S.H.I. Spontaineous Harmonic Improvization



  • Hi all!
    Here's something I've been working on for the last 1/2 year and I hope some of you find it of use.
    I'm the kind of person that will play just about any gig as long as money comes my way. Heck, I even played a biker bar one time. When I went inside, I looked at the jukebox and noticed that the people who frequent the bar liked both kinds of music, country and western. Yikes! I survived by playing Patsy Cline, the Raw Hide theme and a lot of Johnny Cash and Willie.
    That was a solo show with backing tracks. S.H.I is for situations when you find yourself with another horn player and what to do. One of my pet peeves is when horn players just vamp with no appreciation to what the rhythm section is doing.
    The way SHI works is to get with the other horn player and agree that whenever someone comes up with a little motif or riff, they share it with the other horn player. Usually the bands are so loud that a horn player can play the little motif in the ear of the other horn player and it will not be detected. Then, once the motif has been shared, the two or more horn players play the motif in unison thus becoming part of the harmony section instead of just vamping which is part of the melody section. Once the motif is played in unison, a horn player can take the same motif and take it up (for example) a third or fifth which makes it sound rehearsed. SHI does not take the place of soloing. SHI is the neat short horn parts one hears when the singer is singing, reminiscent of Muscle Shoals or Chicago.
    The big difference between those horn sections and SHI is that the horn players make up little motifs, share them with each other and play them together live on stage.
    This is a great way to add to the harmony section until its time to play your solo and it keeps at bay the constant vamping that horn players are notorious for. It should be noted that the audience has the ability to add an extra last letter to SHI if you don't work together as a unit operating within the harmony section of the band.



  • @Dr-Mark said in S.H.I. Spontaineous Harmonic Improvization:

    The way SHI works is to get with the other horn player and agree that whenever someone comes up with a little motif or riff, they share it with the other horn player...

    So a year ago, the Jazz Director at the University of Dayton (Willie Morse, an alto sax player) asked me to play a gig with him at this bar in downtown Dayton called Hanna's. He has had me sub with many of his university jazz ensembles, and they were always guaranteed to be an exceptional musical experience with all the fine music majors at UD (Go Flyers!). So of course I said sure.

    When I got there 15 minutes before the gig started it was just Willie on stage. So I asked him where the rhythm section was to set up (so I wouldn't get in their way), and he replied: Well buddy, it's just you and me.

    I NEVER in my professional career just played with another horn and have no chordal instrument backing me up. A wave of embarrassment and fear passed through me. But then we started, reading through tunes he called out in the Real Books. MAN DID WE COOK! So as you so stated, Dr. Mark, one of us played the lead while the other comped. Like piano or guitar line comping. Then on a wink or nod, the lead line changed and the other person comped. And while the improv soloist was performing, the comping became a bit more subtle. But what I was truly amazed with, was how full the sound was with just two solo instruments playing such a venue.

    What an amazing experience this was, with Spontaneous Harmonic Improvization to the MAX. The club owner was so impressed (or cheap 'cause he only had to pay 2 musicians - you be the judge) that he booked the two of us for many more gigs.



  • Hi Dr-GO,
    Amazing isn't it. I often perform with two sax players and when we use SHI, it sounds great. Whenever we pull off an especially good motif, I'll say "Just like we rehearsed it" which of course we never rehearsed anything. It was all spontaneous


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