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Playing Teaching saxophone: too much jazz of the 50s?

I was going to put this in the current thread Help with the next step please, but this somehow grew into something that should have its own thread I think. This is one of those things that crop up from time to time in various discussions

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My take is that it is now inevitable that mainstream or straight ahead jazz of the 40s/50s (golden era?) is often concentrated on by teachers and learners and is for several reasons:

  • It may be fair to say that jazz (and its evolutionary forms) as we know it mostly started out in the US (with roots in the slave plantations and ultimately Africa)
  • It was originally considered as dance music or brothel entertainment (ie way below Classical in terms of "artform").
  • 1940s/50s bebop innovations brought its status up to be considered a more serious art form until eventually it started being taught in colleges. A big reason was that finally America proudly now had its very own type of classical music.
  • Hence its popularity seemed to get rebalanced, ie less as as dance/entertainment music but more as art music
  • The rise in demand for jazz performance education (as possibly more of a peoples’ thing and more accessible than classical) meant that it spread in popularity into secondary education as well as further education.
  • The demand for it may have outstripped the quality professional actual practitioners, many of whom preferred to gig rather than teach anyway. Maybe due to the constraints of academic bureaucracy. Plus it was to a large extent an art that was self taught, learned on the road or passed down orally.
  • So once it's there in academia, the learning process had to be more structured, capable of formal assessment by grades and so a formulaic teaching method came into being. This was a formulaic approach and not only meant it could be assessed, but could be taught by teachers who could learn that formula and just needed to stay one step head of the student.
  • So instead of trying to teach the art (ie inspiration and melodic impro) it was possible to teach the harmony (close to classical anyway) but add the impro element to that by inventing the chord/mode approach which was achieved by a technical analysis of what the masters played, which purely looked at the end result rather than the creative art process of achieving it. (Barry Harris had quite a bit to say about this)
To me the creative method of straight ahead impro involves (1) knowing the individual chord notes, (2) knowing how the chord functions within a key (ie what is the key centre and what degree of the key centre is that chord's root) and (3) understand the relation of that chord within the context of the sequence (what came before and what goes after), and constructing melody around that chord using both (2) and (3).

The chord/mode approach kind of takes a snapshot of the chord and makes assumptions with not necessarily any relevance to the context of (2) and (3).

So as an example we often hear that if there is a G7 you play a mixolydian mode of G. (those are all the notes from C major). That does fill in the chord notes effectively but pays no attention to the context, e.g. what if it's key centre is not C major. If it is resolving in C minor what relevance has the mixolydian got?

On a very basic level I much prefer to think of the chord notes, and think of linking them with other notes from the key centre scale. I'd immediately think "G7 is the V chord of C, therefor my passing notes or suspension are from C major or minor." I'd never think mixolydian in G. With a mixolydian mode G is the "tonic" not the dominant, so confusion there right from the start.

So that is why I don't like that method. It can maybe be equated to "painting by numbers". It can work in that you can play stuff from a scale that will often "fit the chord." Although it is easy to formularise (and so easy to teach in a mathematic kind of way) it has less to do with thinking about the creative quality of the music and understanding tension/release etc.

But the big thing here in this thread is also the fact that to a certain extent the teaching and learning of jazz is focussed a lot on this 60 year old period, as I said the so-called golden age. Is it golden because there is an assumption that earlier forms such as traditional New Orleans, swing or later freeform styles are somehow inferior?

I don't think so. I just think that the early forms are ignored because they are either not "art" or not "cool" (bebop having that hipster image of berets and shades etc). And later forms of "avant grade" are not really possible to formularise as there is little or nothing to grasp in the way of assessable conventional musical elements. Any academic assessment therefore has to rely a lot on subjectivity.

In academia that is getting more and more important as students and parents can get litigious and complain about the grades. With more conventional teaching you can justify a high mark by the fact that there are fewer wrong notes (that weren't in the prescribed mode) but how do you do that with avant garde... what makes on piece of freeform objectively "better" than another?
 
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I'm glad that real curricula aren't (often) based on endless shopping lists! There's a wonderful podcast, "the history of philosophy without the gaps" - 400 20min episodes to date; and it isn't even close to the moderns yet! Imagine if someone designed a University course around it!

I like Petes' Mrs' modul. Let the buggers just show they can achieve some depth and ownership in something relevant. Excellent.
 
So you wouldn't have the classical piano major study the Baroque, Romantic, Classic, Modern periods? If all they want to play is Liszt, it's OK to ignore Bach, Brahms, etc.? (Of course an individual performer is free to choose to be an Liszt specialist, but that's a decision that gets made at the early professional stages, not in the midst of a university program.)
 
Depends how it's structured and what's the point. The classical curriculum is there to enforce the establishment and is it of date. But, none the less, it's a version of a history showing a development over time with the periods and selected heroes illustrating various things, harmonic development, orchestration etc. It has, probably, an overall structure.
Most disciples are the same. They construct a history for both pedagogical reasons and to show how great they are. But the histories aren't complete. They're constructs.
 
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So you wouldn't have the classical piano major study the Baroque, bla bla


Pizza Friday and I put on a lite rock playlist. It made me think (after the third glass) that instead if the Great American Song Book, or The Great Bavarian Orchestra Book; they should be teaching the Great Stadium Rock Anthem Book. Theoretically not too hard and a pretty tight history; but a solid living.

Friday :cheers:
 
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In my experience a great deal of the "jazz education" in university music programs is done through the vehicle of performance in large jazz ensembles and mentored combos. Those who have attended several of these jazz performances will hear a great variety of styles in the charts that they play.

The one I am most familiar with that is closest to me is Brigham Young University (BYU) that has an excellent jazz studies program directed by Ray Smith. Their top jazz ensemble "Synthesis" has made many recordings and videos that cover a broad spectrum of jazz that can be found on YouTube. This link takes you to some examples of the variety of their recordings.
 
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No. That's exactly the question I asked.

I understand that folks in the '40s would have had a classical music education. When Dizzy won a music scholarship, presumably it wasn't to study jazz. But clearly in music studies, as in all disciples, people designing curricula need to move on, else everyone would still be learning Neapolitan partimenta.

So, yes, I asked that question because I can see how there's enough meat on the bones of jazz to be a university course as well as the sociological issues Pete mentioned in the OP. The logic seams clear - from the point of view of the academician. What are the alternatives?
Good question @mizmar....The fundamentals of theory of any genre has to be known before a university scholarship can be undertaken. How and where are these learnt? As someone who is struggling to find a pathway who will never be a pro musician there seems to be no alternative approach.
 
Why do you think there should be a "jazz performance" major? Individual courses, OK, but a whole major that is supposed to make you into a jazz player? You seem to be stuck on the idea that this needs to be offered at the university level. I haven't thought the whole thing through but I tend to disagree with that basic assumption.

It certainly isn't the case that there's a shortage of jazz musicians and the universities need to step up to fill the void.
It would be great if there was a more structured fun way outside univercity. Some things don't belong solely at uni..My ex wife did a social worker degree now needed prior to gaining the experience...she learnt the theory prior to the basics, social workers just used to work in the field gaining valuable knowledge through experience overcomming hurdles as they go...this experience was past onto others who expressed interest by working in the field..some theory is relevant some just old hat that underpins nothing...it would be great if it were the same for music workshops, basic theory surrounded by fun..i have found the issue with teaching is that people are just passing onto you things that were important to them..
 
Good question @mizmar....The fundamentals of theory of any genre has to be known before a university scholarship can be undertaken. How and where are these learnt? As someone who is struggling to find a pathway who will never be a pro musician there seems to be no alternative approach.
As with anything that is learnt, you start at the beginning and work your way forward, music is no exception, if you look at your journey as the alphabet A being the absolute beginner and Z being the best possible pro musician, most of us never get anywhere near Z and plateau out lets say about P or R but you don't get to K by missing out letters B, C, D, E etc
You don't have to be a pro musician to enjoy music but you do need to learn in a progressive way, which is the same with life itself.
 
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I'd'v used an analogy that was more like building a house from laying the utilities, the foundations etc. through to the interior design or even hosting a soiree. The step before should be pretty solid befor the next step. Folks do forget and take for granted early work - You might not see or remember dimensioning the solid waste drain; but a successful soiree depends on it, none the less!
 
As with anything that is learnt, you start at the beginning and work your way forward, music is no exception, if you look at your journey as the alphabet A being the absolute beginner and Z being the best possible pro musician, most of us never get anywhere near Z and plateau out lets say about P or R but you don't you don't get to K by missing out letters B, C, D, E etc
You don't have to be a pro musician to enjoy music but you do need to learn in a progressive way, which is the same with life itself.
I agree but how ?....it would be great if there were workshops etc...whilst on one hand to know that you want / need to be a pro musician and commit to this is fantastic but takes years of dedication full time...most teachers or the ones that I have had seem to have followed or be following this pathway...Knowledge costs in all walks of life and this is by know means a cheap route... I can't understand how I can gain those hours to learn, i have left it to late and there seems to be no alternative routes....aside from self teaching which again has it's pro's and con's....trying to keep on topic with the thread it is hard enough to get into uni in the UK should you have to to learn Jazz...
 
I'd'v used an analogy that was more like building a house from laying the utilities, the foundations etc. through to the interior design or even hosting a soiree. The step before should be pretty solid befor the next step. Folks do forget and take for granted early work - You might not see or remember dimensioning the solid waste drain; but a successful soiree depends on it, none the less!
lol...,issue with the analogy are that things are usually done in tandem...the interior is designed whilst the footings and drainage are done together....not criticising and agree with the sentiment don't want to railroad the thread....it is relative in that unless you are heading for a career in music and of a certain age that route is kind of innaccessible and most of the teacher's either a following or have followed the uni route....
 
The OP made some great points, statements and questions, but, I did start at the implication that there was or now is a dearth of competent musicians to fill the number of gigs requiring them with regard to Jazz. I can tell you, in the US, there are not, nor have there ever ( since the 1970's) been, so many gigs calling for players in Jazz that went wanting of competent players. That would be a wonderful problem, that alas, most believe will never happen. There are many competent players here, and as always, they are of different levels when objective and subjective standards are applied to their performance. The Bebop and beyond eras in Jazz are certainly well taught here in Universities all over the country, but the technique, feel and artistry of Art Tatum, Earl Fatha Hinds, Joe Venuti and many others are not overlooked in the educational system or on the air in the scattered NPR Jazz radio shows on the landscape. One great Jazz teacher, Jerry Bergonzi, with whom I studied and became great friends, told me a long time ago that he did not teach to develop monster players or imply what style they should play, but simply to reverse their "harmonic disability" and show them what he knew and used to create music. I am amazed at the amount of new players here and around the world who have become available for performance in a world that spins evermore into a digital miasma of 14 second sound bites and bloviated pontifications about history, structure and analysis of songs and cultures. Maybe, in Europe , there are many more gigs per capita for musicians than there are in the US. I feel sure there are. I feel the real problem for Jazz, European Art Music(Classical) and other non-pop music or the pop music wherein people play instruments and sing, is that the tradition of going to a space, sitting and listening or dancing, is dying out in human life. I hope it's not true.
 
As someone with only a basic knowledge of scales and harmony, I would be very grateful to anyone who could explain to me how the Adam Neely analysis of Girl From Ipanema is wrong - with perhaps a couple of examples. I am not trying to ignite a new polemic, but would generally like to understand this.
 
As someone with only a basic knowledge of scales and harmony, I would be very grateful to anyone who could explain to me how the Adam Neely analysis of Girl From Ipanema is wrong - with perhaps a couple of examples.
I hope someone can do that, however it might be difficult to explain to someone with only a basic knowledge of scales and harmony.

From what I remember of the video (apart from the overcomplicated use of chord/scale stuff e.g. talking about mixolydian modes etc) y it's about identifying the key centre of the first few bars of the middle 8. he says the Gbmaj7 is a IV chord in D♭ which sounds wrong to me as I think it works most musically and melodically as a I chord in G♭. So if I was improvise over that chord I'd be thinking G♭. He seems to want to over analyse what is just a beautiful chord sequence with no need to find excuses for it with clever sounding theory.
 
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As someone with only a basic knowledge of scales and harmony, I would be very grateful to anyone who could explain to me how the Adam Neely analysis of Girl From Ipanema is wrong - with perhaps a couple of examples. I am not trying to ignite a new polemic, but would generally like to understand this.
I'm not much of a theory guy, but I agree with Pete. Bridge sounds like it starts on a major 7th in Gb to me, just as it's written, not a major 3rd of Db. To me the Db is more like a substitution (similar to a tritone sub).

But if thinking about it Adam's way brings you to a higher level of understanding, then the theory has done it's job. A lot of complex harmony is ambiguous and can be thought of in different ways. So Adam's way is also valid, and he has a far deeper understanding of theory than I do.

Getting back to the main subject of the thread, I stumbled across this the other day, and it hits the nail on the head.
View: https://youtu.be/Zrp-2JPSoYE
 
Thanks for that - I see now that the point of issue is the functionality of the chords. Must study this in a future life.
Yes it is just about functionality of chords, which is often much simpler than the video made it appear.

Tunes like this can be a bit complex in that instead of all being in one key (with the appropriate key signature) you get bits that go into a whole new key or keys for just a few bars. When this happens the key signature doesn't change you just use accidentals when notating.

We call these key centres but sometimes it can be ambiguous what the key centre actually is. Knowing what the key centre is can be helpful because if for example you know it is G♭, then you know that you might use the notes of a G♭ scale to build your impro around.
 
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