Improvisational Music Analysis

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Louis “Satchmo” Armstrong, often called the grandfather of jazz, pioneered the artform and to this day is considered one of the most influential musicians of all time. When asked to describe jazz, he famously responded “If you have to ask, you’ll never know”. Many have criticised this reply for its vague nature and for not directly answering the question, but I believe this quote describes jazz and its purpose perfectly. What Armstrong was trying to say was that jazz is meant to be felt rather than thought about. The purpose of improvisational music is to provide a framework for musicians to display unique creative ideas through spontaneous improvisation, and in doing so, communicating with the audience in a way that other genres of music simply…show more content…
When musicians engage in collective improvisation, they usually have some sort of frame of reference from which to base their playing off of. In jazz slang, this frame of reference is known as a “standard”. In popular music it is typically uncommon to have one song played and recorded by countless bands and for each recording to be unique in its own way, but somehow jazz musicians find a way to play the same song again and again, for decades. Take for example, the popular jazz standard “Autumn Leaves”. Ever since the year of its composition in 1945, jazz musicians have been playing and recording covers of this iconic piece. From Bill Evans to Chick Corea, swing jazz to fusion, improvisers from all over the world have been taking cracks at this classic tune and each time, creating something new. Jazz has been referred to by free jazz innovator Ornette Coleman as being the “...only music in which the same note can be played night after night, but differently each time.” The act of spontaneous improvisation, feeling the music with one's instinct rather than thinking about the notes coming out of one’s instrument, forces the improviser to create different ideas every time. Since one’s stream of conscious and unconscious thought is never the same at any two points in time, there will never be a time where a soloist will play the same solo

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