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Bebop Spoken There

John McDonough (reviewing Bright Red Dog’s In Vivo): “When you improvise on nothing, that’s what you get”. - DownBeat August 2021

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Postage

13,530 (and counting) posts since we started blogging 13 years ago. 948 of them this year alone and, so far, 112 this month (July 31).

Tuesday, May 18, 2021

Just thinkin' ...

This quote from KT Reeder is interesting, controversial and must surely provoke some further comment"The idea of teaching somebody to improvise is just bloody ridiculous. In this country jazz has been appropriated by universities. They have jazz courses, and they churn out people who have a degree in jazz, which makes me feel very nauseous, the idea that you can be trained to do jazz." - (Giant Steps by David Burke).

This is something I, as one who struggled through various  teach yourself jazz tutors as well as gleaning 'knowledge' from semi-pros, regarded this as the way to go. I mean, did Louis or Bird go to Berklee or Julliard? No, they went to the School of Hard Knocks before graduating to the University of Life.

So it's easy to sentimentalise and typecast today's young Turks as conveyor belt musicians who haven't the, shall we say, soul, the individuality that made  the greats great?

Worth pondering upon.

However, had not jazz achieved the belated 'respectability' of acceptance by the various educational establishments, which direction would future aspiring musicians have turned to? At comps it would have been Bach, Beethoven & Brahms - Bix, Bird and Brecker, who?

The media surrounded them with Beatles, Beach Boys and Beastie Boys and even Ronnie Scott's solo on Lady Madonna probably didn't put a tenor sax, instead of a guitar, on their letter to Santa.

So, the fact that colleges, worldwide, sprung up introducing jazz into the curriculum is to be praised with the end result that we now have a generation of young musicians who, technically speaking, could carve the old masters from here to breakfast time except for the fact that the new kid on the block whose solo incorporated more demi-semi-quavers in 33.5 bars than, say, Johnny Hodges did in his lifetime, will be forgotten tomorrow whereas Hodges, and those like him who used their instrument in the way a painter used his brush created something that will last as long as time itself. Lance

2 comments :

Steve Andrews said...

I'm a bit hesitant to comment on this, Lance, because I know many younger musicians (who isn't?) who have come through the "college" system who are excellent jazz improvisers. I have also heard many who think that running arpeggios at speed regardless of the chord sequence is a substitute for melody and creativity. Colleges can certainly teach musicianship, but can they teach musicality? As to whether they can teach how to improvise jazz, I believe that, unless you were lucky enough to have sprung forth from the womb a fully-formed jazz genius, like Louis, Bix, Hawk, Pres, Bird, Diz and the other acknowledged greats, this can only be learned by dedicated listening to great musicians, particularly on record, where we have the gift of being able to study and learn from their choruses again and again. And then, get out there and Play, Play, Play! Think about what you played, play some more and refine it over years until you can produce a solo that you are, if not proud of, then at least not ashamed of! And if you have never played a solo you were ashamed of, then put the horn away and take up landscape gardening!

Gordon Solomon said...

There are arguments on both sides I suppose. To me there are only two features of a really good improvised solo. Technique and Taste. I have listened many times to well schooled musicians play with tremendous technique but with absolutely no taste. Conversely there are many examples of much simpler solos beautifully constructed and performed. I suppose Coleman Hawkins' Body and Soul is a classic example.

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