[Dixielandjazz] Varying from melody ...

Rick rickz at usermail.com
Tue Oct 6 03:56:34 PDT 2009

I took guitar lessons from Allen Joseph for a year or two in Colorado 
Springs.  His goal was to "play you something you've never heard 
before."  As such, he frequently baffled listeners.

As a member of PPJASS, the Pikes Peak Jazz & Swing Society, I spent a 
couple of decades watching fans.   They enjoyed it when they could 
identify the tune.  (They often missed the announced title.)

A skilled jazz improviser starts simple and builds.  I sat, transfixed 
in the Valley and listened to Joe Pass build 20 choruses, each one based 
on what went before.  That convinced me that he was the greatest Jazz 
Guitarist that ever lived -- and I've heard almost all the greats in 
person.  (I'll spare you the list.)

So, I personally think that the inprovisor OWES it to the listener to 
give them the starting basis.  But hell, that's just my opinion.

Rick Jolley

richard.flecknell at ntlworld.com wrote:
> Good Morning Rick,
> I've no problem with what your saying. However, many musicians and listeners have a starting point that isn't from the original basis, I certainly never started there. Take, for instance, my first listening of Panama by Kid Ory's band 44/45. It may not be the full version of the original score but 40 years on and many Panama versions later listen that Ory version still sounds great.
> Too muddy the waters somewhat do I need to know that Rifftide is based on Lady Be Good or Groovin' High on Whispering to enjoy them. It can help though.
> Many tunes from the 20s Jazz repertoire are based on Tiger Rag.
> To take your Bix example, his inspiration so I'm informed came from the ODJB ~ I don't have to know of the ODJBs version of Royal Garden Blues or Ostrich Walk to enjoy the Bix versions. In time for many fans exposure to all the original versions may occur. In my experience most musicians and fans I meet do not know these originals.
> Richard Flecknell
> ---- Rick <rickz at usermail.com> wrote: 
>> richard.flecknell at ntlworld.com wrote:
>>> It's rare for me at least to be inspired by a dire definitive original dance band version (it's not impossible though).
>>> But I'll carry on listening to Hots Lips rip up The Sheik, Louis triumphantly converting Sweethearts, Ed Hall on King Porter, Bonano's When the Saints, Roy Eldridge sweeping through Body and Soul, Bunk's One Sweet Letter, and on and on. Of the above mentioned I've never wished they had played the original line.
>>> Did the N.O.R.Ks play their own tunes as written?
>>> I too have used the original sheet music and first recordings if possible.
>>> There I've said it.
>>> Hope your not critizing Tatum for changing the melody and chords, your'll upset Waller.
>>> Richard (forgive me)
>> "Never apologize, it's a sign of weakness!"  -- Capt. Nathan Brittles 
>> (John Wayne )  "She Wore A Yellow Ribbon."
>> One of my young students once proposed that Jazz Tunes should be 50% 
>> Familiar, 50% surprise.   I think that's a good idea.   Many folks, 
>> (probably not us) can't recognize a tune unless you play the original 
>> melody to start with.   Jazz is improvisation, but it starts with a 
>> basis.   I think you need to prove that you:
>> + Know the basis
>> + Can PLAY the basis
>> before you can legitimately play an improv chorus.  
>> Bix didn't always do that, but somebody else in the band played the 
>> melody first... or Bing sang it.  <grin>
>> Rick Jolley
>> http://rixwest.com

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