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Thread: What is Jazz

  1. #16
    Vice Admiral Virtuoso Dorsetmike's Avatar
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    This is my take of the process and may not be entirely accurate

    I've always understood that the roots of jazz were to be found mainly in the "African American" community (is that the currently accepted "PC" term?) their walks of life would at the time be somewhat limited to the lower levels, most would use cheap easily portable instruments, probably second hand or passed down, with the exception of pianos in bars and brothels.

    A number of "instruments" would be improvised or borrowed from the home, Washboard, spoons, broomstick bass (with anything to act as resonator like tea chest, large laundry bucket) and earthenware jugs; Harmonicas, kazoos, even comb and paper, guitar, banjo, fiddle, anything that could be pressed into making some sort of tuneful or rythmic sounds: brass instruments, trumpet, cornet, trombone were soon added to this mix and for some reason the clarinet took precedence over the saxes, any ideas or guesses why this was so?

    The traditional line-up became trumpet or cornet, Trombone and clarinet backed by drums, and a bass either string or brass depending on the sort of venue to be played, string bass obviously not easy to play and carry while marching, banjo seemed more popular than guitar, but sometimes both were used. Piano obviously like the string bass was not an option for marching (funeral) bands.

    Things diverged around the 1920s, what had mainly been Southern musicians started to move northwards and their styles changed from the Dixieland and New Orleans to Chicago probably with the influence of white musicians. Prohibition no doubt aided some aspects, "speakeasies" wanted music and infant jazz filled the need.

    Larger groups led to orchestras/bands, like Paul Whiteman and more serious composers like Gershwin had an influence, (Rhapsody in Blue, Porgy and Bess). If you listen to recordings from the 1920s you can still hear the influence of small group New Orleans/Dixie/Chicago in the sound, partly due in my view in that the clarinet still features strongly, and the rythmic backing group are still much the same, e.g.banjo rather than guitar and brass bass in some cases: the sax only gradually in the 30's took on more prominence.

    The presence of small groups within the big bands like the Goodman trios and septets probably did much to keep improvisation alive as would jam sessions at clubs "after hours".

    It was probably from some of these jam sessions that Bebop and Modern jazz grew. the second world war had done much to open the ears to other nations music and things grew from there.

    OK now rip me apart as well!
    Cheers MIKE.

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

  2. #17
    Chief assistant to the assistant chief JHC's Avatar
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    No argument here Mike as far as the roots of Jazz, but what is your definition?
    You can’t have a large group of musicians (say 10 plus) improvising and for me Jazz is all about improvisation so only small groups are true Jazzers
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  3. #18
    Vice Admiral Virtuoso Dorsetmike's Avatar
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    Colin, I don't think you could really have any group of musicians all improvising at the same time, 1 or 2 maybe, as long as they play and jam together regularly and often, I would suggest the remainder of a small group will be accompanying based on the chord sequence of the piece, otherwise I can see the possibility of some shattering discords. Even in Jazz some basics of melody and harmony should be retained, (in jazz rhythm is a given!).

    A good arranger for any jazz oriented group or band should be able to hear the whole ensemble in his head and write parts for the ones not soloing to play so as to give a fitting backing to the soloist, he should also be familiar with what the soloist can do. This might often sound as if there were two improvs being played togther whereas one is improv, the other scored, the one playing the score may sometimes deviate from the score to "answer" a bit of the improv.

    As we can only listen to past masters on record, I have often noticed that soloists often repeat the same "improvisations" on a number of different records, are they still improvisations in the true sense of the word when repeated? I'll have a re-listen to some of my records see if I can come up with examples, I think I can remember a few instances on Mel Powell solos, (probably cos I've listened to more of his work than others!).
    Cheers MIKE.

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

  4. #19
    Duckmeister teddy's Avatar
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    I think this discussion will spill over into WHAT DO WE CALL IMPROVISATION. Does a musician (or group) who have written a piece of music have to make changes every time it is played to qualify as playing jazz, or if they have learnt it by ear and play it the same every time, is it no longer jazz?

    teddy
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  5. #20
    Chief assistant to the assistant chief JHC's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by teddy View Post
    I think this discussion will spill over into WHAT DO WE CALL IMPROVISATION. Does a musician (or group) who have written a piece of music have to make changes every time it is played to qualify as playing jazz, or if they have learnt it by ear and play it the same every time, is it no longer jazz?

    teddy


    At last some discussion, thanks.
    That is the whole point it is not written music thus they are free to improvise that means on the spot immediately at will. Can’t do this if you are reading unless instructed to.
    @Mike all jazz (perhaps not free jazz) follows chord sequences that are ingrained in the memory and in general these are followed but a soloist can lead the group into an entirely different direction and rhythm and change key many times during a number as in a Jam session. None of this is possible if you are playing from a score. And yes soloist can repeat past solos in small or large ens BUT they don’t have to it is up to them.
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  6. #21
    Commodore con Forza
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    The way my ears hear it is that almost all notable arrangers composers in jazz are or were jazz improvisers. The jazz feeling is in the arrangements or orchestrations. They also can be improvised on depending on how the musicians feel, or played with an unmistakebly jazz expression. Some bands did just that and played the same arrangement different on many performances.
    In jazz, emotion and expression are before aesthetics. Although this is also found in European music, the aesthetics are mostly placed before expression.
    Hope that makes sense.

  7. #22
    Chief assistant to the assistant chief JHC's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by stu View Post
    The jazz feeling is in the arrangements or orchestrations. They also can be improvised on depending on how the musicians feel,
    stu we are getting to the nub of the question but how does a section improvise on a
    written score
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  8. #23
    Vice Admiral Virtuoso Mat's Avatar
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    I know it's from another thread but I couldn't help myself.

    Quote Originally Posted by JHC View Post
    jazznut when I posted I had not bothered to even listen to your posted links as what I had heard elsewhere put my teeth on edge, but I have just sampled the first couple of minutes of each clip and was pleasantly surprised it is indeed true Jazz IMO and I have changed my mind and will give it another go
    I assume you are a musician if so what is your instrument??
    Okay, let me get this straight. So, you're saying this is "true jazz", and this (at least the first 60 seconds of it) is not, just because it's not improvised?
    Music expresses that which cannot be put into words and that which cannot remain silent.
    -- Victor Hugo


  9. #24
    Vice Admiral Virtuoso Dorsetmike's Avatar
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    Well I took the trouble to open that Sun Ra link, I think they had the title words the wrong way round, should have been "Is Nothing", I would have thought I was listening to a recording of native drums with occasional sounds of a native pipe wailing. A complete waste of just under 10 minutes waiting for something to happen, or did I get to listen to a practice session? If so they need a lot more practice and more than a few MUSIC lessons.

    Are people actually allowed to post that insult to the ears on a MUSIC forum?
    Cheers MIKE.

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

  10. #25
    Chief assistant to the assistant chief JHC's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mat View Post
    I know it's from another thread but I couldn't help myself.



    Okay, let me get this straight. So, you're saying this is "true jazz", and this (at least the first 60 seconds of it) is not, just because it's not improvised?
    Sorry mat but I don't understand the point you are making can you put your thoughts into words
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  11. #26
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    Quote Originally Posted by JHC View Post
    stu we are getting to the nub of the question but how does a section improvise on a
    written score
    I know what you mean Colin, but my take on this is that being improvising musicians they often improvise on the themes.
    During band rehearsals they often rearrange a written score. To do this, I feel, it immediately becomes improvisation. Improvised variations. When performing in concert or studio, that same theme will be approached thus, but the improvisation on the theme can be totally different as that during rehearsals.
    Then there is the 'Head' arrangements. Variations on a theme but emerging as something completely original. Woody Herman often left the band to rehearse on their own. They, as most jazz orchestras did, often came up with head arrangements, nothing written down. A sort of 'lets see what happens!' Herman stated that some days he didn't know what to expect when he would call a number. The band would open up improvising a head arrangement. I recall pianist Nat Pierce tell me once that the band really caught fire on some well known numbers with only faint signposts as to what they actually were, and as Nat said, Woody would be standing amazed, jaw dropping, as the band carved out entirely new improvised versions of the written material. The band would often yell out afterwards, "Woody! Guess what we did?"
    Last edited by Mat; Dec-01-2012 at 23:26. Reason: Inserted quote tag.

  12. #27
    Vice Admiral Virtuoso Mat's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by JHC View Post
    Sorry mat but I don't understand the point you are making can you put your thoughts into words
    I just cannot understand that "big band playing" (or however you want to call it) doesn't fit your definition of true jazz and "free jazz" does.
    Music expresses that which cannot be put into words and that which cannot remain silent.
    -- Victor Hugo


  13. #28
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mat View Post
    I just cannot understand that "big band playing" (or however you want to call it) doesn't fit your definition of true jazz and "free jazz" does.
    Quote Originally Posted by JHC View Post
    What is Jazz ?

    What do you consider the elements of music that enable it to go under the label of Jazz? lets just stick to instrumental at this stage not vocalists.
    For me the first thing is that it must be improvised (I realise there is a bit more to it) and not from a score so this would make it nigh on impossible for a large ensemble to be called a Jazz Band .



    Larger Bands.
    Dance Bands would go up to 12 plus and had to use scores as do the famous bands that we all know and call Jazz Bands.
    What makes a Swing Band and how is it different from a Jazz Band ?
    These are a few rambling thought that I have in the hope to stimulate a discussion.
    Over to you
    As I said Mat these are my thoughts I consider that Improvisation to be the main stay but there are other things that come into the equation
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  14. #29
    Vice Admiral Virtuoso Mat's Avatar
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    Well then, Colin. Looks like we're just gonna have to agree to disagree.
    Music expresses that which cannot be put into words and that which cannot remain silent.
    -- Victor Hugo


  15. #30
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mat View Post
    Well then, Colin. Looks like we're just gonna have to agree to disagree.
    That's OK Mat, so I take it that improvisation is not an essential ingredient as far as you are concerned
    I don’t want a signature any more

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