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  1. #1

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    Hi,
    Ive been thinking about this quite a bit recently and wondered if I could get some thoughts?
    So say you've got your playing together, you have a large repertoire of tunes, your comfortable at all tempos and tunes in every key. You have nice arrangements of the heads and have been practicing for years.
    with all this sorted I can still see gigs not going to well and I think it's more about presentation. Even with nice arrangements for intros and songs that have been re imagined I still find sometimes that the audience and their reaction can be flat.
    I think in jazz that there isn't enough interaction between the audience and the band. In other genres such as rock, reggae, folk, world music there is a lot of dialogue between the band and the audience. The bands and musicians talk to the audience and make it known that it's appreciated that they have made the effort to turn up.
    i hardly ever see this in jazz. I went to a scofield gig and he said one sentence to the audience throughout the whole gig. I came away knowing that I'd seen some amazing playing but felt that it wouldn't have made any difference regarding the audience.
    ive never spoken to the audience on a gig, sometimes it's not important if it's a wedding gig or background music but on some occasions it's been to a captive audience and I think that's when it's important.
    we actually got told off once by a lady. She thought we were rude and unprofessional not to talk to the audience. I tried to explain that as jazz musicians we were all to preoccupied with developing our skills and don't have the extra time to think about these things, but I feel she was right.
    so what can we talk about?
    Tunes and their composers, tunes that have been in films, when a tune was written, tunes that had a key impact on the genre and brought about a new style? What else?
    i can't help thinking this is why jazz suffers. Unless your in a hip city like New York where the audience just gets it.
    From my experience most people go to gigs so they can react to the music, they can cheer and let the band know they are present, they can dance, they can sing along ect but at a jazz gig people feel uncomfortable because they don't know how to react.
    what ideas have you guys got? I saw a good video of Clark terry doing a performance workshop and he spoke to the audience a lot as it was more of a workshop but the audience really got engaged and seemed to really be enjoying themselves.
    dianne reeves is a good example of talking to the audience as is Nina Simone even when she gets distracted. Maybe it's a singer thing as I don't see it elsewhere.
    anyway just thought I'd post and see what others think, cheers

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  3. #2

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    I agree this is an issue, but not just in jazz. Classical and other genres suffers from this too.

    If you want to appeal to more than just niche musicians, you need to engage with the audience and directly open up your personality.

    Tommy Emmanuel came to mind when i read your post because he is a virtuoso musician but also engages with the audience brilliantly. I can take my (non-musician) wife to a concert by Tommy, but few other virtuoso musicians.


  4. #3

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    I think it’s always worth pointing out that jazz’s evolution has been consistently away from external focussed showbiz and towards a internalised preoccupation with process.

    Many commentators have blamed education, but I honestly feel that this was a natural social vector; jazz moving first of all away from the dancehall, to the jazz clubs, and increasingly the music schools (setting aside the NYC tourist industry) as a feedback loop with the music’s evolution and the increasing availability of jazz education product, and post Covid now I feel jazz may primarily be focussed online... it’s personally interesting to me study why this was the case and how exactly things have changed.

    Anyway, I think very often people seek a return to that suited and booted, super sharp and professional presentation of 50’s jazz, where it was certainly a show, but also very much not the showbiz entertainment of the swing era. So the Young Lions thing was the first recapitulation of a style fo respectable presentation that keeps coming up over and over. It can feel a bit like a museum sometimes....

    In fact I think it possible to have an interest in the audience, present your music engagingly and not be a 1950s throwback. Trends in pop music seem to moved towards the initiate, informal gig for instance.

    How one shapes a performance is also a dialectic; how much do you seek to shape your music into a show consciously, or allow the music to shape itself? I have to say I hate the idea of the audience getting bored, and I’m pleased to say by and large they have a greater tolerance for improvised mucking about than I think I do.

  5. #4

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    Hi, B,
    Depends on the gig. When I played with Jazz/Rock show bands/R@B Bands in the past, we did schtick all the time and interacted with the audience. It's part of the entertainment. However, the only time I talk on a solo gig(exclusively now) is if I'm giving a Classical guitar concert and briefly tell the audience about the piece, and its composer. However, playing a restaurant/wedding/private event, I don't do it since you're just background music, curtains on the wall and 99% don't know or care if you're there. However, there are always a few who want to talk between sets and I'm always very gracious and thank them for their kind praise. And, many times, my tip jar equals my negotiated performance fee at the end of the night.
    Finally, in regards to the disappointed "lady," I've never had that experience. Sometimes that happens when you mix music and booze. Play live . . . Marinero

  6. #5

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    Quote Originally Posted by Marinero
    if I'm giving a Classical guitar concert and briefly tell the audience about the piece, and its composer.
    It's not traditional to do this in a recital, but I think it is such a good idea. People want to connect with the person playing.

  7. #6

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    Even in classical music many people now make an effort to directly communicate with the audience.

    I found that for one thing the set list matters a lot. When I saw Scofield, I had a feeling that he played the same thing over and over again. Do a fast number, then a slow, throw in a Latin thing. Say hello when you get on the bandstand. Introduce the tunes.

    And be yourself. If you‘re the introvert and the drummer is the clown, let him do the talking by all means.


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  8. #7

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    Setting vocalists aside - most of the musicians I see/saw did/do talk to the audience, even classical guitarists.

    Miles didn't, but he was not the gregarious type.

    But Dexter Gordon, Phil Woods, Joe Pass), Barney Kessell, John McLaughlin, Chick Corea, Stanley Clarke, Larry Coryell, Pat Metheny, Bill Frisell, Christian McBride, Freddie Cole, Jeff Hamilton... heck even Scofield a couple of weeks ago at the Blue Note, and there wasn't anyone there!

    And Dex, Joe, Chick, John, Larry, Frisell all use/used a little humor too. And why not? Jazz is a party music.

  9. #8
    Hi thanks for the comments it's much appreciated
    i don't drink at all when I play live but most guys I play with tend to have at least a pint but it never helped me.
    I listen to lots of styles of music and whenever I'm at a gig I always look around to check the audience and their reaction.
    Ive been to electronica type gigs like Aphex twin and kraftwerk and the audience just stands rigid still with their phones out recording a pretty much empty stage and light show. In my early teens I saw a few death metal bands with mosh pits, stage diving ect. A lot of fun . My friend at the time got his two front teeth knocked out at a napalm death concert, said it was the best gig he'd ever been too!
    i don't want to be controversial but could it have something to do with class? I've been to reggae gigs in the rough areas of Manchester and Leeds in the uk and the atmosphere was electric, but pay £40 to go and see something at a higher end venue and all the audience is sat down and it doesn't feel the same.
    I saw benson at a seated venue and he did his pop repertoire and it didn't seem all that good although the band were superb.
    getting back to interaction, I know it happens when it's a top flight player and ensemble playing in a big city, I saw Branford marsellis though and he didn't talk at all but there was a couple of people dancing. I saw Al green and he had the audience praying which got lots of cheers.
    Its just I have some gigs coming up and they will be my gigs and not be me as a side man as is usually the case. I will be doing standards and some original material and really want it to be a success. I'm not used to public speaking but I think it needs to be done in order to make the audience feel welcome and appreciated.
    on the flip side if you went to a Peter tosh gig in the 80s you'd get a 40 minute lecture on politics so I think balance is necessary.
    i also think the length of the performance is an issue. An hour and a half without talking to the audience is a long time especially if everyone is seated.

  10. #9

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    Quote Originally Posted by GTRMan
    Setting vocalists aside - most of the musicians I see/saw did/do talk to the audience, even classical guitarists.

    Miles didn't, but he was not the gregarious type.
    Miles 100% presented his music though, the clothes, the attitude on stage etc

  11. #10

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    Quote Originally Posted by Hey bopper
    Hi thanks for the comments it's much appreciated
    i don't drink at all when I play live but most guys I play with tend to have at least a pint but it never helped me.
    I listen to lots of styles of music and whenever I'm at a gig I always look around to check the audience and their reaction.
    Ive been to electronica type gigs like Aphex twin and kraftwerk and the audience just stands rigid still with their phones out recording a pretty much empty stage and light show. In my early teens I saw a few death metal bands with mosh pits, stage diving ect. A lot of fun . My friend at the time got his two front teeth knocked out at a napalm death concert, said it was the best gig he'd ever been too!
    i don't want to be controversial but could it have something to do with class? I've been to reggae gigs in the rough areas of Manchester and Leeds in the uk and the atmosphere was electric, but pay £40 to go and see something at a higher end venue and all the audience is sat down and it doesn't feel the same.
    I saw benson at a seated venue and he did his pop repertoire and it didn't seem all that good although the band were superb.
    getting back to interaction, I know it happens when it's a top flight player and ensemble playing in a big city, I saw Branford marsellis though and he didn't talk at all but there was a couple of people dancing. I saw Al green and he had the audience praying which got lots of cheers.
    Its just I have some gigs coming up and they will be my gigs and not be me as a side man as is usually the case. I will be doing standards and some original material and really want it to be a success. I'm not used to public speaking but I think it needs to be done in order to make the audience feel welcome and appreciated.
    on the flip side if you went to a Peter tosh gig in the 80s you'd get a 40 minute lecture on politics so I think balance is necessary.
    i also think the length of the performance is an issue. An hour and a half without talking to the audience is a long time especially if everyone is seated.
    TBH when I was young I went to jazz gigs despite the audience and the atmosphere rather than because of them.

  12. #11

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    Yea... kind of a two part answer. Yes, I've always believed and still believe part of our job as jazz musician(s) is to bring the audience into the performance. Different gigs and audiences require different technique.

    The other part is.... too many musicians performing jazz just don't have their thing together.
    They're either staring at their instrument, (most of the playing vids on this forum are examples). And if gig has book or charts...most just don't sight read well enough to get away from chart etc...

    This year.... I mean gigs are basically still toast. And the live on line thing sucks. The agents I work for have been trying to promote going in this direction, but it's really just trying to make $. Will be interesting to watch how this plays out. Sorry to go off discussion...yea, you need to be able to walk and chew gum.... perform music and interact with audience. Part of playing jazz is watching the audience and being able to recognize what pushes their buttons, getting reactions etc... Don't know who hey bopper is a cover for, but use to be a good topic.

  13. #12
    That's a good point actually. Playing without charts definitely registers with me. I still use my iPad even though I know the tunes and have been playing them for years a few years ago I never used charts but have slipped back into using them again. I don't need them for the heads it's just a comfort thing having the changes in front of you if you get distracted or lost in the moment.
    I think as well I used to play sitting down and if I had a chart in front of me that would block the audiences view of my fretboard so they couldn't actually see me playing.
    i play standing up now but still have the charts.
    that said I've seen breaker use charts although he steps away from it when improvising. I don't think I've ever seen metheney use charts or scofield, kriesberg in fact I don't think I've seen any pro guitarist use charts. Maybe is because we are all crap readers and have to have everything internalised

  14. #13

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    Quote Originally Posted by Hey bopper
    T I don't think I've ever seen metheney use charts or scofield, kriesberg in fact I don't think I've seen any pro guitarist use charts. Maybe is because we are all crap readers and have to have everything internalised
    I'm getting a little confused - but that's no surprise Is it the case that Guitarists aren't good enough readers to use charts, but the complaint is that we rely too much on charts? I was even more confused when Reg said 'most just don't sight read well enough to get away from chart etc...'

    Surely its a case of musicians of that calibre not playing a tune until they know it inside out. If however they were involved in an impromptu jam playing a tune with which they weren't familiar, I would be surprised if Kreisberg et al weren't able to read a chart and might very well welcome a quick peek at one.

  15. #14

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    Quote Originally Posted by christianm77
    Miles 100% presented his music though, the clothes, the attitude on stage etc
    Indeed, saw him live - once. Hair and clothes were crazy. His band looked goofy as hell too.

  16. #15

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    Quote Originally Posted by Hey bopper
    That's a good point actually. Playing without charts definitely registers with me. I still use my iPad even though I know the tunes and have been playing them for years a few years ago I never used charts but have slipped back into using them again. I don't need them for the heads it's just a comfort thing having the changes in front of you if you get distracted or lost in the moment.
    I think as well I used to play sitting down and if I had a chart in front of me that would block the audiences view of my fretboard so they couldn't actually see me playing.
    i play standing up now but still have the charts.
    that said I've seen breaker use charts although he steps away from it when improvising. I don't think I've ever seen metheney use charts or scofield, kriesberg in fact I don't think I've seen any pro guitarist use charts. Maybe is because we are all crap readers and have to have everything internalised
    You can keep it simple.

    When I saw Christian McBride's trio at Dizzy's Club Coca-Cola he thanked the audience for coming out to see live music as opposed to staying at home and spending time on the internet or streaming, watching TV etc. We all applauded.

    Dexter Gordon always liked to say something - the title and maybe even a line from the song - when it was a classic or a ballad. I don't think he did that on every tune but I don't remember perfectly. I think that helps a lot because many/most people listen to vocal music and get lost listening to a jazz instrumental performance of a song. So you can give them a litte context about mood, etc. I think women in particular appreciate it because many of them get dragged to jazz concerts by the men in their lives, and don't listen to jazz on their own time.


    Good luck.

  17. #16

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    Quote Originally Posted by GTRMan
    Indeed, saw him live - once. Hair and clothes were crazy. His band looked goofy as hell too.
    ’80s?

  18. #17

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    Quote Originally Posted by GTRMan
    You can keep it simple.

    When I saw Christian McBride's trio at Dizzy's Club Coca-Cola he thanked the audience for coming out to see live music as opposed to staying at home and spending time on the internet or streaming, watching TV etc. We all applauded.

    Dexter Gordon always liked to say something - the title and maybe even a line from the song - when it was a classic or a ballad. I don't think he did that on every tune but I don't remember perfectly. I think that helps a lot because many/most people listen to vocal music and get lost listening to a jazz instrumental performance of a song. So you can give them a litte context about mood, etc. I think women in particular appreciate it because many of them get dragged to jazz concerts by the men in their lives, and don't listen to jazz on their own time.


    Good luck.
    mood is a good thing to focus on.

    Barry Harris is great at all of this BTW.

  19. #18

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    Quote Originally Posted by Irishmuso
    I'm getting a little confused - but that's no surprise Is it the case that Guitarists aren't good enough readers to use charts, but the complaint is that we rely too much on charts? I was even more confused when Reg said 'most just don't sight read well enough to get away from chart etc...'

    Surely its a case of musicians of that calibre not playing a tune until they know it inside out. If however they were involved in an impromptu jam playing a tune with which they weren't familiar, I would be surprised if Kreisberg et al weren't able to read a chart and might very well welcome a quick peek at one.
    It varies. If you are playing original music you might need a chart. If you are playing a standard.... well that’s a whole other thread!

  20. #19

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    Pandemic issues aside for the nonce, engaging the audience is crucial if you want to do this on a regular basis. Speak to them in a conversational and friendly manner. Thank them for coming. In my shows I almost always introduced the song I was about to perform with its title and author and perhaps a brief anecdote connected with it (accent on brief). Just a little something to connect with, inspire a little interest. Of course the music has to be engaging, as well - clearly audible, but not overbearing, well mixed and appropriately scaled to the room. Avoid politics, sports, and religion (but I repeat myself). Try not to offend them. We once lost a long-standing gig by one of us jokingly bragging that the football team from our town had just beaten the team from their town and that was that. Two years of regular gigs and at least that many forseeable down the drain. Live and learn.

    TLDR: Be friendly and informative without being condescending. Act like you are enjoying yourself. They can smell fear.
    Last edited by citizenk74; 09-27-2020 at 01:25 PM. Reason: Capitalization

  21. #20

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    I think there are some variables here. Miles had a very strong image and it didn't require saying much to the audience.

    I've seen a lot of shows where I wished the performer would talk more. That's especially true when the music is challenging. If you're listening to a 90 minute show of music you've never heard, presented in ear twisting ways, the performer talking is a kind of relief.

    I've also seen shows where the performers seemed afraid to relax with the audience, so their talk was stiff and, frankly, uncomfortable. It's more fun for me, as an audience member, if they're obviously relaxed.

    If the music has great groove, that makes it easier. If I can't stop moving in my seat or I feel like dancing, I'm less likely to wish the band leader would say something.

    This may sound a little abstract, but one way of thinking about it is that the band, particularly the spokesperson, creates a containing environment for the audience. The audience needs to feel connected and taken care of. There isn't just one way to do that, but it usually requires some projection of personality.

  22. #21

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    Quote Originally Posted by christianm77

    Barry Harris is great at all of this BTW.
    really, really great. most of Barry's nights at the Vanguard I've seen have concluded with a singalong.

    I'm reminded of Jimmy Raney's essay on this stuff:

    There were a lot of talented young musicians, and they all played bebop. They didn't get paid for it though. Nobody liked bebop. Not the jazz fans, not the older musicians, not even the Downbeat writers. We mostly played for free in a B-Girl joint on South State Street called the "Say When." They didn't like bebop either, but they let us play there to make the place look like a real club, instead of a clip-joint that rolled drunks who were looking for some action.

    Jimmy is clearly having some fun here, but it's also clear that this music has never really been all that popular. Sure, there are clubs that have jazz every night and they are packed with people having a great time, no doubt. But it's never been just because of the music alone.

    Personally, I try to read the room and present accordingly. If it's a club where people are mostly drinking and talking, I won't say much. But if it's a concert situation, I'll usually say something before every tune, and do some kind of participatory thing to draw the audience in

  23. #22

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    When I saw Robert Glasper at the Blue Note last year, part of the show turned into an audience singalong to Cyndi Lauper's Time After Time.

    He also engaged the audience by having the fourth member of the band be a computer operator. I don't know what to call it. He "played" a laptop, triggering sounds and spoken word clips which were political in nature. I never heard anything like it and it was great.

  24. #23

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    Quote Originally Posted by christianm77
    ’80s?
    yep

  25. #24

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    First time I saw Kreisberg at the Bar Next Door, he sat near the entrance during breaks, so you were forced to pass him on the way in or out. He engaged everyone and really made you feel special for coming along and catching a set. He was very appreciative. It made a big impression on me of how down to earth he was and a real people person. Found Peter Mazza exactly the same, he went around to every table and thanked everyone for making the effort to come out. Same wth Pasquale at Mezzrow, walked around and greeted and thanked everyone. I’ve made it a point to emulate these examples and talk to people and thank them for coming along. Easier to do in small clubs of course. Especially now, You can’t take anything for granted during these troubled times.Also helped break some stereotypes regarding no matter how hard it can be at times living or making a living in NYC, you don’t have to be an asshole about it. Strangely enough this is the impression I get from a lot of local musicians where I live. They are very asocial and don’t seem to have any people skills, they promote an attitude of aloofness, that you are somehow lucky to be able to have the chance to hear them. Particularly amusing as a lot of them couldn’t swing from a vine. LOL

  26. #25

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    Quote Originally Posted by christianm77
    It's not traditional to do this in a recital, but I think it is such a good idea. People want to connect with the person playing.

    A common practice here in the States, C, unless there are multiple performers as is sometimes the case with GFA convention concerts. The only one who never did it was Segovia who I had a pleasure to hear live and unamplified in a concert in Miami in the late Seventies. The last live concert I attended was by Chicago guitarist Brian Torosian in 2018(?), a very chatty performer and an interpreter of the music of Johann Kaspar Mertz playing a contraguitar built by Illinois luthier Richard Brune. Play live . . . Marinero