PLAY WITH YOUR RECORDS!:
No. I'm not talking about those various play along tracks that we all use: the Jamey Aebersold, music-minus-one, and so forth.
I'm not talking about band-in-a-box or even iRealPro either.
When I say "play with your records", what I mean is play with those great records, those CDs that you already have in your collection: Miles Davis, Coltrane, Monk, etc.
While it is nice to practice with tracks that only have a rhythm section and no solos, it is also very helpful to play with a full band. Just think of all those stellar rhythm sections that we then get to play with !
For example, I've spent hours playing along to the album "Kind Of Blue" by Miles Davis. Playing some of the solos that I was trying to learn, yes, but also just jamming along with some of those tracks. There is something exhilarating about playing with Jimmy Cobb and Paul Chambers, something that we just will never get from iRealPro or Jamey Aebersold tracks...
Now, don't get me wrong: I use iRealPro all the time (for my teaching and my own practicing) but playing with records is just the closest thing to playing with the real guys.
We can improvise and pretend that we are soloing along, but we can also work on our comping. In that case it's even more challenging to find records with no chordal instrument: no piano, no organ, or no guitar.
I have played a lot with the album "a Night at the Village Vanguard" by Sonny Rollins. It's a trio record with just bass and drums behind Sonny Rollins: Wilbur Ware on bass, and either Elvin Jones, Donald Bailey or Pete LaRocca on drums-- depending on the tracks. Well, I just would invite myself (in the privacy of my own home...) and play some chords with them.
Another nice one for that is the 1989 Branford Marsalis album called "Trio Jeepy" with Milt Hinton on bass and Jeff "Tain" Watts on drums. The album opens with a medium paced Blues in F that is just perfect to play with.
You may also want to try playing with some of the many Thelonious Monk live albums: Monk often lays out, letting you provide chords for his saxophone player.
Check out his "Live at the It Club". On some of the tunes too, everybody lays out during the bass solos. Larry Gales tends to keep walking bass lines when soloing: that's a great opportunity to jam along (solos and/or chords) since we only have bass and drums (Gales and Ben Riley).
One last comment: You will find that your guitar often blends well with the Hammond B-3 organ. I've had a lot of fun with Larry Young or Eddy Louiss records.
So, in short don't get too fixated or dependent on typical play-along tracks. Any great recording of your favorite band can be a gold mine!
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