[Dixielandjazz] Classical & other Improvisation

Charles Suhor csuhor at zebra.net
Tue Jan 25 13:57:57 PST 2005

Yeah, Steve.

Shankar's work in the Indian raga tradition is, to me, great 
improvisation, and I loved his tabla players. It goes without saying 
that African drumming, with ancient roots, is another stunning improv 
tradition, the one most closely linked with jazz. When modern 
musicologists  first studied it around the thirties, they kept looking 
for "1" and had no idea of how the complex parts fit together and how 
the master drummer could switch time signatures, in Western terms, by" 
reading" the background beats differently.

Interesting that it was the irregularly accented lines of the ragtime 
composers and later, the jazz wind instrument players rather than the 
early jazz drummers, that carried some of the intricacies of African 
drumming into jazz. I think that the early drummers like Baby Dodds, 
Zutty Singleton, and Ray Bauduc, great as they were, carried forth a 
different quality African drumming--the conception of drums as an 
ensemble of sounds--the marching band drum section, and then some. Even 
today, so many good jazz drummers are sonic in their approach to the 
kit, with a sense of varied, layered, and counterpointed sound rather 
than just a linear, time-keeping approach. I think that early jazz and 
modern drummers were most powerful in that respect, whereas in the 
swing era 4/4 was favored so much that lesser drummers lost the sense 
of the role of drummer as colorist.

Charlie Suhor

On Jan 25, 2005, at 3:11 PM, Steve barbone wrote:

> Great thoughts, Charlie & Ric.
> I just want to add that extensive use of improv was not limited to 
> European
> Classical Music. It also existed and still exists today in Persian 
> (Iranian)
> music as well as Indian Music. John Coltrane and others were very 
> interested
> in studying with Ravi Shankar for both scale knowledge and the manner 
> in
> which Shankar improvised.
> Jazz improv? Came on the scene quite late in the history of music.
> Funny though, jazz seems to be progressing along the historical line of
> Classical. First lots of improv, then less, and now on the cutting 
> edge, at
> those little nook and cranny jazz clubs in NYC, you find 100% reliance 
> on
> written jazz and no room to improvise at all.
> One does need to be a MASTER of the axe and sight read like a demon to 
> get
> anywhere near it.
> Cheers,
> Steve Barbone
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