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Not sure if this is Nahum’s reference, but it’s relevant



"Music, rich, full of feeling, not soulless, is like a crystal on which the sun falls and brings forth from it a whole rainbow" - F. Chopin
"I never dreamt with my own two hands I could touch the sky" - Sappho

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Originally Posted by hag01
Originally Posted by RinTin
Chick Corea commented on how is improvisation achieved and said “you play what you know.”


Can you refer us to the source of this quotation?
This is interesting...

It was in Downbeat Magazine, many years ago. I think he was stating the obvious. For how can one play what they don't know?
For example, take a young non musician who has never played and ask them to improvise on Autumn Leaves, perhaps they never even heard of it, usually they won't be able to do it like a good jazz improvisor. They have no background in the art.

"A man doesn't know what he doesn't know."

Last edited by RinTin; 07/23/21 01:36 PM.

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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hag01 try this book

Last edited by KlinkKlonk; 07/23/21 02:23 PM.
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"Berliner explores the alternative ways—aural, visual, kinetic, verbal, emotional, theoretical, associative—in which these performers conceptualize their music and describes the delicate interplay of soloist and ensemble in collective improvisation. Berliner's skillful integration of data concerning musical development, the rigorous practice and thought artists devote to jazz outside of performance, and the complexities of composing in the moment leads to a new understanding of jazz improvisation as a language, an aesthetic, and a tradition. This unprecedented journey to the heart of the jazz tradition will fascinate and enlighten musicians, musicologists, and jazz fans alike."


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Originally Posted by RinTin
hag01,I think Nahum’s post was adequate evidence to show that jazz musicians do improvise. I’ve never even heard it seriously disputed. The burden of proof to substantiate your outsider suspicions that they play arrangements rather than improvise, that an entire art form is somehow based on a lie, is upon you, especially when it challenges a perceived status quo. I find your line of inquiry a bit disrespectful to jazz artists.
The question is how much of their playing is improvisation vs. very similar to an earlier performance or even prearranged. No one is claiming that every note in one performance matches the notes in another performance. No one is claiming a jazz performance has zero improvisation. I think the two Bill Evans videos I posted, for example, are quite similar. At first I actually thought they might be the same performance but just looked different in the pdf scores because they were transcribed by two different people. But I don't think that's the case since the specific performances are listed at the beginning of the scores. When I had learned one version, I could learn the other very quickly because of all the similarities. I am not a jazz pianist but I think that even if the head of two performances are very similar that means the more recent performance was at least not completely improvised. If one listens to Jarrett's many YT performances of Over The Rainbow, I think several sound very similar and even look similar in the pdf scores.

Last edited by pianoloverus; 07/23/21 03:34 PM.
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We play what we know how to do, based on a lifetime of experiences. Of course, there are massive similarities and repetitions, our major scale has only 7 notes. There is a finite number of variations, and it is a very large number of course.

It's as if you are assuming improvisation is a totally new invention each time. That's an unrealistic assumption. The percentages can't be accurately measured and it's different for each player every day. Maybe study more about how it's managed.

Last edited by RinTin; 07/23/21 03:38 PM.

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
We play what we know how to do, based on a lifetime of experiences. Of course, there are massive similarities and repetitions, our major scale has only 7 notes. There is a finite number of variations, and it is a very large number of course.

It's as if you are assuming improvisation is a totally new invention each time. That's an unrealistic assumption. The percentages can't be accurately measured and it's different for each player every day. Maybe study more about how it's managed.
No, I'm definitely not assuming improvisation is a totally new invention each time. I think the examples I gave support what I said about quite a bit of each improvisation being similar to earlier ones and this is, I believe, what the OP was questioning about in his post.

IMO this discussion has nothing to do with what's in your first paragraph. If you compare two performances of the same song by different and excellent pianists they will generally sound totally different, far more different than two performances of the same piece by the same artist.

Not sure what you mean by "massive similarities and repetitions" but, on the surface, that sounds like you're saying a given performance by a pianist is often quite similar to another one by the same pianist.

Last edited by pianoloverus; 07/23/21 03:53 PM.
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It has everything to do with it.

Yes, Bill Evans sounds like Bill Evans. What's your point?

The percentages can't be accurately measured and it's different for each player every day. What are you after?


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It's sort of like arguing that people repeat phrases when they speak, thus they don't improvise.

“done or made using whatever is available; makeshift.“

Reusing motifs is not cheating. It's not a test. The power of repetition is an important element in jazz improv.

What are you getting at?

Last edited by RinTin; 07/23/21 04:54 PM.

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Originally Posted by pianoloverus
Originally Posted by RinTin
We play what we know how to do, based on a lifetime of experiences. Of course, there are massive similarities and repetitions, our major scale has only 7 notes. There is a finite number of variations, and it is a very large number of course.

It's as if you are assuming improvisation is a totally new invention each time. That's an unrealistic assumption. The percentages can't be accurately measured and it's different for each player every day. Maybe study more about how it's managed.
No, I'm definitely not assuming improvisation is a totally new invention each time. I think the examples I gave support what I said about quite a bit of each improvisation being similar to earlier ones and this is, I believe, what the OP was questioning about in his post.

IMO this discussion has nothing to do with what's in your first paragraph. If you compare two performances of the same song by different and excellent pianists they will generally sound totally different, far more different than two performances of the same piece by the same artist.

Not sure what you mean by "massive similarities and repetitions" but, on the surface, that sounds like you're saying a given performance by a pianist is often quite similar to another one by the same pianist.

The examples you gave do not support your opinion. Yes the style is very similar of each ballad, the same in style we can say, but the improvising is different in each.


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
Originally Posted by pianoloverus
Originally Posted by RinTin
We play what we know how to do, based on a lifetime of experiences. Of course, there are massive similarities and repetitions, our major scale has only 7 notes. There is a finite number of variations, and it is a very large number of course.

It's as if you are assuming improvisation is a totally new invention each time. That's an unrealistic assumption. The percentages can't be accurately measured and it's different for each player every day. Maybe study more about how it's managed.
No, I'm definitely not assuming improvisation is a totally new invention each time. I think the examples I gave support what I said about quite a bit of each improvisation being similar to earlier ones and this is, I believe, what the OP was questioning about in his post.

IMO this discussion has nothing to do with what's in your first paragraph. If you compare two performances of the same song by different and excellent pianists they will generally sound totally different, far more different than two performances of the same piece by the same artist.

Not sure what you mean by "massive similarities and repetitions" but, on the surface, that sounds like you're saying a given performance by a pianist is often quite similar to another one by the same pianist.

The examples you gave do not support your opinion. Yes the style is very similar of each ballad, the same in style we can say, but the improvising is different in each.
You keep on saying they are different but the question is how different?

I think the examples strongly support my point. How different the performances are is open to debate and as you keep repeating(why?) not measurable, but in my view they are incredibly similar. I think many people would agree. In fact, as I already stated I wasn't even sure that they weren't just two different transcriptions of the same performance until I looked at the listing of the performance.

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Originally Posted by RinTin
It's sort of like arguing that people repeat phrases when they speak, thus they don't improvise.

“done or made using whatever is available; makeshift.“

Reusing motifs is not cheating. It's not a test. The power of repetition is an important element in jazz improv.

What are you getting at?
Of course I never said anything remotely like repeating motifs was cheating.

Last edited by pianoloverus; 07/23/21 06:08 PM.
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Originally Posted by pianoloverus
I think the examples strongly support my point. How different the performances are is open to debate and as you keep repeating(why?) not measurable, but in my view they are incredibly similar. I think many people would agree. In fact, as I already stated I wasn't even sure that they weren't just two different transcriptions of the same performance until I looked at the listing of the performance.


No, you need to prove your assertion, the one "that many people agree with". Cite the bar numbers where he is repeating precomposed ideas in the separate tunes. Otherwise your opinion is not based on facts.

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The solos are totally different, I just checked it. They sound similar because they are both played by Bill Evans in his characteristic style across the same chord changes at the same tempo.

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I agree that the two Bill Evans solos both sound like Bill Evans, but are quite different. (Bill Evans, like many jazz musicians, did work out heads in advance, as I suggested in an earlier post.) All great performers have a style, so all solos will have similar phrases, but that in no way suggests anything was worked out in advance. Bill Evans, for example, has been quoted many times saying that during most of his career he never practiced. Things were worked out by gigging.

I think much of this discussion comes from a lack of understanding of how improvisation works. Jazz improvisers play songs and chord progressions hundreds of times in advance. They find things they like; phrases and rhythms. But before the performance, there is no road map. They go with the moment. Sometimes that moment will consist of many stock phrases of the improviser; sometimes it will contain nice new variations on those stock phrases, and on some great nights, something really new will be discovered.

I remember at a jazz camp I attended the great trumpet player Terrell Stafford was helping someone who was struggling at points in a tune. He said that he, like all improvisers, needed some "back pocket" stuff, by which he meant phrases you could easily play when nothing else was coming to into your head. Of course, you never plan to do this, but in the heat of a solo, you can call this easy stuff up to get you through a few bars.

What improvisers work on is a language that they are comfortable using in different situations. You use that language over and over, but how you use it in any given solo is decided in the moment.

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If the player has played the piece before, it is not true improvisation. Ask your self how many of the riffs in a jazz solo are figuratuons or motifs that the player never once played before. Probably some, but it is the exception. True improvisation requires the improviser being given a theme at the time of the performance, and improvising on the theme.

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It's a pity that this important discussion gets distracted from the music itself by looking at transcriptions! We hear a lot more changes through our ears than through sight. It is fundamentally. The question for each of us is only what changes and their specific weight determine: is it a new improvisation or a repetition of an old one. I perceive both versions of "My Foolish Heart" as two different improvisations by the same artist on the same chords (and not 100% here either), based on the same general concept, using similar colors; on similar intonations and rhythmic patterns, based on the same agogic techniques, but in varying timings. Question: when does a varied material turn into an independent new one? Each of us seems to have our own answer; mine is this: the combination of rhythmic and intonation changes in the melody and the whole texture creates a new version.
At the same time, B.E., like other improvisers, has key phrases that are always repeated, but in a varied form.
Each version of the improviser is performed at a specific time; it inevitably leaves and is replaced by other times; and everything that happens will be different. In the classical performance it falls to the lot of interpretation, which is also the case for B.E. as a pianist with a serious classical school.

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Originally Posted by Nahum
Question: when does a varied material turn into an independent new one? Each of us seems to have our own answer; mine is this: the combination of rhythmic and intonation changes in the melody and the whole texture creates a new version.

I see it like a continuum. At one end there is classical permormance where the notes are fixed but there is some room for dynamic and rhythmic interpretation, in the middle there is some fairly mainstream pop where the notes are not exactly fixed but there is not that much scope for melodic or harmonic creativity for anyone actually playing it. Then comes mainstream jazz where there is freedom to create melodies and harmony but within a certain established style, and then things get more free until you reach free jazz at the other end of the spectrum in which anything goes.
Trying to decide where exactly on this continuum improvisation starts is like trying to decide how many grains of sand you need for it to be a pile (there is never going to be a good answer).

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Originally Posted by beeboss
Originally Posted by Nahum
Question: when does a varied material turn into an independent new one? Each of us seems to have our own answer; mine is this: the combination of rhythmic and intonation changes in the melody and the whole texture creates a new version.

I see it like a continuum. At one end there is classical permormance where the notes are fixed but there is some room for dynamic and rhythmic interpretation, in the middle there is some fairly mainstream pop where the notes are not exactly fixed but there is not that much scope for melodic or harmonic creativity for anyone actually playing it. Then comes mainstream jazz where there is freedom to create melodies and harmony but within a certain established style, and then things get more free until you reach free jazz at the other end of the spectrum in which anything goes.
Trying to decide where exactly on this continuum improvisation starts is like trying to decide how many grains of sand you need for it to be a pile (there is never going to be a good answer).
I find this explanation and Nahum's quote reasonable, close to the way I see things, and quite different from Rintin's thinking.

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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.

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