Jenine and I are joining our friends Rob and Nicole Franz for at trip to New Orleans this weekend. Never been, so I’m pretty excited, as I know Jenine is also. Most likely, we’ll check out the typical tourist spots, including the Preservation Hall Jazz Band.
Thinking about seeing this group also had me thinking about Trad music. I was fortunate to play with The Bayou River Band in Howell, Michigan a few weeks ago. The group, made up of sax, trumpet, banjo, and bass plays mainly older tunes in a New Orleans style. They’ve been active for a number of years, and are frequently featured on local Michigan river boats during the summer.
Although I’ve played in a number of different jazz situations over the course of my lifetime, I have very rarely played this style of music. That’s really what I wanted to discuss. I found myself having to play differently than I do in a more modern, “normal” jazz situation. In my conversation after the gig with the saxophonist, Carl Cafagna, I remarked how I had a hard time justifying some of the typical jazz vocabulary on which I normally fall back. Instead, I felt obligated to be more conservative in my note choices and rhythmic concept. Initially, I thought this might be restrictive, but to my surprise, I actually felt that the music was more successful. Why was this?
Maybe it’s because focusing what I played made a more cohesive statement. It could be because what I played communicated something more clearly to the audience members. Whatever it was, it illuminated a concept of improvisation that I’ve since been trying to recreate in more modern settings. Basically, just because I CAN play something, doesn’t mean I should.
Updates from post-New Orleans trip coming soon.
I enjoyed reading this and liked what you wrote. Looking forward to exploring New Orleans with you!