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Same music from two different angles

PostPosted: Mon Jul 12, 2010 7:24 pm
by jeffl
One of my harp buddies called me up last week and asked me if I wanted to play harp for a young blues band at a gig about 50 miles away. I was startin' vacation and in the mood, so I took my wife along and sat in with the youngsters. They were loud, aggressive, and didn't create much space, but their playlist was spot on... Muddy,Sonny Boy, Jimmy Reed, Big Bill Broonzy, Howlin' Wolf, etc. No dynamics... jus' freakin' loud amped up blues all night, but it coulda been alot worse.

Two days later one of my buddies, a drummer who owns a bar was doin' a shot at his place with a standup blues guitarist and a bass player; The guitarist is a guy I've always wanted to play with for about 30 years and he was sick with the flu. He asked me to sit in with 'em, harpin' for a share of the tips and all I could drink, so what the.... Anyway, he played the same general songlist as the youngsters from two days earlier, except he PLAYED the tunes. The contrast was amazing. We exchanged cards. I hope he calls me sometime.

One aside: before he got me up there, he was deliverin' a relatively low-energy, slower blues set and I assumed he was gonna hold that course. But, after a coupla tunes I realized (after a few stern remarks and cold stares from the leader) that he was takin' the nite in a different direction, and we picked up the pace. He wanted the harp to play comps & fills very sparsely, and hardly ever behind the vocal, and then romp away on the breaks-- not generally my style. I know I appeared to be a little dense at first, so I told him that I was deaf in one ear, ha. The tip jar was almost $250 for four guys. :D

Re: Same music from two different angles

PostPosted: Mon Jul 12, 2010 7:39 pm
by bluejay
Bubba, thanks for the inside view on these events. I think the young ones are, at least partially, using the volume to offset some confidence issues. If they know that song list, they have some realization of what's up with earlier renditions and may just need some time to harness their own enthusiasm and whatever chops they are developing. Hope they have the "nuance" and "style" lightbulb eventually go on. Then again, I love listening to the Black Keys crush the blues...hmmm.

Those stern remarks and cold stares from the other gig's leader, is that his usual style? I'd hope that he doesn't rely too much on assumptions when he asks someone up, as we know where assumptions usually lead. :wink: Nice tip jar, though!

Re: Same music from two different angles

PostPosted: Mon Jul 12, 2010 8:20 pm
by jeffl
Bluejay, I didn't take the relative harshness of his communication as a bad thing-- quite the contrary; the stern-ness of his voice and the icy glare let me know how far off of his mark I was. There was no wasted time or bad feelings. I love it when communication is that clear. When you give a good bandleader what he wants, THEN you get the smiles. As a lifetime sideman, I know my role.

I've learned that old veterans who are accustomed to playin' alotta solo stand-up shots have pretty clear ideas of what they want, and if you're gonna play with 'em, you gotta add what they want or they'll play alone... maybe real soon. :lol:

I think the reason he asked me to play with him is 'cuz he was sick and couldn't summon the energy to drive the crowd himself without workin' harder than he wanted to for the money. He wasn't gonna get it outa the drummer or bassist. He used me for a shortcut and it worked. I'd played with the drummer a million times and I'm sure that he told the frontman exactly what he was gettin', and I got used like a freakin' loop box. :D (BTW, at some point I had the crowd on their feet chantin' "Bub-ba,Bub-ba", so what the hell.)

If you're gonna play with guys like that, you do it to learn tunes and get more music background. Nothin's personal with them...it's all about the music.

Re: Same music from two different angles

PostPosted: Mon Jul 12, 2010 10:26 pm
by bluejay
jeffl wrote: I got used like a freakin' loop box. :D


But, of course, you had the loops he needed! :wink: And I know what you mean about a "solo" knowing what he wants, as that is what I think about when I'm working on one of my compositions: I hear things in my head a certain way, and the thought of trying to have someone else understand is mindboggling. Guess that's why I went with poetry instead of playwriting, lol, but then again, I sometimes write multi-speaker performance poems.

jeffl wrote: (BTW, at some point I had the crowd on their feet chantin' "Bub-ba,Bub-ba", so what the hell.)


That's outstanding!

Re: Same music from two different angles

PostPosted: Mon Jul 12, 2010 10:36 pm
by jeffl
This guy was enough of a pro that he steered us into myriad stops, double stops, half-turns, stepdowns, etc. He was a pretty good driver. :D

Re: Same music from two different angles

PostPosted: Wed Jul 14, 2010 10:01 am
by NEONMOONY
I think a lot of younger bands in general want to play louder and faster, not necessarily from lack of confidence. That's just the way it is. I was there once. I've shared shows with bands that were very high tempo and very loud.

Re: Same music from two different angles

PostPosted: Wed Jul 14, 2010 2:25 pm
by jeffl
NEONMOONY wrote:I think a lot of younger bands in general want to play louder and faster, not necessarily from lack of confidence. That's just the way it is. I was there once. I've shared shows with bands that were very high tempo and very loud.
Yeah, I don't think confidence is usually the issue either; it's youthful exuberance, testosterone, and energy. I love the youngsters, and a good number of 'em are better musicians at an early age than I'll ever be.

Re: Same music from two different angles

PostPosted: Sat Aug 07, 2010 4:29 pm
by jbone1
i know the first guys who asked me to play some dates with them were 15 years my junior at the time, and it was a very texas guitar-slinger driven band. they did some really good work on some really good covers and at the time i needed to have the stage time and space to help me expand my musical horizons on harp. at that pint i didn't sin g yet so all i had was what i could do with a harp. picture a more or less heavy metal volume drummer, a smooth funky bassist, and a guitarist with 3 or 4 25 watt fenders hooked together. then me with a 20 watt princeton. volume was certainly an issue. but despite all that may have been "wrong", we had some really good nights while it lasted. sometimes it's just about synergy.

like jeff, i try and give a band leader what they want. over many years having developed some instinct about what sounds good where and when, and what doesn't, and how much, i do take some latitude here and there. one definitely has to know when to be a sideman and when to front the band also. i prefer to play side a lot of the time. when asked to front for a while i will and i'll enjoy it thoroughly. if it's just a sideman thing i don't mind that a bit.

to really show out i like to do that at a jam. i've had times at gigs where the lead singer would give me the vocal mic and then come right back when they realized i may be as good as they were on fronting and vocals. as a sideman i don't want to show up the lead singer! but occasionally i just can't help but do what i do with gusto.
i like a band format where at least 2 people do vocals. i like to be one of them. leading is not my strong suit when it comes to the hard stuff- hiring, firing, working up material, booking gigs. that's why i like the side thing.

Re: Same music from two different angles

PostPosted: Sat Aug 07, 2010 4:55 pm
by jeffl
I like just being a sideman primarily 'cuz you have a lot more freedom as a harper to do horn comps when you don't have to sing. I love doin' horn parts. It's a good time to use octaves and play with decays and crescendoes.

I sat in with a good veteran band a few weeks ago that had a Hammond player who generally dislikes harpers; I knew his reputation, from the two guys in the band that I HAD played with before, so I figured I'd let him know right away that I'd take the horn comps when they were there. I converted him from a potential adversary into my freakin' best buddy rhythm mate in about two tunes. We ended up piggybackin' 12-bar breaks and gettin' into some light-hearted head cuttin' durin' the night and generally had a great time. It helped that he was an awesome Hammond player too. :) I respect his playin'.

I think he prob'ly had a justifiable fear of harpers 'cuz he'd been tromped on enough by half buzzed and half witted hackers lookin' to get their ya-ya's and not realizin' that playin' harp with Hammonds presents special challenges due to sharing frequency ranges.