[Dixielandjazz] A capella front-line

Dan Augustine ds.augustine at mail.utexas.edu
Mon Jul 26 22:14:19 PDT 2004

     Just listening to a very experienced band (on 
a 1979 recording) struggle with a style that when 
well done is wonderful, but it's hard to do.
     I don't know what you call it, but it occurs 
when everyone except the trumpet, clarinet, and 
trombone (usually) drop out and the three of them 
play by themselves a capella for 32 bars or so 
(of the main melody).
     To me, this seems very difficult to do well, 
because roles must be filled while improvising 
interesting counterpoint.  The rhythm (beat) must 
be maintained, the harmonies music be preserved, 
and the melody must be at least alluded to.
     The articulations are usually short and the 
dynamics are soft. The trombone (it seems to me) 
should take over some of the bass-harmonies while 
also keeping the beat, but also doing part of the 
usual trombone-role.  The trumpet needs to play 
enough of the melody to let everyone know where 
they are, while interspersing rhythmic antitheses 
to the trombone.  The clarinet weaves in and out 
of the trumpet's path like a cat walking in front 
of you behind you.
     Seems difficult to do, and this band i was 
listening to didn't bring it off very well, 
possibly because they hadn't played much together 
     Some bands at Sacramento did this 
occasionally, but is it dying out?  It would be a 
shame to let this most evident of improvised 
counterpoint slip away. Does anyone's band on 
DJML still do this?

**  Dan Augustine     Austin, Texas     ds.augustine at mail.utexas.edu  **
**              "Do not try to be a genius in every bar."             **
**         -- Advice to students by Gabriel Fauré (1845-1924)         **

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