Picking Notes out of Thin Air?
(A COLLECTION OF QUOTES POSSIBLY USEFUL TO THE STUDENT LEARNING TO PLAY JAZZ)
The music is what sustains the player from beginning to end. That's where you get your life from. That's why you play jazz. Art Farmer
You keep playing, keep studying, keep listening, keep learning, and you keep developing. Jazz is not a nine to one (A.M.) job, once or twice a week. It's a way of life. Some people develop in their twenties. Some people mature in their thirties. It took me to reach my fifties before I matured. It finally happened when a situation took place where I became more secure and much happier with myself. I wasn't satisfied then, but I was satisfied that I was finally heading in the direction that I really should have been heading in all along. Red Rodney
Student: "How long before I will be a player?" I tell them, "How can I say how long it will take. Why, I'm still learning myself." Lonnie Hillyer
When I got there, I was so surprised to see him (Ray Brown) practicing. At the time, I thought, "A cat as great as he is, still practicing just like every one else? Still trying to get better?" Rufus Reid
Rhythm is all around us. You know? If Tony Williams was walking down the street and stumbled, he might want to play that rhythm. Miles Davis
At one point, I learned to analyze and compose music like Gershwin's, seeing why it sounded so great. The more tools you have as an improviser, the better you can express yourself. Walter Bishop Jr.
We are called jazz musicians, but, like other composers, we are influenced by everything we hear all around us. How could it be otherwise? We all listen to the radio. We all hear music on records, on television and on films, in the streets and in concert halls. Patti Brown
In America, we haven't formulated so much of a musical tradition as in Europe, and we're still free to do different things. For example, I think Gunther Schuller is working on a opera with a jazz band in it. Before Charlie Parker died, he was talking about doing a double concerto with Yehudi Menuhin. It's not like India here, where traditionally you couldn't play an afternoon raga in the evening, or Africa, where a certain drum can only be played on a certain occasion. We have the freedom to try out a lot of things, and we're not set in our ways. Max Roach
Just think of it this way, if, every day, you come up with a new idea - whether it's just one new phrase or one new way of embellishing an old phrase - at the end of the year you'll have three hundred and sixty-five new things to deal with. After two years, you'll have over seven hundred things to deal with, and so on. John Coltrane
It's like after you've learned a new language, you can basically keep it up by speaking it. Charlie Mariano
There are drought periods, and then, all of a sudden, there's the oasis. Because you never know when the revelations will come to you, you have to practice every day, even when you're not inspired, so that you're at your instrument to receive the revelations when they do come. Barry Harris
It can be depressing sometimes, especially around holiday time when old friends that I went to school with return to the area to visit. After ten years , they've become successful lawyers and doctors. They have families and homes and respect and security. But I'm still in the same situation I've been in all along - still scuffling to pay the rent, still without any savings or health insurance, still trying to keep a band together, still trying to find places to play, still without any sense of the future.
How many times in my life have I said to myself, "If only?". "If only I could play this passage? If only I could play that tune? If only I had the technique to do that? If only I could play with these musicians or those musicians? Only to discover that by the time I reached those goals, they had been replaced by other goals. Walter Bishop Jr.
I have felt quite deficient a number of times over the years, and it's been quite embarassing. I keep thinking, "Jesus, why don't I have more of a vocabulary at my disposal so that I can just play fast tempos?" But at some point, I decided that that's the way it's going to be. I'm not going to get it all in, or be the best, or whatever. When I realized that Charlie Parker died at the age of thirty-four and I was going to be fifty-four, I realized that I probably won't live long enough to play as brilliantly as he did. But the fact is, I have never played that knock-out kind of music that was obviously part of the bebop thing. That music was so intense in those dazzling tempos and lines that they played, that it made its impact that way. I have never been able to make it that way. For people who would like to hear a bit of an improvising attempt - sometimes even a walking on eggshells, if you will - I have a small audience, and it's enough for me. Lee Konitz
It's amazing, but lately I've been suddenly feeling myself getting better and better each time I play. I don't know why it's happening now, at this late stage of my career, but it is happening. I still feel like a little kid, a fifty-one-year-old kid and it's beautiful. Every fifty-one-year old should should feel like I do about this, because it's a continual learning process. You can be doing this music till you seventy, till you're one hundred, and just be learning all the time. If you could only do this till you were one hundred fifty or two hundred years old and learn all the time, just imagine the depth you could achieve. I must hope that I live long enough to solve more of the mysteries. I am solving some of the mysteries for myself, but I know that there are many more, and the thing is to keep at it and to solve them.
I listened to some of the piano sutdents who came to my class yesterday. About five of them played the same tune, but played it so differently! This thing we're involved with is so big that it's unbelievable what one can learn from so many people. I have such a ball in my classes, and I learn so much from my students. They probably don't realize that I come to school here, too. I'm just the oldest member of the class. I just wish everyone could experience the blessing of learning new things all the time. Barry Harris
We were well accepted when we opened at Sweet Basil, and I was so surprised, I just couldn't believe it - especially when I started singing. I started singing a few years ago. At first, I was worried that, at my age, I wouldn't be able to remember all the lyrics to the tunes. But I found that it wasn't any problem for me. So I said, "The heck with it, at seventy-five, I can't lose a darn thing, Either people like it or they don't. If they don't, they don't have to hire me." But then they accepted my singing and my soloing and everything, and they just love me. Everything is working out fine. So, instead of retiring, I'm being born into the business again. At a recent jazz festival in France, to be on the bandstand with Dizzy Gillespie, Clark Terry and Bobby Hackett at the same time was one of the highlights of my whole entire life. I'll never forget it. I'm doing what I enjoy now. I play my solos and sing my songs. And I try to learn new things all the time. Doc Cheatham
I had a great feeling when I saw them. I realized I would also be playing my whole life, and I had twenty or thirty years ahead of me to continue to improve. Buster Williams
What a satisfying life work as a jazz musician can be! Where else do you have the freedom to play music which really expresses you - to be your own boss? Also, I still love to travel and to see new places. I especially love working in Europe and Japan. George Duvivier
Music is a special gift from God to those who have it and it's necessary for us to follow it through to the extent of our abilities, whatever they may be. That's what I life for. A friend of mine saw Kenny Dorham playing somewhere the night before he died. Kenny was playing on crutches, but he way playing right to the end. God willing, that's the way it will also be with me.
Sarah Vaughan is somewhere right now having a ball. She's in good company....Somebody said when she died, "Well, Basie needed a vocalist." Joe Williams
Please be encouraged to send in further quotes!