A Suggestion for Practice
It won’t come as news if I say that the best way to really get your jazz chops together is to transcribe. Nor would you be surprised to hear that playing along with the original recordings is also a good idea.
But some of the most powerful practising I’ve ever done involves going a stage further. Playing along to the recording and progressively working on matching my playing to it so exactly that I effectively disappear into it.
The goal is to get a solo down so precisely that someone walking past the room would just think “hey someone’s playing a CD of the Red Garland Trio” (or whoever). Or perhaps someone with cuter ears might think “hey that’s the Red Garland Trio, but the piano’s mixed louder than I’m used to hearing…”
IT’S THE WAY THAT YOU DO IT
Ellington’s famous advice is often only half-understood. There’s nuance in every microsecond of a good jazz solo. And the detail is where the magic is.
Spending some time doing this is real power practising – you’re actually absorbing loads of different things at once.
Timing, phrasing, swing, tone, dynamics.
You’re copying of course, but you’re also absorbing a deep understanding of the solo in the context of the changes, interaction with the rest of the band and so on. Pretend the choices being made are yours. It’ll also give you more confidence for when you have to make the choices.
In a strange little way, you wind up rather putting yourself in their moment in that studio long ago, somehow becoming them. You’re not just getting their notes, you’re somehow getting them.
Working on any music in this kind of way lets you get into more and more detail the deeper you go. It’s like a fractal.
I’m not really a fan of NLP, but this is an intense version of a useful idea they employ, which is sometimes referred to as modelling.
So there you go. Dig out a solo you really admire – has to be a favourite, because you’ll be spending a lot of time with it – hours over days. Saturate yourself in it. The deeper you get into it, the more you’ll get out of it.
And… Let’s Get Lost…