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date: 19 September 2021

Vamp (jazz)free

Vamp (jazz)free

  • Deane L. Root
  • , revised by Barry Kernfeld

A short passage, which is simple in rhythm and harmony, played in preparation for the entry of a soloist; it is usually repeated ad libitum until the soloist is ready, hence the rubric “vamp till ready.” The term is applied to the technique of playing ostinatos before or between solos, and, by extension, during or after solos. For example, on Miles Davis’s recording of Someday my prince will come (on the album of the same title, 1961, Col. CS8456), Wynton Kelly improvises a delicate piano ostinato until Davis enters with the melody, and the band repeats the vamp at the end of the piece. Although the term “vamp” may be almost synonymous with “ostinato,” it carries the additional idea that duration is at the discretion of a soloist. In jazz-rock, Latin jazz, and other fusions of jazz and popular music, and especially in modal jazz, an entire piece may be based on a succession of open-ended vamps. Vamps have also made their way into jazz through borrowings from various types of ethnic music, as heard, for example, in Abdullah Ibrahim’s use of a typical Xhosa harmonic pattern (the alternation of two major chords separated by a whole tone) on Namhanje (Today) from his album of duos with Johnny Dyani, Echoes from Africa (1979, Enja 3047). (B. D. Kernfeld: Adderley, Coltrane, and Davis at the Twilight of Bebop: the Search for Melodic Coherence (1958–59) (diss., Cornell U., 1981), 158)