Page 1 of 2 12 LastLast
Results 1 to 15 of 24

Thread: What is Jazz?

  1. #1
    Spectral Warrior con passion White Knight's Avatar
    Join Date
    Nov 2010
    Location
    NYC
    Posts
    3,911

    Question What is Jazz?

    I have been listening to a lot of jazz of late and enjoying every minute of it. However, I sometimes find myself wondering if all or just some of the arrangements are improvised or if the musicians have a general idea going in of what they want to play and sort of utilize some parts of written charts and riff off of them. I doubt if there is any hard and fast rule to this and that it to a great extent depends on the individual musician(s) or the piece involved. Could anybody out there clarify this for me, even if it is only in general, or is that in itself too vague? Thanks for reading and trying to make sense of this somewhat convoluted question on my part.

  2. #2
    Vice Admiral Virtuoso Dorsetmike's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Location
    Poole Dorset UK
    Posts
    4,544
    All of your options apply, and as you suggest it does depend on the individuals and the piece.

    Most, but by no means all, performances will start with a fairly simple statement of the theme/melody followed by improvisations. Ideally the improvisations should follow the basic chord sequence of the piece, but, again, this is not always the case. The leader of the group/band in a jam session will sometimes nod or point to a player to take the next chorus, in regular performances they will have decided at least a loose order of things in rehearsal.

    Larger groups, especially big bands will usually have a more ordered approach and will play arrangements but including improvised solo breaks/choruses by featured players. I expect you can imagine what 12 or 15 players all trying to do their own improvs at the same time might sound like.

    Not being a musician myself the above is what I have learnt over many years of listening and reading.
    Cheers MIKE.

    How many roads must a man walk down ... ... before he admits he's lost?

  3. #3
    Duckmeister teddy's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2010
    Location
    Kent
    Posts
    8,955
    Hallo white knight and welcome to the forum. I expect you have already realised there are some very knowledgeable members here and some like me who just enjoy the music. You are especially welcome to the jazz section.

    teddy

  4. #4
    Spectral Warrior con passion White Knight's Avatar
    Join Date
    Nov 2010
    Location
    NYC
    Posts
    3,911
    Hello Teddy and thanks for welcoming me on board. Like yourself, I am not a musician but simply love to listen to this truly original American art form/classic. Just to continue the discussion, are you familiar with the album "Inventions and Dimensions" by Herbie Hancock? The reason I pose this question is that the liner notes to this album indicate that every song on it was improvised without using any charts beforehand. If true, that amazes me, as the songs come off as pretty cohesive and melodic. Just wondering. Thanx again for your kind words.

  5. #5
    Chief assistant to the assistant chief JHC's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2008
    Location
    Nu Zeln
    Posts
    4,963
    It really does depend on the type of jazz and size of the ensemble, most musicians will know all the mainstream tunes/melodies by heart, chord sequences likewise, this plus the fact that established bands have been together for years means they are free to improvise freely, if a guest joins them he/she would in all probability be familiar with their style of playing and of course make a seamless contribution.
    In a jam session where for example you have a jazz club and a resident quartet musicians in the audience often join in and they also would know the music back to front.
    Where it gets a bit different is a band of say 10 or more players plus rhythm section then a score is provided and played from, the only improvisation comes in the form of a solo even then the soloist must stick pretty closely to the general construction of the particular arrangement. Then we get “Free form jazz” which I can’t comment upon as to me it seems formless and rhythm less I think it is too intellectual or a load of **

    I should add that for me true jazz is always improvised.
    Last edited by JHC; Nov-14-2010 at 01:10.
    I don’t want a signature any more

  6. #6
    Spectral Warrior con passion White Knight's Avatar
    Join Date
    Nov 2010
    Location
    NYC
    Posts
    3,911
    Dorsetmike: Thanks for responding to my thread in such a concise and informative manner. I believe all of your points are valid and well taken. However, the album from 1963 by Herbie Hancock entitled "Inventions and Dimensions" supposedly contained all improvised works which the musicians had not planned out at all before entering the studio. To my admittedly untrained ears, the end results were pretty cohesive and melodic. Are you familiar with this album. If so, what did you think of it? Again, thank you for your response to my original thread. Peace and out: White Knight

  7. #7
    Spectral Warrior con passion White Knight's Avatar
    Join Date
    Nov 2010
    Location
    NYC
    Posts
    3,911
    J.H.C.: Your reply to my query was very well put and thank you. Does your definition of improvisation comprising "true jazz" mean that the musicians who are performing just come up with an idea or concept on the spot, or have they worked something out-even in general terms- before they hit the stage or enter the studio? And if the former, doesn't that mean that each time they perform the same number it will be somewhat different from the time before? Understand, I am not a fan at all of the so called "free jazz" as epitomized by Pharoah Sanders and Ornette Coleman; to me there is no cohesiveness, beauty or logic in this form as compared to say, the way Thelonious Monk could "improvise" and put a piece together. Taking into account the other points you made earlier in your response, I just find it fascinating how this music is made. Also, I am interested to know how you would characterize those jazz pieces(and there are probably quite a few) which might be partially instead of fully improvised. Thanx again for the exchange of ideas

  8. #8
    Chief assistant to the assistant chief JHC's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2008
    Location
    Nu Zeln
    Posts
    4,963
    Quote Originally Posted by white knight View Post
    J.H.C.: Your reply to my query was very well put and thank you. Does your definition of improvisation comprising "true jazz" mean that the musicians who are performing just come up with an idea or concept on the spot, or have they worked something out-even in general terms- before they hit the stage or enter the studio?
    in general it is on the spot
    And if the former, doesn't that mean that each time they perform the same number it will be somewhat different from the time before?
    mostly but not always
    Understand, I am not a fan at all of the so called "free jazz" as epitomized by Pharoah Sanders and Ornette Coleman; to me there is no cohesiveness, beauty or logic in this form as compared to say, the way Thelonious Monk could "improvise" and put a piece together. Taking into account the other points you made earlier in your response, I just find it fascinating how this music is made.
    a lot of people play "by Ear" and they generally have a natural feel for the music but may not even be able to read a note of music
    Also, I am interested to know how you would characterize those jazz pieces(and there are probably quite a few) which might be partially instead of fully improvised. Thanx again for the exchange of ideas
    Very loosely 'Swing" may fall into that category, but you have to be careful with definitions! they can be a minefield
    I don’t want a signature any more

  9. #9
    Ensign, Principal
    Join Date
    Nov 2010
    Posts
    59
    Quote Originally Posted by white knight View Post
    J.H.C.: Your reply to my query was very well put and thank you. Does your definition of improvisation comprising "true jazz" mean that the musicians who are performing just come up with an idea or concept on the spot, or have they worked something out-even in general terms- before they hit the stage or enter the studio? And if the former, doesn't that mean that each time they perform the same number it will be somewhat different from the time before? Understand, I am not a fan at all of the so called "free jazz" as epitomized by Pharoah Sanders and Ornette Coleman; to me there is no cohesiveness, beauty or logic in this form as compared to say, the way Thelonious Monk could "improvise" and put a piece together.
    hi white knight
    there is to say that a lot of free jazz musicians ( Sun ra, Andrew Hill, Eric Dolphy, Art ensemble of chicago, Muhal Richard abrams etc) made music that is actually really structured. There's also formless mess but the scope is not the chaos. The same Coleman was a very original composer who wrote a lot of really interesting melodies like this
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kqwdRBWvPs0

  10. #10
    Ensign, Principal
    Join Date
    Nov 2010
    Posts
    59
    Quote Originally Posted by white knight View Post
    However, the album from 1963 by Herbie Hancock entitled "Inventions and Dimensions" supposedly contained all improvised works which the musicians had not planned out at all before entering the studio. To my admittedly untrained ears, the end results were pretty cohesive and melodic.
    that's because Hancock is a musician who has a deep knowledge of music and he know how to sound cohesive. If you take the famous Koln Concert by Keith Jarrett, it is supposedly music improvised by the start to the end, and there's music like this

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qMN4U-Alqfc

    The problem is that is really difficult to play more complex stuff (with different sections, advanced harmonies, harmonized lines etc) without planning it.
    So there's music like Reminiscing in tempo by Ellington in which there's not a note that is not written. You can call it third stream.

  11. #11
    Duckmeister teddy's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2010
    Location
    Kent
    Posts
    8,955
    Hello WK I am not very conversant with Herbie Hancock but will check him out on spotify and come back

    teddy

  12. #12
    Spectral Warrior con passion White Knight's Avatar
    Join Date
    Nov 2010
    Location
    NYC
    Posts
    3,911
    Hello escher and thanx for responding to my thread and sharing your ideas as well as the Jarrett and Coleman pieces. As to the latter {"Ramblin'"} I am unclear as to whether it is completely/partially improvised or written out in the main beforehand. If improvised, your point about "free jazz" is well taken as it sounds very cohesive and structured to me; a very enjoyable listening experience. In this vein, I take it that you are familiar with Herbie Hancock's "Inventions and Dimensions" album from 1963. If my understanding regarding that album is correct(?), all but one of the pieces were completely improvised by Hancock and the rest of the band after they entered the studio and began to play. Thanks again for sharing.

  13. #13
    Ensign, Principal
    Join Date
    Nov 2010
    Posts
    59
    Quote Originally Posted by white knight View Post
    Hello escher and thanx for responding to my thread and sharing your ideas as well as the Jarrett and Coleman pieces. As to the latter {"Ramblin'"} I am unclear as to whether it is completely/partially improvised or written out in the main beforehand.
    the theme is a written melody (a very sophisticated one i must say, that recalled Monk), then there's the improvisation, then at the end there's the theme again. It's the classic simple structure of a jazz piece. If you listen a live version (probably you can find some on youtube) you see that the melody is the same but the improvisation after the theme is different.

  14. #14
    Chief assistant to the assistant chief JHC's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2008
    Location
    Nu Zeln
    Posts
    4,963
    Quote Originally Posted by escher View Post
    you see that the melody is the same but the improvisation after the theme is different.
    Can you clarify?
    I don’t want a signature any more

  15. #15
    Ensign, Principal
    Join Date
    Nov 2010
    Posts
    59
    Quote Originally Posted by J.H.C. View Post
    Can you clarify?
    sorry, my english is not exactly the best.
    I think you know that the most common form used in a jazz piece is the esposition of the melody, then the choruses with the same chords for the improvisation, then the reprise of the melody

Page 1 of 2 12 LastLast

Similar Threads

  1. Online jazz radios and free jazz music lessons
    By MartinB in forum Jazz Forum
    Replies: 4
    Last Post: Dec-16-2009, 12:33
  2. Jazz in Andalucia
    By Jazzdrummer in forum Jazz Forum
    Replies: 31
    Last Post: Feb-12-2008, 08:06

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •