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Improvisation - sexy, but maybe overrated?

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Sometimes 32 bars is all the time you get.
Not sure I understand your point here Colin. I've spent many years in jazz combos playing the gigs that you outline in your posts. Of course, the more you study functional harmony the less you will be caught out. In fact, the old adage that if you can play the blues and Rhythm Changes you won't go far wrong is a good one. Add to this a dozen or so 'peculiarities' and learn them in 12 keys and you're there. Until you want to superimpose changes and then then whole process of learning is enhanced once more.
 
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Without taking this too far off your topic, just a quickie! I was there 84'-89. Mary Grainger was fantastic to me and my mates who decided to form a band in our 3rd or 4th Year. She really encouraged us and even allowed us to rehearse in the tiny practice rooms while She was Teaching and let us rehearse in the Music room after School. None of us were in her Music classes, but She went out of her way to help us. We're still playing together as mates now (although we had a break of 15 Years of so).

Have fond memories of the Daltons too as I was involved in a few School Drama performances.
You will have just coincided with Barnaby Prangnell then, who went on to play clarinet for the LPO, Royal Ballet and RPO. Like I said, it was some achieving comprehensive.
 
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Not sure I understand your point here Colin. I've spent many years in jazz combos playing the gigs that you outline in your posts. Of course, the more you study functional harmony the less you will be caught out. In fact, the old adage that if you can play the blues and Rhythm Changes you won't go far wrong is a good one. Add to this a dozen or so 'peculiarities' and learn them in 12 keys and you're there. Until you want to superimpose changes and then then whole process of learning is enhanced once more.
And if you find yourself in a Pop band, often you'll only get 8 bars in which to deliver a "burning solo".
 
altissimo

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Music is a language
Music means so many different things to so many different people and takes so many different forms that it's almost impossible to define...

The'music is a language' idea is common and since we use words like 'phrasing' and 'voicing' it's no surprise that it gets used.
But a language is a means of communication and words and phrases have a definite meaning that is commonly accepted. Music doesn't have that, there's no dictionary or phrasebook and musicians can rarely explain what it is that they're trying to say. Music textbooks and teachers rarely concern themselves with telling anyone how to go about expressing their thoughts and feelings..
What does a minor7 chord actually mean and why would you want to use it?

So what are you trying to communicate with this 'language' of yours? Does it have to be a story, or can it be a poem, haiku, learned discourse, dream world, emotional state, stream of consciousness or just an informal chat? You can shout, whisper, murmur, moan, laugh, cry, exclaim, scream, growl, grunt, sigh, mutter, giggle and groan with your voice, but can you do that with your saxophone?

Improvisation is just one means of expressing yourself - for some people a kind of instant composition where you create something new each time - and in some form or another improvisation occurs in many kinds of music, not just jazz.
But if improvisation gets mentioned, it's almost always discussed in terms of jazz and in particular the kind of jazz that evolved in the 40's and 50's. Jazz textbooks seem overly concerned with what notes to play over the chords, but if you follow a rigid method there is the danger that you'll end up playing in the same way on every tune.
Of course there are many wonderful improvisations where the tune is hardly relevant, just a starting point for something greater. You can go wherever you want, it's your music.

"We are all different and we all have different ways of saying the same things. Find your own nature and see what you want to do with it" - Steve Lacy
 
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So what are you trying to communicate with this 'language' of yours? Does it have to be a story, or can it be a poem, haiku, learned discourse, dream world, emotional state, stream of consciousness or just an informal chat? You can shout, whisper, murmur, moan, laugh, cry, exclaim, scream, growl, grunt, sigh, mutter, giggle and groan with your voice, but can you do that with your saxophone?
Much of this - yes. Most of these words are just dynamics. Subtone = whisper, growl = growl (!) We can also use ghosting, dead-tonguing, flutter-tonguing, loud, soft, Sfz, Sfp, crescendo, diminuendo, changes of tone colour etc etc etc.
But again, my likening to language is the fact that many overlook good articulation for a start - this is akin to somebody not enunciating. Add to this all the other tools in the kit bag. Players should revere walking with good balance before they attempt to run. This was merely my point. The spoken language has many rules, and music is no different - yet many of the niceties of the spoken language are missed when some people play music.
I agree that Jazz Impro is still largely referred to in terms of BeBop. When I was studying in the '80's BeBop was king. In some ways it's difficult to argue against as the technical prowess of the players and the harmonic boundaries were pushed to new level which is still relevant today. To an extent BeBop is a good language to adapt to different styles too - Wilton Felder of the Crusaders, Phil Woods solo on Just The Way You Are, Pete Christlieb on Steely Dan records.
It isn't that helpful when trying to ape an older style though. b9/#9/b9 doesn't sound that great in Dixie, Rock 'n' Roll or most Pop, and if really ingrained it's hard to turn it off.
Folk is impro-based, though the rules (what is expected for the genre) are more constrictive. This can be both easy, and difficult. Easy as there are no altered dominants or mid 8's like 'Have You Met Miss Jones', and difficult as you have to fit so perfectly within the confines of the style. Bluegrass, Country.
 
Clivey

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Mmmm. Not sure about the thread at all. I have had a pretty lengthy albeit unsuccessful, tee hee, experience in composition.
latest plug.

What I have found is that whatever the musical genre. improvisation is fundamental to the composition. I`m sure there are likely to be very few folks out there that can start with 100% certainty of destination, basically being walking hitmachine computer types doing it all up in the bonce with no recourse to tinkle or noodle, but this has not been my experience at all and i have read that there is historical evidence of the greatest classical composers improvising their creations months before transcribing them to parchment,. Writing with bands or on solo stuff in my limited experience has always been facilitated by improvisation, whether that be a complex jam, a drumbeat , a bass-line, sequencer riff, Arp machine or lyrics written on a Costa napkin. So really without the improv then no Composition to improvise over so it really is a chicken and egg paradox.

So without getting too blue. I`m not certain if Improv is sexy at all but it`s certainly Seminal.
 
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BigMartin

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One thing I observe is that too much attention is paid to notes and too little on rhythm
Yes, this is something I've been working on lately. And it's not even enough to be able to hear the rhythm you want to play, you have to be able to execute it precisely enough to make it clear to the listener. Just being able (and ready) to start a note in exactly the place you want it is killing me at the moment, especially at the beginning of a phrase. Really makes a difference when you listen back, though.
 
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b9/#9/b9 doesn't sound that great in Dixie, Rock 'n' Roll or most Pop, and if really ingrained it's hard to turn it off.
That depends so much on context, though, right?
At a recording session in 1974, tune in 6/8 in E minor concert, over the V chord B7, I played a riff in sixths that went up in thirds and ended with the bottom note C (the flat 9) and the top note A (dom seventh). The producer asked me if it was a mistake. I stood my ground, they left it in and it still sounds good to me, 45 years later.
View: https://youtu.be/fOCTCXVHFwE?t=111

By the way, that's Red Holloway on flute. Listening to this now, make me think of folk music.
 
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Colin the Bear

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@BigMartin Listening back to a recording can be deceptive. "Lag" do they call it? can colour your opinion of yourself on a digital recording where you're adding to a backing track. Most frustrating. try using an analogue (is that the right term?) recording device just to make sure.

@randulo There are no wrong notes, just different harmonies.
 
Targa

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What weird and wonderful noises you make improvising in privacy is one thing but for how much you should improvise as a professional just watch the audience.
If they stop dancing or go to the bar it's time to start playing a proper tune again.
 
BigMartin

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@BigMartin Listening back to a recording can be deceptive. "Lag" do they call it? can colour your opinion of yourself on a digital recording where you're adding to a backing track. Most frustrating. try using an analogue (is that the right term?) recording device just to make sure.
No, it's not lag or latency. It's not consistent enough for that, and occasionally I get ahead of the beat (or more often, the off-beat). It's basic instrumental technique. And when I really concentrate on it, it gets much better. But then I start forgetting the notes, and so on and so on.
 
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Actually, Wynton Marsalis said something like "there's always a way to recover". The common case is to repeat the erroneous note twice, rhythmically.
 
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What weird and wonderful noises you make improvising in privacy is one thing but for how much you should improvise as a professional just watch the audience.
If they stop dancing or go to the bar it's time to start playing a proper tune again.
It's odd isn't it.
Once you invite people to pay to come and hear (and watch!) you play, the whole ball-game is a changed one. Pop music is completely governed by the opinions of the listener/fan and sales. Jazz less-so, or so we think. Sooner or later dwindling punters will see your regular gig shut down unless you fund it yourself. Jazz is supposed, like Classical to be 'all about the music'. Yet marketing has really gotten a hold of classical musicians (look at album covers since the '90's in comparison to before) and there is similar in some jazz quarters.
A friend of mine, big fan of Wayne Shorter finally got to see him some years ago, to be faced (or not) by Shorter going through his 'back-to-the-audience-and-wailing' period. His fandom was tested to breaking point...
 
MikeMorrell

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Agree. This sounds perfect to my ears!

QUOTE="6441, post: 403749, member: 6441"]
That depends so much on context, though, right?
At a recording session in 1974, tune in 6/8 in E minor concert, over the V chord B7, I played a riff in sixths that went up in thirds and ended with the bottom note C (the flat 9) and the top note A (dom seventh). The producer asked me if it was a mistake. I stood my ground, they left it in and it still sounds good to me, 45 years later.
View: https://youtu.be/fOCTCXVHFwE?t=111

By the way, that's Red Holloway on flute.
[/QUOTE]
 
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Actually, Wynton Marsalis said something like "there's always a way to recover". The common case is to repeat the erroneous note twice, rhythmically.
Not heard that one, but the really good players can make anything sound right because they have so much knowledge in how to do so. Making a 'mistake' in the first place is unusual.
 
Keep Blowing

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What weird and wonderful noises you make improvising in privacy is one thing but for how much you should improvise as a professional just watch the audience.
If they stop dancing or go to the bar it's time to start playing a proper tune again.
That depends whether you are true to yourself self or not
 
Colin the Bear

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Getting yourself out of a hole is the art of not digging it deeper. tunnelling doesn't work either.
 
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Yes, Marsalis was talking about framing a note and all of you who play jazz well, do this already. I think everyone makes mistakes, but better players (in an improvisation context) can make it sound right. In the lick I gave as an example, those were long sustained notes climbing up in a logical order. They were right, but the less "evolved" ears <cough, producers, cough> didn't hear it right away;
 
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We seem to be digging an OT digression in this thread.
 

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