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  1. #1

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    Recently, I played on several standards gigs with long term pro players.

    I was concerned in each case about whether I know enough tunes to get through a typical gig.

    I needn't have worried. In every case, there was a book and some very experienced players had the book open to some commonly played tunes. I suspect they could have done the tunes without the book, but they still opened it to the right page.

    In one of the gigs, I hadn't played with the leader before, so maybe he was making it easy for me at first (we were sharing a book). But the bassist, a very experienced pro with a long impressive resume, also used the book. I noticed that in the last set the leader called some tunes he expected me to know, and didn't open the book, but they were pretty basic, like A Train, Oleo and Blue Bossa. This was background for a corporate Christmas party so we were playing jazz standards (usually best IMO to play songs that are familiar to the audience, at least a good part of the time, so we played the chestnuts) and Christmas songs with a jazz approach. Leader provided a separate book.

    Now, I'm not sure what is typical as far as a book on this type of gig.

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  3. #2

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    The jazz group I play with and most of the groups I’ve seen have books or iPads (which is what I use - with set list software) on stage. The groups I’ve seen doing their own compositions tend not to use books. But that’s just what I’ve been around.

  4. #3

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    I keep iReal Pro and the 1300 Jazz tunes on my phone. It too small to read from a distance, but I can at least review the changes before the downbeat.

  5. #4
    Quote Originally Posted by KirkP
    I keep iReal Pro and the 1300 Jazz tunes on my phone. It too small to read from a distance, but I can at least review the changes before the downbeat.
    Me too. What I'm wondering is how that is viewed by pros who regularly play standards gigs.

  6. #5

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    If you go to hear a top band they don't normally use charts, they have their set list memorized.
    The only one I know that has a stand on stage is Pat Martino, but I think it's just for his set list.

  7. #6

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    I remember doing a steady gig at a place in Park Slope, Brooklyn with these two lame-o leader/horn players, and they spent the whole gig just going alphabetically through a fake book (NOT the Real Book),
    playing one song after another.
    They were playing obscure songs that were deservedly obscure, and it was just me and a bass player (without fake books) who had to accompany them. I played zillions of club dates (catered affairs) my entire life (till the DJs destroyed that scene), so I could handle many of them, but some of them were so obscure, I had never even heard of them.
    The amazing thing was that the bass player was an amazing musician from Japan named Marvie, who couldn't speak a word of English, yet he seemed to know every single song from the entire fake book!
    I just followed his bass lines, and the gigs went fine.
    One week, I couldn't make the gig, and they hired a guitarist I knew from big band work, but I wasn't aware if he could play without charts.
    It turned out he didn't know most of the tunes, and couldn't follow the bass player, so they had to stop playing on every tune. On the first break, he told them he couldn't do the gig anymore, because he was an R&B guitarist (which was BS), and didn't know any tunes.
    I think they worked out something where they only played tunes that the guitarist knew, and they made it through the gig. He never got called for that gig again.

    Back then, I would consider it an insult, and the sign of a non-professional if a guitarist had to use a fake book on any gig. I spent twenty years making a living as a guitarist without using sheet music or a fake book.
    Today, those gigs are basically gone, and all I play are reading gigs, so I don't care if guys read or not, but I do crack up when someone hands me a chart on a standard.

  8. #7

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    Quote Originally Posted by sgcim
    I
    Back then, I would consider it an insult, and the sign of a non-professional if a guitarist had to use a fake book on any gig. I spent twenty years making a living as a guitarist without using sheet music or a fake book.
    Today, those gigs are basically gone, and all I play are reading gigs, so I don't care if guys read or not, but I do crack up when someone hands me a chart on a standard.
    The only music stand I owned for about 40 years was a wire folding one that I used in the house. I not only would never use one on a gig, I wouldn't allow any of the players in my bands to use one.

    When I moved out here I started playing in a big band, where charts are necessary, and leading a jam, where it was soon obvious that not everyone knew the tunes. I also noticed that most of the players used stands on gigs, so I started doing that too. Somehow, I find I can still sleep comfortably at night.

    1967:

    Reading on Standards gigs-mellotones-8a-jpg

    2003:

    Reading on Standards gigs-sp-concert-1-jpg

    Danny W.

  9. #8
    Quote Originally Posted by sgcim
    the sign of a non-professional if a guitarist had to use a fake book on any gig.
    That's what I was expecting. When I was in NYC, you were expected to know every tune that got called. No books.

    I do recall working with one pianist who had his own book, but expected all the sidemen to know every tune he called.

    In the NYC of my youth, the pros were expected to know every tune that got called. I imagine there was some unwritten rule against calling something too obscure, but I also guess leaders might screw around with sidemen by calling obscure stuff.

    Recently (meaning 50 years later than the pianist story) I have encountered the same thing -- a jam with B3 kicking bass. That guy had his IRealbook, nobody else had a chart, a phone with IRealPro, or a music stand to put one on. When they wanted the core group to play, they called something more obscure.

    But, not on these last few gigs. So, maybe that's changed? Don't know, which is why I posted the question.

  10. #9

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    I remember seeing the Hank Jones trio and he used a chart for every tune. Many were standards.

  11. #10

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    When I look at video feeds from Small's, other places in NYC, etc., I sometimes see a sideman with charts at least for original tunes that are not likely to be familiar. But the standard there (no pun intended) seems to be to not use charts- either know the tunes or have the ears to follow them. Locally I see a lot of bands with charts although sometimes no one seems to be actually reading them while they are playing, unless it's a sub checking the arrangement.

    At least hereabouts, there are a lot of people playing out who aren't professionals- i.e., making their livings solely from playing jazz. The market is such that one would be cold, hungry and living in the car. There are basically two clubs that host jazz (The Dakota and Crooner's) on something approaching a regular basis, and both of those also host a lot of other stuff that actually pays the bills, plus having full service bars and restaurants. There are some coffee shops and brewpubs that sometimes host jazz, usually for no pay from the venue and tips only (to be fair, they don't pay other genres either). The other music clubs/small concert venues (First Avenue, Myst, Palace Theatre, etc.) are putting on rock, pop, hip hop, etc., not jazz. So actual professionals and the standard of skill that entails are becoming fewer and farther between hereabouts.

  12. #11

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    Quote Originally Posted by rintincop
    I remember seeing the Hank Jones trio and he used a chart for every tune. Many were standards.
    Obviously one of the all time greats. Were there arrangements or just straight standards, or maybe any unusual keys that you could discern?

  13. #12

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    I did a gig with a very good piano player. In his 70s, knew a ton of tunes. Refused to let me bring a fake book. Would call out a tune, "mike, you know this one?" If I would answer no and he'd say good it's in Bb, one, two, three, four...Sometimes I could figure out the changes on the fly, but I finally realized if I couldn't, better to just chill and wait for one I could handle....I got even once, I called the Bill Evans tune "Very Early" he said he didn't know it. I said no problem, here's the chart. He struggled, I enjoyed myself on that one.

  14. #13
    I studied for a while with a top pro with great ears, a long resume of great people he'd played with regularly, and who knew the tunes.

    He told me that he liked having the chart in front of him, even on tunes he knew. He said "it frees me up".

    On one of the gigs this weekend, sitting next to a horn player I'd heard of for years and never met, I said I liked having the chart in case of a brain fart. He said he felt the same way. He didn't seem to see any problem with having the chart out. Others, obviously do.

    I recall a jam session where the "famous guy" who was in a teaching role in that instance, stopped books from coming out, yelling, "no books! no books!". He then called all the tunes.

    Even some of the very experienced guys didn't know all of them. He'd whisper changes to the bassist and leave everybody else alone with their ears. As a pedogogical technique, well, sure. But it was a jam, not a class. And some of the tunes had odd roadmaps. Felt like some ego being aired.

    I figure, if you're the guy who says no books, then you shouldn't be the one to call the tunes.
    Last edited by rpjazzguitar; 12-16-2019 at 02:45 PM.

  15. #14

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    I told Coryell the story of the piano player who wouldn't allow books. He said "that's B.S. everyone uses charts"...

  16. #15

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    You either have a set list or you have sheet music. At least if there's an audience present. Calling tunes out of the blue without knowing (not expecting, knowing) that all players know them, is disrespectful to the audience. Don't leave that sort of thing to chance

  17. #16
    As a practical matter, we had charts on these gigs and everybody was happy. Audience, client and players.

    If we didn't have charts and ran into trouble, like somebody forgetting a bridge in the middle of a tune (well, I've heard that kind of thing can happen <g>), we'd have sounded worse. And, what would be the not benefit of not having charts? The audience doesn't care. We're not playing super adventurous jazz as background music for a corporate Christmas party or a hotel bar. We're not trying to keep the weaker players off the bandstand.

    Maybe in a high end jam, there could be a cogent argument for "no-charts" as way of making sure the players knew the basics and were available to listen to each other and create. Or, in the NYC weddings of my youth where the band was playing requests and didn't want players shuffling through something that looked like the three feet of books at an auto parts store counter. Paul Shaffer said that one of his requirements for a musician on the Letterman show was "they have to know all the tunes that I know", so he could call anything he knew on the fly.

    But I'm still pondering. Is it "unprofessional" not to know 500 tunes? Or maybe, is it unprofessional not to be able to play for the first time, instantly, any tune that you're familiar with. That is, to have a good enough ear so that you can comp any tune you can hum. Seems to me that would be a pretty good fundamental.

  18. #17

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    I saw Herb Ellis play with a bassist and a drummer who were local. He met them on the bandstand. Ellis would just call Real Book 5th ed. numbers for the guys, then he'd announce the songs. Ellis didn't use a book, but the guys were laser locked on theirs.

  19. #18

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    Quote Originally Posted by rpjazzguitar
    As a practical matter, we had charts on these gigs and everybody was happy. Audience, client and players.

    If we didn't have charts and ran into trouble, like somebody forgetting a bridge in the middle of a tune (well, I've heard that kind of thing can happen <g>), we'd have sounded worse. And, what would be the not benefit of not having charts? The audience doesn't care. We're not playing super adventurous jazz as background music for a corporate Christmas party or a hotel bar. We're not trying to keep the weaker players off the bandstand.

    Maybe in a high end jam, there could be a cogent argument for "no-charts" as way of making sure the players knew the basics and were available to listen to each other and create. Or, in the NYC weddings of my youth where the band was playing requests and didn't want players shuffling through something that looked like the three feet of books at an auto parts store counter. Paul Shaffer said that one of his requirements for a musician on the Letterman show was "they have to know all the tunes that I know", so he could call anything he knew on the fly.

    But I'm still pondering. Is it "unprofessional" not to know 500 tunes? Or maybe, is it unprofessional not to be able to play for the first time, instantly, any tune that you're familiar with. That is, to have a good enough ear so that you can comp any tune you can hum. Seems to me that would be a pretty good fundamental.
    It depends on what type of work you want to do. If you want to do the work that guys like Bucky Pizzarelli and his son, Howard Alden, and guys like that do, then you've got to know at least that amount of tunes. If you want to accompany singers on a free-lance basis, you've got to know that amount, and transpose them into any key.
    When I played with Clark Terry, the ballad he called was "Trust in Me" . Who knows that tune? I just knew it because Wes did it on one of his records, and I was able to fake my way through it. Same thing with every heavy older player I played with. They want to play a tune they like, and if you don't know it, you're screwed.
    Like you said about Paul Shaffer, he wanted everyone to be able to play the songs he wants to play. So, if you're in situations like that, the more tunes you know, the better. Even with big band gigs, some leaders want to play tunes without any charts.

  20. #19
    Quote Originally Posted by sgcim
    When I played with Clark Terry, the ballad he called was "Trust in Me" . Who knows that tune? .
    Never heard it and never heard of it.

    Google didn't turn up a chart.

    But, youtube has a version by Mildred Bailey.

    Originally recorded in 1937 and again in the early 50s. If Clark Terry called it in 1952 okay, but much after that, tough call for the sidemen.

  21. #20

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    Quote Originally Posted by rpjazzguitar
    Never heard it and never heard of it.

    Google didn't turn up a chart.

    But, youtube has a version by Mildred Bailey.

    Originally recorded in 1937 and again in the early 50s. If Clark Terry called it in 1952 okay, but much after that, tough call for the sidemen.
    There are a bunch of R&B versions of it. I know an Etta James and a Big Maybelle version, off the top of my head. I think Dinah Washington did it too.

    John

  22. #21

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    Loosely defined, "professional" is when you're getting paid to do some task or activity (especially at a certain level of expertise). RP's original post was a corporate gig, which means they were getting paid, and they used books. So there ya go.

    I politely consider myself a "semi-professional musician," since I have a day gig, and then perform and teach on the side, so music is not my sole profession. My band plays a mix of Real Book stuff and modern tunes (i.e., original charts I've collected from living players); we get paid, and we use charts. I've never had anyone come up to me after a gig, saying, "So, you guys have to use charts, huh? Lame!" and I've seen countless, A-list pros using charts at gigs.

    Is this another case of the notorious Jazz Police trying to control our lives, saying we must have everything memorized??

  23. #22

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    This is something that I've maybe been a bit on the other side of the fence on. I'd raise an eyebrow if I was playing with someone and they called "have you met miss jones" and then pulled out a chart. I'd never say anything, but, I'll definitely admit, I'd be surprised if someone didn't know some/most of the very commonly played standards.

    My only problem with people using charts is when they use the chart and don't then listen to what the rest of the band is actually playing in terms of changes. I've had more than a few experiences of people using charts and then not hearing a substitute change, or a different change that someone else in the band plays.

    I haven't used a fake book in forever (I threw all mine out 20 years ago), and the main reason I don't is that in almost all the musical situations I find myself in, no one else uses fake books. Charts, sure, I'm talking about bringing a fake book to a gig or session and reading tunes out of it. No doubt, some great players do in fact do this; but I can't recall too many times over the past 20 years of my gigging that someone pulled out a fake book. I think it's a bit of a "when in rome" kinda thing. If everyone is using fake books on a gig, probably best to use one, too, because you never know when someone is gonna call a Michael Gibbs or Jarrett tune. But, for me, I've continually found myself in environments where no one has fake books and people are encouraged to call tunes they know, and that causes you to use fake books way less.

  24. #23

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    I guess an observation could be is that all those wonderful, but overplayed standards from 50+ years ago are the "go to" tunes for all the working guys that don't use fakebooks/charts, and that's why modern listening folks just want to take a nap whenever jazz is played/mentioned.

    Everyone knows ATTYA and Stella, but anything remotely modern and interesting like Wayne, Monk, Mingus, Trane, etc. gets bypassed because it's not universally included in everyones' "got to know" list of tunes.

    I don't buy the story that you can say everything you want with those GAS standards if you have real skills, and if you can't then you are lacking....

    Too many folks worship the past....Yo, that cat sounded just like Wes, so awesome! zzzzzzzzzzz

  25. #24
    [QUOTE=cosmic gumbo;995965]I guess an observation could be is that all those wonderful, but overplayed standards from 50+ years ago are the "go to" tunes for all the working guys that don't use fakebooks/charts, and that's why modern listening folks just want to take a nap whenever jazz is played/mentioned.

    Everyone knows ATTYA and Stella, but anything remotely modern and interesting like Wayne, Monk, Mingus, Trane, etc. gets bypassed because it's not universally included in everyones' "got to know" list of tunes.

    I don't buy the story that you can say everything you want with those GAS standards if you have real skills, and if you can't then you are lacking....

    Too many folks worship the past....Yo, that cat sounded just like Wes, so awesome! zzzzzzzzzzz[/END QUOTE]

    People prefer familiar music in many settings. . You can get away with less familiar music if it has a good groove and people can tap their feet. You can also play unfamiliar music in a concert setting where the audience is there to pay attention. Truly great players can make unfamiliar tunes work.

    So, the argument has two sides. Too familiar and be boring? Too unfamiliar and be alienating? Half and half -- and maybe a lot of people don't like half of what you're doing.

    My current thinking is to have charts available (I just don't see much of a downside), avoid anything alienating (which depends on context) and watch the audience's feet. I figure that we're okay as long as I see feet tapping.

    That said, if I called A Train and one of the players didn't know it, I would wonder about his musicianship.
    Last edited by rpjazzguitar; 12-18-2019 at 10:29 PM.

  26. #25

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    How many know A Train modulates to Eb at the end? Nobody.

  27. #26

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    If I'm in a steady situation, I learn the 50 tunes that the band plays and I don't use charts. Mind you, there may be a book of charts on a stand in front of me, but I prefer to listen to what folks are doing and go with the flow.

    If I'm sitting in on a gig where I've been asked to play, but it's not my regular deal, I will look at the charts I'm given...but I still prefer to take my glasses off and listen to what folks are doing.

  28. #27
    Quote Originally Posted by Greentone
    If I'm in a steady situation, I learn the 50 tunes that the band plays and I don't use charts. Mind you, there may be a book of charts on a stand in front of me, but I prefer to listen to what folks are doing and go with the flow.

    If I'm sitting in on a gig where I've been asked to play, but it's not my regular deal, I will look at the charts I'm given...but I still prefer to take my glasses off and listen to what folks are doing.
    Some time ago, I played with a pianist who wouldn't use charts. He knew the usual tunes, in his way. Which is to say, that he reharmonized everything. I couldn't figure out what he was doing fast enough -- and he might change the reharm every chorus.

    So, I couldn't comp along with any confidence that the next chord I hit wouldn't clash. Soloing over his reharm was also an adventure, because it was unpredictable. None of that seemed to bother the pianist.

    Example: Let's say you're playing a ii V I. As the soloist, you decide to play a tritone sub for the V. That can sound great, but only if the pianist plays the V - so that the tension is heard. If the pianist plays the tritone also, then it sounds vanilla and not at all what the soloist intended. If the pianist, say, side slips a half step up or down, it may create tension and it might sound good, but now the soloist is out of control of his own solo -- which may be okay, but maybe not.

    Otoh, I also think that, if the musicians know what's going to happen before they play the tune, it's not quite jazz.

    But, for the most part, when I play chartless with a pianist, the pianist usually doesn't get too adventurous.

  29. #28

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    iPads and phones have made it a lot easier for people to use charts, and, while I can't say the musicianship isn't there, there have now been several generations since those "standards" were new and popular.

    For a paying "society gig", it's entirely reasonable, even professional, to use a chart, rather than make a mess of a tune, especially if you're in the rhythm section. Now if you're a singer, reading the lyrics off a phone is indeed lame.

    Jam sessions are another matter. In my area I've only seen a keyboardist discreetly use a phone. Myself, I'm more comfortable practicing or playing solo with a chart, but I would never bring music to a jam. When I play trumpet, I'm more willing to play a tune I'm "fuzzy" on, but I wouldn't call one I didn't have well memorized. On Guitar, especially- if I have to lay down multiple choruses for horn players, I'm not going to fake it.

  30. #29

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    Quote Originally Posted by cosmic gumbo
    How many know A Train modulates to Eb at the end? Nobody.
    That's in the big band chart.

  31. #30

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    I do about 200 paid jazz gigs a year. Most of the cats I play with are full time pros, some are semi-pros. Nobody knows every tune and with technology, any competent musician can have charts on a phone or tablet for those tunes they do not know. Monster chop musicians like Bruce Forman and Howard Alden can learn a tune just by hearing it for a chorus (I have done gigs with both of those cats and have witnessed that), but most of us will need a chart, at least for a pass or two to play a tune we do not know. Bands that need more time in between tunes for all the players to pull up a chart than their average tune lasts probably are not delivering, IMO, a competent performance.

    Any musician who needs a chart for A Train is not someone who I would want to perform with. YMMV

  32. #31

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    Yea... depends on gig and music.... I would also say.... I don't really know what's worse, most guitarist are staring at their guitar, like it's alive or they're waiting for it to do something. Really.... Anyway, when I use music... the stand is low, about the same height as seat, no one really even see's or notices. I know at smaller gigs, sometimes I start feelin it, go off, start burnin, lots of energy etc... audiences seem to enjoy it, pull out their phones and take vids.... (the guy's losin it, get it on vid. or maybe it's the beer)

    Bigger gigs when your on stages.... if the music is written out, arrangements etc... you need to get it right, most of the time I'm sight reading, then move away from music for solos etc.. I mean what is the point.... are you a show piece or are you suppose to be interacting with band and Audience. Even when your sight reading.... it's not like your starring at the stand all the time. Like Stringswriter mentioned... a chorus and you'll probably have most tunes.

    If it's your gig... yea, you generally should have the music together. But again depends on gig. I hate memorized music... and I like to have liberty to read audiences and pull tunes or feels of tunes which reflects etc...