Being Musically Generous
I was playing out of town recently, and after the gig the band members met in the lobby bar at our hotel. There was a band playing in the bar, but it was the last set of the night, and their energy was low.
One of the hotel band members found out that members of the group I was with were in the bar listening, and asked our trumpet player to sit in. They counted off the tune, and when the trumpet solo came the level of ability within the band seemed to magically rise to the occasion. All of a sudden they sounded completely different. This trumpet player was able to completely transform the sound of the group just by playing over what they were doing. The entire energy changed in the room.
I should point out that this trumpet player didn’t play anything fancy, but he knew exactly what was necessary to elevate the other musicians. This brought up something that I remember a teacher telling me when I was first starting to play gigs. I was often busy trying to fit in every lick I could and sounded anything but mature when I was 15 or 16. After hearing one of my gigs a teacher of mine pulled me aside and gave me some advice.
This teacher told me that no matter what, do whatever it takes to make the band sound good. If it means playing less, more, quieter or louder, you always need to think of the overall sound of the band before anything else.
There truly is an art to making others around you sound better than they may actually be. It requires being keenly aware of whats lacking in the group and somehow managing to make up for it without calling attention to the problem or yourself. I have seen examples of this out of many great musicians. Years ago I was in the studio recording with the great Anthony Jackson, and when listening back I realized that I had rushed a fill in a certain section. This was going to tape….(Pre-Protools). Anthony said….”I’ll fix it”.
They rolled the tape and let him play along. He played something over my fill that actually made the rushing element seem to disappear. To this day I don’t know how he did it, but he did. It was one of the most amazing things I’ve ever seen. He knew exactly what to do and when to do it to make things right in the song.
This trait is something that I’ve noticed out of the greats that I’ve been lucky enough to play with over the years. Keep it in mind the next time you are on a not so satisfying musical situation. You can always do something that makes them sound good, especially if you are playing drums.