What’s in a band?

So, I played this pick up jazz gig the other night, and it was interesting for a few reasons:

1) I don’t do much jazz these days, so every tune called was like meeting a friend I haven’t seen in ages (wonderful, in other words). Also, I need about a bazillion more hours of practice, but I made my peace with that years ago.

2) It became obvious after the first few songs that I should expect to solo over a few choruses on every song. No big deal, the tempi were relatively laid back (except for one bebop tune which was absolutely COOKIN). So I just got into my “space” and had a grand ol’ time (more on this below).

3) There were three of us: guitar, drums, and bass. Nothing new there. The drummer I used to play with frequently, so after “settling in,” it was like, “Oh, I remember this feel!” The guitarist, however, I have never played with, or even listened to. Most importantly, this particular trio of musicians was a brand new configuration that had never before happened in the whole history of ever. So, while everything was fresh (and therefore inspiring and liberating), it may or not have been a little rough around the edges. Visual communication was key- it’s a necessary tool in any ensemble. But we flirted with CATASTROPHIC SYSTEM FAILURE once or twice (average DEFCON, probably somewhere in the middle).

So, good music happened and good times were had by all.

This group of capable musicians was only a group of capable musicians- nothing more. We weren’t a band.

Well, what is in a band?

Let’s find a band to examine- hmm, let’s see, I don’t know, how about… The Waymires? That seems appropriate. Okay, ready? Let’s get started!

We know our set. It isn’t just, “Hey, does everybody know [song name]? Okay, let’s play that.” We’ve gotten to know our set well as a whole performance, so certain songs are typically grouped together, because that’s how they work best. “I Don’t Think So” goes with “Secrets,” while “Brokenhearted,” “That’s Alright,” and “Corner Street Cookie” go together. This could evolve into something completely different in time, but this is how it is right now. One result of this (or is it a cause?) is that we have shared expectations at any moment in a show. And not just intellectually (“Oh yes, I know what will happen next.”), but emotionally (“Oh yes, I know how this is gonna feel.”) This is advantageous because each of us automatically gets in the right “space” for each song with very little “stretch,” because the set proceeds intuitively (until we run out of well-rehearsed songs, anyway).

Band characteristic #1: The set is a musical suite, not just a series of different songs.

Each of us knows how we fit into the ensemble. This goes beyond having our parts worked out to fit into the machinery of each song. We also know each others’ musical tendencies and tastes (wildly divergent- a very good thing). The songs are a little different each time, because we’re all comfortable enough in the band to play what seems right in the moment, and everybody else adjusts easily enough because we’re so familiar with how we play.

Band characteristic #2: Familiarity.

There’s actually a lot more, but this post is getting relatively long-winded.

The bottom line-

We’re not just some guys who play some songs sometimes.

We’re The Waymires. We play rock and roll.


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