Love of Standards
Not to give the wrong impression -- despite my apparent love of the funky stuff, I gotta be clear... I got a mistress -- and in the words of Duke Ellington, it plays second fiddle to nobody.
I'd love to play more an more on gigs, but often find that its difficult to find players who can really play Standards with the same heart and soul as they may do funkier soul Jazz stuff. Typically, a sax player may blow his or her head off on a good funk or soul Jazz tune, but when the standard is called, suddenly the energy is gone.
It shouldn't be like that and it just doesn't make sense to me...
Some people may think, "Well, its a standard? What would you expect?" ...but its not true. If you think Standards have to be played in a lazy and boring way, listen to DEXTER GORDON, listen to SONNY ROLLINS, listen to JOHNNY GRIFFIN, ARNETT COBB. The list is endless.
Standards can be played with just as much fun, excitement and soul as funk and R&B -- all they require is a slightly different ethos. Swing, after all is SWING. Music can be funky and swing (in fact, listen to James Brown's DOING IT TO DEATH -- Its just a shuffle, like so many of Art Blakey's tunes), but first and foremost, a good standard to truly be presented in the way it needs to be must swing HEAVILY.
With all of this said, I am always seeking that perfect horn players who "get it" -- I could name a few in the tradition: Willis Jackson, Plas Johnson, Red Holloway, Gene Ammons, Fred Jackson, Hank Mobley, Stanley Turrentine.... -- gosh, so many greats!!!
Today, Jazz organists tend to lean towards a style that was epitomized by the sounds of Jimmy Smith and Wes Montgomery called the "OGD" style: organ, guitar, drums. That was one sound. But there was another too. Listen to the organ combo recordings of Lou Donaldson and Willis Jackson and you'll hear it epitomized. Although the OGD sound is great, I have to admit how strange I find it that even when you do get Jazz Organ quartets with tenor players, the sound they'll play still leads towards the more layed back style of the OGD sound. Nothing's wrong with that, of course, but now and then, what's wrong with a little bar walking???
My love of standards continues -- just as fervently as finding the right stock of musicians who can do it both, and if you're one, I'd definitely like to check you out!
Always looking. Always listening. Always looking for the perfect tenor player especially!
Tips on Learning Standards!
- Listen to as many classic Jazz recordings as possible, and KNOW your standards, even if you can't play them the "top 100" and beyond should definitely be in your head.
- Invest in some good fake books. (Real Books I to IV especially.)
- Become a master of basic II V I type cadence and harmony.
- Study key soloists -- not necessarily memorizing their solos note for note (that's one approach), but being aware of their basic sound and what distinguishes their different styles.
- Be an active listener!!! As you listen to many different versions of a single standard think what makes each different, what arrangement devices are being used and how could you incporporate it into your lyrics.
- Familiarize yourself with vocal renditions too. Being able to sing the words in your head will connect you better with the tune, even if its most famous in Jazz for a later non-vocal rendition.
- Familiarize yourself with basic stylistic approaches in Jazz... for example types of swing, bebop, hard bop -- modern, cool, contemporary -- you name it. When sitting in with a good band you need to understand, not fight, their stylistic concept.
- When learning a standard, be sure to master the following three elements separately: 1. The basic changes, form and rhythmic concept. 2. The melody. 3. Possible improvisational approaches