the jazz authority; random dubiously zappy rants about 'the musicians music'.: Playalong Records & The Proliferation Of Wankers

Monday, July 04, 2005

Playalong Records & The Proliferation Of Wankers

Q. How can you tell if a stage is level?
A. The drummer drools out of both sides of his mouth.
Back in my college days I remember being one of many horn players, while the rythm players were like rare creatures - hard to find and usually too busy to jam. What the sax players did was pick up their favorite playalong record (Aebersolds are the most famous), and go play in a practice room.
Now there is a big difference between a real musician and a prerecorded song. The biggest problem is that you can't actively communicate with a recording. So, for many years, horn players have been training themselves to just get up on stage and play solos. What's wrong with that? Well, did you ever see a drummer and soloist deeply engaged in a rythmic storm of swirling lines, polyrythmic arpeggios and call and response? It seems to me that this is going on less and less in recent years. Could it be the play-along records?
I was hipped to this dillemma back in high school when you could still find aebersold records. My sax teacher at the time told me that with these playalongs you can practice learning the heads, work out patterns and riffs, and familiarize yourself with the changes, but you absolutely cannot jam out for an hour just as a replacement for a band. It might seem fun, but you'll get to a point where you forget to communicate with the band next time you do jam. I believe this is sage advice, and have always used my playalong recordings sparingly.
Of course I love them and have found them to be extremely usefull. The problem is that so many cats get up on stage at jams and rattle off a bunch of material for way too long, as if it's some kind of free-for-all wank-a-thon. There's nothing I dislike more than getting stuck behind some long winded self-absorbed pattern runner that eats up all the time for a song. The rythm section doesn't like to be abused in this way.
So next time you dig out your Aebersolds, think twice before you just go on a virtual jam session.
“When you’re creating your own $h!t, man, even the sky ain’t the limit.”
- Miles Davis


Michael J. West said...

Cam, one of the best things about this blog is that you talk about the importance of musical discipline. The aebersold is something like the jazz instrumental equivalent of karaoke. There are lots of musicians who want to take the canned accompaniment as their opportunity to show off their own chops, and that's cool, until you forget that there's a SONG there. (I say this is a frequent karaoke singer. ;-)) I think you always have to remember that the song is there to keep YOU, the musician, in a framework. Not to keep the audience in one.

Cameron W said...

Quote... "Cam, one of the best things about this blog is that you talk about the importance of musical discipline."

Yes Michael, that is a subject that is well covered here. I am a big believer that the only thing that separates the good players from the great ones is that extra bit of dedication to their art. At the jazz authority sites a community of musicians and fans is being created so that we can exchange our thoughts on these subjects.
Thanks for your input here!
Cameron (aka TheJazzAuthority)