Sunday Afternoon Jam with the Jazz Band

September 25, 2022, 11:18 PM · This afternoon I got to play some improv violin with a jazz band! (Piano, drums, bass, and saxophone.) It was a ton of fun! I've never really done any jazz improv before, but I was able to play along alright. The easy part for me was listening to what was happening around me and playing along. I knew a little bit of the blues scale, and could (for the most part) pick out notes that fit the chords. Because I wasn't familiar with any of the tunes, most of which were originally composed by the band, I relied mainly on playing by ear (and a tiny bit of transposition from the saxophone part) to jam. In addition, thinking of some of the wide vibrato I could hear in the Mario Kart 8 soundtrack with the fiddles and other jazz albums I've listened to featuring the fiddle, I added in little portamentos at the end of phrases and other small effects. Improvising is quite fun, getting to go up and down the violin - I need to work on my scales and things if I want to practice this as a skill in the future!

The other thing that I didn't really think about at the time was the musical social element. Not actually chatting with the band members, but how, within the chart, we back off to allow for other members of the band to improv. It typically started out with the saxophone playing the main melody, with the kit, keyboard, and bass accompanying; I would do my best after listening to the melody once to either play along, fill in the gaps, or add my own accompaniment. After a statement or so, the improvs start - and I'd usually just stop playing and hold my instrument off to the side while listening so I could be ready to get into position to play my own improv. For our last chart, we went around several times so every band member could have a chance to improv, so that was a nice way to end our jam session!

As a classically-trained musician, it is super exciting to explore other genres like jazz, whether it's in a composition (as today I also played my piano film score for Charlie Chaplin's "A Night in the Show" I wrote in late 2018-early 2019 and discussed on this blog!) or whether it's just bringing my fiddle outside to jam with the band. I hope to do more in the future and continue to explore these other genres of music too!

(By the way, I am planning on recording my full Charlie Chaplin film score (for solo piano) sometime next year for release as a full original album! I am hoping to orchestrate it too in the future, maybe as a full-year project in 2024.)


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