[Dixielandjazz] melodic improvisation
Stephen G Barbone
barbonestreet at earthlink.net
Wed Jun 16 21:09:30 PDT 2010
On Jun 16, 2010, at 10:06 PM, Ken Gates wrote: (polite snip)
> Reference to Steve Barbone's post about soloing and his preference for
> creating an entirely new melody.
> But I do wonder what audience he (Steve) has
> encountered that appreciates what he is doing musically. On the
> other hand, I
> do believe that experienced serious non-musicians in the audience
> can recognize
> when a creative solo that is a variation of a known melody has been
> done well.
> For example, Artie Shaw's wonderful solo on "Stardust" where he
> a restatement of the composed melody so beautifully. Finding a nice
> of the melody is what I strive for (occasionally succeed) and is
> what I like to
> hear when performed well in the music I listen to. That is what I
> look for when
> attending a festival or listening to OKOM.
I think you nailed it Ken. In my experience, most audiences, whether
aficionados or not will more readily respond to a solo that
references the original melody here and there. The reference is a way
for folks to know where you are in the improv viz a viz that melody.
It is a way for them to keep score.
I think also that a melodic improv with virtually no reference to the
original melody is also appreciated by most audiences as long as it is
logical in their ears, has some emotion in it and consists of what
they think are the pretty notes.
Hawkin's Body and Soul is an example of this, circa 1939 or so, with
virtually no reference to the original melody at all. Just 8 measures
or so in the very beginning to give us a hint of what the original
tune was. Had it not be titled "Body & Soul", many would have never
known that it was. It was a HUGE hit in the USA and still on every
juke box into the 1950s. Those not familiar with the solo and why it
was a landmark in jazz may hear it at:
And/or read a discussion about it at:
Note that others disagree with me that this is a "melodic"
improvisation. Some think he was simply improvising vertically on the
chord changes. On my part, I hear a logical and very beautiful two
chorus melody with long melodic lines. Way ahead of its time in 1939
though it may be viewed as old fashioned by some jazzers today.
Other examples are the many songs written over the exact same chord
changes. Like those with Bill Bailey chord changes. In effect, after
the first one is written, the rest are like melodic improvisations,
no? Or go even further. A song is written out (composed) but it is
that not really the same thing as a melodic improvisation?
And how about various renditions of the 12 bar blues? They are almost
all melodic improvisations.
I think that virtually all accomplished soloists are composers, except
that they compose in the here and now in front of us.
Bottom line is that in my experience, all different types of audiences
will appreciate whatever it is the soloist is doing, complicated or
simple, as long as the musician communicates properly. Whether that be
musically, or via facial expression, gyrations, enthusiasm, grunts or
whatever. But not every single person in any audience will understand
what the muso is doing and some may actively dislike it because it is
"too many notes", "too complicated", "no melody", "no heat", "too
loud", etc., etc., etc. I think the musos who are secure in their own
talent, secure in who they are and what they create, have great
distain for those kinds of critics.
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