Over the next several months, I'll be making a special effort to work on my solo improvisation as part of the Godfrey and Guy duo. When I improvise for myself, I have the flexibility to pick a key for that lays well for chord/melody arrangements. As part of the duo, where Lori Guy does most of the singing, I no longer have that luxury. As with most female vocalists, the key for any given song is "wrong" for guitar chord/melody arrangements. It's either too high or too low for a solo arrangement.
For now, I've been using a looper. I'll record while I comp for Lori during the first chorus, and then I'll loop those chords for guitar improvisation. This is great practice for my single line improvisation, and even better than that, it's great practice for training myself to keep time. When you start the loop over again, you can tell immediately if you've changed tempo. My time isn't perfect, but it sure has gotten better since using a looper to record entire choruses.
The bad thing about a looper is that there is very little flexibility. My comping has to be very basic. There's nothing wrong with simple. Simple usually sounds best, but if Lori does something creative in her vocals, I can't answer with an appropriate musical response, because it'll sound weird when I loop the chords back for solos.
I've nearly weaned myself from looping when playing solo gigs. Now, it's time to do the same with the Godfrey and Guy material. We have a lot of songs in the book, so I'm tackling a few at a time. The first three on the list are It's Only a Paper Moon, All of Me, and Bésame Mucho – all in non-standard keys. I like to blend improvised sections with chord/melody sections. I started working through these three songs earlier this evening. There are some bugs to work out, but I was pleasantly surprised with some early success.
I'm looking forward to the day when I'm comfortable leaving the looper at home for Godfrey and Guy gigs. It'll make us more flexible, and working through these songs will make me a stronger improviser. As an added bonus, it'll be one less thing to carry to a gig!