DGGroup 2018

Introduction: The combo format is typically 3 - 7 players. It is true to say that the smaller the format, the greater the scope for improvisation. Often, a combo will work from nothing more than a lead sheet (Melody with chords) and improvise the arrangement. Clearly this requires a good understanding of how to improvise, the rules of engagement and the roles which the instruments well as a good understanding the musical language that is referred to; whether it is Jazz, Blues, Fusion, Rock n Roll, Country, Folk etc...

Of course, that's not to say that scores are not used at this level: they certainly are; especially where specific arranging ideas are involved; or where there are at least two horns that are required to play as a section. It is fair to say that combo players must be very flexible in regard to their playing approach: not only does it depend on the style of music but also the exact lineup of players ('context'). For instance, where there is no bass player (say in a trio), a guitarist may find that they have to perform the bassist's role as well as their usual role. As a rule, the smaller the context, the harder each player must work to fill the sonic canvass. In the absence of a chordal instrument to provide accompaniment, lead soloists must spend more time outlining the harmony when they are improvising.

a typical jazz combo layout