For me, it means building and strengthening the muscles of the embouchure so that I am able to execute the crazy ideas that pop into my head as easily at the end of the gig as the beginning. Although…… I know I play, sometimes, more “music” when the chops are hurt’n and stiff. Can’t rely on the fancy schmancy, so I have to rely on pure musical ideas without fluff. What a concept…….
In other words, I need to build endurance, flexibility and range. When I was a busy freelance player in New York, I was “working”, playing the trombone almost every day, so the basic maintenance was not an issue. All of the basic maintenance could be taken care warming up for each rehearsal or gig, plus the actual music played during the gig, whatever that was. Consequently, in those days practicing was about getting better, improving and working on the music that I was playing on my gigs.
Now-a-days, my musical life is filled with activities outside the trombone even though I try to play as much as I can, but to be honest, I only keep the chops in a place that can be tuned-up relatively fast and in a place where I can play a “normal” gig without chop endurance issues.
Preparing for a jazz gig is something else of course. Each of the guys contributed a piece and we’ll be playing four of my pieces. The goal is to learn each piece so that one can be free with it. So, I have four new pieces to learn and I have to learn, relearn or “bring back” my pieces.
I first play through the melodies over and over so they are absorbed and memorized, then move on to the harmonies where I start with the harmonic chord root and function movement. All this is done with a metronome playing on 2 & 4 for faster pieces, even st8s pieces and on quarter notes on the slower pieces. If there is something that doesn’t flow, then I bring down the tempo to an easily playable tempo and gradually bring the tempo up to the real tempo. Analyzing the harmonic rhythm or general tonal centers is also important.
The goal is to be free in the form so that the ideas flow freely. The maintenance work mentioned early helps to insure that the ideas are executed through the instrument.
My goal as an improviser is to “play” like a composer. In this case that means applying compositional material from the piece of the moment into a development, while at the same time interacting with the other players. Usually the interaction is with one of the other players sometimes two and occasionally with all those playing at the time.
The Quintet Includes: Bob Mintzer – Tenor Sax, Peter Erskine – Drums, John Beasley – Piano & Edwin Livingaston – Bass.
Thursday September 9 at Vitello’s in Studio City CA.
Vitello's Reservations & Info: (818) 769-0905
4349 Tujunga Ave. Studio City CA 91604 www.vitellosrestaurant.com
Reservations are suggested.
Hope to see you there/then.