Sheet music on a jazz stage

Watching a video of the Modern Jazz Quartet 1982 North Sea Jazz Festival as I play chess with my 6 year old grandson……….gotta teach him the finer things in life!!..………watching Percy Heath use sheet music on stage!..……when people gripe that “real” jazz musicians shouldn’t have sheet music on stage, I just laugh! Even though Percy passed many years ago…………who in their right mind would debate Percy Heath that jazz musicians must not have sheet music on stage??? I’ve also seen videos of Ray Brown and Ron Carter using sheet music on stage as well. I will never feel intimidated by others when I play my jazz using sheet music! Love it! Enjoy!!!


Was it legit sheet music with notation and whatnot, or possibly chord progressions and similar broader aids for the songs they were playing?

Couldn’t see from the video, but during a solo Percy was looking at the music.

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It’s probably so-called lead sheets… chords, melody, perhaps lyrics, and added to that hand-written annotations for this particular gig (“play the bridge 4x instead of twice” or stuff like that).

Jazz cats play frequently in different ensembles and need to remind themselves of certain particular arrangements or agreed-upon “deviations” from the “standard/original”. Plus, they don’t all know ALL the changes of all standards by heart :smile:


I have never heard of that gripe, and I do know a few jazz musicians.

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that’s the term I was trying to think of.

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I’ve been told to never bring music, like a real book, to a jazz jam session……that that is the way the veterans know a rookie……and you will be looked down upon from them.

I played in a jazz/stage band for several year and we played everything from sheet music. There isn’t just one kind of jazz.

if you’re playing in NYC or some other big city with very experienced jazz musicians they might have a shitty attitude towards new musicians because they don’t want them wasting their time but a lot of the forum people who say jazz musicians only improvise are like people who say real bassists don’t use a pick. I’ve met and talked to several serious jazz musicians and they were happy to share stuff and didn’t care how you were playing your music as long as you were playing it.


Yah! like Carol Kaye and Bobby Vega. They use picks, lol. Carol also an awesome bebop jazz guitarist. Some people.

Similar things in golf weekend warriors love to get themselves a set of “players” clubs and look down upon the Game improvement clubs. I caddied in a charity tournament once, to my surprised many pros use Game improvement clubs, why not every thing helps, you don’t get extra price for style only low score.

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I don’t play much now but for a long time, I used a “set” that I got at an auction; I paid maybe $100 and got two bags full of clubs. It had a mixed set of irons from 2-9 where the odds were one brand and the evens were another (I think they might have been women’s too), multiple wedges and I think 4 putters… and the 1-5 woods (real wood) were in rough shape so I sanded a couple of them down and repainted them… I even won a couple of work tournaments and I amused the hell out of myself :joy:

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I have never been to a jam session yet where sheet music, lead sheets or rookies were looked down upon. Of course, I do not play jazz. Almost sounds like auditioning for a jam session. :rofl: :rofl: :rofl:

Jam sessions like you describe sound like places to avoid to me. So much for encouraging new players. No fun at all IMHO :rofl: :rofl: :rofl:

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Agreed! Going in to a jazz sit in session with, let’s say a fake book, and the “old guard” players looking down on that would definitely discourage a rookie jazz bassist. It certainly has intimidated me! My message is, especially to inexperienced bassists who want to spread their wings and play jazz in front of a crowd, that “newbies” should not be intimidated by the veterans, and to take sheet music if they want to. So, no, my posts are not to discourage rookie jazz bassists, but to encourage them to do what they need to do to enjoy the fruits of their hard work to play jazz bass in a live group setting as jazz should be played!
When I picture my dream in my mind, it is a picture of me playing bass, a drummer, a pianist, and a sax player playing songs like “Round Midnight” in an intimate smoky jazz club at 1:00am! Nothing fancy, just me, my bass, the other musicians, the crowd, the music. Besides life’s top priority of taking care of family, that is my selfish dream just for me.
That’s all. Just a desire. Just a dream. Just an observation. Not a judgement.

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