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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
A recent catalog from Mosaic Records offers a limited edition of Chu Berry sessions, as leader and sideman. Included in the copy is this quote from Fletcher Henderson:
He's one of the fastest, most inventive and creative minds that has ever been in my band. He doesn't set his choruses, he's continually bobbing up with something he hasn't done before.
Anyone know exactly what Mr. Henderson's referring to? I'm guessing that it might have something to do with constructing melodic lines that play seamlessly through the final barline and continue into the next chorus - but that's just a guess.
 

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He is talking about Chu Berry improvising. Many players in big bands would develop a solo and then repeat it from night to night. If a recording became popular, this would become the definitive solo. Audiences liked this because it was "just like the record" they loved!

Hence, some of the old big band stock charts would have recorded solos written out. The alto and tenor solos in "In the Mood" are good examples of this.
 

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Yes, what kfoster said. Fletcher H was simply saying the Chu didn't play the same solo night after night.
 

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.... or Illinois Jacquet caught forever quoting his own solo on Flying Home.
 

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.... or Illinois Jacquet caught forever quoting his own solo on Flying Home.
If I had played that solo, I'd constantly quote it also!

As usual there are two sides to this. Obviously the greatest improvisors can play a stunning solo on a given tune that is never the same. But for us mere mortals there's also something to be said for repeating at least part of a solo that you initially improvised and that works well with the tune. Some tunes have 'signature' solos that the audience expects to hear ("Honky Tonk" for ex). Even in those cases I think it's desireable to embellish or add in some improvised phrases, as long as you hit some of the signature licks.

It's nice to play something fresh every time, but also useful to have some material to fall back on if you can't come up with something new. One 'trick' I use is to have a standard first chorus, or first 4 bars on a given solo, then improvise from there. All sorts of approaches are effective. Even Bird, who definitely improvised fresh solos even in the studio (you can hear that on the multiple takes), used certain 'key phrases' over and over again. He just had a lot of them and knew how to mix them up!
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Thanks for the responses. In a case like "Flying Home", not only was Jacquet more or less expected to quote the famous solo perpetually — pretty much any tenorman playing the tune had to have it down as well.
 
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