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#3165675 10/22/21 12:33 AM
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I have wondered about this for a long time now. I would like to know what others think. I have read that improvising is what jazz is all about. To me improvising in the r.h. is nothing unless one can hear the melody of the original tune. I have no interest in creating a new melody. Other wise it sounds to me to be just a bunch of notes going nowhere. If one can hear the melody of the song plus other nice sounds that is great I am trying to learn jazz chords to make my music sound better. All comments will be appreciated. Thank you.

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John, you are mixing two musical phenomena: varying the original material and introducing something completely new. In both cases, we are talking about two types of development, without which music cannot exist. In classical music, improvisation does not exist, however, many people prefer to listen only to the main themes of works that can be sung; and not sections of development that they do not understand and are lost in them.

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Improvisation in classical music existed long time ago, and some people are improvising in classical again:


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It sounds like you want to make your own arrangements of tunes where you add ornamentation to the melody and add interesting harmonies of your own choice. That's a great goal, but it isn't jazz. Jazz is about improvising. While little bits of the melody sometimes become a part of improvisation, on the whole, jazz is about making up your own melodies over the chords of the original composition. Improvising is by no means better than what you're seeking to do, but it's definitely different.

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Just about any Pop tune can be used in Jazz, and just about any typical Jazz tune can be played straight-up, without any improv. Please let me know of the few totally unrecognizable jazz tunes that are all improvisation and nobody knows how the melody actually goes because there isn't one.

A typical Bossa you have an AABA phrases. My Dad swung the heck out of these. The first AAB is played straight, or maybe even the singer sings it. The next AB, is total improv. (maybe piano or guitar has the lead), and the last A reverts back to the melody. When the band really gets cooking, maybe there are more solo choruses added before reverting back to original melody. This is very typical jazz setup and can be applied to nearly any tune. Pop, rock, whatever. Next up, same thing with a Carpenters tune, or the mamas and poppas or any other pop classic of the time.

But, that's not jazz ?

It is so, from my vantage point.

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Most or many at least, jazz standards are also AABA setup. You have options, but they are still considered jazz. How could a jazz standard be anything else?

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Greener: Are you responding to my post and disagreeing with something I said? If so, I'm not clear on what you disagree with.

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Me neither, so I guess I am not really in disagreement with you.

If you were to take a jazz standard like Geogia On My Mind and just alter a few things in the melody like or add a couple of ornaments/riffs, or maybe not even that, to me it is still a jazz standard and therefore jazz.

I guess that is all I was trying to point out. So in support of what the OP is suggesting it doesn't have to be full on improv. before we can call it jazz. Of course it helps if you can make it swing, but any amount or no amount of variation can still be jazz and will work as well with non jazz standards too.

I was getting the sense that if it is not full on improv. It can't be jazz and that is what I don't totally agree with is all.

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I guess, I do somewhat disagree with you, Greener. Jazz is an art form, and it is one that typically involves improvisation. There are some songs that jazz performers play a lot, and we call them jazz standards. But if you played, for example, a fully written out arrangement of a Gershwin tune (most of which are considered "jazz standards") that would not be a jazz performance. So, at least to me, just because you play a tune that is a jazz standard doesn't mean you are playing jazz.

That said, what's the big deal about whether something is or is not jazz? If I hear someone playing a jazz standard, but without any real improvisation, I think "That's a really nice arrangement of that tune." Who cares if it qualifies as jazz or not?

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Originally Posted by jjo
That said, what's the big deal about whether something is or is not jazz? If I hear someone playing a jazz standard, but without any real improvisation, I think "That's a really nice arrangement of that tune." Who cares if it qualifies as jazz or not?

I totally agree with you on this last point.

I am fine with that. You are fine with that. But, as the world loves to put labels on everything in order to categorize them, not sure it would sit well with everyone, as indeed this is where a Pop tune could be more jazz like than say a jazz standard. It's all in the way it is played. Even if you can swing like the dickens, it may not move the needle enough if there is no spontaneous improvisation.

That is exactly the nut I was trying to crack open. It can be a muddy line dividing Jazz from something else.

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If I learned this solo exactly from the notes, turning it into my own (this is what I do); and I play it with the right sense of swing, phrasing and articulation - it's a jazz! It is not difficult for me to alternate between written and my own phrases - the best test.

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Sounds good to me Nahum, and I would appreciate the quality of your performance without caring about how you did it.

My Dad though, would of come back a 2nd night and if it was too similar, he'd of given it a fail. Sorry, just the way he was.

But no one really knows how much is spontaneous vs. rehearsed except the performer. Unless of course, it bothers you enough to go back a 2nd night to see for yourself like my Dad would do laugh.

It's not clear and dry for everyone.

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Drawing any line as to what is jazz and what isn't, or what is classical and what isn't, is difficult. It reminds me of the interview with Stephen Sondheim (hopefully that's a familiar name!) who was asked whether his great show Sweeney Todd was musical or opera since it's almost all song. His answer: If it's being performed in a theater by musical theater actors its a musical, and if it's being performed in an opera house by opera singers its an opera.

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Originally Posted by Greener
My Dad though, would of come back a 2nd night and if it was too similar, he'd of given it a fail. Sorry, just the way he was.
It all depends on the context. If your dad watched Nat Adderly's quintet for 2 nights in a row, and he heard exactly the same solos, it would be a profanation. But big band performances are a different framework where soloists are details of the arrangement (if it's not an orchestra of soloists). Unsurprisingly, an arranger composer can tell a soloist what to play; a classic example is the trumpet solo in "Li'l' Darlin' ":

- from 2:05

In the live performance of KB orchestra, we hear the trumpet player playing the same solo, but in a different interpretation. Those. the solo was recognizable, but cut differently; and most importantly - no less jazzy than in the well-known album.

- from 1:47

Hopefully the word cut matches my intention: a cut diamond.

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Improvisations are not unique to jazz, on YouTube I've seen pianist improvise on a jazz standard, on a 12-bar blues, on pop progression like 6 2 5 1 or 1 5 6 4. I read that people in the baroque era also improvise but because it was not a written music nobody knows what they were playing.



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Originally Posted by Serge88
I read that people in the baroque era also improvise but because it was not a written music nobody knows what they were playing.
There is 6 bars from a score of 57 bars of Mozart's improvisation, made by the organist of the Prague Strahov Monastery during Mozart's stay in Bohemia

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Originally Posted by Serge88
Improvisations are not unique to jazz, on YouTube I've seen pianist improvise on a jazz standard, on a 12-bar blues, on pop progression like 6 2 5 1 or 1 5 6 4. I read that people in the baroque era also improvise but because it was not a written music nobody knows what they were playing.

Quite true. Improvising in 'classical' music was common several hundred years ago.

However it's worth pointing out that what you perceive as an improvisation on Youtube, may well not be. I could play a 12 bar Blues on the Piano and post it on Youtube (and have done so) and you would probably perceive it as an improvisation.

However what I'm actually playing is effectively a set of learnt variations, which through hundreds of hours of practice I can play with different tempos and timing. The order I play these variations may be pretty spontaneous, but 99% of the time the actual content of them is already known to me. So it's not improvisation.

The same applies to pop progressions/improvisations. As an example, there are, and have been, a lot of threads on this forum talking about Elton John improvisations. I'm a life long fan of Elton John's, and he was a early influence on my Piano playing. However IMHO I don't believe he improvises much, if at all. He has a repertoire of phrases, licks and chord progressions he uses, and similar to me (playing a blues) he can vary these at will.

Obviously he's also a lot better than me.


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Simon

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[Sorry to interrupt, I’ve had no time to read anything, but I’ll track back after I get this (last night’s text out the way first - to clear the mind from lots of upload/s lag today!]

The ladies I promised to post for comparison, on the Charlie Kunz style thread, can now be found on You Tube as linked below.

I thought this’d be a better thread to disclose these since it’s about classically minded players diversifying into popular song standards and thereby, I guess, exhibiting a particularly different take on jazz that’s emanating more from a classical improv side or lineage. Ps I enjoyed hearing the different perspectives on the YouTube clip of improv experts above, thanks there.

That said, in my uncertainty of what the opening title is, it nonetheless raises a point as to when improv can also be disguised as adapting from other compositions into new compositions. Here the reprised opening chorus for the first part then runs into ‘Exactly Like You’ on the flipside, which also closes the flipside (reprised) and which aptly seems to have the root structure of the preceding side’s simpler unidentified track and reprise. Perhaps one composition has improvised from the other to make another composition. If the opening intro of the first side is it’s verse then that also shares elements from the intro of ‘Exactly Like You’ and so flipping the record around and around goes aptly from one take on a simple structure to the other before settling into the core of the disc’s other songs. One other case in point being that not long after this, charting a point in history when the effects of the crash begin to be caught e.g. by ‘On the Sunny Side of the Street’ optimistically (not long after the happy feel King of Jazz flop), would eventually come, more pessimistically, ‘Brother Can You Spare a Dime’ , which seems to have been developed (ergo from one composition into another) from this opening unidentified verse intro to open the first side of the record. Gee, if anyone can help identify it for me to update the credits then I’d be very grateful. This ‘Popular Melodies on a Piano’ is linked first below then comparisons after that. Enjoy! Hopefully it adds another branch of conversation to the thread topic.

It’s thought, or uncertain from different sources, that the first ‘Laddie Ray’ was actually male (Billy Mayerl) and thereafter female (Peggy Cochrane) for the same label (BROADCAST TWELVE). Both these initial releases can be each compared with Raie Da Costa’s releases of the same numbers for HMV. Clips as follows

Laddie Ray (cited as Peggy Cochrane) :-


cf. Raie Da Costa :-


I’ve uploaded other female classical artists doing likewise, e.g. Evalyn Tyner (sometimes billed as a ‘first lady of the piano’ in the immediate postwar onwards and into TV in place of continuing to release records), but there’re so many to have gone unrecognised, forgotten, or underrated, Raie Da Costa a case in point. I’ve been rummaging thru others’ uploads too and very impressed. Many such unknown players can be found clumped occasionally in compilations of 78s and piano rolls.

&
Laddie Ray (cited as Mayerl) :-


cf. Da Costa :-


Duo wise, there was a male and female act to have taken this classical approach to jazz standards etc. equally far or given their longevity further, under the name of Gearhart & Morley – whom found the unlikely outlet for their talents accompanying Fred Waring between tours and TV coverage. Da Costa died in her 20s during the first half of the Thirties, but she long predates that standard brought to us via the early postwar exponents recalling a similar gift or genius.

Another female artist that springs to my mind for not being so forgotten – and maybe deservedly for reviving distinct styles belonging to distinct pieces/phases/periods/etc. rather than adapting the standards, or even the classical, to suit ones’ originality as well as skill. It shows how ‘authenticity’ can be as highly regarded as ‘originality’ and as a vehicle to masteries in skill becoming better remembered not necessarily better known in their day.

If one tunes in to my archive.org uploads over the next few days, there’ll be another comparison with the above Jimmy McHugh jazz Standards by Laddie Ray against a male duo known as Moreton and Kaye, who found a path to revive song/jazz standards in medleys using their characteristic same style for every number. Again a case of wizardry not going beyond its time to be well remembered in the present day, but whom are of course more remembered for collaborating with interwar dance band leaders (Harry Roy, I think) when a steady staple of high calibre standards were being conveyor belted out prior to becoming revival based in post-war – branching topics I suppose to the original question sorry. Laddie Ray’s medley of these were reviving them within months whereas the Moreton & Kaye version would be around 7 years later. I’ll maybe post the link once it’s onto YouTube, probably by mid-week..

This may not be too comprehensible since I’ve not proof-read anything yet, I’m not too fussed since improv is not my thing, as I’m more classical about things, but contrary to convention not for classical, but for a selection of the published interwar song standards (as said before on a recent thread) 5 of which the above Laddie Rays have covered – out of 44 of interest so far – lots of them going on to become staple dance and/or jazz standards, now indefinitely for a century and counting!

I’ll be back in the land of the living to read threads shortly, cheers - let me know if it's okay to add such for topic.

Kevin.


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Never do I ever seem to be scuppered with the published score piano notation on the concertina LH & RH keyboards, very fortunately; it's seems to be very much a matter of best fingering for comfort rather than whatever comes first to hand - probably much like for piano. That's on the first 3 being focussed upon in detail note-for-note an octave higher. I've did more and it all works out too, but even yet I'm pushing myself off whatever comes first to me - to a comfort first policy; so I've lots to wade thru yet as I happily remain poised over the 3 (I Surrender Dear; Blue Moon; & Between the Devil & the Deep Blue Sea).

Here's my point: with Blue Moon's intro, I've thought 'get past that and anything's possible'. However the equivalent intro in 'Between the Devil...' does indeed scupper the fingering and that's even with less going on paper-wise (2voicing strands maybe + 1/2 more at points; rather than a full 3 bearing a mid voicing of 2-note chords usually between bass & melody line [is that what's meant by shell voicings on the other thread]), but there-in a solution is in fact spelled out on the page (it's not on Blue Moon tho which isn't a problem anyway, phew) and this is the "ad lib" prescription. I don't overdo it, I simply accent the final clumped treble voicing before the bass voicing by starting/finishing it a 1/16th forward - hardly a change, but it permits the concertinist to remain note-for-note there. The ad-lib there is therefore quite the revelation. I'll keep a note of where else I ever come across another instance - I'm sure pianists will have much more of these scupperings to discover than the concertinist on such published scores for piano-vocal sheets. Talk about being classical about it (the interwar standards); well there you go!

And, so to my question RE the thread topic brach of improv: is the prescription of ad lib a point where the player is welcome to adapt the written? If so, it would seem quite a drastic dearth of built-in flexibility. Ad Lib marks (like solo prescriptions on the page too) are no where near as frequent as could support the jazz improv. movement, or genre. Perhaps the Jazz movement can give cognisance to these marks as stretches of a piece/score not to depart from, which would seem so ironic, but at least bring a degree of logic and understanding between the composer and the interpreter - or has all that ever existed in the first place (beyond the classical). Maybe it's something the future can bring round as at some point these standards might very well become a kind of classical for a distant posterity, whom might find themselves back on track delivering civilisation's next age or generation of 'why-improvise' wonders.


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PS they're not quite intros, but the repeated double-bar-links to the verse. Oh, and 'I Surrender Dear' has an ad lib there, but it's already to rgeat to depart from for me - perhaps that's one for pianists though (?) On I Surrender Dear, in comes Garner when I reach bits - it's amazing. I think he's probably been through all the detail before arriving at departing so far from it. In fact to be found, by looking closely at the understated detail of the published score notation, are possibly such treasures to share (as Errol Garner brings to me on 'I Surrender Dear'). I'm looking forward to see if his other work touches in the same way. He's did a small few on my list, incidentally!


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