On Vibing

Vibe (vaɪb) - v.
1. To give negative vibes to another, as to signal disapproval: "That motherfucker was vibing me so hard after I held out that major third on that minor I on "Softly." If I were Rich Perry, he wouldn't have vibed me for doing that—Rich does that all the time."

Related Forms
Vibey (vaɪb-ē) - adj.
1. Possessing the aura of one who vibes: "I was not digging that guitar player, man. He was one vibey-ass motherfucker, what with calling "Take Five" in 7. Asshole."

* * * * *

Joe Lovano and Greg Osby were here at Harvard last week to perform with the Harvard Jazz Band on a concert celebrating Blue Note Records. Over a dinner with the band, I had a chance to ask about what advice they had about dealing with vibing on the bandstand—particularly at jam sessions. Both said similar things: play confidently when you get up to play with cats you don't know (Joe said that if you played confidently enough, you won't even know if somebody's vibing you), keep your eyes and ears open to communicate with musicians so they know that you're listening and trying to play with and not over them, and be sure to shed if you're getting vibed for something you probably deserve, e.g., not knowing the changes, playing out of tune/out of time/out of whack.

They also had a couple anecdotes to share that weren't just entertaining, but also inspiring; it's nice to know that everybody—even Joe Lovano and Greg Osby—got vibed on their way to learning how to play jazz:

I. Steinway

Joe Lovano remembers being on the bandstand with a certain bass player who had famously played with Miles Davis and was known for his proficiency in vibing (apparently he was also known by the moniker "Count Vibula"!). While on a gig with Joe, said bass player didn't dig the way the piano player was comping behind his solos, so during the break, the bass player pulled the pianist over and told him: "When I'm soloing, don't play below the 'S' in Steinway." That ended the vibing—at least temporarily.

II. Stitt

The great Sonny Stitt was passing through St. Louis one year when Greg Osby was starting to get a reputation around town as the local up-and-coming saxophonist. At one of Stitt's gigs, Osby asked him if he could sit in on a tune, and Stitt let him. Osby called a blues in F, and started blowing once he counted it off. After the tune started, Osby would play a few notes and then adjust his mouthpiece—this happened a few times. For some reason, something didn't feel right, and Osby wrapped up his solo and stepped off-stage. As soon as Stitt got on, it occurred to Osby what had happened: Stitt had told the band to play in F#, so once Osby got off-stage, Stitt tore it up in the right key and made Osby look like a fool. Afterwards, Stitt gave Osby a classic lecture along the lines of "Well, young man, when one plays with a rhythm section, one must acknowledge that there are multiple pitches and that key centers may shift based on musical consensus," etc.. An education in only a few choruses.

III. Whisper Not

Greg Osby was playing a gig with a band that featured aforementioned bass player, who had repeatedly vibed him in the past, i.e., had not acknowledged him from behind his WSJ, until the third time Osby introduced himself, after which he asked said bass player, "Excuse me, who are you?" which led the bass player to slowly lower his WSJ and give Osby the kind of a look meaning, "Get out of here." 

Anyway, during the break on a gig, the bass player pulled Osby aside and was telling him that whatever Osby was playing wasn't working on the last tune they played—"Whisper Not." Osby stood his ground and explained what he was doing harmonically at the piano, after which, the bass player also mentioned that he too was experimenting and putting different roots in the bass (like the 7th on downbeats), to which Osby replied, "That's why my stuff didn't sound any good!" But, after this moment of honest, direct conversation, the two finally understood where the other was coming from, and they played well together from then on.