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This is something that apparently Cannonball Adderley said at one time, but with "except for Coltrane" added at the end. I'd also include a few others like Bird in that.

After being given patterns and the like over the past year I occasionally recognise things people are playing. Like I may recognise something that Hank Mobley plays, but then later on hear the same thing played by Coleman Hawkins in the 40's. A pattern I was given I just recognised was something played by Bird on "Warming up on a Riff".

So apart from a few innovators it seems everyone is playing off a known jazz language. Everyone is playing cliches, and I don't mean that in the bad sense of the word. You can work out your own ideas and sound great but it will still be part of the existing jazz language.
 

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Where did the clichés come from? Following that line of thinking jazz would've stopped long before now because if everyone was playing clichés there wouldn't be anything new being played.

But I understand what you are getting at and I agree to some extent. There was amost an entire decade during which I listened to very little jazz, mainly because it was IMO stale of innovation, cliché city; if not in short licks, in it's overall conception and execution. I believe it still has some of those dangers, although there is some innovative and interesting music being played today, there is IMO waaay too much conformity.
 

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Not necessarily a bad thing or a detriment to an art form. For example listen to some Haydn symphonies and some Mozart symphonies and hear the absolute theft of ideas that took place. I don't hold it against Mozart and I bet you don't either :) Then think about all of the forgettable composers who were writing the exact same types of things and whose works are barely discernable from those of the masters. In those days it was considered an honor!! As you'll see with other periods of European art music, and all music right up until today, there is a fine line between influence and intellectual theft!

On the other side of the coin, the pop/rock genre of music has not seen much innovation at all, but it's possibly been the most popular music for the longest period of time in recent decades. Everybody is ripping off everybody else. The other day I noticed that Green Day blatantly stole a bass line from Chicago, and if I happen to wander by a radio, half the time I find myself thinking "Wait, this sounds just like that riff from..."
 

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"Cliches become cliches because they are mostly true." - I can't remember who.

On the other hand. You will still always sound like "you" no matter what you play. Whetehr you decide to play the cliches is still up to you.
 

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Ken said:
So apart from a few innovators it seems everyone is playing off a known jazz language. Everyone is playing cliches, and I don't mean that in the bad sense of the word. You can work out your own ideas and sound great but it will still be part of the existing jazz language.
A relevant thread: To Lick Or Not To Lick.
 

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I think you could almost say "music is all cliches", except that "cliche" carries a heavy negative connotation. If you say "music is all about patterns" or "jazz is all patterns", then there's a lot in that. Nevertheless, it's about how the player manipulates the patterns that decides whether the music is good or not. Also, some jazz is much more pattern based than other jazz. I believe someone did a study of Parker that showed that he used approx 100 stock licks. But if you learn all those licks will you sound like Parker? Probably no more than an Elvis impersonator sounds like Elvis. Not that there aren't some very good Elvis impersonators about. IMHO.
 

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FWIW, BTW, ROTFMAO, IMO, GAS, SOTW... it's language, it's communication, it's a bit of simple mathematics, patterns... You still got to put it together in a cohesive, compelling idea.
 

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There are plenty of players with unique styles, who used very few clichés, and not just limited to those who are most often thought of as innovators (Bird & Trane). Immediately springing to mind are Ornette Coleman, Joe Harriott, Eric Dolphy, not to forget R&B or jump players like Earl Bostic, Louis Jordan, King Curtis, Lee Allen, Junior Walker and many others whose use of established licks was often outshone by their own creativity.

I don't mean to put down those great players who do/did use more clichés, and I immediately think of the post Bird players like Sonny Stitt, Jackie McLean etc. These guys weren't just playing clichés and licks, it was how they played them that was so good. And there was /is an audience who want to hear a very familiar language just as there is an audience who want to hear something new. It's two quite different hats when it boils down to what you like. Some wear one, some wear the other and some wear both. When it comes to listening I definitely wear both and also aspire to that in my playing.

(edited due to not being able to spell "Trane" LOL)
 

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One extension of that argument could be that tonality itself is a cliche--the expectations set up by functional harmonic relationships and harmonic structures is a sort of global cliche governing jazz and most western musics. Schoenberg had one approach to departing from this orientation, as did Ornette Coleman.
 

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The words "I love you" are a cliche. But when they are spoken with sincere feelings, in the right context, they are incredibly powerful, and do not sound like a cliche. This is how I think of Cannonball's playing.
 

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drakesaxprof said:
One extension of that argument could be that tonality itself is a cliche--the expectations set up by functional harmonic relationships and harmonic structures is a sort of global cliche governing jazz and most western musics. Schoenberg had one approach to departing from this orientation, as did Ornette Coleman.
It's always been my contention that atonality is a construct. The Physics of harmonic relationships, in addition to principles of perception always 'create' a tonal center.

I've always found Schoenberg, as well as Ornette's music to have detectable tonal centers, albeit they are more subtle and ambiguous than some other music.

That said, cliches are 'overused' patterns (whether musical, speech or other patterns). Who determines whether something is 'overused'?
 

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hakukani said:
That said, cliches are 'overused' patterns (whether musical, speech or other patterns). Who determines whether something is 'overused'?
In music, at least, I think the overused cliches become overused because they sound good. Also, what may be a cliche to us musicians may not sound like a cliche to the audience, many of whom may not have heard these licks over & over. Still, it's always worth looking for new ones. They aren't cliches until they get "discovered" and used by everyone!
 

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hakukani said:
It's always been my contention that atonality is a construct. The Physics of harmonic relationships, in addition to principles of perception always 'create' a tonal center.
That may be, although if it was absolutely inherent, you'd expect to find essentially recognizable tonality in all world musics, but you don't. The scales found in West African, Peruvian, Japanese, and many other musics in no way conform to our 12-tone equidistant chromatic scale, or to a tempered septatonic scale. They may divide the octave into five roughly equal intervals, for example, or make extensive use of quarter-tones as essential intervals. I contend that perceptions of tonality--and the meanings behind it--are socially constructed and learned.
 

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drakesaxprof said:
That may be, although if it was absolutely inherent, you'd expect to find essentially recognizable tonality in all world musics, but you don't. The scales found in West African, Peruvian, Japanese, and many other musics in no way conform to our 12-tone equidistant chromatic scale, or to a tempered septatonic scale. They may divide the octave into five roughly equal intervals, for example, or make extensive use of quarter-tones as essential intervals. I contend that perceptions of tonality--and the meanings behind it--are socially constructed and learned.
The equal tempered scale is definitely a construct, to make key modulation possible without making things sound bad. Frankly, it has always sounded like a compromise to me.

This does not mean that music of all ethnicities, even the Balinese ten tone tonality, does not use tonal centers.

Even quarter tone music has tonal centers (although I find the equal tempered quarter tone scale to be completely unlistenable).

I think ethnic musics don't really use 'quarter tones' they use more natural intervals, derived by ear from the natural harmonic series. I usually cringe when someone says the 7th and 9th natural harmonic is 'out of tune'.

I also wonder about the overtone exercizes where someone uses a tuner calibrated to equal temperment to 'tune' their overtones.
 

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gary said:
...cliché city; if not in short licks, in it's overall conception and execution. I believe it still has some of those dangers, although there is some innovative and interesting music being played today, there is IMO waaay too much conformity.
Yep. I'd call it a comfort zone. Or a rut.

The jam session comfort rut:

  • Piano intro, head, rides, piano solo, bass solo, fours with the drummer, out chorus, tag, long or abrupt ending (choose one).
  • On every minor key ballad, the bass player resolves the last measure to the relative major. Then he looks around the room, pleased with himself.
  • Those same cliched descending half-tone changes on "I Can't Get Started."
  • That same worn out ba-dump-dump intro to "All The Things You Are."
  • "On Green Dolphin Street" has to start latin and go into a swing four-beat at the bridge.
  • "The Autumn Leaves, bap, bap, float by my window, bap, bap..."
Yawn.
 

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Al Stevens said:
On every minor key ballad, the bass player resolves the last measure to the relative major. Then he looks around the room, pleased with himself.
:sign5: Love it, Al.
 

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Al Stevens said:
.......
On every minor key ballad, the bass player resolves the last measure to the relative major. Then he looks around the room, pleased with himself.
....
:sign5: Was he wearing a red bulb nose and have orange hair?
 
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