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High Voicings vs. Low Voicings

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11561man View Drop Down
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    Posted: 09 Apr 2017 at 3:38pm
Hi all, new to the forum here.

For all the pianists out there, I want to know your thoughts on voicings played higher on the piano versus lower on the piano, specifically in performance settings with a trio or larger.

I've gotten a lot a flack recently at jam sessions for choosing to voice chords lower on the instrument and playing roots in my left hand. I prefer the "meatier" sound, and don't get me wrong, I understand the importance of playing rootless voicings higher up on the instrument. But, I just really can't stand when the other musicians on the bandstand (not just the bass players) say stuff like "Those are only meant for solo piano" or "You're playing too low in the bass".

Would they have the nerve to say that to guys like Tommy Flanagan, Hank Jones, John Lewis, Barry Harris, etc. who primarily comped in that baritone-bass range of the piano? In the end, I take the high road and cater to the request, but it seems like there can be some serious ignorance in this particular area among non-pianists. Rootless voicings are just as important, and I totally understand why, but just because people like Bill Evans and Red Garland came along shouldn't mean that comping low on the piano is a deadly sin. Thoughts? Much appreciated!
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote js Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 09 Apr 2017 at 4:00pm
Its kind of interesting how Bill Evans has become the ONE influence for jazz piano when there are so many other possibilities. Along with the people you named, there is also Jaki Byard who favored older styles for his influence.
Lately I've been listening to older stylists like Art Tatum and Erroll Garner, I can't possibly play like that myself, but it would be interesting if pianists started looking at more possibilities. The somewhat avant-garde modern pianist Matthew Shipp is apt to come from an older approach, but updated as well.
I say play it like you want, unless the complaining gets to be too much, ha.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote 11561man Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 09 Apr 2017 at 4:02pm
The complaining has gotten pretty rough, as in like, yelling during the middle of tunes. No joke. Great way for college professors to set a good example for their students [insert sarcasm here]
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote js Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 09 Apr 2017 at 4:06pm
Are these teachers who are doing this?
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote 11561man Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 09 Apr 2017 at 4:07pm
But really though, listen to Art Tatum's trio and he doesn't play his LH that high all the time. Neither did Dave Brubeck, Al Haig, Monk, Oscar Peterson, there's just too many. 

Barry Harris even tells stories of when he recorded with Ray Brown, George Duvivier, Paul Chambers, and George Mraz and he claims that they never once told him to get out of the bass range. Not ONCE. That says a lot.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote 11561man Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 09 Apr 2017 at 4:07pm
Yes, college professors with DMAs
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote js Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 09 Apr 2017 at 4:14pm
Yeah i've run into problems like that with professors who only know one way to do things. My jazz professor was into that whole, get the right scale with the chord, which is okay, but I take a broader approach to theory, such as where is the chord heading to and what comes after that. I like to look at the flow of the whole piece, not just one chord at a time. Yet my teacher was always into this approach that was sort of one chord at a time, and he was not really seeing the big picture.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote 11561man Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 09 Apr 2017 at 4:15pm
Yea man I feel you. Ignorance is bliss.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote js Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 09 Apr 2017 at 4:25pm
I guess your professor thinks the Bill Evans way is the 'right way'. Kind of sad that colleges are churning out musicians that all sound the same. Bill Evans is a great pianist, but he shouldn't be the only way.
Yelling while someone is playing is bad, I've probably received some of that before too.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote 11561man Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 09 Apr 2017 at 4:27pm
It's actually not my professor. Not in school currently, just traveling to different cities and sitting in. Guess that's worse?
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote js Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 09 Apr 2017 at 4:38pm
Since they don't know you, they may just think you are naive and don't know better.
By the way, since you know your jazz fairly well, feel free to review some albums, your reviews will show on our front page. You don't have to be a pro writer to review.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote js Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 09 Apr 2017 at 8:17pm
Some of the most interesting comping piano players are the ones that use extremes in the piano range, highs and lows, thinking of Monk, Ellington and Sun Ra. If you played like that, sounds like the prof would have a heart attack.
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