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Thread: "Cutting"

  1. #1
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    "Cutting"

    Have any of you witnessed or were the victim of "cutting" at a live performance?
    In my experience, cutting meant that a musician would try to upstage another, out play them, or simply attempt to humiliate the competition. I've seen it done at rehearsals and auditions, but that was part of the deal. Either you 'cut it' or you were sent on your way. In a nightclub or jam session environment I've seen musicians intentionally show off in front of other cats, solely for their own gratification. I saw guitarists come out of the audience to sit in with groups, then do their best to blow away the sitting guitarist. Blues and RnB cats were notorious for doing that, so I never let anyone take my guitar if it was my gig.

    I've played in hundreds of clubs over the years and even did a bit of touring back in the day. I never made a living as a pro player, but always loved playing in any situation. But one gig I was invited to sit in with a jazz combo simply to jam along with them. There was no rehearsal, but I was told in advance that most of the music would be fairly simple 'smooth jazz' and a bit of RnB. Well, I showed up and the band members (keys, bass, sax and drums) seemed friendly and professional. The keyboard player was the leader, so more serious in demeanor. Well, maybe he was a bit uptight...OK, arrogant. After setting up my guitar and amp I waited for the set list. The keyboard player said they didn't have one. Instead he reached over and handed me a copy of "The Real Book" for jazz. I thought...Oh shit! My reading skills are OK, but not the best, especially for jazz. Next thing I hear is we are kicking off the set with "On Green Dolphin Street"..."Ah one, and a two and hit it!"

    At that time I had never even heard of "Green Dolphin Street", much less, what I would do with this complex chart placed in front of me. So, I smiled and did a LOT of listening as I stumbled through the chords and melody lines. When it came time for me to solo, I played it safe and did my best entry level Wes Montgomery octaves, following the chord changes as best I could. Sweat beads notwithstanding, I made it through the song, and even recall hearing polite applause after my solo, and again after the song ended.

    The keyboard player knew immediately after the first measure that I wasn't a 'pro jazz guitarist'. I immediately knew he called "Green Dolphin Street" to check out my chops. My view was he was simply cutting me in front of a live audience. I played the rest of the gig as best I could, shining on the familiar, and carefully playing the unfamiliar. I remembered an expression I was told by a fantastic sax player, back when I played in L.A. nightclubs as a 16 year old. He said..."When in doubt, lay out!" And that is exactly what got me through that gig. I knew I was the victim of cutting by that keyboard player.

    After the gig I immediately looked up this tune and searched for a guitarist leading the charge. I spotted a few big band versions of it. I also found a George Benson video where he played it live on a TV variety show. Benson sang and played this song so well, I was spellbound! I found another version where Benson played it with the Count Basie Orchestra at the Newport Jazz Festival 1990 (See below).

    What are your experiences with "cutting"?


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  3. #2
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    Hahahahaha I got roasted so much. I still get roasted! Oh my god music is just that for the rest of your life.

    But - cutting - that's a little different. I find it tiresome, although it is all too common at jam sessions. Sometimes that competitive, sparring vibe can be a LOT of fun, but if the vibe isn't there, it's just egotistical BS.

    Let me put it this way - I'm a working player. Say a vibey sax player sits in and shreds in a demonstrative, competitive way. I will not call this guy without a GLOWING personal recommendation from someone I trust. I know nothing about his (and it always a he) ability to play a gig - and to be honest he may also be annoying to hang out with - which is a big strike against someone in this business.

    This fake Alpha Male stuff does not impress working musicians, that's the joke of it. If someone impresses in this environment it never comes from a place of ego, it comes from a place of really being that good.

    I think your view is correct - that keyboard players comes across as a bit of a dick - and I would never be like that with someone who didn't know GDS - I would clock they weren't really a jazz player, and I would call a tune appropriate for them, a vamp thing or a blues or something, I'd rather make music with the person in front of me - instead of punishing them for not being something else.

    (There are situations were cutting can be appropriate from heavy players as a way of teaching. But this is NOT one of them.)

    Anyway, I think your reaction, learning GDS and taking from that experience a positive thing is the right thing to do.
    Last edited by christianm77; 11-20-2018 at 06:08 AM.

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    I'm happy to report that most musicians I've played with have been kind. We generally tried to make each other look good to the audience.

    There were times I just couldn't keep up. That's when my melodies included a lot of half notes and my volume was turned down.

    Some are jerks. And some act that way because they are really good and don't tolerate mediocrity, which I've mastered.
    MG

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    Quote Originally Posted by Marty Grass View Post
    I'm happy to report that most musicians I've played with have been kind. We generally tried to make each other look good to the audience.

    There were times I just couldn't keep up. That's when my melodies included a lot of half notes and my volume was turned down.

    Some are jerks. And some act that way because they are really good and don't tolerate mediocrity, which I've mastered.
    There are some very good musicians who are like that, it's true. But I think it's more common for mediocre musicians to be like that.

  6. #5
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    I had the opposite experience in my only time getting to sit in regularly with a group. A local restaurant made Thursday nights an "open jazz jam session" and hired a good pianist, bassist, and drummer. I showed up with my guitar and not much experience or chops. The pianist was in charge, and asked me what tunes I was okay with, so I gave him 4-5. He called them all, and then started calling tunes kind of like those. He'd tell me, hey this one is kind of like that other one, but the bridge goes differently, etc. If I struggled, on a break he'd explain where I got mixed up, and then in the next set he'd call it again and grin at me. The bassist also was really nice at periodically helping me find my spot on the chart if I got lost. I grew a lot as a musician for that year of sitting in every Thursday night.

    I also learned what a bunch of highly talented gentlemen secure in their own playing, and happy to welcome a new comer, could do for a guy.
    - Lawson
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  7. #6
    Most of the situations I play in have players who are supportive and mutually appreciative. And, of course, every one of them is going to try to play the best solo s/he possibly can play.

    But, let's talk about actual cutting.

    1. Pianist calls Airto's Misturada (Mixing), a tune in 7/4. Counts it off fast. Then, in the solo section plays a downbeat only every other bar, with stick and jab comping. So that's 14 beats of seeming randomness before he hits a One. And, when he finally hits the One, it sounds like more randomness. Tough to deal with.

    2. Leader pianist (different guy) at a jam sees some books come out and yells "No books, No books". Then calls all the tunes, including tunes most of the players don't know. Whispers the chord changes to the bassist. Everybody else is on their own ... and the tunes included some odd forms, hits and unusual changes. Not hugely difficult, but most of the players, including pros at the jam were struggling. My view: if you're the guy who says no books, somebody else should call the tunes.

    3. This wasn't done to be cutting (the two above were, I think): I'm playing at a jam with a guitarist you'd have heard of, his bassist and a drummer (can't remember who). We're playing a tune out of my book, called Samba Novo. It's a simple tune, but this arrangement is played very fast (I think it's Arismar Do Espirito Santo's). During the solos, those three guys take the rhythm into outer space. I couldn't tell what they were doing and I had to stop playing. Later, I asked the bassist what was going on. He's a friend and I think he answered the question as fully and honestly as he could. He said, "you have to keep your ears open". What they were doing was hemiolas, crossing bar lines, odd accents etc., at least I think so. Apparently, each one had the original tune playing like a machine in his head while he did something else.

    4. Pianist (yet another) reharmonizing everything on the fly -- loud and forceful. Either you can hear it, or you stop playing.

    5. Another thing I've seen is a leader changing keys on the fly. How many of us can instantly switch to playing Stella in F and not make any mistakes? A college professor of jazz guitar and a top pro were in the group. One got it on the second chorus and the other got it on the third. Neither got it right away.

    6. And then there's handing out charts that are difficult to read for one reason or another.

    7. Jam session. Pianist assumes leadership. He's got a book. The bassist stands behind him and looks over his shoulder. Maybe there's room for one other guy. Nobody else can see the chart. Oddly enough, I've seen this happen repeatedly. In a certain jam I learned to set up early behind the pianist. Cutting? Oblivious? Overestimated the other players? I don't know.
    Last edited by rpjazzguitar; 11-20-2018 at 02:35 AM.

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    As many of you know, I am no pro so I have no personal stories of cutting, but I would like to share one a New York Conga player told me. He was playing some Latin Jazz, Salsa, and Meringue with his regular band one night when a member of the audience approached him during the break and said he played Congas at home, and wanted to play on one song

    The professional player told me that they brought him up and the band played a song that was so fast that the guy gave up not long into the song. He told me they did it on purpose. They wanted to "see what he had" and if he was a poor performer, show him up so that he could realize how far away he was from being a "real" Conga player.

    The poor guy skulked off the stage before the song was done, and eventually made his way out the door. The Conga player told me that real Conga players, in learning the Conga, play until their hands readily blister and bleed. It just comes with the territory. And he had shared that with this aspiring player. I wonder if the guy went back and practiced harder, or maybe was turned off from Conga playing forever?

  9. #8

    I

    Green Dolphin St. isn't typically a tune one calls to try and cut someone, the changes are pretty rudimentary.
    Now if he called Coltrane's Countdown or something along those lines....
    I used to work in a club that had regular jam sessions
    They had a sign on the wall next to the bandstand that said something along the lines of the aforementioned "when in doubt lay out"

  10. #9
    Quote Originally Posted by wintermoon View Post
    Green Dolphin St. isn't typically a tune one calls to try and cut someone, the changes are pretty rudimentary.
    Now if he called Coltrane's Countdown or something along those lines....
    I used to work in a club that had regular jam sessions
    They had a sign on the wall next to the bandstand that said something along the lines of the aforementioned "when in doubt lay out"
    I agree. Green Dolphin is a commonly played tune with straightforward harmony and a singable melody. Calling that tune and providing a Real Book chart in a jazz jam is not my idea of a cutthroat act. Most jazz players know the tune.

    Handing out a hard to read arrangement and then counting it off before you even have a chance to figure out the roadmap -- that could be nastier.

    I've have been in situations where there's an audience and I'm asked to read a tune I've never heard from a chart I've never seen. That's uncomfortable.

    I play in a band where one of the arrangers will hand out a revision of a chart - on a gig. My handwritten notes are on the old chart. My visual memory of where the segno and coda are all are for the old chart. Etc. So, it creates unnecessary risk. It's much easier to make an error on a chart you've never seen.

    Very few players can play anything/everything. It's a little embarrassing to have to lay out, but it's way better than playing badly. You have to stretch yourself sometimes, but a public jam may not be the right situation.
    Last edited by rpjazzguitar; 11-20-2018 at 01:15 AM.

  11. #10
    Sometimes, it's part of the culture, especially in older times. In his early days Muddy Waters and his band were known as the Headhunters because they would go to clubs on the South Side of Chicago where a band was playing with the express purpose of sitting in and blowing them off the stage.
    Some players were known to be cutters, like Sonny Stitt. There is a story, I don't if it's apocryphal, where Stitt invited a friend onstage and proceeded to cut him mercilessly. Afterwards his friend said "Why'd you do me like that?" and Stitt is said to have replied "There's no love on the bandstand."

  12. #11
    When I started getting more serious into jazz, I went to gig where a singer performed with a band, we had mutual friends, I introduced myself, she said yea sit in. There was a sax player, who played so good, and he had the style exactly how I like- blusey NOLA funky vibe, some jump blues influences too.

    So I plugged in, the singer said you guys play something and took a break. They asked if any tunes I wanted, I said you pick something... so the sax player says, RC in Bb, and counted off in brisk tempo. Now, today it would be the easiest thing in the world, I can play damn RC in any key, any tempo, no problemo! But back then not at any tempo easily. And they played it in more bebop style, less swing, which how they played with the singer. I didn't exactly suck, but by pro NYC standards it was weak, very weak..

    Was it cutting? More like a little test/audition maybe. Next year I found out that sax player put his own band together, playing my fav jazz style, traveling the world and being very successful. Turned out he was looking for a guitar player, I didn't get the call, duh!

    But when somebody is trying hard to upstage you, to prove they're better, that's different... I don't like it, but I can deal with it, and it's fine on a jam. If it's on a gig, that's not cool at all, I'd hate to play with that person ever again. It's bad for the band, bad for the audience, it creates tension, it's just an ego trip. I've been lucky though, very rarely play with people like that.

  13. #12
    An odd addendum to one of my earlier stories is that the guy with the 7/4 tune was one of my teachers. He once yelled at me for not helping a player who'd gotten lost. He was right and I learned something important from it. But, oddly enough, he didn't usually follow his own advice. It was sink or swim, lesson or gig. And, he was the same way on the festival stage with guys you've heard of.

  14. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by wintermoon View Post
    Green Dolphin St. isn't typically a tune one calls to try and cut someone, the changes are pretty rudimentary.
    Now if he called Coltrane's Countdown or something along those lines....
    I used to work in a club that had regular jam sessions
    They had a sign on the wall next to the bandstand that said something along the lines of the aforementioned "when in doubt lay out"
    I guess you are right. I should have just packed up my guitar and left once he showed me the Real Book.

  15. #14
    The positive thing about cutting is that it's a demonstration of a level of musicianship the cuttee hasn't yet achieved. Like a lot of other educational experiences in music, if you can handle the blows to your self-esteem, you learn more quickly.

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    I think context is important. GDS may as well by Countdown if you aren't a jazz player.

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  19. #18
    i'd rather someone cut me up on the bandstand instead of someone being overly polite, which can get irritating, and can hinder your growth and improvement as a musician.

  20. #19
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    I think the behaviour in the OP is less cutting than dickery.

    Oz you are a hungry young player you want boppers to roast you silly so you can learn. You aren’t a guy sitting in on his first jazz gig.

  21. #20
    Quote Originally Posted by christianm77 View Post
    I think the behaviour in the OP is less cutting than dickery.

    Oz you are a hungry young player you want boppers to roast you silly so you can learn. You aren’t a guy sitting in on his first jazz gig.
    I get what the OP was saying, and I agree..Piano player was being an idiot. I was just giving my two cents on cutting is all

  22. #21
    Funny story of my own, I had just been accepted to study Jazz at university. I knew nothing about soloing. Knew hardly any standards. I decided to go to Ronnie Scott's upstairs jam. I was one of the last to go on, after waiting all night. But that's not the problem. The problem was all the things you are was called. That was the first time I had even heard that tune, let alone play it. I could just about get through the handful of tunes I knew. It got Called at quite a bright tempo for someone of my level at the time. I got absolutely cut up. Didn't go back for some months.

    Lesson was invaluable though - go home and learn how to play jazz. Spoiler alert: still learning about jazz 4 years later

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    Yeah def don’t think being schooled on the bandstand is a bad thing. Some painful lessons are learned the best....

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    Quote Originally Posted by don_oz View Post
    Funny story of my own, I had just been accepted to study Jazz at university. I knew nothing about soloing. Knew hardly any standards. I decided to go to Ronnie Scott's upstairs jam. I was one of the last to go on, after waiting all night. But that's not the problem. The problem was all the things you are was called. That was the first time I had even heard that tune, let alone play it. I could just about get through the handful of tunes I knew. It got Called at quite a bright tempo for someone of my level at the time. I got absolutely cut up. Didn't go back for some months.

    Lesson was invaluable though - go home and learn how to play jazz. Spoiler alert: still learning about jazz 4 years later
    It’s 2:30am on the Ronnie Scott’s main stage and the vibey and very good American singer has just called Round Midnight in G

  25. #24
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    Quote Originally Posted by don_oz View Post

    Lesson was invaluable though - go home and learn how to play jazz. Spoiler alert: still learning about jazz 4 years later
    Just FOUR years? Geeze. I've been at it about TWENTY-four years... and still feel pretty much sucky.
    - Lawson
    "Whenever you come near the human race, there's layers and layers of nonsense." - Thornton Wilder, Our Town

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    Ha, yeah, scary... Some people on a learning curve. I won't tell you how long I've been learning, it's embarrassing... .

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    Quote Originally Posted by Gitfiddler View Post
    Have any of you witnessed or were the victim of "cutting" at a live performance? ... [snip]
    Obviously, I don't know what was running through those guys' minds, but what you describe does not sound like an attempt to cut you down to size. It sounds more like they assumed you had some basic jazz knowledge and knew the tune. Green Dolphin Street is a basic tune, typically one that players learn pretty early on in their development; if you step onto a jazz group's bandstand (even on a smooth jazz/R&B gig), it's one you'd be expected to know.

    I've been going to jams off and on since I was maybe 18 or so (I'm now somewhere north of 193 ...). At jazz jams, I don't think I've experienced cutting in the sense of people deliberately outplaying others in order to put them in their place or embarrass them. But I have experienced "vibing", which is more people assuming you suck and giving you the stink eye before the first note is even played, treating you like an outsider to the scene, and/or scolding you publicly if you don't keep up, that sort of thing. Cutting in the sense of competing, I've seen it between horn players, but because there's typically only one guitarist on the stand not between guitarists; it's typically relatively friendly, though, since it's usually among people who know each other.

    I'd say blues is a slightly different story. There tends to be more ego and more of a silly "gunslinger" attitude. It's also more common for there to be a mix of good players and not-so-good players (who are often clueless about their limitations) and/or beginners. I've seen that lead to some less than friendly interactions, and attempts to play someone off the stage. Also, a sort of reverse cutting/vibing -- e.g., calling something other than a completely generic 12 bar shuffle (like a 10-bar form, or a "jazz" blues form, or Stormy Monday changes) and having people who can't hang with that get angry about it.


    John

  29. #28
    i think it would be fun to have a video cutting contest on here. two people square up and take the same tune for a certain amount of time and record two choruses or something. then we vote. I guess you'd need some confidence to take part
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  30. #29
    Quote Originally Posted by christianm77 View Post
    It’s 2:30am on the Ronnie Scott’s main stage and the vibey and very good American singer has just called Round Midnight in G
    Funny little sonny stitt annecdote I saw recently. A singer can't remember her name off of the top of my head right now called embracebale you in E major. She asked sonny where that puts the sax to which he replied 'that puts the sax back in the case'

    Laughed my arse off for a good 10 mins at that.

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    Seeing how this is a jazz forum, calling Green Dolphin Street and handing someone a real book that doesn't require transposing doesn't strike me as cutting in the slightest.

  32. #31
    Quote Originally Posted by joe2758 View Post
    i think it would be fun to have a video cutting contest on here. two people square up and take the same tune for a certain amount of time and record two choruses or something. then we vote. I guess you'd need some confidence to take part
    How about the song from the OP? Green dolphin street? I'll be up for this, but in a fun way nothing to serious. It'll be good to see what you guys got!

  33. #32
    i'd like to nominate anyone except for me to take on donnie osmond here
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  34. #33
    Another cutting story, around the same time as when I got cut playing all the things in my previous post, I got cut playing yesterday's by a Canadian trumpet player who over heard me and my friend trying to figure out what tune to play when we were up next. He heard us say say yeah let's play yesterday's. Just to me and my friends luck we got on to the stand with him. You guessed it. He called yesterday's at around 240 BPM. Played great bop over it. It came to me. D minor pentatonic scale, my good old friend, we meet again.

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    Quote Originally Posted by joe2758 View Post
    i think it would be fun to have a video cutting contest on here. two people square up and take the same tune for a certain amount of time and record two choruses or something. then we vote. I guess you'd need some confidence to take part
    We get some of the flavor of this via threads on various tunes and study groups. Mixed feelings about explicitly calling it a cutting contest -- this could degenerate into weirdness and hurt feelings, or it could be pretty cool. First tune would, obviously, have to be Green Dolphin Street. I'm not saying my vote would be for sale, but ...

    John

  36. #35
    John A vs. Donnie Osmond. Green Dolphin st. Head and two choruses. video due 11/27. FIGHT
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    Quote Originally Posted by joe2758 View Post
    John A vs. Donnie Osmond. Green Dolphin st. Head and two choruses. video due 11/27. FIGHT
    Sure, after all I am a little bit country.

    John

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    Quote Originally Posted by coolvinny View Post
    Seeing how this is a jazz forum, calling Green Dolphin Street and handing someone a real book that doesn't require transposing doesn't strike me as cutting in the slightest.
    To be clear, one must look at context as well as the time frame of events I stated.

    I was invited to sit in with a smooth jazz band that also played contemporary RnB and Pop.
    The keyboard player was being an ass from the start. None of the subsequent tunes were quite as challenging (for me) as GDS. As stated, I had never heard of the song. Once into it, I was able to find my way through that chart, but it was a challenge and a very stressful way to start a gig.

    The performance was two 1 hour sets, and afterwards, I was told by the promoter that I did a good job. The rest of the band agreed, but the keyboard player remained aloof.

    For me it was an intimidating situation, so maybe it wasn't technically cutting. I've seen worse...much worse treatment done to other guitarists over the years. What the experience did was motivate me to dig more into jazz standards, seek lessons and join jazz guitar forums to gather additional insight. Unfortunately, egos get in the way in the latter, and a few dismissive comments detract from otherwise constructive commentary. Its all good. This is still a great forum and a decent discussion of a behavior (cutting) that guitarists might experience during their journey into playing jazz.

  40. #39
    Quote Originally Posted by cosmic gumbo View Post
    Haha oh man we were so obssesed with this movie! Just in case I had to learn that Paganini caprice exactly how Vai played it, if it ever comes to a guitar battle...

    Btw a friend of mine from Russia sent me a link to a show called Guitar Battle, apparently it's a thing now over there, they do the whole show with judges and stuff, two guitarists battle in 3 rounds. It's weird and stupid, but entertaining kinda.

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    Just trying to give you a reality check in efforts to help you, but I give up.

  42. #41
    Quote Originally Posted by John A. View Post
    Sure, after all I am a little bit country.

    John
    Gonna be fun!

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    You do realise it's important to have zero taste or musicality in these examples? Just NOTES. Lots and lots of NOTES.

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    Quote Originally Posted by don_oz View Post
    Gonna be fun!
    Donnie, wrong answer. You're supposed to say "I'm a little bit rock and roll".

    Sheesh. Kids today ...

    - Marie

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    What about 'I will crush you like a bug?'

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    I kill you with my jazz

  47. #46
    Quote Originally Posted by John A. View Post
    Donnie, wrong answer. You're supposed to say "I'm a little bit rock and roll".

    Sheesh. Kids today ...

    - Marie
    i think donnie was born in like 2010
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    Quote Originally Posted by joe2758 View Post
    i think donnie was born in like 2010
    So you're telling me that I'm now on the hook for public humiliation over my lack of chops because of some toddler's failure to grok 70s TV references? Sweet.

    - Wojo

  49. #48
    Quote Originally Posted by John A. View Post
    So you're telling me that I'm now on the hook for public humiliation over my lack of chops because of some toddler's failure to grok 70s TV references? Sweet.

    - Wojo
    hahahahaha literally lold at that one.
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  50. To me, "cutting', short for 'cutting contest' has always referred to a line of soloists, usually all on the same instrument, trying to outdo each other in the eyes (ears?) of the audience and/or fellow musicians. A bunch of trumpeters reaching for higher and higher notes, a bunch of saxophonists trying to pack as many notes as possible into a bar of "Cherokee, up a half step each chorus".

    There are certainly challenges, and potential for conflict, when you have folk with different repertoire, experience and ability sharing a bandstand, but I don't know if there's a particular word for it...

    PK

  51. #50
    Join Date
    Mar 2013
    Location
    London
    Posts
    13,915
    It's always fucking Cherokee. (Cos it's not actually that hard. UNLESS you are bass player.)

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