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Dirty-South Blues Harp forum: wail on! > Jazz on diatonic- no OB’s
Jazz on diatonic- no OB’s
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Wailing ptarmigan
27 posts
Apr 16, 2022
9:31 AM
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!
1749 posts
Apr 16, 2022
11:24 AM
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:

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3033 posts
Apr 16, 2022
7:07 PM
Fly Me To the Moon is doable, there is one note that needs an OB, would require a substitute.
11 posts
Apr 17, 2022
4:34 AM
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
401 posts
Apr 17, 2022
4:41 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
Wailing ptarmigan
28 posts
Apr 17, 2022
6:22 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!
94 posts
Apr 17, 2022
12:46 PM
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).
Wailing ptarmigan
29 posts
Apr 17, 2022
1:17 PM
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!
3034 posts
Apr 17, 2022
8:18 PM
Las Vegas Tango is a minor blues, that is certainly worth mentioning.
Evidently it's been sampled a lot.
402 posts
Apr 18, 2022
5:25 AM
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
135 posts
Apr 18, 2022
7:33 AM
You should check out Rhythm Willie too, he plays mostly in 1st and 4th position.

Some time ago, Jason Ricci posted a very good video (as usual) "Easy 1st Position Jazz Improv (C Major)", worth check

Charlie Musselwhite plays some jazz standards without OB. Worth to mention Paul Butterfield "Work Song" version too.

There's many version of "Summertime", usually in 3rd or 4th position. "Autumn Leaves" in 4th too.

Check out Howard Levy tips on his channel. He also gives some tips without OB.

Last Edited by LFLISBOA on Apr 18, 2022 7:39 AM
7067 posts
Apr 18, 2022
12:39 PM
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
1750 posts
Apr 18, 2022
2:50 PM
Don Les plays these tunes on standard diatonic, some bends, no overblows:

Fools Rush in 2:15

All of Me 7:15

I’m in the Mood For Love 11:12

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1751 posts
Apr 18, 2022
2:51 PM
More Done Les:

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

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3035 posts
Apr 18, 2022
7:09 PM
Try this one!
Wailing ptarmigan
30 posts
Apr 18, 2022
7:23 PM
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!
133 posts
Apr 19, 2022
1:29 AM
Here are a few: Song For My Father by Horace Silver Chitlins Con Carne by Kenny Burrell Listen Here by Eddie Harris Mercy, Mercy, Mercy by Cannonball Adderly Hard Work by John Handy
138 posts
Apr 19, 2022
10:23 AM
Does Mo plays the bass notes with his feet? Did you saw what device is it? Impressive!!!!
137 posts
Apr 19, 2022
10:48 AM
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.
1752 posts
Apr 19, 2022
12:35 PM
@LFLISBOA Yes, Mo Vint did play bass pedals in that duo with Don Les. Mo sings and plays blues diatonic pretty well, too - quite a versatile guy.
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Check out my blog and other goodies at winslowyerxa.com
Harmonica For Dummies, Second Edition with tons of new stuff
Wailing ptarmigan
31 posts
Apr 19, 2022
9:22 PM
I believe this is the one spideryak was talking about- definitely nailed it!
404 posts
Apr 20, 2022
12:13 PM
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...

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