Tuesday, February 21, 2012
Reading Music on the Jazz Bandstand
I appologize in advance for the lack of paragraph structure in this post but the wonderful Blogspot editor didn't want to allow them today. RE: reading music on the jazz bandstand. I had occaision to offer advice to some other bass players inquiring about collections of fake books and there usability on an iPhone, Android, iPad, or iPod. Thought I'd share this with Bill Evans readers. You can Google for a CD with about 8 fake books included in PDF format with an index. Warning: the site might be run by the Russian Music Mafia, or a "trap site" designed by ASCAP and BMI to trap you into making a $ transaction so you might wind up in a law suit. But you would run the same risk asking for the same CD from a friend or friend of a friend. I'm no lawyer but either party in a buy, sell of give-away transaction might wind up on the wrong side of a law suit. The sites, just like to old fake book sellers, move around and change names a lot. I assume the iGigBook product adds "usability" to these PDF files, quickly calling the requested file up. Actually, there is another product that is almost as useful. The iReal B app has the changes, not the melody of 1200 tunes from these books arranged in a very fast, call-up search function and can "play" the changes in a variety of styles, all 12 keys and the choice of any tempo, in a piano, bass and drums format. One drawback is that the piano algorithm knows nothing of the concept, "good voice leading" so it sounds pretty corny. The bass lines are functional but disjointed a lot of the time. There is an editing function so you can correct the old real book bad changes, or spruce them up with a personel touch, and even add more tunes. The "iReal B" is really the best way to distribute music for jazz players as on-site transposition of older tunes for singer's keys is a must. The chords can also be shown in numbers (here substituting for Roman Numerals) which is the absolute best way for a bass player to learn tunes. The 1200 sets of changes (never say "tunes" or "songs") are available from an associated User Forum, not the sellers of iReal B, to keep things under control. As far a actally using either product, last night at a jazz concert in a club the headliner pianist called up "I'm Old Fashioned." The younger bassist who wasn't sure of the tune, searched and very quickly found the tune in iReal B on his iPhone and refreshed himself with the changes in a couple of minutes, then played it beautifully. I think I know why he didn't put his iPhone on a nearby music stand - nobody likes to be a "Real Book Reader" on the bandstand. I certainly have criticized this practice in my writings about jazz. Next week, this same concert venue will feature Ira Sullivan as the headliner. Those who work with Ira know that he is likely to segue into Coltrane's "Central Park West" right at the last note of the old ballad, "The Things We Did Last Summer." You never know what Ira will play, neither does he. The accompaning group must immediately recognize the tune and back him playing it in the right key, and play beautifully. It's a challenge but well worth the effort. An iPhone, iPad, or iPod with a million tunes are useless. You must rely on your ears, your experience, and your musicianship.