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Sage Wisdom

"Good improvisation communicates harmonic progression melodically. Effective melodies manipulate harmonic content through the use of guide tones and preparatory gravity notes, masterfully woven in systematic tension, release, and transparent harmonic definition."



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August 8, 2011 | Jazz Musicians Protocol--Sitting in

Sitting in on an open jazz jam is not unlike joining a bluegrass session. Certain protocols remain unspoken, though necessary to keep the performance polite, positive, and satisfying. It's good to know these assumed rules, and even though they are posted at gig, the majority of the participants well conform, and expect you to as well.

From the website of brass musicians Ken and Harry Watters, here's about the most thorough list we've discovered. Talk amongst yourselves...

Some (hopefully) helpful thoughts for the professional jazz musician

DonScott.jpg1) When you attend someone else's gig, don't pull out your instrument until you're ASKED to sit in -- do not sit there noodling on your instrument. Warm up on your instrument BEFORE you get to the venue.

2) If you call a tune while sitting in at a jam session, make sure that you know it VERY well.

3) At a jam session, sit down after one tune unless you're ASKED to stay and play more.

4) After you play at a jam session, stay around for a while. It is rude to leave the venue the minute you're finished playing.

5) Stay sober enough to play well throughout the gig. The musician community is small, and word travels VERY fast.

6) Know the forms on tunes. Always remember that "Autumn Leaves" is AAB, as is "Song For My Father," and "Jordu" is AABA. These tunes are FREQUENTLY called at jam sessions, and soloists frequently end their solos in the wrong place.

7) Be ECONOMICAL with solo lengths -- ESPECIALLY at jam sessions. When you run dry of ideas,end your solo after that chorus. Be considerate of the drummer and bassist having to comp for a thousand choruses. Along these same lines, if there is another person onstage with you at a jam session that plays the same instrument, it's indeed polite to resist the urge to try & turn the session into a "pissing contest" (everyone reading this webpage knows exactly what I mean). This GREATLY annoys most rhythm sections that are called upon to "back" a jam session. Remember, music is NOT a sport.

8) The melody can be played by many intruments IF it is the type of melody that can be played in unison. Often, and particularly in slower tunes (i.e. ballads), it is best to have one instrument play the melody or split it up with another player (meaning someone else will take the bridge). On the slower tunes, everyone tends to have their own interpretation of the melody, and if it's played by more than one player it can sound very bad.

9) Often, the bass and drum solos are last before the restatement of the melody "out."
It's also customary, for the drum solo, to trade either "fours" or "eights" (depending on the tempo of the tune) with the rest of the band, with the first soloist starting his "four" first, and the soloists going in the order that they took their solos between drum breaks.

10) As a rhythm section member, be sensitive to the level of energy that the soloist is putting out. If a soloist wants to build energy, they will generally make it clear by the way they play. It is indeed rude to either NOT react to a soloist, or to try and force the energy level up (or down) without regard to what the soloist is doing. So, basically the rhythm section should ALWAYS be listening and reacting to the soloist.

11) NETWORK! This point cannot be stressed ENOUGH. Go to other people's gigs, support them, get to know them, and eventually sit in with them when they ask you. If you want to work, people have to know who you are, and that won't happen if you stay home. Don't be a "secret."

12) Pianists, guitarists, and bassists should not only know the chord progressions, but the MELODIES to tunes. This can also apply to drummers. ANYONE who is playing the melody on a tune (horns included) needs to know it CORRECTLY before embellishing it.

13) Horns and other "melody" instruments need to know the CHORD PROGRESSIONS to tunes as well as the melodies.

14) NEVER come back and take another complete solo on a tune that you've already HAD a complete solo on.

15) When you're sitting in at a jam session, NEVER count off a tune so fast that ANYONE on the stand feels uncomfortable. This is rude.

16) LISTEN to the other players at jam sessions. You never know what you might learn and from who you might learn it.

17) Try & remember, once you feel that you've "arrived" as a player, your musical growing days are over. ALWAYS be absorbing new ideas, approaches, and concepts from anywhere you can.

18) Don't be a "jack of all trades, master of none." If you consider yourself to be a multi instrumentalist, there will indeed come a time that you should settle on ONE in order to begin the road to mastering it.

19) Here are some tunes that are commonly called at jazz gigs and jam sessions. The keys listed are usually what they are played in, but it is important to be able to play them in other keys as well:

All The Things You Are (Ab)
All Of Me (C)
There Is No Greater Love (Bb)
Days of Wine And Roses (F)
Recordame (Ami)
There Will Never Be Another You (Eb)
Blue Bossa (Cmi)
Bluesette (Bb)
Ceora (Ab)
A Foggy Day (F)
Mother Of The Dead Man (JUST KIDDING!)
My Romance (Bb)
It Could Happen To You (Eb)
Au Privave (F)
Sonnymoon For Two (F)
Straight No Chaser (F or Bb)
Blue Monk (Bb)
Alone Together (Dmi)
Oleo (or any rhythm change tune -- usually Bb)
Softly As In a Morning Sunrise (Cmi)
Groovin' High (Eb)
Well You Needn't (F)
Moonlight in Vermont (Eb)
Misty (Eb)
Out of Nowhere (G)
Song For My Father (Fmi)
Mr. P.C. (Cmi)
My Funny Valentine (Cmi)
Confirmation (F)
My One and Only Love (C)
What is This Thing Called Love (C)
I Love You (F)
The Girl With EMPHASEMA (F) (Sorry. That's terrible, I know...)
Triste (Bb)
Meditation (C)
Dolphin Dance (Eb -- tough tune)
Up Jumped Spring (Bb)
Joy Spring (F -- If this is called on a jam session, you are more than likely being tested; watch out for the changes in bars 6 & 7 of the bridge)
Body and Soul (Ebmi)
I'll Remember April (G)
Someday My Prince Will Come (Bb)
Jordu (Cmi)
In a Sentimental Mood (Dmi or Bb mi)
In a Mellow Tone (Ab)
Autumn Leaves (Emi or Gmi)
If I Were a Bell (F)
Green Dolphin Street (in C or Eb)
Four (Eb)
So What (Dmi)
How High The Moon (G)
Have You Met Miss Jones (F)
Solar (Cmi)
Tune Up (D, but watch out)
No More Blues (Dmi -- LONG form)
We'll Be Together Again (C)
Blue Trane (Cmi)
Lullaby of Birdland (Fmi)
All Blues (G)
I Could Write a Book (C)
Black Orpheus (Ami)
But Not For Me (Eb or F)
Someone to Watch Over Me (Bb or Eb)
Take The A Train (C)
Just Friends (G)
How Insensitive (Dmi)
But Beautiful (any key)
Soon (Eb)
Easy Living (F)
You Don't Know What Love Is (Fmi)
Autumn In New York (F)
Bye Bye Blackbird (F)
My Foolish Heart (C)
Willow Weep For Me (G)
If I Should Lose You (Gmi)
Everything Happens to Me (Bb)
Moment's Notice (Eb) (This tune is TRICKY. If you don't know it, READ IT.)
The Nearness of You (F)
It Had To Be You (Harry Connick's fault; in G)
Soon (Eb)
Emily (C)
Tangerine (F)
Giant Steps (pretty much Eb - If someone calls this at a JAM SESSION, then they're wanting to show off. This is ridiculous. Let 'em have it.)

Website: Brothers, Ken and Harry Watters

Posted by Ted at August 8, 2011 5:07 AM


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