[Dixielandjazz] Rehearsing.

Larry Walton Entertainment - St. Louis larrys.bands at charter.net
Tue Jun 12 14:33:31 PDT 2007

Rehearsing on stage is a time honored institution but it might be a good 
idea to have a little clarification.  As Steve pointed out more or less if 
you have pro level or at least experienced players they will be listening 
like glue to the other players.  Endings and intros tend to standardize at 
least a little and once the lead person gives the band the signal to go out 
a listening player will go with them.

Rehearsals in some bands tend to be "OK guys lets start at A and Joe play a 
little softer this time and some of you missed a couple ..........."  This 
type of rehearsal doesn't happen very often with pro level players and if 
you have worked with someone for any length of time you KNOW what he's 
thinking and what he or she will do so it's just a new chord progression and 
different notes but the essentials stay the same.

In jazz mistakes will be made and I am pretty convinced that a lot of licks 
were really mistakes that someone fixed or thought was cool.  Jazz takes 
bold players who aren't afraid of making mistakes.  You never see the 
mistakes of the great masters because they painted over them.

One of my current bands rehearses pretty much regularly because I wasn't 
able to permanently attract the top pros and to tighten up with people who 
don't do a lot of Dixie just isn't an automatic thing.  My Cornet player and 
I don't mind rehearsing.  He is in another band that rehearses regularly 
also.  Lacking steady gigs the chops tend to go and someone who intends on 
playing can't let that happen.  This work is starting to pay off and we 
aren't rehearsing as much but we aren't to the point that I would take a 
completely new tune on the stand without having run through it at least once 
off stand.

I play in several bands that do not rehearse.  We show up, we play and we go 
home and My cornet player and I rehearse tunes all the time on the stand 
with our Duo.  I usually say something about taking a request that will 
stump the band and before anyone says anything I say I have one to stump the 
Cornet player and then we do the new tune.  We then play through it like we 
have known the tune all our lives with one exception.  If its a rock tune 
from the 70's on I play through it once and my friend bangs on the 
tambourine or usually not.  The then takes the middle chorus.  We then 
discuss how much I spent on tambourine lessons for him and he could at least 
bring it sometimes.  The people love it but we have it from then on.

Real Jazz just can't be rehearsed.  Big band is different from combo work 
and small group is what I think we are talking about.

Timing is also important.  I don't think many bands who rehearse on stage 
introduce a new tune at the hottest part of the evening or in front of a 
concert audience.  An informal, dancing, milling crowd aren't listening all 
that close but the concert audience is just setting there staring at you and 
hopefully listening too.

It would also be somewhat unwise to try a tune that was a total stranger to 
most of the band.

There are certain things that have to be in place before a band can get away 
with this.
1. a set of visual or aural signals or at least eye contact to designate 
solos, endings etc. This includes declining a solo too.
2. most of the players should have some knowledge of the tune especially the 
rhythm section.
3. horn players that can arrange on the fly
4. horn players that can play off of each other
5. horn players that can pick up a riff or background idea instantly when 
the leader or other player sets it up.
6. key change signals - one finger up = 1 sharp = key of G.  One finger down 
= 1 flat = key of  F
7. Ending signals such as clenched fist for out.  Finger making circles for 
the same thing.
8. horn player directing ritards with his horn
9. a fixed order of solos after the head.

I'm sure that there are more but those are the essentials.  Some are things 
any band can do but the listening skills to do others on the list just have 
to be worked at.  This is how the experienced band with pro level players 
always seem to be able to pull off tunes, even new ones.

There is a lot of controversy about using music or not but bands that don't 
use music or at most use fake sheets will be a whole lot more successful at 
doing an untried tune on stage.  People who bury their face in a chart tend 
to not be as flexible and are less likely to pick up on those signals. 
Musicians who don't have very good control over their instruments and  have 
to concentrate on a chart and the mechanics of their instrument can't pay 
attention to other things besides the chart.

All those basics are predicated on one thing and that is the musicians are 
constantly communicating with each other and are paying attention with a lot 
of concentration to the other players and leader.  Almost all of these 
things are body language or sound cues and some are very subtle like knowing 
when to play loud or soft.

Lacking some or all of those things then rehearsals are the way to go but it 
is difficult to get groups together.  I do both.  My rehearsal group does a 
lot more obscure tunes that are more unknown to the members.

I play with a big band that almost every chart is somewhat new to everyone. 
The level of the players is just so high that everything comes off but we 
usually have a paid rehearsal before the concerts which consist of starting 
each tune for tempo and playing once through the unfamiliar tunes once for 
key and sometimes we go through a soli a couple of times.  Soloists are 
designated and that's about it.  If you have strong readers and soloists you 
can get away with it.
St. Louis

----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Steve Barbone" <barbonestreet at earthlink.net>
To: "Larry Walton" <larrys.bands at charter.net>
Cc: "Dixieland Jazz Mailing List" <dixielandjazz at ml.islandnet.com>
Sent: Tuesday, June 12, 2007 12:23 PM
Subject: [Dixielandjazz] Rehearsing.

> Mike <mike at railroadstjazzwest.com> wrote
>> How do you get better as a unit if you don't practice?
>> How can you work out intros and endings if you don't practice as
>> a band?
>> How do get to the point of being professional if you don't rehearse?
>> Hobby Band or not, if you want to get better you gotta rehearse.
>> Otherwise you'll never be able to raise the bar on your
>> performances. Of course, there's always bands and people who are
>> the exception but most bands and musician I know practice
>> privately and rehearse as a unit to improve.
> Hi Mike:
> Good points for those wishing to improve. Certainly all beginning
> musicians/bands should rehearse. And big bands should rehearse
> But let me throw out a few things for those who have been playing in 
> various
> small bands, for various gigs, for many years.
> My band does not practice. We can't because;
> 1) We have too many gigs and enjoy a little time away from each other.
> 2) Our "Dixieland Book" is about 500 tunes, includes some American 
> Songbook.
>   We are not fixated about adding more.
> 3) We use a lot of subs during the Summer vacation period. The band make 
> up
>   varies among a pool of about 35 competent Dixieland/Swing musicians. And
>   sometimes I even book multiple band editions at the same time.
> 4) We talk over the intros and endings if they are tricky.  And if the TB
>   player doesn't know the Fidgety Feet intro, just lay out the first time.
>   No doubt if we have a quality player, he/she will hear it and play it
>   after that. And if someone comes up and says; "That ain't the way Ory
>   did it", tough noogies. We're not trying to copy anybody.
> 5) In effect, we rehearse on the gig. :-) VBG.
> Bear in mind that we are professional jazz musicians who know how to 
> listen
> to each other and adapt. Just follow the trumpet is our mantra. If he
> extends the ending with an 8 bar turnaround, just follow. If he retards 
> the
> ending, watch his head movement and just follow.
> Yes, we might make a mistake, but like Artie Shaw said, if you don't make 
> a
> mistake or two in jazz, you're not trying hard enough. :-) VBG
> And a seasoned musician knows how to cover up a mistake. Shoot, they are
> made all the time by everyone, else we wouldn't have recording techies
> covering them up all the time. Who wants to hear a "perfect" jazz band?
> Not me, however others are welcome to try, though if they have good ears,
> they should be able to identify "mistakes" in almost every recording, and
> certainly in every live performance.
> We're working with a gal trombonist this Saturday. Only played with us 
> once
> before. Is a big band trombonist and not strictly a Dixieland Player. BUT;
> She has great ears, and knows how to watch the trumpet for ending signals,
> and/or me for the usual band signals as to solo order, key modulations, 
> and
> riffs. Plus she knows how to solo coherently. I'd rather work with her 
> than
> a lot of trombone players out there. Plus the audience loved her.
> On the other hand, I play in a rehearsal band almost every week. They 
> rarely
> get gigs. It is a tight band, if "arrangements" are your thing and plays a
> lot of obscure tunes. The patter when they do get gigs is about the
> "history" of jazz. Basically, the audience could care less about that.
> Why do I continue to do so? Because when I needed to get my chops back 
> after
> a 30 year layoff, that band helped me do so. So I'm paying back the debt.
> Cheers,
> Steve Barbone
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