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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hi there!

I often find myself playing gigs with just me (tenor Sax), one singer and one guitar for weddings and corporate events. We are playing few jazz standards but mostly pop. I often find myself not very satisfied with what I play in this configuration and I wanted to know if some of you had experience or could point out recordings or live videos of good examples.
I think I'm fine with jazz standards, playing improvised fills in between the lyrics. I could also play guide tones lines but I usually don't as I'm afraid of getting in the way of the singer 馃槙

For pop tunes, here are my options :

鈥laying synth, strings or horn lines when they are clearly stated in the original. No problem with that.

鈥laying counter melody behind the main melody. It usually sounds a little thin for lines that are supposed to be harmonised, typically for strings counter melody.

鈥laying horn sections hits. Again, it often feels weak.

鈥upporting the singer, typically on choruses, playing the same melody unisson or 8va, 8vb. Not sure if that's effective or just boring sometimes 馃槄

鈥upporting the singer by harmonizing the melody. I often hesitate to do so when the original is not harmonized. What do you think?

鈥laying improvised fills

鈥ny other idea?

I know that's a vast question... Thank you for your insightful comments!
 

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why would you not be satisfied with a trio sax voice and guitar? I think that if you change the saxophone for any other solo instrument or the guitar for the piano, this has to be one of the most common playing situation in modern music,

Some singers would often feel you are getting in their way but you either play or you don鈥檛 so, if you do, just play softly meaning to complete her of him, you and the guitar are the orchestra and you are not there just to look nice and play a very short solo.

All you options sound nice, making sure you have a lot of variations all is goo if you play softly most of the times, always remembering you are supporting and occasionally coming forward to do your thing
 

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I am not sure I agree with that.

I don't think it's all that 'common' to have ~ horn + chordal + vox ~ as the three pieces.

It is arguably, more difficult than simply ~ vox + chordal ~ which is far more common.

Or ~ vox + chordal + horn + bass ~

.....or ~vox + chordal + bass ~ ......also more common.

So I think already the instrumentation creates particular challenges. In the OP's context, the guitar player has gotta be darn GOOD, really because they are covering the territory of a full rhythm section, and they gotta have the ability to do that.
IOW if the guit player has a concept that "all I gotta do is play the guit part with some flourishes here and there "...this endeavor ain't gonna sound too good.

Of the list, I say ....

~ I like #1 and #2 and #3. Yes, it may sound 'thin' because a sole horn is playing a horn section or keyboard part. You can counter this by experimenting with the best harmonies which "fill" the sound the most. Or you could use some sort of effects pedal which fattens the sound of you in these parts...a chorus or multiplexer, for example. Something not used the entire song, footswitch on-off.

~ NIX playing unison melodies with singer. Don't do that as a rule.
Harmonizing the melody...or noodling behind her/him is much wiser and common.

~ Improvised fills ...aka 'noodling'...is standard fare, it works for a reason.

Also....in these songs... @Tonio ...do you solo ? Meaning a whole chorus or two of you improvising ?
 

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well, I鈥檝e played a number of times with a guitarist singer and other times with piano singer and saxophone

By the way one of the gigs was in a restaurant and taught me the need to play softly
 
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well, I鈥檝e played a number of times with a guitarist singer and other times with piano singer and saxophone

By the way one of the gigs was in a restaurant and taught me the need to play softly
I agree, whether as a duo (guitar/ keys also sings) or trio, this is a very common lineup for all kinds of gig occasions, and one of my favorite鈥 get to hobblegob tastefully and not worry about playing the actual melody most of the night.
 

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Tasteful fills and solos are where I'd put most of my effort.

It's easy to overplay in this configuration. I know some players have a hard time not playing while on stage, but sometimes that's exactly what the song needs.
 

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well, I鈥檝e played a number of times with a guitarist singer and other times with piano singer and saxophone

By the way one of the gigs was in a restaurant and taught me the need to play softly
Huge difference if its vox + guitar .... vs. vox + piano, tho, from a filling in the rhythm perspective.

The former is, again, trickier for a horn player to step into than the latter (unless, again, the guit player is very accomplished at duet playing). With guitar there tends to be more void in the songs....

But in any case...yes, a trio of this sorta configuration is going to be one where the sax player is going to have to understand they are, in a sense, another accompanyist, as opposed to occupying the usual front-line role.
 

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I know some players have a hard time not playing while on stage, but sometimes that's exactly what the song needs.
Amen brother. For a situation like this, if I'm the saxophonist I look to play the familiar lines from the source material that the guitarist couldn't cover. With vocals I don't come in on the initial verse unless there is such a known line or phrase missing, and generally wait till the chorus to improvise any background, which may just be held notes/tones. If there's a horn solo or the horn leads the tune, great. Otherwise I don't let loose till near the end of the tune; and only then if it's in sync with what the singer is doing.


.....or ~vox + chordal + bass ~
So the OP should just switch to bass sax. Problem solved!
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
Or you could use some sort of effects pedal which fattens the sound of you in these parts...a chorus or multiplexer, for example. Something not used the entire song, footswitch on-off.
Yes, it could be interesting indeed but I will not go that way. First I often play without mic for small venues. Also, I love to travel light!

Also....in these songs... @Tonio ...do you solo ? Meaning a whole chorus or two of you improvising ?
Yes, I do improvise a lot in this configuration. Not on every song but probably every 2 songs, from short solo to full lenth ad lib improv.
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
Tasteful fills and solos are where I'd put most of my effort.

It's easy to overplay in this configuration. I know some players have a hard time not playing while on stage, but sometimes that's exactly what the song needs.
Yes, I think it's one the key. Some songs just work better with little or no sax, wheather we like it or not 馃槅
 

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you could always switch to flute ;)
 
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Yes, it could be interesting indeed but I will not go that way. First I often play without mic for small venues. Also, I love to travel light!


Yes, I do improvise a lot in this configuration. Not on every song but probably every 2 songs, from short solo to full lenth ad lib improv.
Cool, sounds like fun. Well, the way I see it, given that you ARE allowed to solo a bit on most/some choruses...no particular need to do a whole lot more than just embellishments elsewhere.

BTW...my band (a quintet, so larger than yours) often arranges tunes so the horn player actually plays the melody of the tune...or maybe the last 16 or 8 bars of it (this would depend on the structure of the song) BEFORE the singer starts singing.

Perhaps something you can experiment with a bit....
 

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I've been in a few of those situations before. It's easy to want to do too much, but I think it's really a "less is more" situation, especially since it's quite easy to dominate the overall band's sound if you're not careful and start overplaying outside of your solos.

A little goes a long way, and it's better to leave the audience wanting just a little bit more than have them get tired of hearing constant noodling. I had success relying mostly on reading and reacting to the singer and thanking the guitarist or pianist for holding it all together.
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
BTW...my band (a quintet, so larger than yours) often arranges tunes so the horn player actually plays the melody of the tune...or maybe the last 16 or 8 bars of it (this would depend on the structure of the song) BEFORE the singer starts singing.

Perhaps something you can experiment with a bit....
Yep, that's a good idea (y)

A little goes a long way, and it's better to leave the audience wanting just a little bit more than have them get tired of hearing constant noodling. I had success relying mostly on reading and reacting to the singer and thanking the guitarist or pianist for holding it all together.
You're probably right, I'm over thinking it. I should probably just grab a champagne flute and petit fours and enjoy the music between solos :ROFLMAO:
 

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I have a quintet too ( although we haven鈥檛 played in a very long time) and in a previous incarnation there was the thing of me playing the form followed by the singer and the solos , but then the pieces became really very long, in fact we, the pianist and I, most often share the solo since soloing over an entire form, after you played the form and the singer has sung her bit (let alone if you go back to the form to end) , is really very boring for the public and makes pieces very long and repetitive.

In fact you see this in many jam sessions and unless someone limits the solos the audience, if there is any, get really bored.

My ideal in this terms is what happens with this piece of stacey kent with Samba Saravah


as for the trio , the guitar and or the sax make a brief ( few bars) intro, the guitar plays the singer sings the theme , Sax maks counterpoint brief interventions occasionally you may do some parts together with the singer but not too much (I know , I know I over do it...). You get the solo perhaps AA (if that鈥檚 the form) and the singer comes back at the bridge and then the A again.
 

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Tasteful fills and solos are where I'd put most of my effort.
That's what I also think, and of course never getting into the way of the singer. Listen to good examples, that gives you a feel of what works and what doesn't.

I've done a few of those gigs (sometimes fully improvised), but don't have live recordings. I once recorded a quick and dirty home recording in 2014, backing singer Eva Cassidy. Here it is (I would use less fills now!):

Here is a great live example of Johnny Griffin backing Dutch singer Rita Reys:

More examples of Griff backing her can be found in this thread (the links don't work in all countries):
 

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well, the situation of the trio guitar voice and sax is really very different from the examples above , despite having done this combination a number of times I don鈥檛 seem to find a similar situation on youtube

the duo Guitar and sax is not unknown

yet....also sax guitar and voice


 
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