[Dixielandjazz] Which Melody?

Ron L'Herault lherault at bu.edu
Tue Oct 6 11:32:00 PDT 2009

Maybe the melody is not blatant in Young's solo but it is there.  Is it
because I know the tune? Or is it because of where those quick, passing
melody notes fall.  Could it be because the accents he uses fall at familiar
points in the melody line?  It is probably all of these things that make
this such a great solo and not the cacophony that passes for jazz these
days. 8-)

Ron L

-----Original Message-----
From: dixielandjazz-bounces at ml.islandnet.com
[mailto:dixielandjazz-bounces at ml.islandnet.com] On Behalf Of Stephen G
Sent: Tuesday, October 06, 2009 12:42 PM
To: lherault at bu.edu
Cc: Dixieland Jazz Mailing List
Subject: [Dixielandjazz] Which Melody?

Richard Flecknell wrote:

"Good morning, look I've just check over Lady Be Good Sheet Music and  
then compared it to Lester Young's messing around with the timing and  
melody. Guess where the inspiration comes from."

"I've only listen to jazz for around 40yrs. I'd throw away 90% of my  
collection if I insisted the play near the melody."

Hear Hear. How about one of the best loved jazz records ever. Coleman  
Hawkins' classic version (circa 1939) of Body and Soul? It is a  
masterpiece of jazz improvisation with the original melody only in the  
first few bars. It was a huge hit (pop and jazz) and still on every  
juke box I ever heard in the 1940s/early 50s. Hear Hawk's genius at:


And then there is Thelonious Monk's Hackensack, a rework of Lady Be  
Good. Same chords, different melody. Similar re-works based on chords  
of existing melodies abound in jazz.

Bill Bailey = Bourbon Street Parade =  Washington and Lee Swing = Over  
The Waves = one strain of Tiger Rag, = Under The Double Eagle,  
Moonlight and Roses, Beer Barrel Polka, Amapola etc., etc., etc

Five Feet Two = Please Don't Talk About Me When I'm Gone = Darkness on  
The Delta etc., etc., etc.

IMO, improvisation is more about creating a new melody rather than  
embellishing the existing melody, That being said, in most cases the  
band usually plays the existing melody first.

What works for me is to improvise a new melody, using the same chord  
structure, but then throw in a couple of bars of the existing melody  
every once in a while so that a non-hip/hep audience can still  
recognize the tune. If the audience is hip/hep, no need to do that.

Steve Barbone

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