A few weeks ago I had a gig with a drummer and a sax player, where I was responsible for all of the chordal comping, both behind the Sax player and also behind my own soloing.
I discovered that it was a lot more difficult than I thought to be the only chordal instrument in the group (and the only bass player, and one of the main soloists as well). So it felt like I had to go back to the drawing board again.
The big problem for me is that when I switch between soloing and comping, my mind has to switch gears in a pretty big way. I called Ondrej Pivec to ask him about this, and he had a lot of great ideas. One thing he said is that as I walk around all day with music in my head, incorporate chords as part of the melody. Also, think of chords as harmonized melody.
As an exercise, I’ve been working comping into my bebop practice. 2 bars soloing, then two bars comping. Not necessarily starting on the first measure. It sounds really cool.
I’m excited to have two great gigs coming up soon with John Hanks on drums and Randy Johnston on guitar! I’ll be playing trio with them this Friday night at Irregardless Cafe, and Saturday afternoon at Apex Peakfest.
In addition to those two Doug Largent Trio gigs, check my calendar to the right for other great opportunities to hear great music.
Over the past month or so, I’ve decided to start practicing the upright bass and rebuild my skills. I’ve decided to practice what I preach to my bass students: spend 1/2 hour playing long tones, concentrating on perfect intonation, and then 1/2 playing scales.
I’m convinced that playing long tones is the best way to practice upright bass. It builds up strength, and it teaches you how to hold a note with good, steady intonation, even harmonics, perfect tone, and appropriate vibrato.
I’m reminded of the talk that Cameron Carpenter gave in Raleigh about the nature of the organ. Like a computer, notes are either on or off. Unlike the bass, you could casually press an organ note with a weak finger stroke, and it would sound exactly like a well-articulated note played with good technique.
Similarly, any mistakes you make on the organ ring out just as loud as the correct notes. This makes the organ an all-or-nothing proposition. Playing the organ, you have to be ‘all in’ or resign yourself to sounding crappy.
It has been a great few days. I played a bluesy organ song at church, and played the pedals for the first time in public! It was fun laying down the bass line for this simple groove.
I bought a Bose speaker and borrowed a Neo Ventilator from my friend, and I’ve had a ball messing around with those.
I got to see Bobby Floyd play, on my Hammond B-3, and I finally got the organ moved back into my apartment after 6 weeks or so of it being rented. So glad to have it home. First thing I did is clean and polish it thoroughly.
I’ve also been playing some cool gigs with Tim Smith-
I’m sort of doing something different now. I’m practicing bass. Long tones with the bow, and my hands feel pretty good after a week.
On the keyboard side of things, still playing scales and arpeggios every day. Depending on how much time I have, I’m practicing Mendelsohn, practicing bebop or transcribing Jimmy Smith. All very fun, enlightening stuff.
Scaling things back a bit this month- I’ll be playing at Honeysuckle Tea House with Tim Smith playing a cool mixture of jazz, reggae and ska. I hope you’ll come check out this cool tea house built on shipping containers. It’s one of my favorite places to play and hang out with my family.
After two weeks of 6-hour per day residency, I’m back to practicing for my own jazz gigs.
I’m drilling scales on the upright bass each day, so my hands feel like they are made out of steel.
On the keyboard, I’m still pushing my way through scales and arps, and working on the Jimmy Smith organ solo for Au Privave- it’s great. Working on a couple of Brad’s compositions, although that’s coming slower than I’d like.
Lastly, I’m trying to get the classical etude I’m working on up to speed. If I lose focus for 1 second, I’m totally screwed!
It was a great week musically. I started out by deciding to make a change in my practice routine:
30m learning Jimmy Smith organ solo using slow-down sap
30m learning new music for my trio
30m classical etudes
Monday-Friday this week I had a 6.5 hour daily gig playing the piano for Arts In Action. This prevented me from practicing for 5 days, but I got so much amazing time on the keyboard.
Post number 10 means I’m 4% done. I know that I’ve been working very hard, but it’s tough to gauge if I’m 4% closer to ‘musical genius’. I guess I’m 4% closer to somewhere.