Wednesday, June 17, 2009

What's So Great About Jazz

I really love jazz! I haven't always had such a love for it, but ever since playing in a jazz combo at college in 2006, my appreciation for the artistry and musicianship of jazz has risen substantially. Currently, it is one of my favorite genres of music, especially when it is performed live. Jazz blends opposing elements to create something that is greater that the sum of it's parts.

In one sense, a lot of jazz melodies are very simple and uncomplicated and yet they often are very beautiful and compelling. Yet, beneath the apparent melodic simplicity lies a very complicated and intricate harmonic progression, often including many keys changes. Jazz charts have very clear and definitive structures, and yet in playing them there is often substantial deviation from playing what is written. I really love these various elements and opposites that jazz embraces, but what I most love is the fact that jazz is highly improvisational with a strong focus on whomever is currently soloing. Typically after playing the head (the chart and melodies as written), the next period is opened up for solos from various players in the band. In a larger band setting usually only a few musicians will play solos, while in smaller jazz combos often all the musicians will solo over a chart.

During each solo, the soloist has the opportunity to create his own melodic and rhythmic ideas on the spot. Solos are never practiced or rehearsed beforehand, which is the common practice in rock music. Instead, the soloist plays whatever feels or sounds good and is free to grab licks and ideas from the melodies of the chart, from the other musicians, from a previous solo or they can create completely new musical ideas. While the soloist is playing his solo, the rest of the group follows the solo and varies their own dynamics and rhythms to match the energy of the solo and even to add elements of their own to embellish the overall musical atmosphere. Sometimes a solo begs for more motion and layers, while at other times a thinner texture helps give the soloist more presence.

Because of all the various improvisational aspects of jazz, every time a group plays a chart it will sound a bit different and have different elements. Sometimes even the intros and outros are improvised on the fly. This sets jazz apart from most other types of music and gives it a powerful dynamic quality. That is why I love jazz!

Yesterday, our jazz trio met for practice and we decided to play through a new chart. I really love the bass-line in Herbie Hancock's Cantaloupe Island, so at our previous practice I suggested it. After a couple times through it, we were really starting to get in the groove and decided to record a couple times through the chart. The chart itself is a fairly simple 16-bar progression with some short but well-written melodies. Here is our interpretation of it: Cantaloupe Island. Enjoy!

Trumpet: Carl Stanley
Guitar: Edwin Rhodes
Electric Bass: Silas Reinagel

Jazz Trio Pic

1 comment:

  1. Hey thats not bad at all. Your write up is so's nice that you guys are experimenting, and jazz this is truly an experience.