When I realized I could never play full-time in a "blues" band

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    Default When I realized I could never play full-time in a "blues" band

    It was back in college (it was a small, liberal arts college in a rural area in the Midwest) in the late 80s.

    Lonnie Brooks and his band were booked to play in our student center cafeteria on a Saturday Night. I asked this attractive young lady to come to the dance with me.

    We danced to the first few numbers the band did. But it was real loud, so we stepped out and found ourselves in this lounge below the cafeteria. The music was so loud, that I could essentially hear the bass cabinets of the PA through the floor, albeit muffled.

    As she talked, and talked, and talked sommore about her life and interests while I pretended to listen and care, I was multi-tasking, and tracking the bass.

    After 30 minutes of All About Me, I noticed that it was like the band was playing the same song the whole time! Yes, I knew that there were but a few general variations of the core chord progression, but the implications had never hit me.

    We went back to the dance when the band started their second set, and Lonnie was pretending to play the guitar with his teeth, with few of my astounded classmates seeing what he was doing on the fretboard with his left hand.

    (Even when listening to the whole band and not just the bass cabinets) I just don't see how people can do blues-only night after night, song after song. I nevertheless thankful that blues bands are out there to give horn players some work.

    Anyone else find the blues monotonous after at time? Maybe this is why blues-y acts with whom I played (and certainly the ones I played with at length) diversify sets to cross over into playing the Commodores or other "R&B" tunes to mix it up a little. I could certainly sub in blues-only bands here and there, though. In fairness, instrumental combo jazz gets old for me too when the players don't have variety in style and ideas across solos and tunes.

    I never did manage to have an intimate encounter with that woman, which in the larger picture, was ok.

    I don't know why this old memory struck me....
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    Default Re: When I realized I could never play full-time in a "blues" band

    You need to listen to some other bands. Do you feel the same about Roomful of Blues or Chris Cain?

    On the other hand, if you have issues with anything repetitive, you might be equally ill-suited to be a a touring jazz band that rehearses and plays the same book for years at a time.
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    Default Re: When I realized I could never play full-time in a "blues" band

    Easy on me JL!
    I realized that I could not play full-time in a blues band shortly after I formed a blues band. Yes, you can get on the bill at the numerous blues festivals around the country, but really, I think it seriously limits your gigging opportunities and yes, does create some boredom.
    I know there are many, many styles of the blues...so I am not just talking about I,IV,V.
    I recently was asked to audition for a newly formed blues show band...at my "audition" the forming members argued a lot about the exact tunes they would play, and by extension, what kind of band they would be. It quickly seemed that it would evolve to be a band just like the one I now front...so I bowed out. I was kinda hoping to just play the blues...but as a side project.
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    Default Re: When I realized I could never play full-time in a "blues" band

    Quote Originally Posted by saxguy007 View Post
    Anyone else find the blues monotonous after at time?
    Yes, it certainly can be unless the players actively seek to spice things up and avoid playing the same lines for each song. I'm in a group now that started as a blues band, but evolved into much, much more. We even changed the name of the group (taking out "blues band") to avoid negative connotations that would limit the venues where we could play. We still feature many blues tunes, but now it's only part of what we do rather than the main theme.

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    Default Re: When I realized I could never play full-time in a "blues" band

    Really, Lonnie Brooks? I thought he was fantastic when I saw him although it is true most blues bands play "blues standards" most of the time. IMHO it takes a master like Delbert McClinton to take blues to the next level. B
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    Default Re: When I realized I could never play full-time in a "blues" band

    For me a (good) blues band has a certain kind of momentum that keeps it from being boring. You could almost compare this momentum with Maceo or James Brown playing a lot of tunes all night with one chord. These performances have a momentum.
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    Default Re: When I realized I could never play full-time in a "blues" band

    Quote Originally Posted by gary View Post
    For me a (good) blues band has a certain kind of momentum that keeps it from being boring. You could almost compare this momentum with Maceo or James Brown playing a lot of tunes all night with one chord. These performances have a momentum.
    I saw Bo Diddley in 2001 and this is exactly what he did for 3 hours. He played that one riff over and over ad nauseum. I walked away in awe of the legend but somehow let down that he had not learned to play better in over 50 years of live gigs. B
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    Default Re: When I realized I could never play full-time in a "blues" band

    This is why Taj Mahal is so unique.

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    Default Re: When I realized I could never play full-time in a "blues" band

    Quote Originally Posted by BOPITY FUNK View Post
    This is why Taj Mahal is so unique.
    Is'nt that a place in India?
    �We are what we repeatedly do.
    Excellence then, is not an act, but a habit.�
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    Default Re: When I realized I could never play full-time in a "blues" band

    Making the blues interesting is what separates the good bands from the hacks. With a limited harmonic structure you have to rely on things like arrangements, accents, breaks, rhythm (did you know there are several differnt kinds of shuffle rhythms?) etc. to keep everything from sounding the same. For me the ideal situation is to be in a blues band as the only horn so you have more flexibility in what you can play, and you can still sync up with a keyboard, guitar or harp player if you want to play section-type riffs.

    I agree with Gary about momentum. When you hit a groove on a song and everybody's locked in, there's a certain power there that's greater than the sum of its parts. When that happens, everybody looks around at the end of the song as if to say "what the **** just happened? It doesn't get much better than that.

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    Default Re: When I realized I could never play full-time in a "blues" band

    Yeah, I get bored when BB King plays the same licks over and over again. And that guy Clapton too. And those metal bands that play the same songs all the time. And all hip-hop sounds the same to me. Why don't they change it up? And then there's the orchestras who play those Bach and Beethoven and Mozart concertos and sonatas that all have the same structures.

    Quote Originally Posted by Frank D View Post
    When you hit a groove on a song and everybody's locked in, there's a certain power there that's greater than the sum of its parts. When that happens, everybody looks around at the end of the song as if to say "what the **** just happened? It doesn't get much better than that.
    And that is why I don't get bored playing blues.
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    Default Re: When I realized I could never play full-time in a "blues" band

    I did a few blues band gigs early on in my career and was so bored out of my mind I quit the band and have never joined a blues band since. I mean I love playing the blues and going off but 2-4 hours of blues progressions and I was losing my mind. Again, nothing against the blues or those of you who play in blues bands.........

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    Default Re: When I realized I could never play full-time in a "blues" band

    I love playing jazz, don't get me wrong. The complexity and harmonic excitement is great. But I also have learned in the last year or two that I do love a blues gig. Take that simple structure and try to get the audience EXCITED. Make someone jump up and start dancing 30 seconds into your solo! Get that audience to yell something back at you. Surprise 'em! When the band's clicking and you can unleash something that makes the crowd jump and clap, its a rush, regardless of whether its a I-IV-V. And its a rush that's very very hard to duplicate in a more "complex" jazz setting, 90% of the time.

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    Default Re: When I realized I could never play full-time in a "blues" band

    Quote Originally Posted by Yofis View Post
    Easy on me JL!
    LOL, I promise not to berate you Yofis! I would never do that of course.

    Actually you'll be surprised in that I agree that many blues bands play WAY too loud and are too repetitive, without varying their repertoire enough. The best blues bands don't play at ear-splitting volume and do mix up the styles a bit, or they have a very strong lead person with a distinct style (that's rather rare, though). Unfortunately to some extent the blues has become typecast in this mold, not without reason. Blues jams can be especially guilty of high volume and low skill levels (but they are jams after all).

    I think 'jazz' has had some problems of late as well. Many so-called jazz bands have, sometimes by necessity, become dinner jazz lounge acts with little real substance. So jazz is not immune to negative typecasting or boring interpretations either.

    Best thing to do is find a group of musicians you can play with who are open to some variety and on the same page you are so you don't get bored or frustrated. And that's easier said than done!

    I should add, I do play in a 'blues band,' but maybe we shouldn't call it that. We do not limit it to the blues form and also play some jazz, R&B, etc. Otherwise it certainly would get old, fast.

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    Default Re: When I realized I could never play full-time in a "blues" band

    I've played with many excellent blues bands but several years ago I subbed with one that was one of those boring stereotype blues bands we're talking about here. Just as they started into a new song I turned around and said to the guitar player "Hey, didn't we just play that tune?" His reply was "No this one is in E not A." I guess he missed my point but I still use that line when I want to hassle blues guitarist.

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    Default Re: When I realized I could never play full-time in a "blues" band

    I played for a few years in the early nineties in a bunch of thrown-together for a gig type blues bands. I never knew the names of the tunes. They were 'that one tune in G with the stops, or that b minor blues thing, or the one with that kind of shuffle feel in A. No one seemed to mind.

    I had a blast, though, and would play in a blues band now, if offered.
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    Default Re: When I realized I could never play full-time in a "blues" band

    Quote Originally Posted by MyMartinTenor View Post
    The music's not about you, man. Its about THEM.
    Point well-taken, and I try to play with skill and musicality no matter what the gig. But, honestly, if I'm going to spend four hours to come home in the wee hours smelling like an ash tray, all for $55, it has to do something for me too.

    I would gladly play Gershwin for Osama Bin Laden if the check was big enough.

    As for Lonnie, he was very VERY good with a tight band, but the idiom is what it is, and I didn't think he needed the gimmicky stuff for me to appreciate his chops, but I'll admit it really worked the crowd.
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    Default Re: When I realized I could never play full-time in a "blues" band

    I've done alot of blues gigs over the years. In fact we're doing one tonight and tomorrow. I think one thing that helps is a good singer who can get the audience into it. Secondly, I agree that throwing in a good mix or soul and r&b certainly gives some variety. I notice also, people are somewhat burned out with blues guitar and seem to welcome the saxophone as an interesting break from guitar. A steady diet of Chicago blues bores me to tears. So it's nice to mix in some jump blues and rock and roll.
    This is why I am enjoying my 50's/ 60's/ Sinatra style standard/country band we have. Variety surely makes for alot more fun. And we get alot better paying jobs as well.
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    Default Re: When I realized I could never play full-time in a "blues" band

    Played in blues bands 2 to 3 (sometimes 5 to 6) nights a week back in the '80's and '90's. All the bands had a way of coping, but "never at dusk".
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    Default Re: When I realized I could never play full-time in a "blues" band

    If you don't love the music and feel it in your soul, then of course you'll be bored. I don't get into bebop much. I don't connect with endless flurries of notes. I don't love it and I don't feel it, so I get bored after a few tunes. A whole night of bebop would be hard for me to sit through. And my lady would say if she can't dance or sing to it, she's bored.

    Here's BB king playing "Eyesight To The Blind," a Sonny Boy Williamson blues standard. (The Who used the lyrics in Tommy, but not the blues form.) If this is boring, then you shouldn't listen to or play this music.
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