Monday, June 24, 2019

Ten tunes: oxygen

What a lot of people used
to learn this tune.
A professional drummer friend wanted to get my take on ten essential tunes to learn, for drummers playing jazz. It's a hard question, because an actual practical essential tune list would start at a couple of hundred things long. I thought I could do it more realistically by narrowing it to several lists of certain categories of tunes. So let's do this as a series.

These are ten extremely familiar tunes, that still get played a lot by players of all levels, that are still fun to play. You may know them so well the tune structures tend to vanish while you're playing them— there's no distance between you and the tune, and they feel more like playing free. Or maybe a better way to say it is that you experience them as pure music, rather than as external structures to be performed. Playing a 12-bar blues form is the same way. That's my experience with them.

Most people who have played any jazz gigs at all will already know these. If you don't, you can learn them by playing them, without a lead sheet. Solar is a little more rhythmically specific, so you can use one for that.

All of You

Beautiful Love


In Your Own Sweet Way

Softly, as in a Morning Sunrise

Stella By Starlight


There Is No Greater Love

What Is This Thing Called Love


Note that I haven't included a rhythm changes tune, even though it's one of the most common forms in jazz. To me that falls in a different category— it's more like playing Sweet Georgia Brown. Horn players will have endless things to say on it, but as a drummer, it feels a little formulaic. There's always the pat little move to the bridge. During the blowing you have to know where the top of the form is, rather than be taken there. Playing it often has a chaotic edge as the younger players forget which A they just played, and the bridge starts coming up in all kinds of unexpected places. So, no rhythm changes on the oxygen list.

More lists coming— I'll try to do one a week.

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