Archive for February, 2017

Lesson With Adam Linz

February 25, 2017

Affable, adept, and completely uninhibited, Adam Linz is a strong, inimitable and irreplaceable voice on the Minneapolis jazz scene. His resume is formidable; Adam brings his New York City schooling and street-smarts to the new generation of Twin Cities bands. Check out his bio at his teaching gig: http://www.macphail.org/faculty/adam-linz/While you’re at it, buy an album by his uber-cool band, Fat Kid Wednesdays: http://www.shiftingparadigmrecords.com/fat-kid-wednesdays.html

adamlinzstill05Tone, Drive and Attitude

I started out by asking about the basic “pocket” stuff – tone and time. After hearing me play, Adam immediately, but politely, hinted that I should dig in more. “I really like the way you played that, but for me, you know, I want a little bit more aggression out of you. I want to hear Mark pull something out of it. Don’t be afraid to pull the string a little more, and don’t be afraid to play something wrong, either! I’m more of an aggressive player…” He proceeded to demonstrate a killer walking line with massive tone and relentless drive. “…and I tend to use more rhythm than you do. For me, that comes from Sam Jones. Sam Jones is really my guy. To you that might feel brash, and almost, like, too much, but in my world, the guys I grew up idolizing (play like that).”

“For me, there’s a lot of moving the right hand to get what I want” (he demonstrates how much he moves his arm to accommodate going from string to string). We talked about how bad it sounds to only use the finger with no arm. “This is my favorite college kid that I get to see all the time, he’s like, (Adam imitates, standing stiff and plucking with a wimpy sound). And I’m, like, dude, I want the kid who’s like (he imitates a wild player, swinging the bass all over). And it’s out of tune, but you don’t care because you’re just, like, ‘wow, look at that emotion that’s coming from this person’… Remember the Mingus stuff where it was all wrist.” (he plays another line, exaggerating the wrist motion, really getting a lot of velocity in the hand and pulling an absolutely devastating tone).

We switched basses so that I could try the set-up on his Saumer/Morelli with Evah strings. “I play pretty high action. For me, if I have the action a little higher, then I can pull back, but I can have the cannon if I need it.”

Time – Triplet Subdivision

“I realized all my heroes used CONSTANT rhythmic stuff, man. I’ll just walk for you.” (Adam walks a line, throwing in some amazing, off-kilter embellishments). “A lot of that drive comes from… (he starts scatting eighth-note triplets; da-ga-da, da-ga-da). Did you go through the Ray Brown book at all” (Brown, Chapter IV, “Rhythm Patterns With ‘Drops,’ 63-70 and Chapter VII, “Blues Patterns,’ 99-103)? (He plays more quarter notes, each with a triplet-eighth anticipation.) “It’s just muted, it has no (pitch) value at all, that’s part of the trip. That helps me swing so much harder than if I go… (he plays unadorned half-notes). When you play straight up the middle, some drummers have a hard time with that, especially if they’ve played with somebody that’s constantly going… (plays again with the embellishments). A lot of guys don’t do this anymore. Milt Hinton used to talk about that feeling of ‘propellment’ – of pushing forward. You don’t have to do it all the time, but just think about the ‘propellment’ of the time. (I play again, this time it felt more solid as I subdivided triplets in my head). There you go, good, That was ten times better in my opinion than what happened before because I was hearing you again. Hearing Mark actually propel the time.”

On Creativity and Not Playing Safe

“I think the way in which you play time is really cool and good, I dig it, but I just want to hear more of you. Do you know the Sam Jones tune One For Amos? He had some really nice

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You can download a pdf version here: lesson-with-adam-linz

post-bop ideas. (He wrote out the changes – Ex. 1) Can I hear you walk for a chorus? And then solo for two choruses. (I play.) Let’s talk about your walking line first. What I learned from Haden is not to be afraid to just go… (he plays repeated quarter notes on roots instead of a moving line). And it seems like you always want to play some intervallic change away from the root. I repeat notes all the time. Its giving the tune what it needs. Or, just going into a 2 feel at that point.

“The other thing I’m wondering is, when you solo, where do your ideas come from? Where does your emotion come from? Are you just hearing the bass? For me, I tend to hear the melody behind me – a lot. And then that’ll actually force me into some areas that I wasn’t into. I liked what you played the second time around there, because even if there were areas where you were like, ‘oh, I don’t know where I am,’ and stuff, it was you, you know what I mean? And that’s what I want to hear. It doesn’t matter to me that any of the guys that I studied with or played for or been around, it’s all about, like, you learn those rules so that you can break them. Jazz education is so weird these days. It’s horrible. There’s no emphasis on the individual. There’s no emphasis on you finding yourself with this” (points to the bass).
I said, “… which is what our heroes did.”
“Right. They studied the past so they could break those rules and invent the future.”

“I found out I was really attracted to the guys that were walking that line between the avant-garde world and the straight-ahead world. Peacock, Haden, Henry Grimes, Eddie Kahn, there were a bunch of them, Reggie Workman, Garrison, definitely. You realize at the 1959 Newport festival Henry Grimes played with (he counts on his fingers) Benny Goodman, Monk, and Cecil Taylor all at the same concert, then you start to go, okay, that’s serious, you know? Think about Peacock, too, playing with Albert (Ayler) and doing the straight-ahead stuff with Tony Scott, or Jimmy doing it. That kind of became my mission as a bass player.

“I wanted to talk to you a little bit about what I’ve learned from Gary Peacock, which is this (plays a little bit of a melodic line): he slides every half-step. And then there’s the whole thing about (he plays a fast imitation of Gary, with lots of fast, articulate runs) that kind of stuff that he does so well. Do you listen to him much? The Towner stuff is really my favorite, the duos, ‘cause you really get to hear him exposed. A thing he talked about is taking time away from the instrument and trying to find yourself beyond that, you know what I mean? Gary quit for four years and taught biology at the University of Oregon.

“I have a lot of people in town that hire me because they’ll go, ‘do you know this tune?’ and I’m like, ‘no, let’s play it.” And I’m not afraid to sound like shit the first time around. And I think so many guys are just, like, so afraid to play the wrong thing, right?

“I want you to just let go now. I feel like you’re such a great player, but I still feel like you’re trying to bust through on even just like, ‘who am I on this thing?’ as a pizz player. And I know that feeling so bad. I’m grateful that I was playing free from a very young age. This town is great for that.”

Chromaticism: Bebop and Persichetti

“When you solo, do you find that you get caught in certain areas? How do you practice being an acrobat on the bass? Also, I’m wondering how you think about bebop. Not in terms of rhythm, I want to talk about specifically note choices. When I was coming up, bebop was this very mysterious thing. It’s this language and it’s this culture and this whole way of thinking, and I’m like, ‘isn’t it just scales with chromaticism?’ That’s exactly what it is – how tricky and how slick can you add chromaticism. What we’re trying to do is use twentieth century (classical atonal techniques) to invade bebop. Yusef Lateef was really into Elliott Carter. Coltrane – super into Elliott Carter. Do you deal with Persichetti at all? Do you deal with the sharp 23rd chord?” I was not hip. Adam wrote out a twelve-note polychord based on stacked seventh chords – CMaj7, a DMaj7 above it, with an F-sus7 on top (Ex. 2. This technique is covered in Persichetti, chapter 3, esp. 87-90).

“Now when you play, like on the blues, are you seeing a bunch of stacked chords in your mind? That could be alternates for the dominants. Hopefully this will get you to start thinking about stacks on top of stacks, so that you feel like you have more options when you improvise. So now, can we go back and play the blues and have you think about this idea while we do it? (This time there was a lot more space and freedom; playing chord patterns in far-flung keys gave me the confidence to have strong rhythmic gestures) Now it sounds like you have ideas. And all of a sudden now, we have vocabulary. It becomes rhythmic, right? We know what the notes are, we know what’s going to happen. And it sound like we’re actually on the edge of getting away from the tonality.” I pointed out that this sounds like a lot of harmolodics, and how I love Ornette Coleman’s music. Adam agreed; “He’s so good at taking bebop and putting that twist on it.”

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Works Cited:

Ray Brown, Ray Brown’s Bass Method: Essential Scales, Patterns, and Exercises, Hal Leonard, 1963. Print.

Sam Jones, “One for Amos,” Something in Common (Muse, 1977), Compact Disc.

Vincent Persichetti, Twentieth-Century Harmony: Creative Aspects and Practice, Norton, 1961. Print.

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Lesson With Jeff Bailey

February 4, 2017

While in the Twin Cities I was lucky enough to get some time with Jeff Bailey, one of the younger breed who’s figured out how to succeed in the new economy of the music business. His experience as a player includes a lot of interesting and diverse projects. He also finds time to be the head of the bass department at McNally Smith College of Music in St. Paul. I suspected he’d have a lot of teaching ideas and I wasn’t disappointed.

Here’s his bio: http://www.mcnallysmith.edu/faculty/jeff-bailey

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The Transition to Upright

Most of Jeff’s students in the bass program at McNally Smith are native electric players; he talked a lot about helping them make  the switch to upright. “It takes the whole first semester, sometimes through end of Sophomore into Junior year. We’re literally just working on scales. It’s a huge instrument for them and unless they’re used to playing fretless, their brain isn’t used to making the minor (pitch) adjustments. They’re used to being asked to play shapes, but not to be accountable for the tone or for the pitch.”

And so I’ll sit there and make them do something easy (sings a slow walking line – “doom, doom, doom”). “We’ll do a lot of just like, F major. And we’ll talk about the shifting points, I made up all these bowing games for them. You know it’s still a neck, it’s still a bass, but the job is a little bit different – how our muscles need to work.

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You can download this here: jeffbaileyexamples

He has an  exercise that he’ll assign for electric players to get used to classical upright fingering (ex. 1). He’ll do it pizz and with the bow. Then they’ll do it up an octave to get used to the different shapes of thumb position with the harmonic “G”

He showed me another nice exercise for pitch (ex. 2), a series of two-note shapes. The challenge is to match the pitch of the same notes from the previous measure, even though they’re on different strings and in different octaves.

Listening

Jeff’s approach is geared to raising his students awareness, which means stressing aural learning instead of just reading notes. “I got really tired of books. Because when you’re staring at the page,(it’s harder to hear what’s going on in the music).

“Some of them are so anti-jazz, because their version of jazz is cocktail *bleep*. So, I’ll get a collection of five or six versions of a thing and I’ll say, ‘for the next ten minutes I’m going to play you different stuff. Just raise your hand when you hear the top of the blues form.’”

Listening also means transcribing: “I have them doing a lot of transcribing… Before they even start upright they’ve already transcribed Ron Carter. I make them do a transcription (on electric) of the intro and a couple choruses of Ray Brown on Ernestine Anderson’s Never Make your Move Too Soon record, “As Long as I Live”; It’s like a ‘Ray Brown feature.’ So they get it on electric, but that’s almost a year before (they pick up the upright), so there’s all this stuff that’s already in their ear, like little recipe cards. And we’ll just do quarter notes, no fancy stuff.“

Tone

Teaching good tone, for Jeff, is also about listening: “I’m like ‘you gotta get the chicken wing.’ I’m a Ray Brown nut… So I put them in a corner and I want to see this chicken wing. (he mimes playing a bass with the old-school, one-finger Ray Brown-style. I notice he’s doing a big circle with his arm and engaging his whole body.  I mention this to him.) “Yeah, I get freaked out because they start out going ‘doink, doink, doink’ (he mimics a student playing using only the finger). Number one, it’s an awful sound, but it’s like, well, there’s going to be more required of you, so take it slow. But it’s also, like, this (big arm motion) is supposed to match that cymbal (he points to an imaginary ride cymbal).”

I use the Mike Richmond book; I love it – it’s very systematic. And I’ll ask them, like, ‘memorize this one chorus.’ Really just half-position, first position stuff. And I want to hear them just grind it out. And I turn them to the corner – we have these little practice rooms – and I make them stand in the corner. I want them to feel the power of the notes moving.

I talk about ice skating, because they’re so used to the electric bass ringing for them, and if you want more bass you just turn up the bass, so there’s all this stuff that’s just a gimme, So one way for us to work on tone is to think of the ice skater with one skate on the ice at all times (he mimes skating), so we want the long notes, you know, ‘booommmm, booommmm, booommmm,’ not ‘do, do, do.’ We’ll literally spend a whole semester on F, which is fine.”

“Graciously, Gary (Raynor – Jeff’s esteemed colleague at McNally Smith) has set up all the basses in the school with all different kinds of strings. He pulled out his bass, giving me an opportunity to geek out on the tone of his gut strings.  

Technology

Jeff’s program takes full advantage of digital technology:“I also use Logic (recording software) a lot, and I’ll record them, and then visually we can see where they’re off, but also sonically.” He’ll have the student record the same lick “ten times, or twenty times – synch into it, so you’re not worried about notes, you’re not worried about shifting, it’s really one-dimensional. Just go for evenness and length.” They will look at the waveform on the screen “because some of them are great students, but they’re ears are not really great yet. So, visual learning helps.”

“I have a bunch of real loops that I use, I don’t know if you know the ‘Loop Loft,’ but it’s great (https://www.thelooploft.com/collections/drum-loops). I’ll download these loops and get something going (mimes drummer playing a steady ride.). Sometimes I’ll bring in a ride cymbal and play along.”

At McNally Smith, students are required to record themselves for a portfolio – this is built into the curriculum. This blows me away – that every student will come away from his class with representative recordings that they can use for hustling gigs.  Also, “for my tests in my class, fifty percent of it is them going to the room by themselves and recording… in the computer in Logic with a playalong track.

But Jeff knows there can be a downside to technology: “One of the papers I’m working on for my masters is about ‘The Negative Effect of YouTube Music Lessons,’ because they’re watching and they’re very visual,  and they’re kind of crutching their way through all these remarkable things but they’re not (going through all the necessary steps.)” On the limitations of distance learning and YouTube learning: “I feel like the student’s perception of what they’ve gleaned from it is somehow.. power-packed. But you can only do so much self-assessment of, like, was I in tune? Even if it’s, like, a Skype lesson the compression gets a little weird…”

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Works cited:

Ernestine Anderson, Never Make Your Move Too Soon, “As Long As I Live,” Concord, 1981. Compact Disc.

https://www.thelooploft.com/collections/drum-loops

Mike Richmond, Modern Walking Bass, Pedxing Music, 1994. Print.