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Discussion Starter #1
Here are links to videos from last Sunday's gig of our United Nations quintet in Penang, Malaysia. I've had to split a couple of the tunes into two parts due to YouTube's restriction on length. In each case, the sax and flugelhorn solos are in part 1 and the rhythm section solos in part 2.

All Blues Part 1: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jLUjEFoviHU
All Blues Part 2: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gTnLHcYifIM
Afro Blue Part 1: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UnnrYDlfzuk
Afro Blue Part 2: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ySHziY65Yvc
Work Song: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3or9qnG-2CE
Blue Monk: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nm0zx5MoTsk

I've gotten some extremely helpful feedback from SOTW members in the past and would welcome constructive criticism.

Audio recorded on a Zoom H2.
 

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I don't know if the other videos are much different as the first one was fairly long. This opinion is only base on the first video:

It's really hard to watch this video as it has several simple technical faults. The camera alternates between "sea sick" and "zoom" mode, and the sound isn't synced. Put the camera on a tripod where all the band can be seen and DON'T TOUCH IT. If using a separate recorder learn how to sync.

The head on all blues isn't very good. Timing wrong, out of tune and generally not convincing. The rhythm section is fine, especially the bass. The solos are OK but certainly not great. Mostly very safe. The sax is way sharp (can't you hear this???). In the past you copped to not having practiced much. I'm guessing the same here?

But then who are we to criticize. You've got an audience, are hopefully playing music you like, having fun, (and getting paid?). If you are OK with what you've done and your audience is happy, then all's well. You don't need anything from us.

I'm my own worst critic so don't usually need reinforcement in finding obvious faults. Outside opinions certainly help where I'm stuck and don't understand where the problem is. Is this unusual or normal? I really don't know. You seem to be a good enough player to be able to hear what seems obvious.
 

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OK, well I usually don't listen to posts like this because many of them have the same challenge; how to be objective, recognise that these are amateurs having fun, and to be tactful, while being positive. But when I saw that my man Wade commented, I thought I'd give a listen - and make a few comments. I hope they are helpful.

First, these are all from the same gig so your best clip is all that's necessary to post (and listen to). I think it's really cool that you guys are doing this and suggest that you keep at it. For the ensemble, my biggest suggestion is that, even though you don't have professional aspirations, you can still have a professional attitude when you perform and that means - preparation! The heads and ensemble playing are inexcusably ragged. Here are some random thoughts on your solos on Work Song.

- too much time on the tonic - get off of it
- work on rhythmic concepts/licks for your solos, there is too much uninteresting sameness to your rhythms
- play the changes, not just the tonic scale or blues scale
- trumpet player hits way too many clams but at least it sounds like he's trying to mix up the rhythms and note choices
- both soloists - you guys need to KNOW the changes.; too much meandering, guessing and either clams or lack of tonal colour to your melodic lines
- on Afro Blue you were getting emotionally attached in your solo and that's a good thing
- the rhythm section was doing its part. It seems like the front line should recognise this and not take them for granted, by coming up to their level of play and making their efforts worth while for themselves.

Overall, I would have loved to have been at that venue and played with you guys. Seems like fun.
 

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Whitetrane and everyone else: I hope you all appreciate what a great guy Gary is. I did the short version of saying the vid wasn't very good and Gary went through all of it and came up with great critical points that could help these guys out, and made them feel good about themselves in the process.

Guys like Gary are the heart and soul of what can make SOTW a great resource.
 

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One thing : you need to dig in more. Play WITH the rhythm section, stick to the cymbal, sit in there. You have good ideas, you just need to get them across in a more convincing way.
 

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Discussion Starter #6
Gary, thanks loads for your comments, which I find extremely helpful. I appreciate you taking the time to watch and listen to the videos. That’s why I posted this stuff to SOTW in the first place. Where we live, there simply are no pro-level horn players to mentor lesser players. Our trumpet player is leaving next month, and believe me, the next best trumpet player on the island is two orders of magnitude below him in ability. Yours is great advice, and priceless. Thank you. Magicalpig, thanks for your comments too.

I think we all speak to what we know. It is interesting that the bassist was complaining that the drummer could not keep a steady tempo and kept speeding up the pace, so that when it came time for the bass solo, the beat was too fast (compare the tempo on opening and out choruses of Blue Monk, for example). He also complained that the piano player was noodling and needed to shorten his solos. The drummer could not figure out Afro Blue and sat out most of the tune, which should be heavily rhythmic, so he didn’t pull his weight. But there were two comments that the rhythm section was fine...

Soapbox: there are some players, myself and some of my bandmates included, who play for the love of the music and have absolutely no pretentions of “winning a jazz competition". Our quintet includes an engineer, a high school English teacher, and a management consultant. My philosophy is simple: given the choice of playing or not playing, I always choose to play. To me, playing in this band is the jazz version of attending a major league baseball fantasy camp, it is a hoot but I have no dreams of getting called up to the big leagues and standing alongside Chris Potter on a major festival mainstage.

Personally, I feel that the segment of players that play for love is undervalued in the overall picture of the vitality of the music. A lot of jazz and improvised music has become technical, academic, and pretentious these days, which is one reason why the audience has dwindled and there are fewer and fewer live venues to play at, especially outside of major cities. 95+% of kids who play an instrument in their teens no longer play by the time they are my age. And many never learn to improvise at all, much less as Sonny Stitt speed and ease over the changes. Why? It is really difficult to play today’s jazz just for the fun of it. You could be a brain surgeon with the same number of practice hours. The young players I know largely lack the confidence to improvise in public, because they are not yet expert, and fear that Jo Jones will throw a cymbal at them.

Wade, sorry, I will not pass your comments on the video on to my wife!

Anyhow I have a lifetime of stuff to practice, as I think we all do, and I thank SOTW for providing the forum where I can receive world-class direction. I plan to be a great player by the time I am 60.
 

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I only listened to the first video:

I can't stand a piano going out of an amp unless it's a fender Rhodes or Wurlitzer-that's the bottom line.

The piano player is not leaving anything open to interpretaion or the drummer for that matter. Everything they are doing is way too literal.

There's no way that i would work with a guy no matter how good that would wear shorts and a t-shirt on stage. That's not happening. And there's no way that a guy who's playing every single chord change in every measure in every available empty space like the piano player-should still be reading this tune. Tell them to get rid of the wire stands! if anything, have a good solid music stand if necessary.

have the drummer play brushes and not so much on the ride cymbal. Try to get them into the original recording and notice the syncopation the bass player continues the figures on the downbeats so why should the drummer have to play the constant figure? on the ride? The piano player is working way too hard and i don't dig the sound. Have the drummer do some different stuff behind your solo. He could drop out for a couple beats, play some different things behind you-the bass player is taking care of the time anyway.The drummer and piano player are locking you in rythmically and harmonically which makes everything too predictable.
 
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