Hochschule Luzern - Musik, Abteilung Jazz

Picking Notes out of Thin Air?

2. Cultivating the Soloist's Skills:

The More Ways You Have of Thinking: Conventional Rhythmic and Theoretical Improvisation Approaches

The more ways you have of thinking about music, the more things you have to play in your solos. Barry Harris

Thinking of rhythm can be very effective; you can just play a few notes and with the right rhythm, it makes them very interesting. Other times, you're thinking in intervals, or you're thinking in scales. Actually, the first thing cats did was to play vertically, running chords. They really learnt chords from top to bottom. That was the way they learned; I didn't know about scales until later. Lately, musicians have been playing intervals. It's a way of getting out of running chords really, because if you play a lot of intervals, you can play them anywhere against the most difficult chords. Benny Bailey

In improvisation you've got to have a melodic concept and a harmonic concept, and a rhythmic concept especially. Tommy Turrentine

Playing off of Time

Certain cultures feel the rhythm on the downbeat more so than the backbeat. I have been brought up in a culture where I feel the backbeat of the rhythm as opposed to the downbeat. Not to say that I don't feel that too, but the stress is on the backbeat for me, and all the other things that I hear in the music are intertwined with the backbeat. In this way, there was something about the rhythm of jazz that equated exactly with the gospel. I mean, the way we used to sing and clap our hands in church was just like the jazz drummer playing cymbals. It was the same swing feeling - the gospel swing and the jazz swing. Carmen Lundy

In the course of a performance there should be ten, fifteen different kinds of time. There's a kind of time that has an edge on it for a while and then lays back for a while. Sometimes it rolls over the bar, and sometimes it sits more on the beats. That's what makes it interesting. You can set a metronome here and, by playing with an edge of playing behind it or right at the center, you can get all kinds of different feelings. That's what makes it come alive. People are human, and rhythmic energy has an ebb and flow. Fred Hersch

See, the triplet feeling in rhythm makes you relax, it makes you hold back; you can't rush triplets. But the duple part of the rhythm is like marches. That kind of division of time makes you move ahead, forge ahead, march. That's the push of the rhythm. And that's why it is so nice when you combine those two feelings. Then you get a complete rhythm that marches and relaxes. Charli Persip

Brother Elvin Jones has dug very deeply into his roots from the motherland, Africa, for his message for the drum. Elvin gets into all kinds of of triplet feelings against the rhythms that he plays that may be in four. Amazing, man! And that's what makes his music sound so complex. At the same time, it's like a whole mass of rhythm coming at you, but because it^s so triplety, it is always relaxing. The first time I heard Elvin play was one of the most unique thrills that I have had in my life. Charli Persip

Bebop is like the music of Mozart or Bach, Bach will have these unbroken sixteen-note phrases, there are little things that talk in the music, and you have to bring them out in your performance. With bebop, you've also got to articulate the phrases and shape them, making variety and music out of the notes. Fred Hersch

I hear rhythms, mostly, and then I put notes to them. Dizzy Gillespie

Improvising from Chords

Everybody's approach to chords is different. Some people move in and out of harmony so quickly that you would hardly recognize the difference, but that adds beauty to the music. It's just like someone's making a picture. You can take the same chord, but add different colors to it. You can make a little red streak, then you add a little pink to it and a little streak of black, and it makes it more beautiful. Doc Cheatham

Improvising from Scales and Intervals

Today, you can use one interval like a fourth and play it anywhere, even if all the notes don't fit the chords, the ear accepts them because they're a complete pattern of fourths. Benny Bailey

Sometimes, I'd skip lunch and I'd just be playing up and down that blues scale in the stairwell everyday. Wynton Marsalis

I can show you the basic theory you need to play jazz in a few hours, but you will spend the next five to seven years studying it before you can make much use of it in your playing.

The Ongoing Interplay of Theoretical and Aural Ideas

Now, if Chopin hadn't known his diminished chords, he never could have thought of this, and if Bird hadn't known his diminished chords, he never could have thought of that. Barry Harris

Dizzy's got a very complicated brain, and he comes up with some funny lines that are really a knockout. He's got a whole lot of things that he's figured out for himself - funny oriental-type scales and things. He's always happy to discover new ones, and he uses them in his solos. His mind is always working on those things. Benny Bailey

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