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  1. #1

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    Hey guys/gals.

    I play guitar in a trad jazz band and really like the music we do. It covers everything from Bix Beiderbecke, Jelly Roll Morton, and Louis Armstrong to early Duke Ellington. I almost always play an old resonator guitar with this group and much of what I do is rhythmic chord work. I keep it simple and it seems to work for myself and the band. However, I am called on to solo from time to time. This is where I’m a bit disappointed in what I do. I’ve been told by, more accomplished, jazz guitarists that there’s a “jazz language” that needs to be understood in order to really convey something in a solo. I get the concept... I think. Sometimes I can hear a melodic idea in my head over a given chord progression. Other times... nothing. So, I resort to what I’ve done most of my guitar playing life. All that comes out is a bunch of random noodling on scales or arpeggios. While that doesn’t necessarily sound bad over a tune, it isn’t special or memorable in any kind of way. That approach used to work just fine for my blues, rock and country background. But it doesn’t seem to fit the trad jazz I’m doing now. I want my solos to mean something. I don’t need to be a flashy virtuoso. In fact, I often embrace the “less is more” philosophy.

    I suppose this this post isn’t really a question. It’s more or less just getting my thoughts in front of other jazz guitarists. Hopefully someone here can relate.

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  3. #2

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    That approach used to work just fine for my blues, rock and country background. But it doesn’t seem to fit the trad jazz I’m doing now.
    Sounds to me you've settled for second best. Your heart's not in trad jazz. Or resonator guitar, maybe.

  4. #3

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    Can only speak for myself, but the only way I know is to copy some phrases from your favourite players and keep playing around with them (it’s how I learned). I can’t see how you can develop good melodic ideas without using some great examples as a template to follow. But it’s not an overnight process.

  5. #4

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    I'd go with that too. If you're going to continue with trad extract a few attention-grabbing licks from good recordings and astonish the populace with them!

    Good advice.

  6. #5

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    Quote Originally Posted by ragman1 View Post
    Sounds to me you've settled for second best. Your heart's not in trad jazz. Or resonator guitar, maybe.
    On the contrary actually! I really do like trad jazz. In fact, this really is the kind of music I want to play. And I love the sound and feel of resonators too. I’ve played them off and on for over 20 years... albeit for pre-war country blues usually.

    Chords and rhythmic patterns aren’t the problem when playing this stuff. I feel fairly comfortable with that. It’s just coming up with something melodic in a solo that has my stumped.

  7. #6

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    Quote Originally Posted by grahambop View Post
    Can only speak for myself, but the only way I know is to copy some phrases from your favourite players and keep playing around with them (it’s how I learned). I can’t see how you can develop good melodic ideas without using some great examples as a template to follow. But it’s not an overnight process.
    This is likely what I should do. It’s been quite some time since I’ve transcribed a solo. Maybe it’s time. Hopefully it’ll help me break through this creative block I’m feeling.

  8. #7

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    If it helps, I don’t think you need to transcribe entire solos. Just pick the phrases you like best. This was Emily Remler’s advice.

  9. #8

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    Yeah, pick and choose phrases on a transcription...doing a whole solo is for school

    What are some tunes you do?--I'd love to help more. I love this kind of music too.

    The thing you might need to do a bit is chase some changes...play lines that really outline the harmony. Once you get good at that, it's easier to play "less is more" but still follow the changes. Ideally, if the rhythm section dropped out in the middle of your solo, you could still hear the chords change--at least the important ones...

    And keep in mind, a lot of jazz language is rhythmic...so when you steal lines, don't just get hung up on the pitches...when a line speaks to you, figure out if there's something cool going on in the rhythm too.
    Jeff Matz, Jazz Guitar:
    http://www.youtube.com/user/jeffreymatz

    "Jazz is like life...it goes on longer than you think, and as soon as you're like 'oh, I get it,' it ends."

    --The Ghost of Duke Ellington

  10. #9

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    Quote Originally Posted by dallasblues View Post
    ... So, I resort to what I’ve done most of my guitar playing life. All that comes out is a bunch of random noodling on scales or arpeggios. While that doesn’t necessarily sound bad over a tune, it isn’t special or memorable in any kind of way. That approach used to work just fine for my blues, rock and country background. But it doesn’t seem to fit the trad jazz I’m doing now. I want my solos to mean something. I don’t need to be a flashy virtuoso. In fact, I often embrace the “less is more” philosophy.

    I suppose this this post isn’t really a question. It’s more or less just getting my thoughts in front of other jazz guitarists. Hopefully someone here can relate.
    This is a good topic. I wish you had posed it as a question

    This is something I'm working on as well. I have identified 3 approaches good soloist or composers use:
    1- Motif development (aka theme and variation). Basically come up with something simple and vary it rhythmically and melodically while transposing it to different harmonic situations in the tune. Also moving to different theme and revisiting or making allusions to an earlier theme later on. Wes Montgomery is a master of this (also Mozart and you name it )
    2- Using the melody. That's in a way still theme and variation but the whole head is the the theme.
    3- Guide tone line. Making melodies that go through the tune by following a voice across all the chords. Voice is not necessarily the same chord tone degree. Obvious choice is 7 to 3, 3 to 7. This really amounts to letting the way the harmony is composed do the work. Soloist job is to find interesting rhythms and embellishments.

    A good sense of form is also important. Giving a the listener a sense of beginning, development and climax etc. Again Wes Montgomery is an obvious inspiration in this regard.
    Last edited by Tal_175; 04-30-2019 at 01:03 PM.

  11. #10

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    This is kinda shit I'm specializing in as well. And I play a National resonator too! I tell what, few things:

    Resonators don't have much of a sustain, so playing single note lines are not an easy task even if you know what you doing.

    Second, trad jazz doesn't assume guitar solos, not in a sense of long improv chorus after chorus like in modern jazz. So it's totally cool to work out short guitar breaks beforehand. Playing a cool catchy composed solo is way more productive than noodling 'hit and miss', especially when audience just trying to have a good time and dance to the music. They will thank you for that.

    And finally, two words- CHORD SOLOS! That's a very effective tool that wouldn't compromise the groove, the fun, the vibe of trad jazz. Treat your resonator like a tenor banjo. Use your pinky a lot for getting those extra notes out of your chords. Fast tremolo bursts of chords. Again, this all work better than playing endless runs of single notes, when you surrounded by loud brass players.

    Hope that helps!

  12. #11

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    Re: chord solos

    YESSS!!!!
    Jeff Matz, Jazz Guitar:
    http://www.youtube.com/user/jeffreymatz

    "Jazz is like life...it goes on longer than you think, and as soon as you're like 'oh, I get it,' it ends."

    --The Ghost of Duke Ellington

  13. #12

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    Quote Originally Posted by dallasblues View Post
    Hey guys/gals.

    I play guitar in a trad jazz band and really like the music we do. It covers everything from Bix Beiderbecke, Jelly Roll Morton, and Louis Armstrong to early Duke Ellington. I almost always play an old resonator guitar with this group and much of what I do is rhythmic chord work. I keep it simple and it seems to work for myself and the band. However, I am called on to solo from time to time. This is where I’m a bit disappointed in what I do. I’ve been told by, more accomplished, jazz guitarists that there’s a “jazz language” that needs to be understood in order to really convey something in a solo. I get the concept... I think. Sometimes I can hear a melodic idea in my head over a given chord progression. Other times... nothing. So, I resort to what I’ve done most of my guitar playing life. All that comes out is a bunch of random noodling on scales or arpeggios. While that doesn’t necessarily sound bad over a tune, it isn’t special or memorable in any kind of way. That approach used to work just fine for my blues, rock and country background. But it doesn’t seem to fit the trad jazz I’m doing now. I want my solos to mean something. I don’t need to be a flashy virtuoso. In fact, I often embrace the “less is more” philosophy.

    I suppose this this post isn’t really a question. It’s more or less just getting my thoughts in front of other jazz guitarists. Hopefully someone here can relate.
    I’m not saying it’s what you want to do but I suspect no one would mind - far from it - if you took chordal solos. Early jazz harmony is quite triadic so you know the shapes already probably.

    OTOH since you mention Bix, Eddie Lang is an obvious reference point... but on resonator I would suggest getting into some Lonnie johnson. His blues based approach may appeal, and not hard to work out his solos.

  14. #13

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    Trad jazz wasn‘t really into improvisation, either. It‘s perfectly fine to work out a solo in advance.

    I played with a fine tenor guitar and banjo player once. He only took chord solos. He would play two beats of a chord, then use a different voicing for the next two beats. Vary the rhythm in the right hand.

    Imagine you‘re playing a washboard. That‘ll make quite an impression.


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  15. #14

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    Quote Originally Posted by mr. beaumont View Post
    Yeah, pick and choose phrases on a transcription...doing a whole solo is for school

    What are some tunes you do?--I'd love to help more. I love this kind of music too.

    The thing you might need to do a bit is chase some changes...play lines that really outline the harmony. Once you get good at that, it's easier to play "less is more" but still follow the changes. Ideally, if the rhythm section dropped out in the middle of your solo, you could still hear the chords change--at least the important ones...

    And keep in mind, a lot of jazz language is rhythmic...so when you steal lines, don't just get hung up on the pitches...when a line speaks to you, figure out if there's something cool going on in the rhythm too.
    A few that come to mind:

    After You’ve Gone
    Singin’ The Blues (Bix B.)
    Marchand de Poisson (S. Bechet)
    Thats a Plenty
    Basin Street Blues
    The Mooche (Duke E.)

    We work out of the Dixieland Real Book fairly frequently. We also use more formal arrangements pretty often too.

    I’m gonna track down a few different recordings of each tune to see if I can find some solos, or sections of solos, I like. Maybe that’ll help get the creative spark.

  16. #15

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    Quote Originally Posted by Hep To The Jive View Post
    This is kinda shit I'm specializing in as well. And I play a National resonator too! I tell what, few things:

    Resonators don't have much of a sustain, so playing single note lines are not an easy task even if you know what you doing.

    Second, trad jazz doesn't assume guitar solos, not in a sense of long improv chorus after chorus like in modern jazz. So it's totally cool to work out short guitar breaks beforehand. Playing a cool catchy composed solo is way more productive than noodling 'hit and miss', especially when audience just trying to have a good time and dance to the music. They will thank you for that.

    And finally, two words- CHORD SOLOS! That's a very effective tool that wouldn't compromise the groove, the fun, the vibe of trad jazz. Treat your resonator like a tenor banjo. Use your pinky a lot for getting those extra notes out of your chords. Fast tremolo bursts of chords. Again, this all work better than playing endless runs of single notes, when you surrounded by loud brass players.

    Hope that helps!
    Its funny you mention it! The solos I am comfortable playing I approach them a little like a banjo. There’s a sharp decay with each note on my old National.

    I’m a bit embarrassed to say that I’m not entirely sure I understand what a chord solo entails. I think I know what it means but I’m not really sure. I’m assuming it means playing different chord voicings over the same changes? I’ve done that before. It sounded okay. Maybe not as interesting as it could be, but at least it fit the progression. I’ve often played licks or phrases using two notes together. While, not exactly, chords I like the way it sounds.

    While I’ve played guitar for 30 years or so I clearly know very little about what I’m doing. Ha!

  17. #16

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    This is the kind of chord solo they used to play. This one (originally played by Dick McDonough) looks quite hard in parts, but you might get some ideas from it.


  18. #17

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    Quote Originally Posted by dallasblues View Post
    Its funny you mention it! The solos I am comfortable playing I approach them a little like a banjo. There’s a sharp decay with each note on my old National.

    I’m a bit embarrassed to say that I’m not entirely sure I understand what a chord solo entails. I think I know what it means but I’m not really sure. I’m assuming it means playing different chord voicings over the same changes? I’ve done that before. It sounded okay. Maybe not as interesting as it could be, but at least it fit the progression. I’ve often played licks or phrases using two notes together. While, not exactly, chords I like the way it sounds.

    While I’ve played guitar for 30 years or so I clearly know very little about what I’m doing. Ha!
    Here's a quick demonstration on a couple of tunes you mentioned in your list. It's morning, no warm ups, no rehearsals, no drinks. That's how I sound if you put me on a spot, so mistakes and all, but trying to keep da rhythm goin' ya know


  19. #18

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    I got a lot out of this video from sometime forum member Jonathan Stout, who is pretty deep into this style


    Also, here's Christian, who is commenting in this very thread!

  20. #19

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    Quote Originally Posted by dallasblues View Post
    On the contrary actually!
    Ah, well, I've got it all wrong, then. I beg your pardon :-)

    It’s just coming up with something melodic in a solo that has me stumped.
    Oh, in that case that's the perennial question... But the licks advice is sound

  21. #20

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    Or you could just play the melody, and vary it.

  22. #21

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    Quote Originally Posted by christianm77 View Post
    Or you could just play the melody, and vary it.
    I dunno, people say it here all the time, but I'm not convinced... I mean, it can work with some tunes better than others, but like All Of Me, if you gonna play the melody as a solo, even with variations... Wake me up when it's over!

  23. #22

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    “Traditional” jazz is certainly not my primary field but I think you could serve the music this particular ensemble is presenting by embellishing the melody of any tune you’re called to solo on. I think strong rhythmic statements/variations guided and influenced very much by the original tune. This also serves to provide you with a very clear framework of specifically what to practice; take a melody and work with its strong notes as guide tones.
    Ignorance is agony.



  24. #23

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    Quote Originally Posted by Hep To The Jive View Post
    I dunno, people say it here all the time, but I'm not convinced... I mean, it can work with some tunes better than others, but like All Of Me, if you gonna play the melody as a solo, even with variations... Wake me up when it's over!
    Yeah, depends on tune, arrangement, even order of solos...

    It can work, though.
    Jeff Matz, Jazz Guitar:
    http://www.youtube.com/user/jeffreymatz

    "Jazz is like life...it goes on longer than you think, and as soon as you're like 'oh, I get it,' it ends."

    --The Ghost of Duke Ellington

  25. #24

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    Quote Originally Posted by Hep To The Jive View Post
    I dunno, people say it here all the time, but I'm not convinced... I mean, it can work with some tunes better than others, but like All Of Me, if you gonna play the melody as a solo, even with variations... Wake me up when it's over!
    Oh shit I like to that best on that tune lol

  26. #25

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    Quote Originally Posted by mr. beaumont View Post
    Yeah, depends on tune, arrangement, even order of solos...

    It can work, though.
    It can work. I love playing decorated melodies on ballads. But as a general advice for someone who struggles with solo, no. You gotta build the chops to do it proper, or you become one boring player who defaults to melodies to hide their lack of skills.

  27. #26

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    Quote Originally Posted by christianm77 View Post
    Oh shit I like to that best on that tune lol


    Sorry mate, you're not gonna catch me with your solo then haha! The main fun for me to play this tune is the chord changes, and running through them. Otherwise it's booooring.

  28. #27

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    Quote Originally Posted by Hep To The Jive View Post


    Sorry mate, you're not gonna catch me with your solo then haha! The main fun for me to play this tune is the chord changes, and running through them. Otherwise it's booooring.
    But that tune is the chord changes lol

  29. #28

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    Anyway this is how jazz is done:


  30. #29

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    Quote Originally Posted by christianm77 View Post
    Anyway this is how jazz is done:

    Yea, sax, big band, arrangements- you can make anything work. But back to trad jazz, resonators, and guitar solos... I dunno about you, but the last time I played All Of Me that slow... maybe never! It's a fairly uptempo tune in my circles. I take inspiration from Gypsy jazz players for this one. They don't play melodies for solo.

  31. #30

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    Quote Originally Posted by Tal_175 View Post
    3- Guide tone line. Making melodies that go through the tune by following a voice across all the chords. Voice is not necessarily the same chord tone degree. Obvious choice is 7 to 3, 3 to 7. This really amounts to letting the way the harmony is composed do the work. Soloist job is to find interesting rhythms and embellishments.
    To get away from random noodling over scales as you admit to you might consider concentrating on the "chord of the moment". Concentrate on playing chord tones especially 3rds and 7ths and connecting them to the next chord in a musical way as suggested above.

    Also melody is king...variations on the melody can make a perfectly fine solo

  32. #31

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    Quote Originally Posted by Hep To The Jive View Post
    Yea, sax, big band, arrangements- you can make anything work. But back to trad jazz, resonators, and guitar solos...
    True. Even Johnny hodges could sound OK-ish and he was a terrible sax player. What a schmo. Lucky he had the Ellington orchestra to pick up the slack.

    I dunno about you, but the last time I played All Of Me that slow... maybe never! It's a fairly uptempo tune in my circles.
    Sounds good as a medium bounce. No one plays medium bounce.

    I take inspiration from Gypsy jazz players for this one. They don't play melodies for solo.
    Urrgghhh. They don't play any melodies at all, solo or otherwise.

    Django couldn't actually remember any melodies - that's my working theory anyway. Ever heard him get through a tune without getting distracted?

    Actually, joking aside, most Gypsy jazz players are pretty good at embellishing melodies. The only thing is they actually play the solo in the head. And then for the solos, it's open battle to see who gets to be the elder brother.

  33. #32

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    One thing I can tell the OP is that it took me thousands of terrible solos before I played one that wasn't absolutely horrid. THOUSANDS.

    Translation: it takes time.

  34. #33

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    Yeah show me Hodges without Big Band, Without arrangements, and without a sax then we'll talk.
    White belt
    My Youtube

  35. #34

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    This man, this man, here, is the one man who could turn me back to the cause of pre-war jazz.



    He has some tuition vids available...

    Such a great style.

  36. #35

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    Quote Originally Posted by joe2758 View Post
    Yeah show me Hodges without Big Band, Without arrangements, and without a sax then we'll talk.
    Absolute crap



    Don't even need to listen to it.

  37. #36

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    still has a sax tho
    White belt
    My Youtube

  38. #37

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    You could mute the track

  39. #38

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    Quote Originally Posted by christianm77 View Post
    True. Even Johnny hodges could sound OK-ish and he was a terrible sax player. What a schmo. Lucky he had the Ellington orchestra to pick up the slack.



    Sounds good as a medium bounce. No one plays medium bounce.



    Urrgghhh. They don't play any melodies at all, solo or otherwise.

    Django couldn't actually remember any melodies - that's my working theory anyway. Ever heard him get through a tune without getting distracted?

    Actually, joking aside, most Gypsy jazz players are pretty good at embellishing melodies. The only thing is they actually play the solo in the head. And then for the solos, it's open battle to see who gets to be the elder brother.
    Johnny Hodges is da shit whos arguing? But again we are talking trad jazz and resonator, any relation? 'Yea, you can always resort to playing melodies' is not worthy advice still IMO, as of today, and Johnny f...Hodges video is not gonna change it!

    Cmon Django, please resurrect and help me out here, with these forum warriers lol. (Only problem he couldn't read or type, damn!)

  40. #39

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    Quote Originally Posted by Hep To The Jive View Post
    Johnny Hodges is da shit whos arguing? But again we are talking trad jazz and resonator, any relation? 'Yea, you can always resort to playing melodies' is not worthy advice still IMO, as of today, and Johnny f...Hodges video is not gonna change it!

    Cmon Django, please resurrect and help me out here, with these forum warriers lol. (Only problem he couldn't read or type, damn!)
    He’d be fishing and you know it

  41. #40

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    I get your point though, with this tune no matter what you play it still sound like All Of Me variation because the melody is built on arpp. Fine.

    How about After You Gone? Melody for the solo? Don't think so. Dinah? Nope.

  42. #41

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    to the OP - sounds like you are stepping away from the basic groove/pulse as a guiding force and looking for concepts that will make your playing sound more complex. IMHO players like Jonathon Stout/Django and others in that style sound so advanced/sophisticated/brilliant is that they establish a basic groove/pulse for the specific song and embellish/express/explore that groove/pulse with note combinations that fit, but the groove/pulse is the reference.

    I have always loved this vid of Taj Mahal getting Derek Trucks and Jerry Douglas et all up to speed)



    Will

  43. #42

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    I did not read all the answer, I'll read later because trad jazz is my passion and I like to know other ideas about it, but do you know this course?
    Early Jazz and Swing Guitar Lessons - Technique for Swing and Early Jazz | Peghead Nation

  44. #43

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    Quote Originally Posted by joe2758 View Post
    Yeah show me Hodges without Big Band, Without arrangements, and without a sax then we'll talk.
    do you think it is easy to play with Big Band?
    I mean to be soloist of Big Band....
    You have to be more undercontrol playing with orchestra.I am sure.
    Best
    Kris

  45. #44

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    Quote Originally Posted by Hep To The Jive View Post


    I get your point though, with this tune no matter what you play it still sound like All Of Me variation because the melody is built on arpp. Fine.

    How about After You Gone? Melody for the solo? Don't think so. Dinah? Nope.
    Yeah mostly because there's no sustain on acoustic?

    Well you could certainly play a set of variations on After You Gone, adding in arps and syncopations and scalar runs and so on... Or isolate key notes like the maj7 on Cm and so on... There's a lot of info in there.

    Perhaps you could take Dinah as a cue to play a lot major pentatonic ideas on the A section.

  46. #45

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    Quote Originally Posted by kris View Post
    do you think it is easy to play with Big Band?
    I mean to be soloist of Big Band....
    You have to be more undercontrol playing with orchestra.I am sure.
    Best
    Kris
    We weren't actually being serious.

    Reread Joe's comment and the humour is clear. I'm not hunting down a Hodges performance of 4'33".

  47. #46

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    Quote Originally Posted by christianm77 View Post
    We weren't actually being serious.

    Reread Joe's comment and the humour is clear. I'm not hunting down a Hodges performance of 4'33".
    ooopss sorrry