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RE: Improvisation Ears, Styles, and chops was RE: Loop Jams vs. Jazz Jams
Yep, BIG dumbo ears are critical. I'd say having big ears is
"necessary" to an organic and smooth running jazz machine, yet not
always "sufficient" - meaning that if you take away the listening, the
organic unit suffers, but just adding the listening component doesn't
guarantee the same...especially if egos, clashing personality types, or
other idiosyncrasies are at stake. In other words, there all sorts of
barriers that can get in the way of listening and acting on the
listening. I have a video interview of Miles Davis where he said he was
playing in a club with some other jazz musicians...all big hitters...and
he remarked that they were all playing as if they were in their own
sound isolation booths. All great players, but not really working
together...actually competing with each other in a bad way. He walked
off the stage and just hung out in the back of the room. This
predicament even happens to the big boys. For example, you have one
comper playing a series of chromatic chords over another compers ii-V-I
chord progression....sounds like shit in the mix...does he hear it,
sure...does he care?
Now, I'm on to random things....(without the taxes):
Here is a hilarious audio clip of drummer Jimmy Cobb describing how
Miles complained of Coltrane's long solos. This is one of my favorites:
Can you imagine improvising over 27 bars of a jazz chorus? You have to
have a deep well of ideas and chops to keep that up, and especially if
it is a tune that's 300 beats per minute. Cripes.....
Here's a transcript of an audio interview of have of Miles on MP3:
In order to become a musician, you have to learn a bunch of cliches...if
you pick up an instrument, and you learn it, these cliches, these little
melodies you've heard will come out... You can tell when people say
well I'm gonna play like Charlie Parker used to play...you can tell it's
a copy. You know...when I listen to trumpet players, I can tell that
they've copied Clifford Brown, or Dizzy, or myself, or Fats....it's not
original....sometimes you have to play along time to be able to play
"play like yourself"...I like that....
I have five MP3 zipped in a 1.4MB file, if anyone wants it. One clip is
Miles talking about how he wanted quit every night when playing with
Parker, because he played so fast, and leave Davis up on the stage. It's
funny as hell.
From: Emile Tobenfeld (a.k.a Dr. T) [mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org]
Sent: Sunday, February 27, 2005 12:58 PM
To: email@example.com; Loopers-Delight@loopers-delight.com
Subject: Improvisation Ears, Styles, and chops was RE: Loop Jams vs.
-- random thoughts while procrastinating on doing my taxes --
It seems to me that improvisers who pay attention to each other
should be able to play together regardless of differences in
instruments, styles, techniques and musical knowledge, by bringing
big ears to the session and responding at some level to the essence
of what each other is doing.
IMO Big ears beat big chops any time, and big chops (and musical
knowledge in the traditional sense) are a tool, not an end in
I don't listen to much high energy techno any more, but when I did, I
often imagined a high energy jazz saxophone improvisor wailing over
the beats, with the DJ responding in turn to the sax. The same could
be true of looping music.
I confess I have a few DAT's sitting around of complex looping
sessions with horn playing friends in which I (or they) were
processing their sound and looping synths on top and the whole thing
turned to mud on listening -- big ears can be challenged when our
machines are doing things so complex we can't pick them out,
"The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two
opposed ideas in the mind at the same time, and still retain the
ability to function."
F. Scott Fitzgerald
Visit "Before the Fall -- Images of the World Trade Center" at
Emile Tobenfeld, Ph. D.
Video Producer Image Processing Specialist
Video for your HEAD! Boris FX