This afternoon I’ve got a jazz gig down in London at a wedding in Richmond Park. I’m playing upright bass alongside keys and drums from friends I used to play with when I lived in the Big Smoke. As it is a small group, the bass has to take on a bit more responsibility for melodies and I’m due to play the heads on several numbers.
One thing I have been reflecting on in my preparation is how different reading the tune from a jazz lead sheet is to regular music reading. Normally the dots are meant to be a fairly close guide to the pitches and rhythms. You’re meant to try and play accurately. You still have to listen to your fellow musicians but it is when you all play accurately that the song comes together. Not so with jazz! Certainly for the kind of tunes we’re doing (mainly standards), the dots are only a general guide. If you play accurately it often sounds wrong – it is incumbent on you to slur notes, fudge timings and add things in or miss things out. As I’ve been practising, including listening along to recordings, I have been reflecting on how I need to learn to sing the line with my instrument, to breathe it afresh rather than just recapitulating it.
Anyway, time to load the car, hit the road and find out whether my musing and my practising stands in good stead!