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Improvised vs Rehearsed Solos

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I would be interested to know how much the jazz greats changed their solos from performance to performance. For example, did Johnny Hodges make up his solos on the fly, or did he more-or-less play the same version each time? (Bearing in mind that he will have performed some songs hundreds of times with the Ellington band.)
I don’t know about Hodges but Louis Armstrong played the same solos.
 

GCinCT

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I've also read that a lot of Coleman Hawkin's seminal 1939 solo on "Body and Soul" was preconceived.
 

thomsax

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I don't think there are so many that make up The gig jazz guys were practising a lot and expand their memory and had a full toolbox. I think what we think it's improvised is well rehearsed. Most of big guys had a mentor that helped them. Lots of talent, practice 8-10 hours/day, a big memory. a full tools box and a mentor that give you ideas/feedback ....
 

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Listen to the various live recordings of someone like Coltrane. Each solo is based on the same concepts, but significantly different. Not just licks in different positions, but different approaches. Even from one night (or studio take) from the next, they varied them.
 

Clivey

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I don't think there are so many that make up The gig jazz guys were practising a lot and expand their memory and had a full toolbox. I think what we think it's improvised is well rehearsed. Most of big guys had a mentor that helped them. Lots of talent, practice 8-10 hours/day, a big memory. a full tools box and a mentor that give you ideas/feedback ....
Listening to the likes of Dexter .you hear many motifs joined by often random phrases. The Solo still sounds like the Solo you know and love but is different often even in the number of chorus takes, it's fine if you like jazz or improvised music .
Playing covers in a commercial setting whatever that may be is about humanising the machine in my book and most consumers of this want it pegged. That's just the way of it. It Ain't art for sure but it is the gig and "the customer is always right,". "Snigger"
 

rhysonsax

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I've also read that a lot of Coleman Hawkin's seminal 1939 solo on "Body and Soul" was preconceived.

Possibly in terms of structure and some motifs but not the phrases, notes etc all through the performance.

Hawk was in his prime then and could churn out wonderful extended solos in live performance and miniature masterpieces in the recording studio.

His LP from slightly later (1945) called "Hollywood Stampede" has a wonderfully high standard of invention throughout. For instance:


And many other players took Hawk's successful "template" from Body and Soul and applied it to their own improvisations, for instance this from Lucky Thompson.


Rhys
 

Tenor Viol

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I was under the impression - perhaps wrongly? - that a lot of solos are mostly rehearsed with maybe a few twists on the day. I am sure there are those who do play completely ad lib...
Apart from the odd workshop, I’ve never done live improv. Most of my public performances on sax have been in large wind bands and obviously a lot of orchestral concerts playing cello, so different world.
 

Nick Wyver

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I was under the impression - perhaps wrongly? - that a lot of solos are mostly rehearsed with maybe a few twists on the day. I am sure there are those who do play completely ad lib...
Definitely wrongly, I would say.
I would think that the vast majority are ad-libbed.
It may depend on the genre though I suppose.
I don't think I've ever worked out a solo beforehand.
 

Jazzaferri

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On some tunes I have a starting idea an idea of where I want a climax and how I want to close off. What comes outmay be really different each time. if I am on and the band is grooving

. If it’s one of those nights that it’s a struggle it’s back to licks and cliches that I have learned and hope that it goes by quickly. As Stephane Grappelli said begin well and end well the middle will look after itself. I y
think he meant in many cases the audience forgets it. LOL
 

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I was under the impression - perhaps wrongly? - that a lot of solos are mostly rehearsed with maybe a few twists on the day. I am sure there are those who do play completely ad lib...
Apart from the odd workshop, I’ve never done live improv. Most of my public performances on sax have been in large wind bands and obviously a lot of orchestral concerts playing cello, so different world.
Nearly all jazz is improvised, that is the essence of jazz. Decent to great players improvise in the true sense of the word.
 

Colin the Bear

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We improvise over the harmony or the melody or create a new tune that fits the harmony. There's only twelve notes. A different tempo can suggest different phrasing.

It gets a bit clever if it's a tune you've never heard, let alone played before.

Lot's of the greats repeated solos. Sometimes decades apart and as far as comedy goes, the same applies. From Ken Dodd to Mickey Flannagan. Didn't Frank Carson say it "It's the way I tell 'em"
 

s.mundi

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We improvise over the harmony or the melody or create a new tune that fits the harmony. There's only twelve notes. A different tempo can suggest different phrasing.

It gets a bit clever if it's a tune you've never heard, let alone played before.

Lot's of the greats repeated solos. Sometimes decades apart and as far as comedy goes, the same applies. From Ken Dodd to Mickey Flannagan. Didn't Frank Carson say it "It's the way I tell 'em"


I try to keep the melody as true as possible, but my improvisation sounds like someone is eating a peanut butter sandwich.
 

TimboSax

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I've come a bit late to this, but it's an interesting area, and one that I've never really thought of. I think I have three types of solos that I play:

1. Full on, make it up as I go along,improv. I mainly do this when I play at home, originally with guitar, now with sax as well. Stick on a backing track (one of mine or from youtube) and just play for hours (well, it used to be for hours, now I've got to fight to find the time). Also fun when I'm out at bluesy-type jams, or we're freewheeling at band rehearsal, and with some cover songs...

2. In my cover band I might do either full improv, or partial improv around a theme, or note for note soloing, depending on the song. So, for example, at tomorrow's gig I shall be playing (on guitar or sax as appropriate) the little lead in American Idiot note for note ('cos it's part of the song's structure), as I will with No-one Knows, Dreaming of You, 7, and a few others. I'll riff around a theme on the Riverboat song, Rio, Nightboat to Cairo. I'll will make up as I go along on Rocks, Seven nation army, Are you gonna be my girl. So it depends on the song, and what (I think) audiences expect to hear.

3. In the Floyd tribute, I play the sax solos as close to note-for-note as I can, because they are pretty iconic. The band as a whole tend to play live versions of songs rather than replicating studio albums exactly, and I can see the value in that, but for me the sax has to be spot on, because that's what I've listened to over the years.

There's a comment above about cover bands (or tributes) playing things note for note correct, otherwise it might seem they can't play the song properly. I tend to agree on one level (which is why I always learn solos the way they were originally played, then either keep that or tweak it), but then again I've heard lots of bands live who don't stick to their studio versions, so there is room to change things round.

Anyway, that's my rambling way of saying, a bit of everything, context dependent :p
 

Halfers

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My Covers Band never approached songs with a slavish aim for note for note copying. Yes follow the structure but we weren't averse to moving things around a little bit, in a vein attempt to keep things interesting for ourselves.
As for solos, yes the little guitar solo in Mr Blue Sky was a note for note job, as was the Sax solo in Modern Love. Most of the rest was impro stuff. Very often we'd find a song had morphed slightly over time, mainly because after learning the basic structure we'd never listen to the recording again and we'd kind of got into a habit of playing the song in a particular way. Never did us any harm.
 

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My Covers Band never approached songs with a slavish aim for note for note copying. Yes follow the structure but we weren't averse to moving things around a little bit, in a vein attempt to keep things interesting for ourselves.
As for solos, yes the little guitar solo in Mr Blue Sky was a note for note job, as was the Sax solo in Modern Love. Most of the rest was impro stuff. Very often we'd find a song had morphed slightly over time, mainly because after learning the basic structure we'd never listen to the recording again and we'd kind of got into a habit of playing the song in a particular way. Never did us any harm.
Yes I did this too. But Covers band is different to setting out your stall as a Tribute, when you have to think much more seriously about how close you want, or are expected to get.
 

Halfers

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Yes I did this too. But Covers band is different to setting out your stall as a Tribute, when you have to think much more seriously about how close you want, or are expected to get.

Agreed. I don't have the discipline to be in a Tribute Band ;)
 
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