Help! IDK how to play jazz

JonnyFranchi$e

Well-Known Member
Joined
Aug 27, 2019
Messages
169
Reaction score
182
Experienced jazz cats:

Doing a wedding reception/cocktail-dinner hour piano trio jazz thing. There's 3 weeks practice time with very minimal time to practice and don't know what songs we're playing yet. (We're all friends in the same not-jazz band, but the piano and bass guys are fantastic and can totally roll the jazz like pros). The good news is these are our good friends, and it's a local reception just for close friends. The expectations are low. But I really want to do a good job because, well, they're our friends and I want the music to come off well.

I'm a decent drummer, but Jim Payne's funk drumming - funky pop-rock stuff. VERY rudimentary ability to swing and minimal to no jazz chops.

What kind of CRASH COURSE advice would you experienced jazz cats give me (no time to become literally good, but need to get good at faking it pretty fast here)? Any advice would be helpful.

Thanks
 

toddbishop

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jan 5, 2020
Messages
141
Reaction score
204
Find a few records with Connie Kay or Kenny Clarke on them, listen to them, try to do that. Play quarter notes on the cymbal, or the regular jazz cymbal rhythm, 2 and 4 on the hihat, catch the occasional & of 3 on the snare drum, don't play the bass drum too loud, don't play too many 1s. Play all the other sounds quieter than the ride cymbal. Learn this page. Play a nice solid quarter note pulse. Play the Philly Joe beat with the rim click on 4, but not all the time. Learn to play a bossa nova, probably-- not too loud. Listen to the other players and relax, don't try to do too much. Try to get a tune list so you've at least heard the tunes once before you have to play them. Good luck.
 

hardbat

Very well Known Member
Joined
Mar 27, 2012
Messages
1,293
Reaction score
661
Location
Sacramento CA, USA
I think a great "crash-course" would be to listen to the album "We Get Requests" by Oscar Peterson Trio, and listen to the drummer, the styles of tunes, and how a piano trio works together. It's also got a bunch of standards on it played in a very typical way, and is easy to comprehend and fun to listen to. It's probably up on YouTube. You can use it to assemble a basic swing, bossa nova, waltz, and ballad feel.
 

Matched Gripper

Very well Known Member
Joined
May 28, 2019
Messages
1,061
Reaction score
862
Experienced jazz cats:

Doing a wedding reception/cocktail-dinner hour piano trio jazz thing. There's 3 weeks practice time with very minimal time to practice and don't know what songs we're playing yet. (We're all friends in the same not-jazz band, but the piano and bass guys are fantastic and can totally roll the jazz like pros). The good news is these are our good friends, and it's a local reception just for close friends. The expectations are low. But I really want to do a good job because, well, they're our friends and I want the music to come off well.

I'm a decent drummer, but Jim Payne's funk drumming - funky pop-rock stuff. VERY rudimentary ability to swing and minimal to no jazz chops.

What kind of CRASH COURSE advice would you experienced jazz cats give me (no time to become literally good, but need to get good at faking it pretty fast here)? Any advice would be helpful.

Thanks
Crash course? Hmmm! I don’t know what you know about jazz drumming, but, assuming you know how to play the standard jazz cymbal rhythm and hihats on 2 & 4, you basically listen to and communicate with the other musicians by comping (improvising short phrases), with the snare and bass drum while playing the ride cymbal and hihats. Of course there’s more to it, but, that’s how you will spend most of your time during a song. Comping should be minimal. You want to find open spaces to nudge the other players with your ideas, not step on their ideas or compete with them.

Here are a couple of lessons on comping:


 
Last edited:

mathale

Active Member
Joined
Jan 25, 2019
Messages
32
Reaction score
47
First, get the playlist. Second, listen to those tunes over and over again from now until then. Third, if you can play piano and have access, then of course learn them on piano. If no piano/piano chops, then sing/hum them. Sing/hum them over and over again (regardless if you're in tune). Do this. If you do this, then lastly, during the gig, forget about everything, relax, and sing the tunes in your head while the players are playing them. You'll be golden. Will most likely catch the hits and outline the formats. That's the secret. It's as simple as that.

Forget about trying to learn Blakey or Philly. That'll take years and it's not the objective here (but do learn them). Do the above and you'll catch the hits and outline the formats. Oh, and play quietly. There's nothing worse than a loud-ass drummer.
 

dingaling

Well-Known Member
Joined
Aug 27, 2018
Messages
229
Reaction score
197
Location
NYC
I’d get a sub. Too much pressure and no way to fake jazz in such a short amount of time.
 

dingaling

Well-Known Member
Joined
Aug 27, 2018
Messages
229
Reaction score
197
Location
NYC
To me jazz = knowing form, melody or being able to read the melody and keeping the form, stylistic vocabulary for time and soloing, and technique to keep it all together.
Not sure if watching a couple videos will help make it through a gig without all that knowledge. Jazz is not about chops, it’s about knowing the things I mentioned above.
If you have 3 weeks I’d recommend getting a teacher and practicing the tunes everyday and having the teacher help a couple days a week.
 

Keith Balla

New Member
Joined
Mar 5, 2015
Messages
4
Reaction score
5
Location
New York, NY
If it's possible, I would recommend to get a list of the songs you'll be playing from the pianist. That way you'll be able to get familiar with the structure of the songs. I always feel more comfortable playing a song if I can keep my place in the form of the song and familiarize myself with the way the chords sound. When playing jazz standards, the playing of the written melody of the song only happens at the beginning and the end, and 90% of the song will be devoted to solos created on the harmonic structure of the song, so the more familiar you are with the song, the more engaged you are going to be as an accompanist in following along and participating in the "story" that the soloist is telling.

I would always try and remind yourself that great jazz drumming can be very understated and minimal in its approach, the feel (generated in great measure by the ride cymbal) being the chief concern:


Kenny Clarke could make incredible exciting music with the feeling generated by his ride cymbal beat. The soloist is the picture and he's the frame that supports the music.


Billy Higgins was very influenced by Kenny Clarke's mid 50s style and creates an incredible trancelike swing with his ride cymbal and sparse comping rhythms.


Art Blakey, for all his reputation for being a bombastic kind of showman, was a drummer of great taste and restraint.


Philly Joe Jones could also drive a band playing very simply with incredible swing.

Listen to the recordings and play along with them using just the ride cymbal alone. Hear/feel the swing that all of these drummers created in their ride cymbal beat and enjoy the feeling of playing along with them.

I would imagine that you might be worried about:

-What to play in your left hand and bass drum when accompanying the soloist.

Learn rhythms from the sheet that I just attached against the ride cymbal beat/2&4 on HH/very soft 4/4 on bass drum. Just play along with these YouTube links and play each simple comping rhythm on a loop throughout and try and get the same constant dance groove that you get when you play funk music.

-What to play while trading 4s/8s or playing a drum solo.

Jazz is a language. If you spoke Spanish and you were about to go to Italy, 3 weeks would be kind of a stretch to learn a whole new language. I think a better approach would be to remind yourself that Italian comes from the same Latin origin as Spanish and maybe learn a couple of last minute phrases so you can order your pasta at the restaurant and the rest of the time just speak Spanish. R&B/rock/funk all share a common line of ancestry to jazz, so for this last minute preparation I would suggest just to have fun, play the allotted number of bars in your trades and don't worry too much.

In summary, I would say that at its essence, jazz is a groovy dance music built on generating intensity just like funk or any other backbeat music through a repeated drum rhythm: in this case, the ride cymbal beat. So just focus on enjoying that while you're playing, listen to the soloists/follow where they are in the structure of the song, and most importantly, HAVE FUN!

I hope that this is helpful. Best,

Keith
 

Attachments

dcrigger

DFO Master
Joined
Aug 5, 2005
Messages
5,702
Reaction score
2,678
Location
California
Like PWC1141 above - my advice.... don't freak yourself out over doing a crash course in any way. You don't have to become a master of anything to do this - it's a cocktail jazz background music gig not subbing an Oscar Peterson gig. Unlike so many things we play as drummers - in this setting, a piano trio, you aren't expected to be the leader, you are not going to be driving the bus.... you're going to follow the piano player's lead... so is the bass player. This isn't because you are inexperienced - this is because that's the way it kinda is period.

So don't even think about worrying about the song list - it literally makes no difference. Don't try and learn songs - there's a million - and your piano and bass player probably won't decide what they're going to play until the moment. So you've got three weeks - I would start both listening and playing to records or play lists. Obviously you want to get as comfortable as you can play along with swing tunes at various tempos - nothing wicked fast. Again - don't try to learn songs.... don't try to learn songs.... I've played hundreds of tunes on gigs that I had never heard before that moment - no charts, just following my feel for the style and watching the piano player for cues. So playing to records... just practice playing along... going with the flow.... being there keeping time to music you've never heard before.

So play/listen to swing tunes, to ballads (brush up on your brush playing) - make sure you are comfortable playing bossa novas (a staple for this kind of gig.)

As I'm typing - more folks keeping posting for you to learn songs....

Don't worry about learning songs
Don't worry about learning songs
Don't worry about learning songs
Don't worry about learning songs
Don't worry about learning songs

Just get as comfortable as you can with the various feels - swing, ballads, bossa nova - and get comfortable playing soft... really soft....

I would advise not learning songs because IMO you should be focused entirely on practicing playing while really, really, really listening. This is the central skill to these kinds of gigs.... being abe to play while really listening. I used to buy cut-out LP's - bring them home - and try playing to them before ever listening to them - simply to practice this skill. Now with Spotify or Apple Music - you can just pick a playlist and go - play 20 tunes in a row, that you've never heard. This to me would be what you should be practicing - without freaking out about it - in prep for the gig.

Finally - have fun - your guys will take care of you - just relax, listen, follow along and HAVE FUN....
 

JDA

DFO Star
Silver Supporting Member
Joined
Aug 7, 2005
Messages
19,381
Reaction score
8,327
Location
Jeannette, Pa.
I suspect. He already knows how to listen.
Evidently there's no jazz in there.

Fill the ears with some jazz songs. It'll help maneuver how the jazz beat goes; thru what ever jazz beat song comes his way.
Some standard common to the rest of us jazz songs.
 
Last edited:
Joined
Feb 15, 2010
Messages
1,047
Reaction score
931
Location
NY-NJ
This is kind of like the political debates...

"Sir (or Ma'am) we have a growing global warming problem, the earth will fry in 1,000 years and we'll all drown and die; How would you completely solve this problem?" You have 2 minutes to respond. Please be thorough? Your time starts NOW!"

(This is not a "political statement," just an example of the semi-absurdity of the question.)

But seriously, take a good "intro to jazz drumming" drum lesson from a good or great teacher. But even before that, listen to some of the aforementioned musical examples. Your goal CAN be achieved!!! But get ready for a few weeks of pretty intense and focused work and practice!!!!

Jazz drumming has been evolving for 100+ years, but with some HARD work and GREAT guidance, you could probably become "serviceable" in 3 weeks or so.

If you're serious, PM me.

I've helped (with great success) other drummers and students in the same predicament.

Enjoy the journey and have FUN!
Mark
 


Top