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Distinguished SOTW Member, Forum Contributor 2014
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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
I've been pecking away at this jazz this for a while and have made some serious progress particularly over the last 10 years. Still enjoy sorting out new material and experimenting. Of course in the last 10 years, the internet has also really exploded with content. You know the 100 licks using the Flat Banana chord or the 10,000 standards everyone should know is 45 keys PDF Packages. I purchased a few of those over the years but honestly, it's very humbling as I press against my limited brain horsepower. I guess pre-internet I was really sheltered.

For those jazz experts, has Jazz improvisation always been this sort of academic discipline? In many cases, I feel like I'm staring at a wiring diagram of a 1970's amplifier. Way to much information all at once even after playing for ever.

Not really looking for suggestions as I think I've figured out my own plan. Just curious if anyone else thinks Jazz has entered the realm of genius level - child phenom thinkers only.
 

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Distinguished SOTW Member/Forum Contributor 2012
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No.
From King Oliver to John Coltrane, there has been some kind of development.
And then they built schools, and even delivered certificates, diplomas, phds.
.
.
I still listen to King Oliver.
 

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Distinguished SOTW Researcher
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I think the technical part has gotten turned around. By that I mean technical terminology was originally used to describe what a player was doing. Someone learning to play might ask "How did Bird get that sound?" and would find out "He played a flat fifth against that chord." Over time lessons became organized into "When you see that sequence of chords, play a flat fifth", and turned into an academic discipline.
 

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Jazz “theory” is a mess. After a lot of study I’m starting to realize how many things are related and I have realized a lot of stuff is made more complicated than it needs to be. The back door progression (IV- bVII7 I) is really just “play in the minor and resolve it to the major”. Tritone substitution is “move keys chromatically downward”.

I realized from learning and analyzing Miles Davis’ solo on Doxy that bebop is fundamentally about playing clever resolutions, but a lot of the other stuff is pentatonic or blues (Miles used both). You don’t have to play every chord, in fact outlining the chords sometimes sounds bad! You don’t even always have to resolve the chords… And if you resolve the chords, you can play almost anything before the resolution.

Jazz was initially not a written set of rules, people would learn by imitating or making up their own lines and techniques or borrowing stuff from wherever (the blues, classical music, etc). All the seemingly obtuse academic stuff can be thought of as basically shredding techniques. They’re ear catching things. They don’t have a reason for being right other than “they sound cool” and “we recognize them because they are part of our musical culture”.
 

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Jazz “theory” is a mess. After a lot of study I’m starting to realize how many things are related and I have realized a lot of stuff is made more complicated than it needs to be. The back door progression (IV- bVII7 I) is really just “play in the minor and resolve it to the major”. Tritone substitution is “move keys chromatically downward”.

I realized from learning and analyzing Miles Davis’ solo on Doxy that bebop is fundamentally about playing clever resolutions, but a lot of the other stuff is pentatonic or blues (Miles used both). You don’t have to play every chord, in fact outlining the chords sometimes sounds bad! You don’t even always have to resolve the chords… And if you resolve the chords, you can play almost anything before the resolution.

Jazz was initially not a written set of rules, people would learn by imitating or making up their own lines and techniques or borrowing stuff from wherever (the blues, classical music, etc). All the seemingly obtuse academic stuff can be thought of as basically shredding techniques. They’re ear catching things. They don’t have a reason for being right other than “they sound cool” and “we recognize them because they are part of our musical culture”.
Same goes for any style. 1st innovators then copiers and finally the scholars. By that time the music is archaic.
 

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R&C 2V Sop, YAS61S, YTS61S, YBS62.
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All the great music I hear today in what might be considered the Jazz idiom doesn’t feel rooted in the acedemic. Most of it is European or Scandinavian and, while sometimes complex, often feels like folk songs: gorgeous melodies played over simple harmony.

By contrast, a lot of the big American players sound very academic to me. They’ve been through the system and it shows.

Living in Australia, I’m as culturally distant from Jazz as an Indian is to Polka. I won’t find anything distinct to say relying on the academic.
 

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Distinguished SOTW Member, Forum Contributor 2007-
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To answer your question; no, jazz has not always been this academic. Most of the early jazz musicians were more like "folk' musicians and just played what sounded good to their ears. Most didn't study theory at all. There were no schools that taught jazz like North Texas State or Berklee until after WW2.
 

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A pretty girl is like a melody. Once you start dissecting either one, they aren’t so pretty anymore. If it sounds good, it is good.

All that said, sometimes thinking analytically about things gives an insight that would otherwise be missed. I actually enjoy reading about theory, sometimes, but I tend to think mostly about pretty girls when I’m playing.
 

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The first engineering school opened in the mid-1700s. Prior to that, there were no bridges, roads, aqueducts, dams, pyramids, cathedrals, or coliseums because there were no academically-trained engineers to design them & oversee construction.
But is jazz a public utility or an art form? Is there an obligation to train jazz musicians in a uniform and correct manner to produce jazz safe for public consumption?
 

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Benny Golson and John Coltrane learned by practicing every day in Golson's house, then joining local dance bands in their teens. Kids nowadays don't have that opportunity. Plus, how many of us would be happy with our kids skipping school and playing instead? Maybe the real problem is that jazz music schools are too successful and can teach people to improvise who otherwise would not have had the time - with the tradeoff of everyone sounding the same.

The first engineering school opened in the mid-1700s. Prior to that, there were no bridges, roads, aqueducts, dams, pyramids, cathedrals, or coliseums because there were no academically-trained engineers to design them & oversee construction.
I know you are joking, but art historians and engineering historians would tell you how very rigorous architectural training was before schools. But it was learning the rules from a "master".
 

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Intellectualism and jazz have nearly always coexisted happily with each other. For some historical perspective, Dizzy Gillespie used to teach classes from his apartment in Harlem about functional harmony, chord tones and extensions, etc. This was probably starting in the late 1940s. Bud Powell, Thelonious Monk, Bird, Mingus – all very smart and well-read people, natural descendants of the Harlem renaissance. When Ray Brown did a talk at my college, not long before he left us, he said he loved the fact that students could study jazz – the music he was integral in advancing – and that he wished he'd been able to do that too!
 

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It’s still listening to Bird for me.
I do like reading through transcriptions.
Nothing worse than reading about jazz theory or hearing somebody talk about it.

Yes! I’m the same, it’s like when someone tries to explain rules to a card game to me. My eyes glaze over. I am an “ear” player I suppose, not actively thinking of particular changes when I’m soloing, unless it’s something with modern tonalities I need to decipher.
 
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