[Dixielandjazz] Band configuration

Ken Gates kwg28 at sbcglobal.net
Thu Nov 5 11:59:11 PST 2009

Thanks for the responses to my post--Hypothetical question. While I certainly
agree with Kash's comment that any "better" player of any instrument can ignite
improvement in the overall sound, I'm still of the opinion that the rhythm section
laying down the foundation of the beat and chord direction will provide the most
influence of the collective sound if a higher skill level is introduced into the mix.

My own experience is far more limited than most of the players on this list.  I do
have monthly jam sessions at my place with one professional tenor sax amidst
the rest of us amateurs.  When the pro joined us it is certainly true that all the
rest of us raised our level.  However, the most noticeable improvement was when
we acquired a string bass player who provided the foundation for our quite capable
guitar and banjo players who could then augment the pulse instead of being responsible
for it.   Seems to me that a solid string bass can provide the pulse and bass line
necessary without a drum---especially in the confines of the parlor.  I've heard
several good bands at festivals and concerts that swing very nicely without a drum.
And conversely, good bands that suffer from excessive drum noise.  I do not
believe our pro player would continue to join us (his only non paying "gig") if the
rhythm players weren't good enough to keep him interested.  

My choice is for a really solid string bass for my hypothetical band to lead the 
way for a swinging rhythm section.  And yes, I've heard good tuba players that
can do it also.  But for me, the string bass sound is crisper and more likely to
provide that subtle power that gives  the jazz sound.   The ideal rhythm section
for my hypothetical band?  String bass, piano, guitar (who can play banjo on
suitable tunes).  Front line?  Cornet (or trumpet), Clarinet (Sax on suitable tunes),
Trombone (who can double on either violin or vibes).  Well--it is theoretical.
A six piece band.

Ken Gates

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