The Jazz Guitar Chord Dictionary
  1. #1

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    Hi everyone,

    I hope you are well!

    I am curious to hear how people got their first jazz gigs.

    • When and where was it?
    • How’d you get it?
    • What tips do you have in terms of how to get gigs, practical tips for live performance or even gear?



    The Jazz Guitar Chord Dictionary
  3. #2

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    I've got a lot of maybes going on.

    I did go see a trio play and the keyboardist knew me, asked if I brought my guitar which I didn't. Not going to make that mistake again.

  4. #3

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    It was due to a [now] good friend that I had met only about a year before the gig. He's a long time tpt player in the area and we met at a local summer jazz camp the year I got to town. Jean had informally got a few guys together after that camp to play some tunes, some of which he arranged, some purchased charts. Two years after the jazz camp he was talking to the Artistic Director of the local jazz festival who happened to mention that there was an open spot in his lineup and did Jean have a band and what was the name. Without hesitating Jean said yes and pulled a name out of thin air. So, our nonet played a jazz festival gig in 2003 not having any plans to have done that. It was a scramble to put a set of tunes together but we had a great time at the festival.

    I should add to this that I had returned to my sax after an absence of about 25 years just a couple of years before that jazz camp. One of my goals at that time was to get good enough just to play live gigs let alone play a jazz festival. I could not have imagined that a festival gig would happen so early in the process. I should also add that, except for the break for covid, that band, renamed, is still going strong although I left the band two years before covid. Jean is a great friend and plays in my sextet.

  5. #4

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  6. #5

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    I had just moved to the big city, new job, new apartment, new car, and a new friend at the adjacent desk in the office. He had just bought a guitar and I had been showing him a few things to get started. One of our supplier reps took about ten of us out after work on a Thursday to a historically black straight ahead jazz club where we heard a regional band led by a trumpet player.

    One of the people in our group knew the owner of the club, so the club owner came over to say hello, and asked everyone, "How do you like the band?" When I said they were really good my friend said, "Well, if Pauln says so, he would know; he's a real jazz guitarist!" The owner said I should bring my guitar next Thursday and sit in with the band... and for some reason I agreed to do that.

    At this point in the story I should make clear that up to that moment I had only been a "bedroom player" for 20 years with no thought of ever playing with others or performing. Leading up to the next Thursday half of the people at work were planning to come hear me. I brought my guitar to work and at the end of the day off we all went. I was not sure how things were supposed to work, but the owner came over and told me to just go on up during the break and meet the trumpet player.

    Next set I was plugged in and they took off without saying a thing about the song, which I had never heard before, but I grasped it in a few seconds and after a few verses the horn leader nodded at me to solo. At the end of the song I thought that was all I was expected to play and started to get down, but the horn leader held me back and I played through the rest of the set, still playing songs I had never heard. Then they had me come up and play the rest of the sets and asked me to come back Friday (they were playing this place every Thursday and Friday for the couple of months they were in town before going on to the next city). I played with them every Thursday and Friday night for their remaining eight weeks until they moved on.

    When I think back on it, I knew so little. The first night we heard them they had a guitar player already, and he was there when I returned to sit in (I used his amp). But after that I never saw him. From what I know now I'm thinking as a regional traveling band they didn't keep a guitarist and likely preferred finding someone local to sit in, I don't know. It is consistent with the owner offering me to do it (without checking with the band) if he knew this was how the band liked to do it. Anyway, that was my first, a wonderful trial by fire, 30 years ago.

  7. #6

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    Quote Originally Posted by citizenk74
    Thanks!! Great to be here!

  8. #7

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    I got a job at a music store teaching guitar when I was teenager.

    One of the other teachers had a gig playing jazz standards and hired me. I can't recall where. That was my first jazz gig. It was typical of others. It was before the Real Book. The piano player had a homemade notebook he read from, but he didn't share it. The rest of us had to know the tunes or be very quick with using our ears.

    I'd had some non-jazz gigs before that. The very first was guitar/drums/vocals at the drummer's sister's backyard wedding.

    As far as getting gigs now, I only know my little corner of the world. Around here, some very good players can get jazz oriented gigs (more like jazz influenced pop music, often) for real money at places like wineries, country clubs and weddings. Players getting real money for purely jazz gigs tend to be people who bring a significant audience to the very best clubs.

    More pure jazz gigs are not likely to pay very much, but a lot of very good players take them. I guess the choice is that or nothing on a lot of nights.

    To get one, go into a venue with a jazz policy and ask if there's someone there you can speak with about arranging to play. Since the venue already has music, somebody has to be booking it.

    They will want samples of your music, best presented in a simple website (mine uses bandzoogle, took a couple of hours to set up - next one will take a fraction of that) and has a bunch of tracks, some photos and bios. Some people hand out cards with the website address. I ask for an email address and send the url that way. That also gives me a way to contact the person later.

    Then, you check back to ask what they thought.

    You can expect food/drink/tips the first time. Money would be a pleasant surprise, at least around here. Some places will pay if they have you back, but nothing like a living wage.

    If this appeals to you, it's not that hard to get this kind of gig -- because you're selling it very cheap. Just ask at a few places.

    You will be judged partly on the quality of the music/entertainment and partly (maybe mostly) on how good you are for the venue's business. That is, the more paying customers you bring in, the better.

    You can hope to build a following, which require playing very attractive music.

    If others have different experiences in other places, please post!