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Feedback on my improv if you would

Ne0Wolf7

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Hello everyone,
Its been a good while since I actively participated on the forum. School is hard.
In school, since our numbers are drasticly reduced due to covid, jazz ensemble is no longer a big band, but a jam session. So, instead of just wanting to learn to improvise, I have been forced :p. Anyway, feedback is limited becasue of the time constraint, so I would be glad to share while I'm still too sleep deprived to be self consious and hopefully get some feedback. You don't have to point out the technical problems, I'm painfully aware already (though you are welcome to, especaily the intonation, haha). I'm most interested in feedback on the improv, though all comments are welcome.
What I've done here is record myself three times, all together with harmony on the head, and one solo for each of me. I didn't do anything to the signal as not to obscure judegemnt.

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View: https://soundcloud.com/user-100691555/mercy-mercy-mercy/s-d9Uk4hN8Mhp
 

turf3

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1) use your tongue to start and stop notes cleanly. That's right for this style. Especially in the part of the head that starts at bar 9.
2) Use dynamics. Don't just drop a note out there and let it sit, do something.
3) Play with conviction. You sound like you're afraid of it.
4) Be more sure of where the beat is. You can play less while being more firm with the beat. 5) It sounds too much like noodling. Try to think of playing actual little melodies.
 

jbtsax

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This is not really my "taste" in style, but it may offer some melodic and rhythmic ideas of ways to improvise on this song. You can listen to the whole thing if you like, but it goes "off the rails" toward the end IMO. In tunes like this where the chords don't change, the "blues scale" and the "pentatonic scale" can be a good place to start. :)

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Wade Cornell

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You're playing lots of chord tones in your improvisation, which is OK but it's not like you're creating a melodic line. When playing a standard it's a good idea to think in terms of a variation or alternate melody. You've got a few cute tricks you employ, but IMHO it's not a good replacement for "substance" and continuity. Put the horn aside and sing your improvisation. Now try to play what you sang. I can guarantee that you won't be singing the same as what you played, but a real improvisation is being able to play what you would sing.
 

Colin the Bear

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Tempo is too slow imo. This number is about groove not harmony or melody. It has to make you want to move your body, like the example. It's a fun piece so the fun has to come across.
A slow ballad may more suit your style. Something with melody and clever harmony. Misty perhaps. Nice melody. Subtle harmony and in Eb. There's an old Ballad of the month with a backing track and dots/chords.
Keep at it. It will come when you're least expecting it. ;)
Move onto the dance stuff later.
 

Wade Cornell

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Tempo is too slow imo. This number is about groove not harmony or melody. It has to make you want to move your body, like the example. It's a fun piece so the fun has to come across.
A slow ballad may more suit your style. Something with melody and clever harmony. Misty perhaps. Nice melody. Subtle harmony and in Eb. There's an old Ballad of the month with a backing track and dots/chords.
Keep at it. It will come when you're least expecting it. ;)
Move onto the dance stuff later.

Not true! Here's thee original recording:
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By my count both are pretty close to 88 BPM. The way one handles the rhythm can make a huge difference. The crescendos can make it seem faster in parts, but I've always heard this as "measured" in it's original form that fits with the way Cannonball says "mercy, mercy, mercy" in the beginning. It's a "woe is me" feeling. Others may have increased the tempo and changed the feeling, but if NeOWolf7 is working with the original concept his timing is spot on. You're right though about the rhythm needing some attention. NeOWolf7 asked us not to consider his "technical problems", but instead consider his improvisation. To me that means concept, melody, continuity, phrasing, feel, etc.

I've ragged on endlessly about leaving behind "playing changes" or trying to use improvisations for showing off ones technical abilities (or lack of same). Licks, tricks and arpeggios are OK to practice, but suck for preforming to most audiences. A performer needs to be telling their story through the music...singing through their horn. This can be done at any level and very simply, it does not require mastery of the instrument. It does require integrity and a feeling for the music. Rhythm comes from the body, you're dancing with the music (inside).

It's never too early (or late) to be trying to make the horn your voice.
 

Colin the Bear

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Point taken about the tempo. I get 88 too. However I'm still tapping my foot. The piece is about the groove. Zaniwul could groove.
 

Wade Cornell

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Absolutely! I saw Cannonball's group around this time live in San Francisco. Amazing experience. He had Yusef Lateef along with his "regulars". Joe Zawinul always amazed and went on of course to play with other greats. Groove is very important and it's got to be in you to make it come out your horn. I just call it internal dancing as it's darn difficult to really dance with our horns. Grace Kelly manages, but old guys like us shouldn't even try!
 

turf3

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Well, about tempo, I think the 88 bpm is kind of a meh in between tempo. (Yes, I know that's where Cannon took it, but that's Cannonball Adderley and his group, they could make anything funky.)

For me, I'd either juice it up to around 120 (and this is where I would put it for a beginning improvisor), or I'd drop it down to around 72 and think of the Ray Charles band doing it. Thing is, at those low temps, you've got to stand on the back beat and lay way back from the beat, and you've got to have a rock solid rhythm section to support the horns laying way back. If you listen to Cannon's famous recorded version you'll hear just how far back the horns are off the beat.

OP, I think the reason your version doesn't do much is partly because of that meh tempo, but you need to use this tune as a lesson in how to be funky. Not just funky, but FONKEH.

The melody is dead simple. The chords are trivial - heck, there's only one chord for that whole first 8 bar vamp. What this tune has when correctly performed, is FONK. I would suggest that before you try to drape a few little noodles over the chords, you need to get some rhythm into the head. I would suggest you listen to several different top bands play this tune:

Basie, Buddy Rich, of course Cannon's group, Maceo Parker, jaco Pastorius, and James Brown!!! have all done versions of this. Note how these groups accent in the head. Note how when they stop a note they don't just let it die off like an expiring sparrow; they play a stopped note like this: DAAAHT!!. Here's another thing; when you've got a couple long notes where the second one's off the beat - like in the last 4 of the tune, you've got three eighths pickups and then two dotted quarters - put a little gap in between those two dotted quarters - it helps emphasize the off-off-beatness of the second dotted quarter.

Frankly, I've got the JB version in my head phones right now and I'd recommend that as an exercise in how to play this tune properly SLOW and FONKY. Imagine that you've got Bernard Purdy back there SOCKIN' the two and four. STAND on that two and four, baby. The backbeats are where the music is, in this style. If, OP, you choose to work this tune in the slow style, get yourself a backing track with a real backbeat, stand on those twos and fours, and try to lay back off the beat.

Until you learn how to put some FONK into the head, trying to noodle around on the changes is just wasting time in my opinion.

When you feel like the head is properly passionate and funky, then try to work up phrases that are just as funky as the head. If it just lies there going tweedle tweedle, don't play that one again.

Now I'm listening to the Brad Rambur/Eric Marienthal live version of the tune. Listen to the solos here. They are appropriate for the style. This ain't no bebop; this ain't no samba; this ain't no Lennie Tristano, this is funky-butt dance hall music.

The whole thing in all of jazz is RHYTHM and SOUND. No one really cares about the notes. Think of Ornette - heck, he'd play any notes he thought sounded interesting at the time - but he was always, always dead on with rhythm.

Once you get back into live playing, if your band leader says "tone it down, this isn't the Funky Butt Dance Hall" you can always play limper, but till then you need to model some real R&B sax playing for soloing on this tune. Remember -

Accents.
Rhythm.
Don't just let a note lie there, do something with it.
Rhythm.
How you stop the note is at least as important as how you start it.
Rhythm.
Have a distinctive sound quality.
Rhythm.

I'll leave you with this excellent example of phrasing on the head of this tune. It's not the only way to phrase it, but it's a damn good one. Try to duplicate this, then spread that whole feel out into a solo.

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6441

 
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There's a word I can't find in the posts above: staccato. Eric uses a lot of it and it's one of his funk signatures.
 

Ne0Wolf7

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You're playing lots of chord tones in your improvisation, which is OK but it's not like you're creating a melodic line. When playing a standard it's a good idea to think in terms of a variation or alternate melody. You've got a few cute tricks you employ, but IMHO it's not a good replacement for "substance" and continuity. Put the horn aside and sing your improvisation. Now try to play what you sang. I can guarantee that you won't be singing the same as what you played, but a real improvisation is being able to play what you would sing.
You're completely correctthat what I would sing isn't what I played. I think I need to work on knowing what a pitch a note will sound before I play it, when I sing, I dont think "okay, now here comes an a..." which is also contributing to the lare amount of chord tones
It isnt a problem when I play classical because the notes are chosen for me
 

turf3

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There's a word I can't find in the posts above: staccato. Eric uses a lot of it and it's one of his funk signatures.
Really, what I am hearing (in all the various versions) is more accurately termed "Marcato" - but jazz players would typically vocalize it as DAAHT!. In other words, the note is started with the tongue, it has a short length but long enough to clearly define the pitch, and it is stopped off hard with the tongue. This is not quite the same thing as classical staccato.
 

Colin the Bear

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I thought that was pasta. :confused:
Tom And Jerry Dancing GIF by HBO Max
 

6441

 
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Really, what I am hearing (in all the various versions) is more accurately termed "Marcato"
Here's a short excerpt from Eric's lessons:

2 Key Scale Exercise (with slurring and staccato)
2 scale exercise with 2 slur 2 staccato
Finger Twisters - Staccato and Chromatic Exercise
Basic Exercise No 7 and staccato version

That's where I was coming from, man, ya dig? :D
 

Wade Cornell

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With due respect to Turf3 and others: it's easy to criticize and give specific recommendations which are correct but merely technical. There is no flow if the player is concentrating on how long they hold a note, manipulate it's tail, or just play it faster. There needs to be an internalization of how you hear this in order to play it well. Music is more than each note articulated according to a set of principles. It must come from within the player. Your mental library of styles, or your ability to make a piece "yours", is what defines a player as a creative artist and something more than a correct, but boring technician. The points made are certainly not wrong, and give ideas to practice, but that's not how one should perform. It's got to flow, which doesn't require technical wizardry. It does require internalizing the rhythm and the tune.
 

Colin the Bear

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Might I suggest that performance is quite a way off and several technical issues need sorting first.
 

Wade Cornell

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Might I suggest that performance is quite a way off and several technical issues need sorting first.
No doubt about that Colin, and there are lots of good suggestions for practice. It's a matter of having a goal and not getting hung up in the technical aspects. Lots of good technical players around who have (IMHO) nothing to give an audience as a performer. We can practice with a metronome, which is good for developing rhythmic coordination, but it won't help a player to feel the music and interpret a song the way you are capable of. Similarly technical aspects of attacks, sustain, dynamics, phrasing...etc. can all be practiced, but doesn't mean a thing if you can't hear the music in your head when improvising and how to use those tools.

We need to practice using the tools, but they are just tools, and not music. While we may not be able to tongue quickly, have enough breath for a long phrase, hold a note without wavering, or have good vibrato, it shouldn't stop a player from hearing what sounds good to them and attempting it. It can also inform the player what requires practice.

I've seen and heard way too many players who have a magnificent set of tools and absolutely nothing to say. It may be that they never had talent and are only capable of being a musical technician...hard to say. However IMHO any player should continually try to develop their ear and apply themselves to making music and being creative. Music is much more than a collection of tools, it's having a creative vision and using those tools to make the vision real. This can be done at the earliest of stages of learning and encouraged. The Suzuki method of teaching emphasizes listening and playing by ear as the first step and reading later. The success of the method is well acknowledged.

Long way of saying one (IMHO) should always keep engaged towards a goal beyond technical issues. Always play and practice with your musical mind engaged as it's about so much more than just developing coordination, tricks, and memorized riffs and arpeggios.
 
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nigeld

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I‘m not a competent improvisor, but here’s my tuppenyworth.

@Ne0Wolf7 - you have a good tone and you can play the notes.
But your improvisation sounds a bit tentative. So my advice right now is:
1. Give it more welly - sound more confident, even if you aren’t.
2. Have more of a plan. How does your improvisation relate to the melody?
 
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