Why Is It?

Xstr8edgtnrdrmrX

Well-known member
that we all treat playing jazz as this huge, monumental, Earth shaking, stress inducing event?

I read soooo many people saying " I got a jazz, gig, and am soooo nervous about......"

what is the pressure?
what makes jazz the bellweather?

it happened to me too 10 years ago when I got my first legit jazz gig. But now, I can't even remember what I was sos worked up about. And it is a WAAAYYYY easier gig than most metal and punk bands I have been in, both from a musical and logistical standpoint. Granted, we are not playing crazy, super fast, 60's Free bop/fusion etc...bbut still.

Why did we let jazz become this feared monster in our culture?
 

someguy01

Well-known member
Speaking only for myself: There is a mystique that's almost canon like that surrounds jazz drummers/drumming. It's been made out to be one of the most complex things on earth outside of particle physics. If you can't play like Buddy or Gene or Tony, you're a hack that has no business in the genre. There is also the jazz snobbery, of which we're all aware, and it can be fear inducing, or in my case, off-putting.
Just my musically ignorant $.02
 

C.M. Jones

Well-known member
I can't say I've ever feared jazz. It's just never been a genre I've wanted to steep myself in. I've dabbled in jazz/fusion with the intent of being a well-rounded drummer, but a passion for those styles has never gripped me. Therefore, I've never feared jazz gigs, because I've never really pursued them, and when, on rare occasion, I've sat in on jazz sessions as a favor to other musicians, I've been pretty laid back about it, as I've had nothing to prove. I've gotten through those experiences just fine. At the end of the day, it's all about sitting down and playing.
 
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Bozozoid

Well-known member
Well?..in my area I had a sit in gig with Ryan Kaiser...now I'm a Bad Company..Humble Pie kinda guy. He starts this crazy time signature thing and I'm fu..... lost. He had to totally dumb down for drummer boy to comprehend what was going down. I never felt so humbled in my life. A night of pure I don't belong here feeling
 

GruntersDad

Administrator - Mayor
Staff member
Yep. I think all of the comping is the issue. Not just 4/4 bass and snare. But I think if more time would be given to practice of this style the fear would go away.
 

someguy01

Well-known member
He's just recently written about the adjacent "snobbery" you mentioned: http://www.cruiseshipdrummer.com/2021/07/the-demon-haunted-world-jazz-snobs.html
So I read this, thanks for the link. He has a few interesting takes, but his final theory of "blaming the south" is written with a total ignorance of that part of America. It's laden with stereotypes that I expect from someone in the PNW who has never set foot in a state below the Mason-Dixon line and definitely never stooped so low as to engage with the citizenry of said states.
I have lived and worked in many a southern state and the stereotypes only fit the loud minority.
 
I read soooo many people saying " I got a jazz, gig, and am soooo nervous about......"
Really? I don't recall reading this on here ever.
I guess that lots of people fear it because they've heard of the competitive nature of the 40s jam sessions in New York. No sheets, extreme tempos (slow and fast), intricate harmonies, rhythms, coordination and song structures. I believe it was tougher back then, because you had to learn a lot more by ear and remember things - no iReal Pro or Real Books.
From wikipedia ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bebop ): "Part of the atmosphere created at jams like the ones found at Minton's Playhouse was an air of exclusivity: the "regular" musicians would often reharmonize the standards, add complex rhythmic and phrasing devices into their melodies, or "heads," and play them at breakneck tempos in order to exclude those whom they considered outsiders or simply weaker players."
Since I wasn't there when it happened, I can't say how true all of that is, but I've found that MOST Jazz guys at sessions are rather nice and happy to accept newcomers. But it can happen that you run into a jerk who wants to see "what you got". It still takes some skills and knowledge, though. There's a century-long tradition created by extraordinary musicians - if you just play the same groove for 5 minutes, don't know more than 10 tunes and can't play solos, it can still be awkard.
 

spleeeeen

Platinum Member
For me, trepidation came by way of unfamiliarity. Growing up, I always had to search high and low to hear jazz while there was plenty of rock, pop & country attached to the frequencies on my radio dial. Fortunately when I got to high school, I became friends with someone whose dad was into jazz. This gave me a point of entry unavailable to most folks in my small city and it was sort of live changing.
 

toddbishop

Platinum Member
I guess playing that kind of music suggests some kind of technical ability, and flexibility in using it-- you have to be able to improvise and solo, while keeping track of larger musical structures. And you have to know some styles that not a lot of people know, and some tunes-- some fairly arcane stuff as far as daily musical life in the 21st century goes. There's always some uncertainty about what will I be asked to do, and will I be able to do it. Also you have to be asked.

Oh, and you also have people like the 80/20 drummer guy making videos portraying the jazz world as being governed by cruelty or whatever he's saying. Caricatures like that are an easy sell for youtube video people.

So I read this, thanks for the link. He has a few interesting takes, but his final theory of "blaming the south" is written with a total ignorance of that part of America. It's laden with stereotypes that I expect from someone in the PNW who has never set foot in a state below the Mason-Dixon line and definitely never stooped so low as to engage with the citizenry of said states.
I have lived and worked in many a southern state and the stereotypes only fit the loud minority.

Don't take that part too seriously, the south is splendid. But that stuff is a real part of American character over the whole country-- they're totally submissive to certain kinds of authority, totally defiant of others-- especially when it's based on knowledge, and not enforced by violence. Somebody knowing something, and knowing that they know it, is massively triggering to a certain mind set. So when there's a type of music that depends on knowing a lot of stuff, that has a baseline of ability to participate, of course some people are going to take it as a personal affront.

If there is jazz snobbery among musicians, it's basically like if you talked to a journeyman carpenter and started telling him how to use a table saw-- or went in looking for a job based on having done it at home. Normally people wouldn't be outraged if the carpenter corrected their errors and didn't immediately hire them for a union job. But musicians aren't supposed to take their own trade seriously, and the same response gets them this accusation of snobbery.
 

Hollywood Jim

Platinum Member
I'm basically a rock, blues and funk drummer. I have gone to a few jazz jams. I did just fine playing jazz. Mainly because 60 years ago my drum teacher taught me how to play jazz. But I will share with you why many drummers might feel nervous playing jazz.

1. In most cases jazz is played at a low volume. When playing drums at low volumes your mistakes will stand out. Your technique, and your accuracy of tempo will be fully exposed. It can be hard for rock drummers to play fast and a low volume.
2. The rhythm of the song is kept with the hi hat and the ride cymbal. The other musicians in the band are listening for your pattern on your ride cymbal and your hi hat click. In my rock band I can't even hear the pattern on my ride cymbal. And in rock music the click of the hi hat is very hard to hear. In rock music the bass drum and the snare provides the rhythm of the song. I was playing with some jazz musicians at a local jazz jam. After I was done the bass player commented that I played very well, but I did not need to play the bass drum so loud. And I was barely hitting the bass drum!
3. Playing 2/4, 4/4, 3/4 and 6/8 is no problem. But there is always that fear that the band will start playing some strange off tempo time signature.
4. Many jazz tunes include drum solos. If you are afraid to solo, jazz is not for you. Actually that is what I like about jazz. It is very friendly to drum solos. You need to be ready to trade fours. If you don't know what that means, find out before you play jazz.
5. You need to know how to play with brushes. And when to use brushes. And which songs sound better with brushes.
6. And lastly, unless you listen to classic and contemporary jazz tunes you won't be familiar with jazz tunes. This is not a major issue, but it helps a great deal to be familiar with the song you are playing.

All of these things can create pressure on many drummers who don't normally play jazz.


.
 

someguy01

Well-known member
Somebody knowing something, and knowing that they know it, is massively triggering to a certain mind set.
It's not really about the knowledge, it's about how it's conveyed. People, in my experience, are willing to learn as long as the person with the knowledge isn't condescending with said knowledge.
When someone comes in and immediately starts using technical jargon and multi-syllable words like they read the thesaurus beforehand makes the majority shut down as they feel as though they're being talked down to or being told in an offhand way that they're less than.
Southerners and Midwesterners also hold stereotypes about coastal folks and the aforementioned is a large one.
The jazz community has the same kind of thing going on with the loud ones (not necessarily the majority), they are condescending with their expertise and it makes folks like myself, who actually enjoy the music, not want to learn because, well, eff that guy!
 

Xstr8edgtnrdrmrX

Well-known member
I think people can kind of associate jazz as just complex bebop stuff instead of like standards. It's a pretty wide genre.

this is definitely true...
I guess playing that kind of music suggests some kind of technical ability, and flexibility in using it-- you have to be able to improvise and solo, while keeping track of larger musical structures. And you have to know some styles that not a lot of people know, and some tunes-- some fairly arcane stuff as far as daily musical life in the 21st century goes. There's always some uncertainty about what will I be asked to do, and will I be able to do it. Also you have to be asked.

Oh, and you also have people like the 80/20 drummer guy making videos portraying the jazz world as being governed by cruelty or whatever he's saying. Caricatures like that are an easy sell for youtube video people.

or the movie Whiplash, which was just a travesty - in every aspect of the word - for drumming.

for me personally, I hear sooo many guys tell horror stories of the non-drummer musicians spending whole session just cutting down the drummer...especially for "not keeping good time". I have also had a few sessions like this, where after it was over, many of the other players would also complain about the leader "yelling at us for stuff we weren't doing wrong"
 

toddbishop

Platinum Member
It's not really about the knowledge, it's about how it's conveyed.
Yeah, that's part of the problem, a simple matter of fact conversation about the the thing is interpreted as condescending. You get it from people who are really not serious about music, they're serious about their ego. Many of the people I learned the most from, I didn't like-- or I didn't like them at first. Or I didn't like their playing. None of it matters.

Here's the most important part of that post:

The thing to do [...] is to get serious about learning. All that requires is to have some humility about the task ahead of you, to stop the BS, and to learn to listen and take in information— all the time, from any and all sources. And not get mad at people who outperform you, or who know more than you, or who don't stroke your ego and self-delusion. Those are all learning opportunities, and only the biggest losers in this game pass them up for the sake of their ego.

I've seen many people like that.

Anyway, I don't want to derail this thread into some other conversation, but I was asked to comment.
 

Otto

Platinum Member
Todd, I think you found it.

The passable level of skills for a jazz style is more complex than a passable level of skill for most other styles. Can't really just sit on a dotted eighth in jazz like you can sit on 2&4 in rock for example...need to be able to converse with a few more syllables when speaking the smelly beast that is jazz! But why the anxiety?

A side effect of the egocentric nature of our cultures? I know I would be nervous though Im pretty sure I would be passable...its really about the fact i would not be portraying my best art - which is really saying i have more value for myself than i have for the art i make.

No amount of realizing this makes it easy to undo a lifetime of missing out on the grandeur of what flows 'through me' for the blinding need of 'me' by setting aside my ego and allowing my own mediocrity to flitter about. I get there sometimes...laughing at my own humanity...but its hard to let the self evaluation go and be 'in the moment' consistently.
 
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dmacc_2

Well-known member
that we all treat playing jazz as this huge, monumental, Earth shaking, stress inducing event?

I read soooo many people saying " I got a jazz, gig, and am soooo nervous about......"

what is the pressure?
what makes jazz the bellweather?

it happened to me too 10 years ago when I got my first legit jazz gig. But now, I can't even remember what I was sos worked up about. And it is a WAAAYYYY easier gig than most metal and punk bands I have been in, both from a musical and logistical standpoint. Granted, we are not playing crazy, super fast, 60's Free bop/fusion etc...bbut still.

Why did we let jazz become this feared monster in our culture?

The reasons probably vary as far and wide as the people you ask who are actually nervous.

I have many theories, some of which would be hard to articulate without starting off a shouting match when in reality they'd be easier to say in person, so I'll avoid those.

A few thoughts coming from someone who had a Dad as a Jazz drummer, was raised on jazz and played hundreds and hundreds of jazz gigs (but also rock and country gigs)......

  • Lack of familiarity with the various styles - and there are many different styles of jazz as there are Rock, Country, etc...
  • Lack of familiarity with the songs. May be a little harder to play music you simply don't know.
  • Both of the above issues ultimately leads lack of vocabulary on what to play on the instrument. Much of jazz drumming is NOT based on playing repetitive parts as is in Rock, Country, etc.... Not having built enough musical vocabulary on the instrument to be able to execute what you want.
  • Based on song form, the drummer needs to engage in the musical conversation with the soloists. Does not mean overplaying. It means an engaged musical conversation.

So again, in my opinion, it's simply a lack of familiarity with the style.

Conversely, ask any drummer who is more 'into' any one specific style to cross over and play another. It may (or may not) make them a little uncomfortable. I would fail 100% miserably in a metal setting. Rightfully, I would be thrown off the bandstand. I'm not familiar with the style, songs, song structure or the parts that go along in playing it.

There's more. But I'll leave my thoughts here.
 
for me personally, I hear sooo many guys tell horror stories of the non-drummer musicians spending whole session just cutting down the drummer...especially for "not keeping good time". I have also had a few sessions like this, where after it was over, many of the other players would also complain about the leader "yelling at us for stuff we weren't doing wrong"
So are we talking about open jam sessions and not a rehearsed concert?
I think that there is a huge difference between the two. If you know up front what you will play, you'll know that you can probably make it.
At a jam session, you're not really in control and if you don't know a certain tune, you might "butcher" it. Same thing would happen to Jazz drummers if they had to sit in at a Prog session and play an unfamiliar Rush song with signature grooves and fills.
Even if an unknown tune is not very fast and has a standard form like 32 bars of AABA, there are some dangers. For instance, if you don't know Nardis and you just play spang-a-lang with sticks from beginning to end, it won't be a lot of fun.
Anyway, you can make it easier for yourself if you attend a regular jam session as a listener and find out which tunes get played often. And of course you could ask which tunes the other musicians want to play before you sit in (or propose one yourself).
Luckily, some of the stressful factors of joining a session don't apply as much to drummers. If you don't know the changes, you're out of luck as a bassist (unless you have really great ears and are flexible). As a drummer it's easier to play an unfamiliar tune if you pay attention to the other musicians.
 
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