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Thread: Pocket Philosophy

  1. #1
    AAJ's Barrel Roller xricci's Avatar
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    Pocket Philosophy

    i just posted this article by guitarist tyra neftzger...

    http://www.allaboutjazz.com/php/article.php?id=17487

    comments?
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  2. #2
    www.jakehanlon.com Jakeweiser's Avatar
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    a great read. The Pocket shows all.

    I think it's what we all strive for in our playing, and if you can live inside the pocket then you can transend everything musical. Miles for example to me existed inside a own pocket and you can see it through all the transformations he went through. Every time he reinvented what jazz was to him it continued to carry the same integrity and magic to it as his previous projects.
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    When do you think that most musicians become aware that there is such a thing as the pocket?

  4. #4
    Guitar edrowland's Avatar
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    Love that name: pocket. So nice to have a nice solid name for something that I've had a hard time describing.

    I've really been playing decently for for only a couple of years now (all well for less than that), so I can speak to the question with the benefit of a fresh memory.

    I would think most players first enter the pocket state of mind in personal practice time. Although playing with in a pocket state of mind really isn't anything like doing it with other players. In practice time these days, I find myself regularly and reliably playing from that pocket place, for three or four or five or eight choruses at a time. But up until recently, it might have only happened for a few bars or phrases at time. Having experienced the real thing (playing in the pocket with other people), I know that doing it in practice doesn't really compare, but it is the same sort of thing.

    I do vividly remember the first time I really did it on stage in a jam session. I was sitting in on a tune that I'd never played before. I was originally planning to play one short chorus, but by the end of the first chorus I was feeling really good, so I decided to play another. And that's about the last thing I do remember clearly. I played two more choruses, each one flowing effortlessly, and left the stage with that wonderful "holy sh*t, where did that come from?" feeling. The really odd thing for me was that even as I was walking off stage I couldn't remember for the life of me what I'd played; although I did know that I'd nailed the tune.

    I do remember that the drummer was great, and the bass player was laying down a really solid bass line. Credit where credit is due: probably the easiest way to really find the pocket for the first time is to play on a stage where everyone else is already there.

    Over the last few months, I think I'm finding the pocket on about 50% of all the tunes I'm playing. Which is a big improvement. After the first time, it happened pretty infrequently. But I played with a really great drummer a few weeks ago, and spent the whole evening in the pocket. Finding it is still a bit of a hit or miss proposition. So far.

    S'funny. I had an odd experience on Sunday. I was sitting in on a jam that I hadn't been to before. We ended up playing "Summertime" in the key of D minor. I know in Am. No charts available. So I played it from transposed from memory -- something I've never done before. And it was just smoking! Although I am finding the pocket more and more recently, I've always had this odd feeling that I play in the pocket most often when there's something about the tune that keeps my concious mind pre-occupied so that my unconscious mind can take over. Odd-changes, irregular forms, tunes that I haven't played before, transposing a tune from memory: all things that seem to be conducive to playing in the pocket for me. Anyone else share that feeling, or is this just a phase I'm going through on the way to really finding the pocket consistently and reliably? <thinking... maybe I just need to be more aggressive and adventurous with all the other tunes. Hmm.>.

    A dark-side thought. I like the idea of "living in the pocket". A lovely idea. The other way of looking at it is that the pocket is the heroin high that keeps us coming back for more. It's addictive, and hard to walk away from once you've found it.

    And a little light-side to make up for it. I don't really believe that. Playing in the pocket is about as close to a religious experience as this old atheist is ever going to have. I was reading Karen Armstrong's biography of the Buddha recently. And I was struck again and again by the similarities between the pocket state of mind, and core concepts in Buddhism: that marvelous feeling of ego-less connectedness; effortless "mindfullness"; how finding the pocket state of mind isn't about desire, but about emptying yourself..... I don't think I can articulate the concept well enough. Suffice it to say that I'm convinced that many of the recommended techniques for acheiving nirvana seem to be useful for inducing pocket state of mind as well. Maybe they're the same thing. I'm sure there's something important going on there.

  5. #5
    Matt Lorentzen
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    I hit the pocket when I don't expect to.

    Most recently was doing a gig with a great (and more experienced) guitarist. We played this whole duo gig (piano and guitar) in the pocket.
    Afterwards he claimed it was a learning experience for him. For me -- a wonderful afternoon in the pocket Perhaps that is what he meant by "learning experience".

    Either way, the pocket does seem to come to me when I had to be mindful of new things, surroundings, etc. That makes me want to get out more. Exercise, be social, do things which are new, fresh and fun. THEN hit the woodshed HARD.

    That is when I notice the pocket become more attainable. Interesting theory. Good examples of artists in the pocket: Chick Corea with Now He Sings, Now He Sobs trio.
    Keith Jarrett Live at the Deerhead Inn.
    Dave Holland live in Miami playing with Jack DeJohnette, Herbie and Metheny...
    Just a few examples. Interesting idea though.

  6. #6
    www.jakehanlon.com Jakeweiser's Avatar
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    I've always found the pocket is a very subjective thing. What is the pocket really? I think you cannot define the pocket in words accurately enough but when you are in it then you know that you are there. When you're listening to people in the pocket then you know they're in it and most over you know when they're far away from it. Since Jazz has such a broad spectrum of little inner works in terms of eras and styles of Jazz in and of itself its interesting to experience the pocket in different areas.

    Different bands do different things. For example playing in a trio with no comp instrument has a much different pocket then a quartet. Big bands have a pocket all unto itself that is hard to attain since you're trying to be in a pocket with 18 other guys. Like Ed said, playing with players who know their pockets helps to bring other people into their world of groove

    The Pocket I don't think is something you can practice. It is something that comes with experience. You can have all the chops in the world, or have a wide range of understanding of harmony or anything and be a pocket void. The key to the pocket is listening to the other musicians that are around you AND listening to your own playing. The pocket is an enigmattic place where you should be sontanious yet hear everything around you as if was through composed, note for note everything laid out on a giant red carpet of hippness
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  7. #7
    Compose /Arranger / Jazz Prod. Phil Kelly's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jakeweiser
    I've always found the pocket is a very subjective thing. What is the pocket really? I think you cannot define the pocket in words accurately enough but when you are in it then you know that you are there.

    snip


    The Pocket I don't think is something you can practice. It is something that comes with experience.

    snip




    Jake nailed this with these two phrases ..

    the only thing I might add is ..the "pocket" usually appears when every one is playing less ..NOT more ..and are consequently" listening " to each other at a maximum level
    Swing ..or I'll kill you ( Bill Potts )
    RIP

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    Thanks for the responses. I'm not a musician, so I find topics like these fascinating.

    Here's another question: do you think that one of the reasons some musicians use drugs is because the experience relaxes them and they feel like they're more likely to reach to pocket? Or do you think this is unrelated?

  9. #9
    Registered User 3pointdeli's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Amy_N
    Thanks for the responses. I'm not a musician, so I find topics like these fascinating.

    Here's another question: do you think that one of the reasons some musicians use drugs is because the experience relaxes them and they feel like they're more likely to reach to pocket? Or do you think this is unrelated?
    i think it has more to do with being bored while NOT playing, which is the majority of the time a musician spends on tour or at a gig. music venues are the most boring places on earth in the time between equipment set-up and when the band takes the stage.

  10. #10
    www.jakehanlon.com Jakeweiser's Avatar
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    Yes I redeemed myself for my stupid Diminished chord laps!

    This next little rant is my opinion and is not to offend anyone.

    As for the drug thing, I think the reason why some musicians use drugs is because they have personal issues in their lives that they want to brush over by using a drug and that the drugs themselves have no possitive effect on the music. A musician who is in the pocket so to speak or whenever is playing should be naturally relaxed, it beats any high a drug can give you. I used to play with people who were intoxicated to the point of the music ultimately suffering to the point of me wanting to walk off the bandstand. The drug users probably had no idea that it was as bad as it was because of their altered preception of reality. They might think they are in the pocket, but they are not. They're in their own little pocket if they are high on stage. It's distorted reality and is not really the pocket. Unless you are in a state like say Parker was who was high so often that he had trouble functioning sober, same with Hendrix or any other random example of the accesses that came with that life style. If you're drunk everytime you play you might not have the same sense of the instrument as you do when you are sober. But I think in answer (a long way around it) is that if someone abuses a drug it doesn't have anything to do with them and the pocket but everything to do with their own personal insecurities.

    And I'm talking about abuse not recreational use of something. But this is not the forum for that
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  11. #11
    Registered User 3pointdeli's Avatar
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    i'm not convinced that drug use is more common among musicians than the public at large.

  12. #12
    www.jakehanlon.com Jakeweiser's Avatar
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    Good point, and I can understand that. But I think it depends on your definition of a drug. I consider Booze to be a drug, and smoking is a drug. If you take that into consideration then I would think on average Musicians kick the hell out of the rest of the public.

    It's all in the environment, if you're a musician and work gigs in bars then you're surrounded by beer and smoke or several kinds. Someone should do a study, but for me 9 out of 10 musicians I personally know partake regularily while maybe 5 out of 10 of non musicians i know partake on a regular basis.

    Again, someone should do a study... in the name of Science, attempting to understand musicians from a non musician's standpoint. I wonder if it could be done
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  13. #13
    Registered User 3pointdeli's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jakeweiser
    Good point, and I can understand that. But I think it depends on your definition of a drug.
    sure alcohol is a drug, as is nicotene. but so is caffiene. let's limit this to illegal drugs.

  14. #14
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    Side note: I think that Harvard or Columbia was studying musicians at Berklee College of Music to see how their brains function... don't know if the results were ever published or if they looked at drug use.

    I have noticed that more musicians seem to gravitate to drug use and wondered if this had anything to do with it. Your answers make a lot of sense - and one would think that being in the pocket is a better experience than drugs could provide.

  15. #15
    Compose /Arranger / Jazz Prod. Phil Kelly's Avatar
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    IMO, controlled substances and pockets are the antithesis of each other ..As Bill Anschell cleverly observed in his essay, "jazz math" :



    >>8. 1 uptempo tune +1 rushing drummer + x (double lattes) = x (fights
    among horn players to solo first)

    9. 1 ballad + 1 dragging drummer + x (Percocets) = 1 cleared house,
    where x is proportional to the speed at which the room empties.

    Swing ..or I'll kill you ( Bill Potts )
    RIP

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