vibes and piano

i'm playing with a pianist in a few weeks. i've heard some vibes and piano duo recordings, but i'm wondering what everyone else has to say. also if there's any tips on playing with a pianist that anyone has that'd be greeat too.

My two cents. If I'm playing with a piano I act more like a horn player and do much less comping, at least until I settle in with the pianist and get comfortable. Sometimes I'll play lines or double stops but unless I have a good thing going with him I'll give him room to comp. Now most of the time I'll settle in quickly and start comping in ways I think will be ok. But I believe in roles, that each one is going to be in charge of certain things. I am in charge of the melodies. If the painist is open he'll take some melodies and then I will do some comping. But I consider it a process and I don't go in assuming anything.

It's interesting that in all gary's duos he's usually comping as much as the piano player so he has a different take on all this. And I imagine lots of other guys will have different takes also.

I've just learned through my experience that for these duos to work best for me I need to go slowly and a little carefully. Usually between that and getting to know the piano player things work out and open up.

Let's see what other guys have to say.

Tony Miceli (new)
s k y p e: tjazzvibe

For me, intonation IS an issue. When I write up a contract or work out a deal for a vibes/piano gig I always mention that the piano needs to be tuned. I always specify the pitch center of the bars I am going to bring. Sometimes they don't abide by that, but at least there's a shot it will be close. You haven't known true pain until you play a 2 hour concert in quarter tones. I have done that. It's not cool.

I really try to remain open to new textures, rhythms, etc that are not as common in playing with a quartet. Sometimes the harmony is above the melody. Sometimes the way a phrase breathes (especially at cadence points) is much more dramatic than with a drummer/bass combination. As long as you move together, it will sound great even if it is not really metric. In fact, it may sound better than if it were.

Oh yeah... I really like to play right in the crook of the piano with the lid wide open. The vibes will resonate into the piano and you will feel every note that is played.

Enjoy your gig. I bet it will be great.


This is an area that (as an amateur) I have a bit of experience. I agree with Randy that the piano needs to be tuned. It is truly painful to play with an out of tune piano. My vibes/piano duos were mostly done at hospitals so you could imagine the shape those pianos were in. Once during a particularly awful gig we started trading eights, twelves and even sixteens just to avoid playing at the same time. A good electronic keyboard, although not ideal, does solve that problem.

If the piano is in tune the next challenge is the piano player. Most haven't played with a vibe before and even if they have it has not been in a duet format. Most of the piano players I've worked with play a lot of notes, both horizontally and vertically. They're used to making a thick sound either because they play solo or with horns and/or voices. At times I've put down two mallets because it's just too thick.

Still the duet format can be a lot of fun and if you work out a few details the experience is great. Remember that Gary and Chick or Gary and Makoto make it look easy because they're magicians. Take it easy and you'll have a good time.

Bob Wesner

I do a lot of this and the first thing that I would suggest is DO NOT comp just to comp. I would be conscious of the fact that because there are only two of you, let the piano player carry the harmony and you compliment/punctuate with VOICINGS not necessarily complete chords.
Use YOUR contributions to build the arrangement; always leave somewhere to go in that process for drama and interest.

For example: lay out the first time through the head; enter second time sporadically in the lower octave(s), higher octaves going out; lay out until the last chorus of his solos and build toward yours. Simple concepts like this AND dynamics mean so much in this scant configuration. A simple thought process goes a long way!

All the best,
Arnold Faber