Fill-style comping can be a very effective tool when dealing with a crowded accompaniment space:
- when comping in a traditional big band setting
- when comping alongside a guitarist’s brazilian rhythmic comping
- when comping alongside a guitarist’s “4 to a bar” comping
In part 1 of this 3-part series, we are going to examine Oscar Peterson’s fill-style comping on “It’s Only A Paper Moon” from his record “With Respect to Nat”. In this track, guitarist Herb Ellis is taking the dominant accompaniment role by playing “4 to a bar” style comping.
4-in-a-bar style comping is when an accompanist, often times a guitarist, will comp 4 quarter notes per bar in a 4/4 time signature. This rhythmically inactive form of accompaniment frees up the pianist for either rhythmic jabs or fill-style comping.
Follow along with the transcription PDF below as we listen to how Oscar Peterson uses melodic fills as an accompaniment device for maximum impact:
Things to Consider:
- Don’t Be Afraid to Be Sparse!
- The first thing that you should notice when looking at the transcription is how much rest there is in Oscar’s comping!
- But it’s not only how much space Oscar is leaving; another essential component to successfully pulling of fill-style comping is short phrases. Notice how all of Oscar’s melodic fills are no more than 2-4 beats!
- Look for spaces in the melody
- If you find yourself wondering when to insert a melodic fill, the key is to look for spaces in the melody. Notice how the placement of Oscar’s fills is always at the end of the melodic phrase.
- Simplicity in Ideas
- Call and Response
- In the first A, Oscar presents a call in his first fill (measure 2) to which he responds to in his second fill (measure 4) by changing the direction of the end of the phrase.
- Call and Response
- Similarly, Oscar repeats a similar call and response figure in the second A.
- In the second A, Oscar repeats his fill concept from the first A: Call and response for the first 4 bars and a blues based idea at the end of the 8 bar phrase.
- Not only is the fill concept similar, but the rhythmic placement of the fills and some of the melodic ideas are exactly the same!
- Blues Based Ideas
- D major pentatonic scale & Use of the b3
- Use of Grace Notes
Fill-style comping presents a unique challenge to pianists: to be tasteful, open and spacious in the role of accompanist. It requires a different mindset, one that is melodically driven rather than solely chord-oriented. In part 2 and 3 of this series we will examine fill-style comping in the context of comping in a traditional big band, as well as how Antonio Carlos Jobim utilizes melodic fills while comping alongside Joao Gilberto.
Bijan Taghavi is a pianist, composer, and educator currently based in New York, NY. For more information visit: BijanJazz.com.