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Saturday, March 1, 2014

Jazz is copied from classical music

I quote from a book I own;

"Music theorists have...correctly established that the jazzman has not been an innovator in the areas of harmony and melody. In the realm of voicing existing harmonic materials jazz pianists have been singularly inventive...But for the most part jazzmen have been quite content to borrow their tonal resources from such diverse areas as Lutheran hymns and Stravinsky's Sacre du Printemps."

This author argues that jazz harmony is not so much a 'new' or 'Original' thing; it is consolidated and synthesized from both religious and secular sources, as well as eastern and western sources, in a more up to date context. I believe that jazz harmony is 'classical' harmony in a less rigid environment. Polychords were used in classical music long before they were used in jazz for example, the same may be said of quartal chords. Examples of both of these concepts are used in jazz music often.

I would also argue that the wikipedia argument has over intellectualized the concept of improvising. What the writer is suggesting is not improvising in my eyes. I believe there is no such thing as "chord scale compatibility". I believe this concept is trying to rationally solve a problem that, in my opinion has no rational solution. Sure you can pick, choose and play notes or licks from these scales, but at the end of the day, is that really jazz? I feel that a true improviser does much more than that. I believe the greatest improvisers form melodies inside themselves, not from an external harmonic reference. A real improviser is not going to think in terms of chords and scales; Charlie Parker has many quotes that fit with my argument;

"You've got to learn your instrument. Then, you practice, practice, practice. And then, when you finally get up there on the bandstand, forget all that and just wail."

"Music is your own experience, your own thoughts, your wisdom. If you don't live it, it won't come out of your horn. They teach you there's a boundary line to music. But, man, there's no boundary line to art."

"I realized by using the high notes of the chords as a melodic line, and by the right harmonic progression, I could play what I heard inside me. That's when I was born."


Mehegan, John. Jazz Rhythm and the Improvised Line. New York: Watson-Guptill.…

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