I had a rehearsal with a new quartet yesterday for the April 6th Somethin’ Jazz show in NYC. With me on piano this time is Dahveed Behroozi and on sax is Dayna Stephens. Tim Bulkley is back on drums. As a singer-songwriter at heart, my return to the world of jazz playing rock covers (as jazz) and my originals has challenged me to do one thing…let go of any preconceived notion of how the song will sound on stage and go with the moment. This is, after all, what jazz is all about.
As a singer-songwriter working in a band context in folk or rock, there are subtle shifts in the way any given song will sound with the other musicians. It is usually a very rehearsed band that goes on stage together and every note is in its place. Things can vary slightly, causing good nights (or bad nights) but generally as a singer, I know what to expect of the music that is built around the song.
Yesterday, I provided charts (sheet music) for the musicians and we gave each tune one run through, mainly to make sure everyone understood the “road map” of the chart (repeat signs, when you solo, where you go back to in the song when the vocal returns). Some tunes we only played about 1/3 of the way through and then talked through the rest of the directions.
This band is a very different one from my last NYC outing with the fiery Michael Wolff on piano and modern sax playing of Joel Frahm. Dahveed was hunched over the piano playing long chords and seemed to be trying to crawl inside each one of them and to squeeze out it’s full potential. Like the jazz pianists before him, he constantly searched for new ways to connect each chord using the chart only as a sketch. As a bassist, I needed to have my ears wide open and be ready to turn on a dime should I hear a new passing chord (all while singing the tune as well).
Dayna’s sax playing was very in tune with Dahveed’s approach. He reminded me less of the modern sax style that I am accustomed to and more of Coltrane. He blew through the changes (chords) and not over them. Every time Dahveed threw something at him, he simply raised an eyebrow and headed into the new direction effortlessly.
I was amazed at just how different the material sounded from my last gig. Not better or worse…just different. The influence of the players takes the forefront and the chart and any preconceived idea of what each song should be is only a sketch to be colored in by each player and in the end, the group as a whole.
I found myself to be a little stronger than on my last gig too, as each new excursion with these great New York musicians teaches me not to try to dictate what they should do with my material, but to let go and explore what we can do together with our music.