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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
The band director at my high school shifted his goals from last year to this year for our jazz band, moving from a classic swing/big band setup to more of a smaller, improvisation-oriented combo group. Alongside the fact that a great deal of our talented seniors graduated last year, I ended up being the only sax player in the jazz band (we also have a trombone and three trumpets, plus rhythm section) in my very first year. For one of our major fundraisers this season, our director planned an "Evening of Jazz" at a church nearby to the school. It was a two-hour dinner and show event, with the first hour devoted to small groups from class playing combo standards, and the second half devoted to playing big band music with some alumni and directed by local jazz celeb Wally West. It was my first time playing a "real" gig (that is, outside of school concerts and Chick-Fil-A night fundraisers. Sadly, we were not paid in the sense of a real gig :roll:), and I really liked the opportunity to loosen up and explore my solos a bit more in a proper combo setting, instead of just in class or up onstage in front of parents. Our drummer's dad filmed the gig, and I was able to get him to burn me a copy on DVD. I haven't been able to see/hear any recordings of myself before, so I've been glad for the opportunity to review myself, but I figure the distinguished board members here know a whole lot more than I do and would be able to point a lot more things out. I've had the recording for a while, but I just now got the opportunity to upload some of the tunes to YouTube. So, my whole point with this long schpiel is, I was wondering if I could get some feedback on these tunes. I'm really looking for thoughts on my own performance specifically, but any comments you may have about us as an ensemble would certainly be welcome! These are the combo tunes that I played on:


I also played on Tenor Madness, but only the last half of that one actually ended up being recorded. Speaking of which, just a couple of caveats: I know the audio quality is pretty awful and the beginnings of the tunes are cut off, but try and look past that. It was filmed off the cuff by a non-musician dad on a cheap camcorder in an echoey fellowship hall full of people eating dinner. It is what it is, I'm just glad to have any recording at all. Secondly, the band is also very aware that the transition from the drum solo in Jordu back to the head was an absolutely horrendous train wreck. We beat ourselves up about that one backstage right after the fact, so yeah. We know. Besides that, I'd love to hear any constructive criticism or other feedback you have!

Distinguished SOTW Member, Forum Contributor 2016
19,013 Posts
Hi Guy.

Well first off, I just wanna say that I am really surprised and disappointed at the Forum that it took 126 views for someone to post a comment. I don't consider this Fourm particularly ...snooty...but I do have to say, where I have seen it most is in THIS very section. So, what's up with y'all ? 125 views and not a' one comment ?

That's pretty really is, folks.....

OK, now...Guy...the recordings aren't that bad really.

I wasn't gonna listen to listen to Jordu because of the aforementioned train wreck :mrgreen:; but I went back and did, and I am glad because, in a way, it was the most successful of the tunes. ( call THAT a 'train wreck' ? :| Holy crap...compared to some doozies I have been in, that wuz nuthin' !)

Regarding Doxy & Tenor Madness...I think the overall groove is being really hampered by the drummer. In order for a tune to swing, a drummer has to learn how to move OFF of accenting on 2 & 4. It will just KILL a Jazz tune to do on Blues and Rock just fine, though...
I dunno how well you know the guy, or his teacher... but he needs to listen to some small combo drummin' from the classic era. Early Jazz Messengers, Miles' quintet, Sonny's or Dexter's recordings, Lee Morgan, that sorta stuff.
Those guys don't use snare accents in so metronomic a's really 75%+ on the ride cymbal and some hi-hat. The snare (and bass drum to degree) are only used for intermittent accents and fills.
Now, his drumming on Jordu was MUCH more Jazz-like, and as a result that tune had a much better feel to it.

OK, so...that aside....I like how you are trying to assemble a solo. I also REALLY like how you are blowing with some confidence...meaning you are punching the sound of the horn, as opposed to sorta just feeling your way. That's very good.

I think you need to work on your phrasing a bit...vary it a little more. At times, the syncopation of your solos are too repetitive from bar to bar and phrase to phrase. The notes are different but the general phrasing is too much the same. This is more apparent on Doxy than on 'Madness. (And again, I will note...when you have the drums just repeatedly hitting the accent on that 4 is tough to loosen up your solo it ain't all you....that rhythm ain't doing you any favors as the lead guy).

Woodshed a bit and make an effort to diversify your phrasing a little more. Like most young players, you tend to wanna 'fill in' as much space with sound as possible. No need to do that. It's OK for there to be some space, some silence, some longer notes, in that solo. It's you, speaking thru the horn. So think about how you converse. It's not just a constant stream of words, right ? You stress some words to make a point, or you pause a moment...etc. You can do that with soloing as well.

So, you are on the right track. Do you play w/ any buds outside of school ? Or do you ever play to backing tracks when you practice.

(I do hope you come back and check the thread...I know it's been almost 4 weeks).

Keep it up, Mate.:salute:

241 Posts
Hey Guy,

I think I'd second pretty much every thing that's been said! When I was your age a lot of the comments on your playing were made about my playing as well.

It's nice to hear a high school kid play some lines that aren't all based off of the blues scale!

I'd probably say if I were going to be critical I would say the following:

You need to relax your swing - it doesn't help that the drummer is playing "ding dingdi ding" I try to teach students that swinging is just inaccuracy, and that's why no one swings the same way.

You've obviously worked on your sound a little, you definitely sound better than most high school tenor players. I'd probably say continue to work on your sound a lot, I know everyone will jump up and down at you screaming long tones to improve your sound, but I'd also say it because when I practice long tones, especially down low the horn begins to feel smaller, and I feel like I can get around it better.

Otherwise More than anything though - like Jaye said, you're on the right track. As far as I'm Concerned, just keep playing and you'll sort yourself out for sure!

Forum Contributor 2015, seeker of the knowing of t
4,345 Posts
I think you have a better sense of melody in your solos than I do. Don't beat yourself up, when you play with a real jazz drummer you'll notice the difference. Wish I was playing like that in high school.
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