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201 Outtakes Gabe on Music, Playing, Practicing, and Stan Kenton Do you have a favorite solo? Of all the solos I’ve recorded, I don’t have a favorite. Everybody asks me if I have a favorite, and I say not really. I’m very critical of my playing. I’m never satisfied. Well, there were some that I’d listen to. Maybe some of the things from Birdology. I kind of like some of those things. They felt pretty good. “The Wind” I like. That Russ Freeman tune, beautiful tune called“The Wind.” I’ve been listening lately to the thing I did with Rudy Tenio, A Night at Wine and Roses. I kind of like that because they gave me some room to stretch out, which is rare when they’re featuring vocals. Just about every tune I had a chorus or two, and it was one of those days I felt good and we didn’t have to do too many takes, which is great, because I was tired. Maybe I like it because when you’re tired you’re more relaxed. The “good tired.” Just hanging. Because sometimes , if you’re overly energetic, you don’t swing as hard. You tend to play so much goddamned notes. But when you’re relaxed or slightly tired, you’re just . . . in a nice feel. It swings more, or something like that. So I can listen to some of the things I did there. How about practice? Even today I love to practice, but if I have a cold I don’t touch the horn for a while, which is a drag. Sometimes I won’t play for five or six days, then I’ll play a gig and skip another three or four days. It bugs me, but I sit on the piano, work on tunes. Because when you’re sick, blowing the horn takes a lot more energy, and I love the piano. So I try to keep myself limber. Sometimes I just take the horn out of the case and play cold. Depends on my mood. If I feel something lacking, a certain scale or something, I’ll work on G-flat or G-flat minor, G-flat minor seven flat five. I’ll work on those things. And at my age, I’m going in my eighties now, I can feel my fingers slowing down. My mind is slowing down a little bit, but I try to keep it very active. Got to, because otherwise you get lazy 202 •  O u t t a k e s and the next thing you know, you fall back. So I try to be in shape, mentally and physically. My approach, harmonic, melodic, depends on my mood, and the rhythm section. Sometimes I feel like going outside the key, the tonality, and there’s a lot of things that you can use: different chords against different chords, scales against different chords, scales against scales, and things like that. Bitonal, but you’ve got to know exactly where you’re at. You can’t just throw it in at random. Try a little bit. Get your feet wet, then when you get used to it, you’re good. Or chromatics. It opens a new area, because I always thought I wanted to be not a dated player, but also be able to play with almost any group, from avant-garde to swing or Dixie, know the concept of that and still maintain my style. And I do miscellaneous exercises, diminished scale, altered scale, whole tone, modal. And I make up my own scales. You hear this all the time. And I use it for tunes, like Coltrane’s “Countdown,” or “Giant Steps.” I use that for practice. Bill Evans’ “Turn Out the Stars” is great. Any good tune with good changes. Some I play with CDs, some I don’t. I just like to practice. Try to get a bit more facility. Try to get it where you hear it, instead of skimming over it. Make the audience hear the chord changes, even without accompaniment. Bill Evans and Coltrane, their tunes make my mind active because they’ve got the kind of tone that gets me where I can get all over the place. I work on that. It gets my mind, my mental thing, working. Then I work up the tempos. Anyway, this is what my mind gets into. This kind of practice builds up your facility , your...


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