The Book Of Jazz - online reference book

Its Nature, Instruments, Sources, Sounds, Development & Performers

Home Main Menu Singing & Playing Order & Order Info Support Search Voucher Codes

Share page  Visit Us On FB

Previous Contents Next
The Anatomy of Improvisation
cliche* is not an evil per se, provided it is used occasionally, and with discretion and humor. Louis Armstrong plays countless phrases that have become cliches in his own work and in that o£ his imitators; Dizzy Gillespie can be recognized frequently by his use of phrases he has been playing for a decade. It has long been the belief of Duke Ellington that there is no such thing as complete improvisation, that a certain degree of predetermina­tion governs the hands and mind of every musician. This theory is at least partly in accord with the analytic concept of the various types of improvisation as outlined above.
Another factor that controls the notes selected by the impro­vising jazzman is, of course, his personality and the environment and background from which it evolved. No two musicians will react alike to any given set of chords, any prearranged melodic pattern or even any group of words to be set to music. To illus­trate this point, in what might be called a "Rorschach in rhythm** test, I presented three jazzmen, each of a different era, with a sample line of lyrics and asked them to interpret it spontaneously in music. The line used as the basis for this test was:
You told me that you loved me but you told me a lie Louis Armstrong's reaction was simple and logical:
Armstrong based the entire phrase on the major triad, the only chord implied being the tonic. Roy Eldridge produced this interpretation:
example 5