive Sound
    If you're new to a genre of music, it's a good idea to study and practice. I don't care what the "experts" say. The "greats" got to become great through practice. Don't just practice your playing, practice your ear. Practice your reading skills.

    If you haven't played with someone before, it's a good idea to practice.

    I don't know if you're gonna do this, but noodling around doesn't make for practice or jazz. Learn some tunes. Learn to play them the "right way" before you jam em out.

    Get to know the genre of music you're playing. It will help you find the right players, find the right tunes for you, and define your goals.

    If you have horn players, remember that the bass is a C instrument and the horns can be B flat, E flat, F or C instruments depending on the horn. What that means is that charts for the rhythm section aren't gonna work for a horn player unless they can transpose on the fly.
  16. Yeah, I think jive1's response was a little more constructive and helpful than Ed's.
  17. Blackbird

    Blackbird Moderator Supporting Member

    Mar 18, 2000
    You just aren't used to Ed's bedside manner, so to speak.

    So, FunkSlap89 why don't you give us a rundown of your actual jazz playing experience and tell us exactly why you want to play it? It would help us tailor our response to your situation.
  18. Yea FunkSlap, don't let the negativity persuade you.

    Let us know where you are (musically) and we can make better suggestion.

    For instance, If you have never read a chart before, I would not try doing Charlie Parker right away. Bebop is at fast tempos and have a lot of chord changes. Start off with simple tunes

    Take the A train is a classic. Autumn Leaves, All of Me.
    Try a bossa nova, Girl from Ipanema

    Summertime, even Charlie Parker recorded that one.
  19. JimmyM


    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    Ed, thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule of scaring babies for your words of wisdom.

    I was mistakenly assuming that the original poster had at least some experience playing jazz in other bands before forming his own band. Had I known he wasn't even familiar with what charts are, I never would have suggested he didn't practice with the band much. Of course, with the decided advantage of being able to see his questions after the fact, all you have to do is come in with a couple little zingers and make everyone else look like pikers. Really easy to do that after you get all the facts after they've trickled in, isn't it? Like shooting bears in a cage, huh?

    You know how I always go on about how irritating jazz snobs are? You're really not helping to disprove that by being an irritating jazz snob.

    FunkSlap, pay no attention. Ed was recently banned for 10 days from www.irritatingjazzsnobs.com for being too irritating and jazz snobby for the average irritating jazz snobs. But you really do have to familiarize yourself a lot more with the concepts of jazz playing before you try to lead a jazz band. Unlike Ed, though, other people can find nice ways of saying it.
  20. Pruitt


    Jun 30, 2005
    Danbury, CT
    All the snide comments aside, I find this topic interesting. I've long been a fan of Jazz, but have never really played it, being too much of a "Rock" and "Prog" freak for the past 25 years. But I've started studying jazz with a private instructor and now find myself interested in playing it with others.

    I have recently found that a couple of friends of mine are also interested in learning more about the genre. We have decided to start regularly rehersing/jamming some old Jazz standards together. Mostly stuff that my instructor has me working on, but some other stuff that we all like also. This is mostly for our own heads, not really to play out with, we just like the music and are interested in learning more about playing it.

    Anyway, I hope this thread can come back on topic, as I'd be interested in continuing to hear what people suggest. ;)

    Have Fun!