What is a Professional Vibe Player?

I came up with this definition of what a professional vibe player is. I was hanging with Harvey Price.

What do you guys think?

Plays in time
Can comp competently and solo as well
Knows about 50 tunes (which means they know tunes) chords and melody and chord melody
Plays a solo that can hold interest

I was trying to keep it simple and general. Any thoughts?

Access: Anonymous


I think your definition is of a good vibe player, but not necessarily professional. In fact this definition apllies to a good guitar player too. And I know some amateurs who have thoses qualities.
For me, a professional player needs all the above, plus professional qualities, as to be on time on gigs, rehersals, recordings, etc..., be able to deliver the music asked for in due time, be ready for any kind of work in his music style, be free and ready for travels, tours, etc.... that is, things needed in many others works too.
My 2 cents :o)

I think that Babu and I would agree that there is a difference between being a professional and being professional-caliber. I think of a professional as simply someone who get paid for providing a service, and with the end result being a satisfied customer. Someone who is "professional-caliber" might be someone who plays really well, reads, has the ability to do it, but might choose to not play out in a situation where an exchange of money for services rendered is for consideration.

It might sound like semantics, but as a pianist I used to encounter playing dance gigs with a drummer who thinks he's Tony Williams - professional-caliber, but far from professional.

great point! I'm thinking about professional caliber. what do you think a professional caliber vibe player is. what are those qualities?

I think the qualities of a "professional caliber" player in jazz are the ability to hear what is going on around them, assimilate what the player knows into that and have the depth of both understanding and chops to react to that by playing appropriately (both stylistically and at a level of communication to the audience that gets the musical point across.)

I know that is over simplified, but it speaks directly to a drummer playing like Tony Williams on a dance gig, or to a player who doesn't hear that the piano player is harmonizing a tune differently than what the brain-dead fake book in front of him says it is "supposed to be", or a player who comps all over the top of the soloists because they aren't even looking for the holes in their lines, or a player who isn't ready to play a jazz gig because there was no rehearsal to work out intros and endings that any competent pair of ears could hear and be cool with playing.

This is a great discussion. On the most basic level, I think a professional vibes player, like a professional pianist, should be able to play a four hour gig without a real book.

Well, Harvey, that's pretty close to explaining it.

I had an interesting conversation last Thursday with the bassist in my tango group who is ten years older than me (he's 72). He was telling me that he learned how to play "on the job" and learned all the tunes on the bandstand from being placed into situations where you just found the right changes night after night. Of course, this was in an era when there were clubs that hired you for six-nights-a-week for several weeks at a time, and each community had its expected tunes that everyone was supposed to know. The upside was he just knew hundreds of songs off the top of his head, but he said that the downside was he learned a lot of songs that he didn't know the title. The pianist or guitarist would kick off the tune, and everyone fell in, but if you asked the rhythm section what the name of the song was - they couldn't tell you.

This was the era before fake books, and even the Real Book was about 30 years away from the original illegal version being sold out of the back of a dealer's car.

Personally, I tend to believe that I grew up in an "either-or" world - either you played standards, or you didn't. I always felt that made no sense whatsoever, and of course some people specialize in one particular type of music over another but I found the lines between styles being drawn in ridiculous places. From eyewitness accounts, Jimi Hendrix played a tremendous version of "Moonlight In Vermont" based on Johnny Smith's arrangement.

I agree with all that was said, and the list stays open... (I don't see a definitive list of qualities for a pro-caliber player - so many artists, so many personalities...)
The biggest difference between amateur caliber and professional caliber for me is the amount of desire for music. To reach and maintain a professional caliber, one needs to be able to play/study music 6-8 or more hours a day during his whole life. That's the exact price to pay to reach our goals. And that's the (almost) only real risk we take when begining a professional career, that is, taking the risk to get "dry" 15, 20 years later...
I know I'm a little off-topic, but your question got me there...

To me, what differentiates a player who sounds more amateur vs. pro is the following:
1. Time Feel
2. Time Feel
3. Time Feel
4. Rhythmic Sophistication
5. Melodic Phrasing
I would say that this is for jazz and pop musicians..for classical players, the criteria would be different. Good time is always essential, but the concept of swing and groove becomes much less clear (sometimes, literally!).

This is a great question. What first pops into my mind is a Quality of a Professional vibist could be gauged on how many years he are she has been told Nice xylophone, or xylophone man, you play a mean xylophone.. How do you hold those 4 sticks? I think after hearing these references for lets say a NUMBER of years .. one could consider themselves a Professional vibraphonist ..LOL...

now for a serious answer. I would have say if you call ourselves a professional Vibraphone than i would expect that player to have the instrument techinically at a high level. Also, a highly trained EAR, and the ability to play and reach to any situations that the instrument comes into play ..

I think the real definition of "professionalism" is demonstrated by the musician who puts every morsel of effort into every note they play and respects those notes with a realization that every note they play represents their musical value, every time they play whether they are being paid a lot of money or being paid no money.

Hi Everyone,
It is great to read everyone's comments. I think about this question all the time and it is often discussed amongst colleagues. I agree that playing in time, comping, knowing tunes, and keeping interest are very important. In the idea of keeping it simple I would like to add that you need to be creative, flexible, and be able to sight read. Some people will throw anything at you without notice.