Jazz Improvising - What is it?
Jazz improvisation is the process of spontaneously creating fresh melodies over the continuously repeating cycle of chord changes of a tune. The improviser may depend on the contours of the original tune, or solely on the possibilities of the chords' harmonies. It has been said that the best improvised music sounds composed, and that the best composed music sounds improvised. Composed music and improvised music may seem to be opposites, but in Jazz they merge in a unique mixture.
"You've got to find some way of saying it without saying it." - Duke Ellington
A common misconception about Jazz improvisation is that it's invented out of the air. This notion may exist because many small Jazz groups do not read music when they perform. Jazz players will choose phrases that seem to be preordained so you intuitively know where they are going, even though it's being created at the instant you are hearing it. The musicians are actually spontaneously creating a very intricate form of theme and variation; they all know the tune and the role of their instrument. The guitar, piano, bass and drums, while all able to solo, basically provide the rhythm and harmony over which the soloist will create improvised variations. The structure is flexible so that the soloist may venture in various directions depending on the inspiration of the moment. A Jazz musician is creating spontaneous art every time he or she plays music.
"In Jazz, improvisation isn't a matter of just making any ol' thing up. Jazz, like any language, has its own grammer and vocabulary. There's no right or wrong, just some choices that are better than others." - Wynton Marsalis
But there's more to Jazz than just improvisation. Composers such as Duke Ellington and Charles Mingus wrote occasional Jazz compositions practically devoid of improvisation. The real challenge comes when a composer integrates improvisation into a piece, merging Jazz composition and improvisation in the act of creativity. Coleman Hawkins' Body and Soul or Thelonious Monk's Straight, No Chaser are sophisticated compositions built from the improvised line.
"Improvisation is the ability to create something very spiritual, something of one's own." - Sonny Rollins
Composers including Bach, Handel, Mozart, Beethoven and Liszt have all been celebrated for their ability to improvise. In a sense, all Jazz musicians are also composers. While they do not necessarily sit down with pen in hand to write out their solos on score paper, their solos do require the same discipline as that of any composer. Listen to players who are both great composers and soloists, such as Benny Carter or Billy Childs improvise their own material and extend their creative reach.
"In fifteen seconds the difference between composition and improvisation is that in composition you have all the time you want to decide what to say in fifteen seconds, while in improvisation you have fifteen seconds." - Steve Lacy
Three methods of Jazz improvisation are melodic, harmonic and motivic. Improvised melody occurs when musicians use slurs, alternate notes and syncopation in order to recreate the melody in new and interesting ways. Improvising harmonically employs chords and tone centers to inspire new soloing. Improvising by redefining motives, phrases and statements serves to sophisticate the musical arrangement. Just as no two artists would paint a scene in the same way, no two musicians improvise in the same way. Seasoned Jazz musicians combine all three techniques to create new works, inspired by the original melody, harmony and structure representing their unique creative passion. The true value of this music lies in an artist's individual creativity and that unique process of expression which is Jazz.
"Ahhh - those Jazz guys are just makin' that stuff up!" - Homer Simpson
via:a passion 4 jazz