Hi all, I had the lovely experience of hanging out with a very accomplished pianist yesterday, who was well versed in jazz standards. We were able to jam nicely on summertime, a bit more awkwardly on ‘take the a train’. Got me thinking about what jazz standards are relatively well suited for diatonic (without overblowing) and the internet was surprisingly unhelpful. Has this been discussed before? Thanks for any and all ideas! WP
Check out the work of Don Les. He was the bass player in the original Harmonicats, and also a fluent soloist on diatonic on standards, using no overblows or bends in his earlier work, later incorporting them a little.
For instance: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JFNVTnfdi2c
I'm no harmonica expert but I have been playing jazz guitar for like 13 years. I would like to share my take on playing jazz:
Jazz is a language. Even if you play some of the simpler tunes, you'll need vocabulary in order to yield the proper "feel" to the tune. That means rhythmic and melodic vocabulary.
For me, the tricky part for the diatonic harp player is the melodic aspect of jazz. It's very hard to play those horn-like lines on the diatonic without all of the advanced techniques.
If I could suggest a tune, take a jazz-blues with a simple head like Bag's Groove. Hear the original version from Miles Davis' original recording. Same name as the tune. Listen to Miles' and Sonny Rollins' solo.
Last Edited by Norlo28 on Apr 17, 2022 4:35 AM
Satin Doll, Paper Moon, In the Mood, Mac the Knife, All that Jazz. Those are some songs that come to mind. Some a bit more from the swing era than others.
Last Edited by Spderyak on Apr 17, 2022 4:42 AM
Thanks everyone for those suggestions. Other than minor tunes played in 3rd position, are there any tunes that lend themselves to particular positions? I find when playing by ear I can get part way through a song and then realize that a critical iconic lick is either unavailable without overblowing, or involves a very tricky serious of bends. Think I may need to dig into the theory books and do more research!
I've played 46 years, was full-time player at age 20 in San Diego but have played LA, Austin 7 years, toured, etc. Had a Swing Dance, Jazz, Blues, R&B 7-piece band 10 years in Oregon. (Bass, Drums, Guitar, Piano, female vocal, myself & 1 or 2 horns. We played Jazz festivals & gigs. I do not play OB's but do learn some Jazz Standard heads on Chromatic, then often solo on diatonic as I am not fluent on Chro like some I know. I had players in band who had played with "big name" people so were advanced Jazz players. Here are a few that I could "get by on" that often Jazz players know: Back Home in Indiana (check Charlie McCoy's version), Cold Duck Time (3rd), Tin Tin Deo (3rd), I'm Coming Home Baby (Mel Torme 3rd), Ain't Misbehavin' (a Maj 7th (Country tuned) is good for the major scale if you prefer cross harp), Billie Holiday's "Day in Day Out" (12 th position for soloing), Now or Never (Billie H. 3rd pos.), Freddie the Freeloader (Miles Davis ((3 rd pos. although I usually play head on Chro.), That's a few that I can think of without pulling set lists. Also, sometimes a harp switch for chorus can get you there. No shame it that either (ala Norton Buffalo's 4 harp solo on "My Little Runaway" or Charlie McCoy Orange Blossom Special).
Thanks for that Gabriel, I will definitely look into those ones. What I'm getting from everyone's comments is there ain't a lot of Jazz that works well on diatonic without a bunch of either: 1)overblowing (not able, not that interested in learning) 2)special tunings (a possibility) 3)harp switching (also a possibility) 4)Playing chromatic (I have a 10 hole that I am learning on). Still looking for those 5 mythical tunes that everyone knows that are jazzy and work on Diatonic!
I see lot's of good ideas mentioned. If there is a tune I'm interested in I often go to you tube and listen to multiple version of the song whether it has harp or not on it for ideas and phrasing etc. So partly depending what one considers Jazz or jazzy so to speak.
I go straight for "In the Mood" there are many versions out there for harp but one guy in particular nails it. C harp key of G timing and rhythm does the trick
Jerry Portnoy did Misty using an Aflat. You need to bend the 2 draw half step well, and the 3 draw whole step plus the 9 blow bend is employed with emphasis at one point. Actually great intonation practice for those bends.
Big Walter’s Don’t Get Around Much Anymore is pretty cool. I used to play it on a jazz/CT/major 7 tuned harp for the raised 5 draw but Walter managed ok on a standard tuned diatonic. Worth a listen
Watermelon Man is taught by Gussow using the overblown 6, but I heard Kim Wilson do it on the low octave. It was live, using an A flat harp. I don’t know if there’s record but maybe on you tube
00:00 - Introduction Pete Pedersen M.C. 04:10 - Georgia On My Mind 08:10 - Sunny Side Of The Street 11:35 - Please Release Me 15:37 - Orange Blossom Special 18:22 - Various Sound Effects 20:42 - Dancing Cheek To Cheek 25:30 - After The Lovin’ 31:17 - Around The World In 80 Days
Thanks everyone for all your contributions! Looks like now it’s up to me to look into all these artists and songs. I also did a bit of digging on the web and have started messing around with 12th position in an effort to make these songs a bit more playable. I also like Gabriel’s idea that the head can be played on chromatic- because it’s the most recognizable and probably needs to be note for note, but then for soloing, fills and improvisation a diatonic can be used. Always more challenges and more to learn!
Half-valved harmonicas are another option for playing notes missing on the diatonic scale. These harps require a slightly different feel but you can play all the chromatic notes when you get good at it.
Yes that is him. I'm glad you found it. That's from the "swing" end of jazz. I love that kind of music and he does a great job on the tune. Hope you give it a go and have some fun with it. here's it is...