Picking Notes out of Thin Air?
(A COLLECTION OF QUOTES POSSIBLY USEFUL TO THE STUDENT LEARNING TO PLAY JAZZ)
Jazz is not just, "Well, man, this is what I feel like playing." It's a very structured thing that comes down from a tradition and requires a lot of thoughts and study. - Wynton Marsalis
Jazz tunes are great vehicles. They are forms that can be used and reused. Their implications are indefinite. - Lee Konitz
One guy would try to play a tune from a new Bird record, and somebody else would say, "No, that's not right," and we'd hash it out together. The we'd all go home and work on it and come back and see who had advanced the most. - Tommy Flanagan
The rules of harmony are meant to be broken, and these guy did it. They learned the theory of Western harmony, and then they went for themselves. - Tommy Turrentine
There were some jam sessions with Eddie Lockjaw Davis, in which he played so much stuff, it was terrible. If Lockjaw was playing tunes I wasn't familiar with, there was no way in the world you could get me up on the bandstand with him. I wouldn't ask him anything because, at the time, I didn't want him to know that I didn't know the tune. But when the gig was over, I would catch the piano players like Walter Bishop and Red Garland, and they would tell me. it was a great learning experience. - Lou Donaldson
An essential ingredient in learning to be a musician is the ability to recognize a parallel case when you're confronted with one. If things remind you of other pieces when you approach a new piece, you generally catalogue them very quickly so that you can draw upon your accumulated knowledge. - Chuck Israels
Every day I would get hung up on something else, but I always left those sessions resolving that I wouldn't return until I really knew the tune so that I would never be embarrassed like that again. That's how I built up my repertory. - Walter Bishop Jr.
Probably the most frustrating thing was trying to figure out the hipper voicings from records, It was no problem for me to get the basic character of the chord, to figure out what chords were minor or major, but you can drive yourself crazy trying to figure out the notes in between the bass notes and the treble notes. - Kenny Barron
You have to be able to hear chords your own way, it's better than someone else is telling you what to do and just formulaically filling in the chord symbols when reading charts. - Fred Hersch
Some modern fake books have really raw or incorrect changes which aren't in the spirit of the music. Also, they will put in their own idea of the substitutions instead of the basic changes, which distracts you from the main thing that's going on, taking you one step away from where the tune is and getting you away from the root from which you should be able to substitute. Howard Levy
Fake books can really stultify your development if you have the wrong attitude toward them. Really, the best way to learn, is to take tunes off records, because you're utilizing your ear. It takes a lot of knowledge and experience to do this, but it becomes so easy to hear pieces in their component parts if you actually do the work yourself. Then you start trying to write the changes out by ear. In the beginning, you're going to write things out wrong. You're not going to know what's right for the first few years that you do this. But in the end, you see your mistakes and you really learn it. - Howard Levy
Please be encouraged to send in further quotes!