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--- Mar 24 1999 Go to category
Subject: Chords/harmonies - comping
Category: Improvisation/Soloing
From: Jason Venema (USA)

Hi Pat. I've always had a lot of admiration for your soloing and specifically your single-line melodies. Recently, I've been a lot more interested in your harmonies and chord voicings. Your comping on "Wish" (the album) and "Pursuance" (the album) is something that I really wish I good do as well as you. What sorts of techniques do you use (ie) how many notes in your voicings? what kinds of voicings (quartal, tertian, both?). One person that I've learned a lot from on this subject is Gene Bertoncini. Sometimes, though, it's hard to come up with new voicings. I saw you play "How Insensitive" in at Art Park in New York last July and you began the tune with a solo harmony thing that was really amazing. Do you just try to use the original changes and come up with new voicings or do you add your own changes? Sorry to ask so many questions, but there's really no one that I could ask that could give me more information than you! You're one of the greatest, thanks for all of that music!

Pat’s Answer:

hi jason,

in fact, i love comping behind people as much or more than soloing - but it is something i don't get to do that much - since in the pmg i am basically like a horn player or singer, more than a guitar player or piano player. that was a big part about what was so much fun about playing in those quartets with josh and kenny - the comping.

like most things in music, the key to good comping is listening - you have to support and enhance what the soloist is doing, and hopefully give the rhythm section a lift, and make the band lift up at the right times to fit the vibe of what the soloist is doing. although it is important to play good, even hip chord voicings, more important is the rhythm and what you do with it, and especially how it feels to the other guys in the band - especially the bass player and drummer. as far as actual voicings go, i would say that most of the time, less is more - at least with the gutar. because the guitar is a relatively low instrument pitch-wise, it is easy to clutter it up with too many notes. it sounds like from what you are talking about that you are on the right track - two, three and four note chords are usually very effective. a great record to study is the sonny rollins record 'the bridge' featuring jim hall. on almost all fronts, that is the way to do it!