[Dixielandjazz] Jazz in the Classroom/memorzing solos, etc.

Charles Suhor csuhor at zebra.net
Sun Jan 7 23:05:36 PST 2007

I don’t know if anyone in this strand has mentioned this with regard to 
memorizing solos. I agree that in and of itself, memorizing doesn’t 
help in becoming an improviser, but a kid who is attentive to nuances 
of time, tone, vibrato, and phrasing while memorizing can learn a lot 
about getting inside the feeling of the jazz solo and about differences 
in style. (You don’t get this, of course, from reading transcriptions 
of solos. And it comes through only rudimentally in section playing, 
even when well taught.)

My reedman brother started out memorizing solos by Artie Shaw, Irving 
Fazola, and even George Lewis and “felt” the musics deeply because he 
heard and reproduced the subtleties of each. He went from there to 
faking and jamming with great jazz feeling and a style of his own.

I agree that apprenticeship is best to really get off the ground, and 
in my youth that was available because combo gigs were largely a matter 
of guys who could fake and jam showing up to play, using a few melody 
lead sheets that would help newcomers. Jamming along with recordings—no 
such thing as Music Minus One the—was also a staple of our musical 

Also excellent, I think—and this is still possible—was the practice of 
kids who were at about the same level of struggle (and were motivated) 
getting together to jam. We would teach and support each other with 
tolerance and diligence, sometimes using records as a model for the 
tunes being learned. Once we got fluent, we could soar. I think that 
this peer learning is done widely today with “garage bands” playing 
rock rather than OKOM. Often this involves only a few chords, a heavy 
backbeat, and earsplitting volume, but the idea of peer development is 

Charlie Suhor

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