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Originally Posted by phobucket
I like to think of it through the “music as a language” paradigm where the song is the subject. You could write prose or give a well-rehearsed presentation on the subject, or you could have a casual conversation. In all of these scenarios, you are likely to use some of the same words, and use some words multiple times, but in the conversation, there is likely to be greater variety from night to night when you’re talking about the same subject, even if there is some overlap.

I like this approach. That's what I try to do for my self, build my own vocabulary, be familiar with many subjects(aka standards), but not inventing the wheel on every round of improvisation I do on some standard, because then you try to catch a lot, but you catch nothing.

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Originally Posted by hag01
Originally Posted by phobucket
I like to think of it through the “music as a language” paradigm where the song is the subject. You could write prose or give a well-rehearsed presentation on the subject, or you could have a casual conversation. In all of these scenarios, you are likely to use some of the same words, and use some words multiple times, but in the conversation, there is likely to be greater variety from night to night when you’re talking about the same subject, even if there is some overlap.

I like this approach. That's what I try to do for my self, build my own vocabulary, be familiar with many subjects(aka standards), but not inventing the wheel on every round of improvisation I do on some standard, because then you try to catch a lot, but you catch nothing.

To me the subjects are figures that would go over chord or progression of chords; I’d characterize any individual standard as akin to a book, if I was to follow your metaphor.

Subject, verb, adjective; those are parts of sentences.

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I know MFH very well , and allowed himself to record two versions of few opening bars of the improvisation in a completely spontaneous way.

https://soundcloud.com/jazzman1945/two-versions-of-few-opening-bars-of-the-improvisation

I regard this, on my own responsibility, as two different versions. What is repeated is a concept, what changes, as already mentioned, is intonation and rhythm.

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Nice playing, it’s casually sequencing.


Harry Likas was the Technical Editor of Mark Levine's The Jazz Theory Book and helped develop The Jazz Piano Book. Studied with Mark Levine 1985-89 and Barry Harris 1995-99
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Originally Posted by RinTin
Nice playing, it’s casually sequencing.
Explain, please.

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I liked your examples.
I meant the demonstration reminds me of casual or rough "sequencing" (not in the strict classical sense, but rather close to sequencing, obviously your playing a more varied approach than the strict definition of melodic sequencing).


Harry Likas was the Technical Editor of Mark Levine's The Jazz Theory Book and helped develop The Jazz Piano Book. Studied with Mark Levine 1985-89 and Barry Harris 1995-99
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Originally Posted by RinTin
I liked your examples.
I meant the demonstration reminds me of casual or rough "sequencing" (not in the strict classical sense, but rather close to sequencing, obviously your playing a more varied approach than the strict definition of melodic sequencing).
Yes, now I think I was trying to cram the development of the second A part into the initial four bars. In a real performance, the improvisation would start from the last bars of the theme.
Anyway, improvisation is always an adventure, both for the performer and for the listener; sometimes more fortunate, sometimes less.

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Originally Posted by hag01
Is jazz piano solo really improvised?

...

It really depends on the complexity of the recordings. If it is very complex I suspect it was pre-arranged and not really improvised…

I've often wondered that too and here is what I think.

... Some are, some are mostly and some I think (I know in fact) are totally rehearsed. But this would go outside of strictly jazz piano and could include any solo, like perhaps Van Halen.

Depends how well one can truly improvise. The better quality studio recordings I'd suspect are nearly all a highly rehearsed improvisation at best. Even for the great improvisors. Peterson would have a slew of options at the ready for every phrase along the way, so he may just want to change up the index as he goes. Compiling a piece differently each time is still after all, improvisation. He might try out new ideas at home, in practice with more mistakes which is the true improvisation, but too sloppy for studio or live stage. I've heard it said by many musicians (not just piano) that the best solo, is a polished solo. Work it out, write it down and perform it as such.

But that would be for recording mainly, as if you were playing nightly you'd want to change it up more regularly. Full on improvisation is hard to do all the time and most of it, isn't that pleasant. So among the tier below the very best at it, you're better off rehearsing it, IMO. But for the true pro's, it is a mix of all of the above.

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greener: I can speak only for the jazz world and this notion that "true" improvisation is playing a solo with unique phrases that you've never played before is simply not how jazz musicians view it. Improvisation means that when you start playing a tune, you have no idea what you'll do in your solo. You many have played that tune 100 times, and you likely have tendencies; phrases that you tend to play a lot, rhythms that you tend to use, but that is considered having a style. If you haven't planned out a solo in advance (and I'm not aware of anybody I've every played with or studied with having planned a solo), in the jazz world that's considered improvisation. I have never heard a jazz musician say anything remotely like "the best solos are those worked out in advance." Indeed, one of things my teachers have emphasized most is that a solo is a conversation with the rhythm section and good players listen to each other and react to what the other musicians are doing. If you're solo is planned, you couldn't have that conversation and the performance would lack the key element of spontaneity in the moment.

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Excellent explanation, jjo.


Harry Likas was the Technical Editor of Mark Levine's The Jazz Theory Book and helped develop The Jazz Piano Book. Studied with Mark Levine 1985-89 and Barry Harris 1995-99
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Originally Posted by jjo
greener: I can speak only for the jazz world and this notion that "true" improvisation is playing a solo with unique phrases that you've never played before is simply not how jazz musicians view it. Improvisation means that when you start playing a tune, you have no idea what you'll do in your solo. You many have played that tune 100 times, and you likely have tendencies; phrases that you tend to play a lot, rhythms that you tend to use, but that is considered having a style. If you haven't planned out a solo in advance (and I'm not aware of anybody I've every played with or studied with having planned a solo), in the jazz world that's considered improvisation. I have never heard a jazz musician say anything remotely like "the best solos are those worked out in advance." Indeed, one of things my teachers have emphasized most is that a solo is a conversation with the rhythm section and good players listen to each other and react to what the other musicians are doing. If you're solo is planned, you couldn't have that conversation and the performance would lack the key element of spontaneity in the moment.

For the entire pedagogical period since 1980, I had to hear improvising students (mine and others) at exams, according to a very rough estimate, 866 + times. During the four-year period of a student's study, one can trace successive changes in his improvisational thinking (at the end of the second year, one can already foresee how professional his achievements will be in the future). Already at the end of the second semester it was possible to determine by ear when the improvisation was prepared, thought out, learned, copied or spontaneously without preparation. It was interesting to listen to improvisations in several choruses, where the quality of music and performance suddenly changes.
Prepared, thought out, learned and copied - concepts, partly similar, partly different. "Planned improvisation" - maybe learned? I personally have always advocated thoughtful improvisation that can include everything else; however, it always remains an improvisation.

Dialogue with the rhythm section is true, but not the whole truth: the improviser carries on a dialogue primarily with himself, not forgetting the rhythm section; the rhythm section conducts, first of all, a dialogue with the presenter, not forgetting the dialogue with oneself and with a partner (how difficult it is!).
After 100 improvisations on the same jazz theme, it is easy to slip into mechanical playing, out of boredom, while reading a newspaper on a music stand at the same time; but this is elementary laziness. Therefore, we must strive to play as much as possible with different musicians.

Even a slight change in intonation in the overplayed phrase is already of interest to the performer himself, and therefore to the listener:
|| CBb (down) DF AG ** || CBb (up) D (down) F AG ** || CBb (up) D F (down) AG ** ||

These are different phrases for me; and the number of possible changes in different parameters is much more than 100! However, this requires active thinking.

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Yes, I've heard it all before too having grown up with it until leaving the house in my late teens. My Dad was all about the spontaneity. He always said he never played a tune the same way twice. He was a gigging Jazz musician all his life. But honestly, it wasn't that different day to day. Perhaps more different month to month and even more contrast year to year. The progressions pretty much remain the same.

To the audience if it is off script and new to them, it is improvisation. They don't know if you're going to play it the same way next time, so to them it is improvisation, and it is. But it's rehearsed.

"The best solo is a polished solo" is a direct quote by Eddie Van Halen. Not a jazz piano soloist, but one of the best guitar soloists ever, but who rarely played solos and always stuck to the script when he did. He claimed he'd never heard an improvised solo that he particularly liked and so preferred to work them out and rehearse them. After hearing that interview, I tend to agree with him, that's all.

I guess it depends on the audience you have and how comfortable you are with new experimentation in that setting. But, I don't buy that all jazz is full on improvisation all the time and even when it is, it is easy to control how spontaneous it really is, which only the performer themselves really knows. It doesn't have to be changed up very much to be different than last time.

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Hi Greener

I don't think a quote from Eddie Van Halen validates your argument. I'm sure he was brilliant at what he did. However he was a rock guitarist not a Jazz guitarist. If he hadn't heard an improvised solo that he liked, that probably simply means he didn't like Jazz. No problem with that we're all different. But if he did like Jazz then I'd be interested to know who he listened to, as there's no shortage of great Jazz guitarists out there, and therefore plenty of great improvised solos he could have heard.

I was listening to an interview with a member (bass player I think) of the current Elton John band a while back. When he joined he had a pre-conceived notion that everything they played would be the same every night. So he was taken aback to find that Elton John improvises quite a lot. And although Elton isn't a Jazz pianist he likes to change things up. As the bass player said "I didn't know the song Take Me To the Pilot could be played 110 different ways". Further evidence for this is in his autobiography where he describes how he was rehearsing with Tina Turner for a tour (which never happened) and she had a hissy fit because he didn't play the song exactly the same way each time during a rehearsal.

Even at my very low level I do not pre-plan my solos. Yes I have a lot of licks and phrases that I probably just play in a different order sometimes, but occasionally that spark happens and I create a bit of magic, albeit very briefly. And I'm certainly nowhere near the standard of a professional Jazz Pianist.

So if I can do it occasionally with my tiny amount of talent, and Elton John can do it (mostly in terms of backing than solos in his case) with his considerable gifts, then I have no doubt that a lot of the time professional Jazz musicians can and do create spontaneously in the way the jjo describes.

Cheers


Simon

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Generally, the less scripted it is, the less polished it is. Doesn't mean we shouldn't try for it though as that is what jazz is all about. If you have lots of pre-rehearsed tricks at the ready is quite different than doing everything anew each time.

Yes, I agree the better musicians can do it, and some very well. My Dad was great at it, but, I always liked the scripted parts (verses and choruses without the improv.) better. And the same usually applied to most jazz recordings I hear too. But, maybe just me.

My opinion might change, but for now it has not.

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Harry Likas was the Technical Editor of Mark Levine's The Jazz Theory Book and helped develop The Jazz Piano Book. Studied with Mark Levine 1985-89 and Barry Harris 1995-99
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Thanks Rintin

I never tire of hearing (and seeing) that performance.

Cheers


Simon

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