[Dixielandjazz] Speaking of classics

LARRY'S Signs and Large Format Printing sign.guy at charter.net
Fri Oct 15 14:29:17 PDT 2004

Let me run this by the list.  What do you think?

My statement was that Traditional Jazz is most like Mozart of the modern Jazz forms and the classical Woodwind Quintet is most like the modern Dixie instrumentation in form.  Please don't think that I am saying they sound the same because very obviously they don't.  I'm talking of form  not sound.

I have compared Dixieland to Mozart and the instruments to the classic instrumentation of the Woodwind Quintet, ( oboe, bassoon, flute, clarinet and French horn and before you tell me, yes I know the horn isn't a woodwind - live with it).   

This is why.   Mozart wrote counterpoint which is different from chordal music that we use today in that it is linear rather than vertical harmony as is used today   In the quintet each line is often independent and  quite capable of standing on it's own like the  clarinet counterpoint to the cornet and the T-bone playing something entirely different in Trad Jazz.  The classic woodwind quintet is made up of instruments that don't blend particularly well and each maintains it's own color and individualality.  A lot of quintet music was written during the Handel, Mozart era.  The instruments of the classic Dixie band (Drums, piano, banjo, tuba, clarinet, trumpet, trombone ) don't blend very well either like the sax and trombone sections of a Big Band can blend. They maintain their own lines, individuality and color like the quintet.

My love of Mozart above all other composers and the techniques he used I think makes me better able to appreciate and play the Dixieland style.


Today's soloing is often built on vertical chord structure and tends to be gibberish although sometimes very well performed gibberish.  It goes to prove that you can teach gibberish.  The technique is that you play licks based on some chord or other and sort of put together solos based on licks, chord tones, your favorite scale or whatever.  Whereas Liner jazz requires that you really know the tune and its chords or can anticipate where the chord line is going because you are actually composing a tune that starts somewhere has a middle and resolves.  Composition on the fly requires something more to be good than tied together licks,

Vertical soloing technique is useful if you are faced with a page full of chord symbols and you have never heard the tune before.  This happens when you are playing with a Big Band and a new tune pops up.  But once you have heard the tune and know where it's going then you can compose on the fly a solo that will have all the parts.  Look at grade 2 big band music.  They will often show the chord symbol with the notes written under it to show the student which notes he can play or sometimes the scale for that chord. This further ties him to the written page and keeps him from breaking free into improvisation.

The worst thing that has ever happened to Jazz is the idea that you could really technically teach it,  You can teach a student how to hold a pencil but you can't make him a writer, you can tell him how to mix colors but you can't teach him to paint more than houses.  Jazz comes from within the musician and that's why each group and each solo is unique and the player has to do something more than play a bunch of correct notes.

Vertical Jazz is what's being taught in schools and universities across the country.  When I was coming up I listened to other players and accepted the notion that I had to have complete control of the instrument and I had to listen like crazy and create something each time.  Call me old fashioned but I still think that Liner jazz and the old school is the best and only way to go if you want to be a jazz horn player.  It's worked well for me for 50 years and people are still paying me to do it so something must be right.


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