Steve barbone barbonestreet at earthlink.net
Mon Mar 28 20:19:52 PST 2005

on 3/28/05 12:58 PM, Russ Guarino at russg at redshift.com wrote: (polite snip)

> I am a "legit" reader clarinet player. I probably had one advantage.  Even as
> a youth before I started playing sax, I could always anticipate the next
> chords of a tune as I listened to the big bands of the 30s-40s. So, the right
> brain had been working a little bit and improv came to me a little easier than
> perhaps most others.

Yes, listening has a lot to do with it. After all, in most tunes, ESPECIALLY
DIXIELAND, the melody and the changes go where you expect them to go. So it
is really not difficult to "compose" a new melody when improvising
horizontally. And there are only so many chord changes to learn in Dixieland
before you "know" 90% of them if you are improvising vertically.

Both cases above assume that the player is a competent improviser. ;-) VBG.

It gets a lot trickier in bebop, or avant garde where all of a sudden
neither the changes, nor the rhythm go where you expect. Kind of like
playing a very modern classical piece the first time. You may read it
perfectly, but it is so strange that you are not sure you are playing it
right because your ears offer no help.

Easy to understand if we liken it to the bridge in that straight forward
chestnut Cherokee. All the older jazz musos did fine until they got to the
bridge. Then disaster. Simply because they never "heard" those half step
changes when learning their horns. Now? Every high school kid who studies
jazz, gets them because they are "taught". And so what once was very
difficult, becomes a piece of cake. And those half steps are now used all
over the place in modern jazz. (Charlie Parker who used to teach the tune to
others, would hum the first few bars of Tea For Two over the bridge to make
it easier for players to "hear" it.)

There is no substitute for "listening" to ALL kinds of music if you really
want to play jazz, and no substitute for taking songs and learning to play
them in ALL keys. Or going to the exercise book and doing those "turn
arounds" in every key, reading first and earing later at random.

Do that, and those weird chord changes become 2nd nature. Your ears will
then hear ALL the changes in ALL of the songs. Not only that, but your
appreciation for modern jazz, as well as trad jazz will increase.

I think listening to jazz and big band is what got Glenn Dodson going on his
journey to Jazz Trombone. Today he is a first rate improviser and he can
play just about any song he hears within short order and without the music.

Steve Barbone

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