Jump to content


Please note: You can easily log in to MPN using your Facebook account!

I'm gonna KICK your BUTT!


ITGITC

Recommended Posts

It's been awhile since I've really had my butt kicked, but...

 

I GOT MY BUTT KICKED LAST NIGHT! And I LIKED IT! :laugh:

 

Got a text from my friend/drummer Greg last night - frantic. He wanted me to meet him at 2500 Jones Franklin Road. Said they needed a pianist... Come RIGHT NOW! I didn't need to bring gear.

 

That's it. That's all I had to go on.

 

So I set the GPS to the address. I got there and it was a gas station.

 

Yeah. A gas station! :rolleyes:

 

I called his wife and said - where's the gig? What's the name of the club? And she said - "It's not a club, it's a CHURCH!"

 

So I find it, and go up to the door at a meeting room and knock. A guy comes to the door, lets me in and says that they're practicing in the sanctuary. So I walk into the sanctuary and there is Greg with his drums surrounded by 5 guys playing horns and a guy playing acoustic bass.

 

It turns out to be a group of first-call musos who play in a big band in the area. The leader plays trombone and he's putting together a smaller brass group. Their pianist didn't show so they wanted me to fill in.

 

Well, I haven't LOOKED at a chart of Big Band music since college and folks that was a long, long time ago. So he puts the folder of about 15 tunes in front of me and we start to run through them - one right after another.

 

Now I can read, but I'm out of practice when it comes to charts like this. Fake books - no problem. Popular tunes with lead line and changes - easy. But Big Band tunes that I've NEVER HEARD IN MY LIFE? :o

 

OK, so I pull out the first piece. It was one of the shorter pieces - only five pages. I had never heard of the title, never seen the arrangement, and never heard a performance of the tune. But, I smiled and when the leader started the count, I started too - and hung on.

 

Long story short - I GOT MY BUTT KICKED LAST NIGHT!

 

But I hung in there and played all the tunes in the folder. Greg did well. He's played this music many times. The bassist was excellent as were the horns. But unfortunately, the charts had the changes, but no melody line - at all. I was expected to know the melody or improvise during a piano solo - on songs I had never heard!

 

Holy Cow folks!

 

So, perhaps I get points just for showing up. However, there was no way I could impress them with my skills - because I had no skills in this genre. Nevertheless, after rehearsal I helped the bassist load his stuff in the car (and gave him my business card so he could - possibly - call me if any holiday gigs come his way). Then Greg and I went out for a beer (of course). We asked the band leader to join us. He and Greg had worked together and knew each other well. We ended up staying at the bar until close to midnight, talking about playing music in this city. It's amazing the contacts these guys have and the gigs they've played.

 

I figure that I won't get called back based on the skills I showed last night. But I did give my business card to the band leader; just in case. :cool:

 

If I do get a call back, I'll take it. It will give me a chance to learn some new music in a genre that I haven't played in 35 years... (yeah, 35). :facepalm:

 

So, when was the last time you were shoved out of your comfort zone - in a musical sense?

 

How did it go?

 

Did you get called back?

 

Did it become a permanent gig?

 

And, looking back, are you glad you did it?

 

Happy Holidays!

 

Tom

 

"Music expresses that which cannot be put into words and that which cannot remain silent." - Victor Hugo
Link to comment
Share on other sites



  • Replies 24
  • Created
  • Last Reply
.. I smiled and when the leader started the count, I started too ...

 

Love it. I relate. It happens to me every week in University when they pull out new tunes. Getting my butt kicked like this is turning me into a better musician, quickly....Awesome post!

We are all slave's to our brain chemistry!

 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

As long as you had fun, and got something out of it.

I wouldn't look at it as getting my ass kicked, you did them a favour in showing up at all. Not your fault the drummer didn't let you know what you were getting into.

What we record in life, echoes in eternity.

 

MOXF8, Electro 6D, XK1c, Motif XSr, PEKPER, Voyager, Univox MiniKorg.

https://www.abandoned-film.com

Link to comment
Share on other sites

It's the best.

 

I think of times I sat in with outstanding players while I was at Berklee and Musicians Institute, or the times I jammed with Steve LeBlanc and friends. Nothing helps you break out of a rut like getting your ass handed to you. I love it.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

It happened to me several times and it's... refreshing! It's good to have your a** kicked from time to time, so you put yourself in the right proportions :) otherwise you get rusted and "die" musically speaking. I bet these guys will call you back in the future...
Be grateful for what you've got - a Nord, a laptop and two hands
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Happened to me last night. I had 5 days (and a sick kid monopolizing my time for 3 of those) to locate audio, chart out (for myself), and get halfway familiar with 20 tunes. Latin and Brazilian ones, but most of them were not songs I have ever played or heard before.

 

Rehearsal was with a percussionist and guitarist I'd never played with before for a gig coming up ... the only time these guys were available.

 

It wasn't a total trainwreck and I do believe we'll sound happening on the gig, but I was sweating thru some changed keys, feeling the form how the guitarist knows the tune ... my job is to embellish him; he is one of these sick mofos who knows Brazilian, Argentinian, and other South American musics inside and out and does OK on Cuban stuff too ... He plays bass, chords, and melody all at once.

 

That was one of my main challenges. I didn't know beforehand what treatment I was to give these songs, and really just had to figure it out as we ran them down in real-time, and many of the tempos or musical styles he played the tunes in were not what I found on YouTube at all when searching for references. All while he's calling modulations and telling me it's my turn to play the melody. :freak: Soloing I can do, but a melody of a tune I've heard maybe once ... yeah, I have some homework to do before the gig.

 

These are definitely first-call players for Latin/Carribean (the percussionist plays a mean steel drum and known as an expert)/Brazilian music in this area. I'm honored to have been called for the gig and of course will address my shortcoming to sound good on it. But damn ... getting "schooled" like this makes me feel young again. I imagine it's the soul's equivalent of a "spa day," and in particular of a chemical facial peel to (I've heard) painfully reveal the youthful layer of skin underneath. :D

Original Latin Jazz

CD Baby

 

"I am not certain how original my contribution to music is as I am obviously an amateur." Patti Smith

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Great analogy, Michelle !

 

I had my butt kicked a few years back in a similar situation to Tom's: a big band subbing gig. Had been a while since I'd played charts like that. I've been called back for that gig a few times since, but definitely had to do my homework that first time. There were a lot of quick changes/chord substitutions; I'm a reasonably quick reader, but some of the voicings / leadings were rather intense. There were a few Darmon Meader charts; he does some beautiful arrangements, but reading his piano scores can be crazy.

 

And I get my musical arse kicked thrice weekly - when I accompany a ballet class at the local university. The instructors there base their classes on the Vaganova technique of ballet instruction. Vaganova experienced accompanists are insanely good at what they do. So while I'm appreciated for being able to improv - following the counts, and sculpting the music to the movements of each exercise ( or sections of each) - the instructors are always 'encouraging' me to keep studying ballet accompaniment technique. The senior accompanist, who is a doctoral candidate in piano (and keyboardist who improvises quite well), told me that ballet accompanying 'kicked his butt' when he first started doing it 2009, and that it still regularly throws curves at him.

'Someday, we'll look back on these days and laugh; likely a maniacal laugh from our padded cells, but a laugh nonetheless' - Mr. Boffo.

 

We need a barfing cat emoticon!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I got schooled by a 13yr old just yesterday picking my daughter up from day care.

 

Daycare lady knows I play piano, so she said I need to hear this girl was a neighbor kid play, who was at the day care that day. So this tiny little asian girl sits down a totally rocks out a bunch of classical tunes. Mozart... Joplin.... Mario bros theme song... then after wants me to play something for her. LOL I played "linus and lucy" she smiled. Then I played "dont stop believing" she laughed.

 

The stuff I can play just cant compete with classical players. LOL But I enjoyed it

 

 

-Greg

Motif XS8, MOXF8, Hammond XK1c, Vent

Rhodes Mark II 88 suitcase, Yamaha P255

Link to comment
Share on other sites

ITGITC?, glad to hear you jumped in the whip, drove down to the gas station, hopped on the piano and flew by the seat of your pants. :thu:

 

Please tell me you rocked the aviator sunglasses and scarf. :laugh::cool:

PD

 

"The greatest thing you'll ever learn, is just to love and be loved in return."--E. Ahbez "Nature Boy"

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I've always pretty much played in rock bands. Years back, I went to my (now) ex-wife's mom's (now) ex-boyfriend's gig (you still with me?). They played dixieland jazz, which I know nothing about. They wanted me to sit in. I really didn't want to but they pressured me until I gave in. No charts, didn't know any songs, they just gave me a key. Ok, I managed to follow along by ear....then it's time for the piano solo and all eyes are on me. I fumbled through more of a blues solo since it was the closest I could come up with. It wasn't horrible, but wasn't the greatest fit and was sloppy and completely unimpressive. When the song was over I was just kind of like "see, I TOLD you I couldn't play this stuff".

Dan

 

Acoustic/Electric stringed instruments ranging from 4 to 230 strings, hammered, picked, fingered, slapped, and plucked. Analog and Digital Electronic instruments, reeds, and throat/mouth.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

In the '90s, a whole group of friends used to call me "Mission Impossible". :D No time for anecdotes right now, but I think I have told at last a dozen on KC along the years.

Frankly, I'm a bit tired of doing things that way - but I *do* miss playing in a big band a lot.

 

 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Great experience, Tom! Of all the last-minute sit-in calls to get big band music has to be one of the hardest. I get my ass handed to me every 2nd Wednesday when I play with a local rehearsal big band. That's why I joined. I figured if I could survive that I could cut anything. Kudos to you for doing it! I'm guessing they'll call you again if only because you didn't run screaming or curl up in a ball and sob when you saw the charts! :D
Instrumentation is meaningless - a song either stands on its own merit, or it requires bells and whistles to cover its lack of adequacy, much less quality. - kanker
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Sometimes I think the big band director is a sadist. One rehersal the piano was turned so all in the band could see the keyboard. Next he handed out a fast boogie woogie tune. These horn players get off seeing you trying to read two clefs at fast pace with no time to go over anything. Of course, I couldn't play all that was written. The song was all over the place. But after we went over it a few times it got better. But like they say, the reason horn players get together is to sound like a piano player.
Link to comment
Share on other sites

These horn players get off seeing you trying to read two clefs at fast pace with no time to go over anything. Of course, I couldn't play all that was written.

Almost no one plays all that is written in a big band piano chart! I'm convinced that the secret to being a big band piano player is knowing what stuff you can safely leave out. It worked for Basie!

Instrumentation is meaningless - a song either stands on its own merit, or it requires bells and whistles to cover its lack of adequacy, much less quality. - kanker
Link to comment
Share on other sites

A couple of weeks ago I wanted to start a thread almost exactly like this when I had my a$$ handed to me on a platter by a bunch of gospel pianists at a church jam session.

They were simply spectacular musicians and even had the background improv music for the ministers down pat.

Funny thing though, the main pianist walked in with this big Motif XS and ONLY used it for piano. As I struggled to contribute on my lowly P120 I switched over to organ and we went to church and had big fun. The pianists new nothing about organ and I was somewhat redeemed, despite the platter.

It was a great lesson!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

On this chart the piano was featured so it wasn't ad lib.

Ah, fair enough. One of the first things I do is go through the chart and note all the solo sections. Because the horns are so much louder than the piano in a typical big band, written solo parts are either:

 

a) unison/harmonized double of another section (sax, brass, or rhythm) part

b) counterpoint duets with another instrument/section

c) features where the rest of the band essentially drops out for effect

 

I've found that in a rehearsal situation, especially first readings, if I can't read it fast enough I play what I can but can safely omit large swathes of a). The important parts to get seem to be the ends of phrases and shots.

 

There isn't much you can do In cases of b) and c) other than try to get the rhythm and shape right. Sometimes I will sketch in the changes if they're not given. I suspect that they're often not given to force the player to read the chart!

 

None of the above is a substitute for being able to read and play the chart. However when you're parachuted into a big band piano chair on short notice they can be handy survival techniques that mean the difference between an underwhelming performance and a complete train wreck.

Instrumentation is meaningless - a song either stands on its own merit, or it requires bells and whistles to cover its lack of adequacy, much less quality. - kanker
Link to comment
Share on other sites

c) features where the rest of the band essentially drops out for effect

 

Basically it. I would love to see a pianist play at first read these two independent lines. LH was not a standard boogie line, but had some various line changes throughout the song. RH had its own thing going on against it at quarter note going about 172 per minute. I'm not bitching, some of the horn players get off on this though. I've had a couple weeks with it though. We'll see who gets the last laugh when we perform it at the club at the end of the month.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I've had a couple weeks with it though. We'll see who gets the last laugh when we perform it at the club at the end of the month.

Atta boy!! :thu:

Instrumentation is meaningless - a song either stands on its own merit, or it requires bells and whistles to cover its lack of adequacy, much less quality. - kanker
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Archived

This topic is now archived and is closed to further replies.

×
×
  • Create New...