Saturday, October 27, 2012

Don't believe everything you read......

Hi all,
I would like to talk about something that tends to happen when a strong  music reader gets a hold of a lead sheet or big band chart (especially in the rhythm section).
Now, reading music is an important skill and if one is a lousy reader, it's good to work on and develop that particular skill.
The problem is, if we are a good, accurate reader we tend to look at whatever our eyes see on the page as the absolute truth, when in the case of Jazz and related musics we are seeing relative truth that needs to be interpreted.

Case in point, any great American songbook-type tune found in a fake book.

Now, if we play this melody as written, it's going to sound extremely stiff and square, yet a lot of people will do that when playing this tune. A good thing to ask yourself when reading a leadsheet, even for the first time is, "Is this phrasing found in nature?" This means, would anybody actually play this as written and how would it sound?
Even if we look at the first 4 notes, they would sound infinitely better if we played the first note on the "+" of one and played the fourth note an 8th note ahead on the "+" of four. In fact, moving on the beat rhythms over one 8th is a very easy way of opening up phrasing on melodies. Of course probably the best way of avoiding stiff phrasing is to listen to people who phrase well. Also, memorizing tunes gets us away from the "I have to play it the way I see it" trap.

This same issue can create problems for drummers when reading charts.
How many of us have come across this?

I'm amazed at how many people will play this literally. It really is just short hand for "Please play swing the best way you know how." If you see a lot of bass drum/snare figures in unison even if they aren't just straight quarter notes, you don't need to play them as is.

In conclusion, don't let the written page get in the way of your good musical common sense. If you're the only one playing a part in an improvised situation, there's usually lots of room to add your own musical personality. In fact, it will likely be expected.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Local pizza

Hey all,
This is going to be mainly a pizza related post so bear with me.
Anyone who's read this post at all will know my preference for pizza from the prairie provinces of Canada but I also appreciate the regional differences in this particular food. For example, the sauce on pizza from Nova Scotia tends to have spicier sauce due to the Lebanese influence in that part of the country.

To that end, I thought I'd mention a very good local joint in Guelph, Victoria's Pizza.

Here it is:

The sauce is good, it's very fresh and they don't skimp on the cheese.

One of the great things about buying pizza in Central Canada is what I call "slice culture". Simply put, pizza is sold by the slice. For some reason, out west you have to buy a whole pizza most of the time. This is a) more time and calorie commitment and b) a lot more expensive.

Another weird regional difference is that in Ontario and Quebec they putting the toppings on top of the cheese whereas in Saskatchewan they put them under, inside the pizza. Which I guess makes then "middlings" rather than "toppings". No matter.

Also worth mentioning as a great example of "central' pizza is Amelio's which has the added attraction of being run by identical twin brothers who look incredibly like (Montreal born) pianist Paul Bley!

Okay.....quickly some music.

This is a performance of Ari Hoenig at a clinic which I lifted some ideas from that will be in a coming post. Enjoy!

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Phrasing 8th notes

It's funny, it seems like a bunch of us think about the same things at the same time. Just before I got down to writing this, Cruise Ship Drummer wrote about a similar issue.
Anyway, here's a short video on Jazz 8th note interpretation. Hope you dig it!