i think it's really cute how kwing is like "omg this is MIDI music??!" - like how do they think DAWs work lmfao
anyway this is cool. in a weird way it feels kinda repetitive even though every instrument does a lot of noodling. the big slow down into the last section and the 90s-sitcom-scene-transition ending were really dope though!
please use less reverb - simulating a hall with a close-mic'd drum, bass and sax sound is kinda unintuitive. the particular reverb algorithm used emphasizes the mids in a weird way so i think bringing the wet mix down a little on that one and mixing it with a tighter and brighter small room sound would help make the mix sound less like a .mid file played out of a karaoke machine.
great work, congrats on your 3rd place finish :)
Jazz! This stuff is notoriously difficult to produce. It's orchestrationally dense and harmonic theory aside, requires that you listen to a lot of recordings to get a sense of how each of the rhythm section players function. I'm bumping you're score up half a point for attempting something so tricky. That said, I have a lot of thoughts as this is something I've spent a ton of time studying.
14 bar form? The head feels really abrupt. While odd divisions of measures between phrases (in this case, 8 + 6) are not unheard of in jazz (especially in more modern work), you set up a very traditional feel with the changes/melody, and rhythm section style, but then end the second phrase 2 measures earlier than expected. I'm not saying you have to stick to the rules, but in this case the odd form doesn't seem to feel like the best compositional choice. It's definitely possible to make this idea work, but
The drums are a little too active in the descending ii-V turnarounds of the first phrase. You're using fills that feel like they belong in a shout chorus, but they need to be pulled back in activity significantly for small combo work like this.
0:20 - The saxophone solo is incredibly hard to hear through the rhythm section. For the track in general, both the guitar and piano are comping almost non-stop which is a big rhythm section no-no. Since they essentially play the same roll either use one at a time, or they need to play off of each other (and a lot less), accenting syncopated hits here and there. Freddie Green/Count Basie are the exception, though one would argue that Green's constant accented 2 and 4 beats on a mostly acoustic sounding guitar are more rhythmic than they are harmonic. Even so, Basie is famously SUPER sparse with his accompaniment. Performance-wise, I like that you drew from melodic source material of the head, but the sax solo should breathe more (I mean 'breathe' as in phrasing, but if this was a live performance, the sax player would literally have to circular breathe to play from beginning to end like that). It's a constant barrage of notes with little to no phrasing. While you do a good job of highlighting the interesting notes between the changes, less is more. If you want to get to some of those longer bebop licks, build to it, but don't start with the constant 8th notes.
0:38 - Guitar solo: FINALLY! Because the guitar isn't playing changes, the texture thins out a lot more and it finally has a little more space. Moving to the hi-hat on the drums helps with pulling back the density. This feels a bit better. The rhythm section is still pretty choppy. You're focusing a little too much on accenting those hemiolas. It's almost like you temporarily modulate to 3, then back to 4, but regardless of intentions, the piece definitely stays in 4 throughout with some dotted quarter note syncopations in the turnaround of the 1st phrase.
I would rather have heard extended solos on the saxophone and guitar than hear the drum and bass solo. While your Buddy Rich programming in the drums is impressive, the wind tends to get sucked out of the momentum of a piece with bass and drum solos since everything else drops out. You can make it pay off if the piece has been going for awhile and the other soloists play through the form several times. In that case, pulling everything back for a drum or bass solo is a welcome change of texture. That said, in this context it feels a little like a high school jazz ensemble where everyone in the group gets a turn to play a solo, then you play the head again and end. After that, the piece continues to lose momentum while the ensemble trades 4s with the drums.
The end is kind of disjunct. The full brass section comes in to what was previously just a sax quintet (and actually started as a piano quartet). If you want to write a big band piece, it should start as such. I definitely don't advocate for all the instruments playing all the time, but it's strange to wait until the very end to bring in the full ensemble. I'd try to spend some time listening to large ensemble recordings and actually write out what instruments are doing what and when. If you can actually transcribe the whole score, more power to you, but even just getting the broad strokes of "trumpets accenting chords" or "saxophones playing pads" will help you get a sense for how to orchestrate for large jazz ensemble. That said, the voicings are pretty good in the brass section. That can be a pain in the butt to voice, so well done!
The end chord is just gorgeous. Loved that.
In general the piece felt like band-in-a-box. I think you have some great material here, but the instruments sort of went on autopilot for the most part. Part of what makes jazz so insanely difficult to produce is that you have to spend a ton of time sequencing each and every part to make it believable. I have some thoughts on how to imbue more realism into your MIDI instruments and general production as well, but I feel like I've taken enough of your time as it is.
Thanks for participating. It's really refreshing to see someone do something outside of the typical house track.
Thank you so much friend, I think your review was hard but very accurate, I will try to remember and apply each of the points you mentioned, still I have been interested in that other thoughts for imbue more realism into my music work.
I like the fun piano riffs at the beginning and the fast pace of the harmonic progression. The ornaments on the melodies are a bit excessive at times, and make the melodies a tad hard-to-follow, especially at :22. The saxophone solo at :19 is great otherwise, though, and I love how you scaled back the texture for the guitar solo at :40. The rhythmic elements at 1:10 are great. At times, I found myself wishing the drums were a tad louder, though, especially during the first third of the piece. This piece showcases your talents for harmony and progression really well. Any given transition never feels abrupt, but the plethora of transitory moments throughout the piece (and corresponding huge variety of different textures) can feel a bit jarring. I think my biggest complaint with this piece is that I wish there was some sort of refrain to tie this piece together more, even if it only came in at the beginning and end. That said, the production quality here is really strong, and the variety of textures also function to give this piece a lot of structural variety (with both moments of relative minimalism and flourishing emotional heights). Personally, I think this is your strongest piece of the competition. The track really starts coming together with the slower tempo around the 2-minute mark. You can just hear the victorious mood in the brass stabs (and see the dramatic leg kicks of the cabaret’s cast) at that point. Congratulations on all your fantastic work this year, AzulJazz! ^_^
Mixing, mastering, and balance
Structure, transitions, phrasing, and variety
Melody, tonality, harmony, and texture
Instrumentation and sound design
Emotion, atmosphere, and catchiness
Originality and uniqueness
Overall (how do the elements above interact?)
This is midi? Man, someone is really pushing the envelope.
My complaints can mostly be reserved to over-reverb and hearing a lot more of the subby thud on the upright bass than the actual notes themselves. 1:41's reverb is a huge example of reverb overhang.
Overall, however, nothing necessarily sounds bad, barring maybe that snappy doot-doot lead trumpet, un-muted.
I would probably recommend a different e-guitar than Halion's admittedly not bad jazz guitar. Ample Sound's AGG2 and others are far superior after having done some demos.
Compositionally, this is a treat. Starts off with some sweet swing -- great ghost notes on that perc. Sax solo through 0:37 is blazin', almost sounds human, which is a testament to your writing. Cannot say the same for jazz guitar. Drum and bass solos are great with the exception of the aforementioned subby frequencies on that bass being out of control.
Around 2:04 I would have gone with a bit more relaxed releases and probably humanized those chords a bit more. Bass writing through that section is wonderful.
I'd have liked a little bit more of a hold on the final note of the outro.
Overall, great piece. Really enjoyed it! Only wish I had more to write, haha.
Thanks for coming out to NGUAC!
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