A vibraphone blues shuffle as good as it gets

This is as good as I think a shuffle can be executed on solo vibes. The tune is "Almost Blues" performed by David Friedman, and I'd like to point out several things I've learned as I watched this multiple times.

First, the bass line is similar to what organists would call "shamming" or pumping a single note repeatedly rather than walking a line. Of course on the organ one can set the bass drawbars back a little, but on vibes it's all manual control. The "time" is spot-on; I don't hear it waver at all over the entire performance. Second, the articulation of the right hand is clear as a bell and getting that level of clarity over the left hand rhythm while maintaining the time is something I've never heard before on a blues shuffle if anything else. And last, the blues phrasing of the melody and improv keeps my interest for the entire performance. My goal is to take what I've learned here and apply it to piano, and I don't believe that what we learn from one instrument is exclusive to that instrument.

One thing I did think about is to what degree the Yamaha vibe lends itself to a blues coloration. I don't hear that blues color on other brands, but at the same time I have to admit that Milt always sounds like Milt whether he's playing his Deagan or a Musser provided by the venue.


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First of all, thank you John for your appreciation and thoughtful analysis of this improvisation. Although this piece as it's played here is available as sheet music through Norsk Musikforlag, it originated as a blues inspired improvisation. I still perform it fairly often as a solo improvisation, trying to play it differently each time. I would like to mention one thing in terms of your comment about the Yamaha vibraphone "lending itself to blues coloration"; I play this piece on the Malletech Omega and I think it transmits the same "bluesy" timbre as the Yamaha. What you said about Milt always sounding like Milt, whatever instrument he plays is exactly the way I look at the way people with a personal sound concept communicate this regardless of the instrument.

great piece! It's a great study on the instrument in keeping the hands separate!

Y'know, I hadn't even thought about the hand independence at all. Although I agree with that observation, what I took away from this video was the sense of time. And time is something that Ginger Baker said "either you've got it or you don't." I would rather believe that one can develop a sense of time rather than imply it's innate, but I also think there are certain things that can't really be taught and time might be one of them. For readers of my comment here, please don't confuse "time" with "meter" or speeding up; I refer to that sense of swing that is just a little elastic to give the piece a groove. Doing this on solo vibes is simply remarkable to my ears.

i always thought that was bs whenever you say either you got it or your don't. With anything. I don't buy it. I've seen so many people who didn't have it, work hard at it and then get it. I get mad when I see a workshop and the instructor says 'either you got it or you don't'.

I do believe someone can be ahead of the game or get something easier than someone else. But for the most part we can all have good time and play good solos if we work hard enough at it. That's my take.

for David to keep 'hands separate, he needs to have spent time figuring out what he can play with one hand that swings and what doesn't. You can get that without thinking about it by simply practicing it for hours and hours and hours.

And David does have great time, confidence and an amazing sense of phrasing. That's why he can pull this off so well!

I do agree with time being learned with a lot of practice and especially awareness. I'm sensitive to the subject of time because I really struggle with it on piano. I have to really think about it when playing a swing tune on solo piano since I walk bass lines with my left hand, and it's like dialing two telephones at the same time. There remains some barrier for me regarding my sense of time, but I work on it every time I sit behind the instrument.

As subject title Where do I start

Hi Phil,

You can purchase "Almost Blue" from Steve Weiss Music.
https://www.steveweissmusic.com/category/mallet-solo/5

Friedman is copying me!!!

You did a stick drop at the end of this! Dude, really? Are you going to grow a beard next? Stick drop is mine buddy!

Tony, you know you're my idol!!!

This is beautiful! I need to start practicing solo vibraphone like this with a groove left intact throughout in the LH. It should make it easier that I'm a drummer and have independence already but making melodies with just the RH is the hard part to me.

David Friedman always a inspiration for us vibists!!! Thanks a lot!!

Thanks so much fmeno. I'm not sure what your name is.

are you happy? everybody loves you! including me!!! You are an inspiration to so many on this site and other musicians all over. See you next month! We'll be in Norfolk Virginia people!