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Harri is publishing some excellent commentary, excercies and insight on Jazz Improve by my good friend, the fantastic NY Tenorman Bob Anram:

http://www.saxontheweb.net/Jazz/BobAnramIntro.html

I invite all our members to read and enjoy his vast knowledge, as well as visit his Myspace site (linked in the article) to hear his wonderful work. I'm sure that you will find his work as inspirational and exhilarating as I do.

Cheers.
 

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Three very interesting and insightful articles by Bob Anram. Thanks very much!

PM sent.
 

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Interesting article. I like the idea of making serious listening part of your practice and immediately after picking up your horn and trying to play in a similar way to what you just listened to. That strikes me as being a good test for your ears. Also the idea of listening to Bach and then trying to play Bach-like non-jazz lines. I'd also like to try that with Mozart :D

If I understand correctly he avoids memorization in order to stay a flexible improviser. My first teacher was kind of like that. He taught improv by developing the ear via arranging. He never gave me jazz-lines or told me to transcribe. OTOH he never said he was against transcribing, but he was not a great fan of pattern books. So for many years I avoided patterns and just learned to improvise by playing along with Aebersolds. However I found progress slow and felt I needed something else to make it faster.

So after finding SOTW I started working on jazz-lines, transcribing, and taking tunes and patterns through all keys. I also got the best teacher I could find who is giving me jazz-lines. Since getting a teacher I feel happy about where my playing is going. However I am also finding that I am playing some of these jazz lines a lot when improvising, so now feel the need to work out some new lines by shedding over tunes. As I see it this is the conventional way of continuously changing your playing. That's what the greats did. So I don't necessarily see memorization as being bad for improvisation, providing you keep working out new things in your playing.
 

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Ken, Sonny Rollins touched on this in an interview with J.D. Considine in the Toronto Globe and Mail on Feb. 19/07

" 'But you know, I try to practice a lot, which I do. And the elements I need -- the song we're playing, the chord structure, the harmony and melody -- I try to internalize that. And after doing that, then I try to let the music take over -- because the music is happening too fast any way -- until you can't play and think at the same time.'

"What Rollins means by thinking is the kind of pattern-matching, lick-planning improvisation practised by musicians who prefer to plot out their solos ahead of time. 'If you're doing that, you're playing a more calculated style of music, which I'm not capable of doing,' he says, being careful not to denigrate those who do. 'I'm not a good enough musician to calculate. That's not my style of playing.

So I can't really think of anything. When I go on the stand and I'm playing at my best -- well, any time I play -- the music is just happening. If it comes out good, really good, that's great. But either way, I have to let it go and let the music sort of play me. And as I said, it happens so fast that you can't contemplate it. It's gone by.'...

'I'm trying to improve my technique, my skills, but also trying to get a better way to express myself. So I'm still really engaged in the same endeavour: I'm still trying to really get myself together as a musician.'

'A lot of people say, 'Well gee, you've been playing so long, blah blah blah, and you're this . . .' But it has nothing to do with that. I have a certain goal in mind, and whatever it is, I realize I haven't gotten there yet. So I'm engaged in the same thing now that I was when I went on the bridge. I'm trying to really improve my skills so that when I get out there to improvise with the band, I'm able to call on everything I might need to really express myself, and get myself over. And this is an endless thing...' "
 

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I discussed this with my teacher and he reckons he is trying the same thing as Rollins these days, i.e. just playing without thinking.

What he is trying to do with the lines he gives out is to have you use your ear on them to memorize the sound. Play it thinking about the sound rather than finger memory. That way it doesn't sound calculated or mathmatical which is an observation he has about players today. Then work on those sounds to come up with your own style.
 

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Neil - thank you for quoting the Sonny interview. I'd never seen that before. It's really very inspiring and it kind of made my day. :)
 

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Humility and the Eternal Quest

Hello All, I too thank Neil Sharpe for sharing the Rollins comments. To hear such humility from someone so great is really refreshing. I had the great pleasure of hearing him at the Montreal Jazz Festival in 1996, after years of revelling in his wonderful recordings. At that festival, he was easily the most modern sounding of all the saxophonists I heard there, including the usual lineup of very proficient younger players still struggling to emerge from Coltrane's shadow. Rollins also played the longest set, demonstrating both physical and creative endurance eclipsing much of the other offerings at the festival. This is not to diminish the competence of the others, but to highlight Mr Rollins' musical majesty. Another important point in Rollins' comments is the reference to continuous improvement: Coltrane too was always earnestly trying to get better, and although Parker was less overt about it, I think even Bird had expressed some frustration at getting caught up in repetitive licks and the like. There is no doubt that improvisation is a lifetime quest, but it is important to ensure that we all have fun along the way. Cheers.:)
 

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I took a lesson from a local guy who plays very well. For my 25 dollars I got no info on technique, long tones, phrasing, etc. All the guy said over and over againg in answer to all my questions was ( in a thick german accent) "I play vat I heaaar. I play vat I heaar". He did show me some diminished and whole tone and chromatic things he worked on for facility but he really is gifted and the challange for me is mining "Vat I hear" for ideas. His name is Armin Winter and I think he has some CDs out on CD Baby label. He cranks out the whole thing at his house. Sax, keys, vocals, grunts, screams, you name it. So, he is in the Rollins mold of a non thinking improvisor, not a Brecker lick player. (No knock on Brecker, he is without a doubt my favorite to listen to. ) Anyway, it really is a two fold process. Listening and adding to the memory librarary and learning the horn. K
 

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undoubtedly...

Keith Ridenhour said:
...Anyway, it really is a two fold process. Listening and adding to the memory librarary and learning the horn. K
Yessir, there is no doubt that listening and playing are indispensible. Because there are many who have written eloquently on the subject, it can be difficult to add fruitfully to a dialogue on learning improvisation. However, I am struck by how some people become very proficient technically but display a distinct lack of knowledge of other players. My problem tends to be that I don't spend enough time on the mechanics of the horn (or guitar) because I love listening to others so much. And then, like many others, I still have a day job....which can make a dedicated practice routine more challenging.:|
 

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I have been improvising since my ealy teens. I am now 61. I first started playing with records, and to this day, I advise my students to pick some recordings they like, establish the key of the song, and play. If it sounds right, it is right for you. This requires a good ear and I only recommend this for my gifted students. Once one can break the mental trail of "what is the name of the note I want--the fingering-- the sound" to thinking of a flow of notes to the fingers to the sound that stuffy style is eliminated. Other than a little fun, I never try to teach improvisation to a player who is not a well-accomplished player. Its amazing how the mind of an experienced improvisor can flow without much conscious thinking. I work in psychology and would love to run brain scans of an improvising player. The difficulty would be the interferance of the breathing and physical movement, but I'm sure it is a goal to achieve years from now. I have found a methodical plan to teach improvisation is difficult. I start students on a C chord, teach them the "cool" flatted notes, and let them go. Suggestion of triplets, bending notes, and avoiding the beginner's "now I go up, oops I'd better go lower, go back up to the up and down style most beginners do. I play for them in a Lester Young style to show them the drive of rhythmic use of the same note in a long phrase. I call this "linear improvisation" and alternated with a chordal style, such as Coleman Hawkins, is a good way to teach students the basics of improvisation. I encourage any player to copy. Let's face it: once free jazz came out, everything we play is merely a re-statement of previous styles, as the room for a startling new style is gone. Nevertheless, a great player is still a thrill to hear and can be as sensational to hear as Young, Hawkins, Parker, Coltrane, and so on.
 

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I thought they were great articles, and I couldn't agree more that critical thinking is important. However, I've found one the best way to listen critically is to transcribe a solo by ear. The solo is memorized but I'm not trying to program licks into my head for when I improvise. Subconsciously things tend to emerge that I pick up from transcription, especially articulation. And he's right, transcribing by ear, or listening critically in any setting is hard work!
 

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I transcribe the traditional way a great deal myself, mainly because it is too easy for me to rely on playing by ear and I've spent a lifetime trying to compensate for that habit. A double edged sword it is indeed.

However I have found that using the methods Bob has described commit to one's memory much more quickly and long lasting.
 

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my teacher told me to play by ear.find "my" recording of a song and learn it by ear first.not only the "solo" but the bass to .find the cord`s.and than he got my to write it down.. :).he is like a norwegian gerry mulligan ,amazing..when i was 15 years i started playing tunes by ear.but then some years later i just got tired of everything,and tired of playing ..Then there was some guy`s that made me wanna play again.. now i listen to recordings of gerry mulligan,lars gullin etc .and trying to learn by ear.for me it`s more easy doing that..
find the different prashes...
 

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I have been improvising since my ealy teens. I am now 61. I first started playing with records, and to this day, I advise my students to pick some recordings they like, establish the key of the song, and play. If it sounds right, it is right for you. This requires a good ear and I only recommend this for my gifted students. Once one can break the mental trail of "what is the name of the note I want--the fingering-- the sound" to thinking of a flow of notes to the fingers to the sound that stuffy style is eliminated. Other than a little fun, I never try to teach improvisation to a player who is not a well-accomplished player. Its amazing how the mind of an experienced improvisor can flow without much conscious thinking. I work in psychology and would love to run brain scans of an improvising player. The difficulty would be the interferance of the breathing and physical movement, but I'm sure it is a goal to achieve years from now. I have found a methodical plan to teach improvisation is difficult. I start students on a C chord, teach them the "cool" flatted notes, and let them go. Suggestion of triplets, bending notes, and avoiding the beginner's "now I go up, oops I'd better go lower, go back up to the up and down style most beginners do. I play for them in a Lester Young style to show them the drive of rhythmic use of the same note in a long phrase. I call this "linear improvisation" and alternated with a chordal style, such as Coleman Hawkins, is a good way to teach students the basics of improvisation. I encourage any player to copy. Let's face it: once free jazz came out, everything we play is merely a re-statement of previous styles, as the room for a startling new style is gone. Nevertheless, a great player is still a thrill to hear and can be as sensational to hear as Young, Hawkins, Parker, Coltrane, and so on.
Jazzbug1 - that's a whole lot of experience and wisdom packed into a few sentences. Thanks for sharing.
 

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i suggest to read "lee konitz conversations on the improviser's art"
very interesting book on konitz's life and how to "think" jazz..Lee agree with Sonny even if they play differents worlds..
 

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I see players add info on this subject periodically, so let me add this approach. I hear "words for notes". To remember licks and phrases I like I sing words to the notes. Remember they called "bebop" that because many of the phrases sounded like the word bebop. (See Dizzy Gillespie for President Dizzy on Bebop). As it is said "Jazz is a lanquage" for me it has always been more than just notes. Jazz has articulations that give a hip accent to the music. Jazz is a lanquage that has specific known elements and formulas that we study. Just think about the fact that we say "Swing Articulation". Engilsh meaning of articulation = (of a person or a person's words) having or showing the ability to speak fluently and coherently. That describes the "Jazz language". Although other music has ways of study Jazz has shelves of books dedicated to the many ways of using the jazz lanquage. I've shared yet another way to get it in your ear with words.
 
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