Boring Jazz: The difference between good and great

(12 posts)

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  1. jazzacast55
    Member

    Hi guys,

    Ok so this has been on my mind for a while, I guess they are big kinda questions but I often ask my self them with out a real answer to them.
    First off I've been checking out some jam sessionsthere listening to these guys play with mega chops and nailing the changes but I just get bored, I start looking at them and thinking why doesn't this grab me why am I bored, whats the difference between a great player, I mean I'll watch guitarist nail a solo, sound amazing but I just think why should I care what hes playing, why are they even playing these standards?? ow, a little F- minor here and hit the 3rd of the Bb-7 chord type of deal
    Like I said it mightn't make sense but I find this forum great for disscussion on these types of topics, I mean haven't we all been to a gig and saw a sax player or guitarist soloing and be just like yeah thats o.k and not be captivated? Why would it be different if I walked in and saw Kurt, Chris potter, Kreisberg, or Brad Mehldau. Is it that some of us
    take copying to such a length that we kill and originality with in us? so there for we don't have anything new to say?
    I mean I saw a guitarist a while back playing all the things you are, very much a Kurt vibe, tone & type of guitar and it was like he was just ticking boxes you know, a little F- minor here and hit the 3rd of the Bb-7 chord type of deal.
    Has anyone been playing a just felt like "What the hell am I doing, why am I playing the old standard that I practiced to play over and then to play it to people who don't even know what's happening?s
    I don't know this may seem crazy or you might not dissagree but I guess it's like being bored of yeally great musician, I'm comming to the conclusion that it's the tunes, they just don't mean anything, you can't connect to it, I'm not a part of any tradition and I'm not emetionaly connected to the changes to "Solar".
    So I guess it somes down to whats the difference between good and great, why do I buy kurts cd or anyone I love and not some unknown guy on youtube or at a small gig who is an amazing player, don't get me wrong they can play but I just don't care.
    So any thoughts on this would be great!

  2. Din
    Member

    Part of being an artist is thinking about what you and others are doing, and how does that benefits or destroys culture. So, I'm happy to read your thoughts, mainly because we all think the same sometimes. I don't have an answer however, sorry for that! haha

  3. contremisart
    Member

    I am not sure how related it will be to the topic, but I strongly think that knowing a guy personally or having an idea of who he is, where he came from, any kind of background knowledge will alter your appreciation of the art. When I first listened to a random track from Pat Martino without knowing who he was, I liked him but wasn't really hooked. Then I got to learn his amazing story, when did he start, who has he met along the way, how he did it and everything started to fit to a puzzle. Then I met the man himself and listened to him live, which completely got me hooked to his music and many other things. So like any art, music should be examined in a context of its time. But when it comes to some guy shredding locally, it is possible that he might just not be original, thus uninteresting which is quite usual. After all, if it was all about knowing chords and scales and standards, we would as well have machines shred for us, randomly generating music.
    Same applies to architecture. An architect in Europe comes up with an original style and pioneers a new way of thinking and creates great architecture. But when a guy out of that context mimics his style just because it looked good, it just blows. Because you know it's phony and doesn't belong there. It has no background nor a reason to be like that. Thanks for the good topic!

  4. Joel
    Member

    Your thinking is dead on.

    I think the answer is that there's a big difference between art and craft. Many people get hooked on being impressed that someone can do something tricky, like hitting all the chord tones you're 'supposed to' and forget it's not the destination. I would say all these standards are just a vehicle to help communicate with other musicians (many of whom work hard to subvert them so they sound like their own tunes).

    There's a lot of machismo in jazz surrounding standards...

  5. A lot of great comments.
    The issue of art and craft.
    The issue of copying ( not transcribing ) but copying.
    The tunes.
    I don't think it's the tunes. I'm sure Chris potter and Kurt and brad mehldau could play 10 minute versions of wheels on the bus and it would be full of the greatest shit ever.
    These guys are artists. As far as craft they have all the skills. Going beyond that and having something to say and being able to build things and have the flexibility to deal with obstacles without distracting from the focus of how they wish to build and navigate and state something is really heavy and they are masters of this .
    As far as copying goes its weird, if there isn't an analysis or some sort of breakdown of some of the devices an artist uses over a set of changes then I am merely teaching myself the steps to an elaborate ballet and this is a static knowledge . If I learn not only the line but look into what ( harmonically or rhythmically or whatever was initially the cool thing that lured me into transcribing ) was being stated and what the meta- implication then I am given a window into a way of relating to that material differently and have access to my own understanding of the implied melodic/ harmonic idea to work with it as I understand those things in the future. If not, and I just learn to mimick and sound like the source without any consideration for WHY something may feel heavy then I've actually done very little of the work. I have to go back and do this with transcriptions I've done and I'm not too excited about it as I would like to be working on developing other things as I have little time to practice. Ultimately, what I dislike about this half worked out type of transcribing is two things. 1). If I don't work through the stuff and get into it then they are tricks that I can physically pull off , but in a holistic sense are beyond my actual grasp and skillset. 2). This kind of thing kind of reeks of when you're at a party and someone drops some cool nietzsche quote ( presumably from Wikipedia or some cooler more informed friend) : there's something super cool and heavy but because of not putting in the time or not really having these things together ( under your fingers or intellectually ) the stuff that comes before and after falls flat and has nothing to do with it.

  6. Matt
    Member

    someone in a review of a contemporary, youthful jazz record said that (paraphrased), "constantly praises the Founding Fathers, and also not allowing new ideas to develop, the intent may be preservation but the result is decay."

    now, does that mean no one should listen to Coltrane, Miles, Ellington, etc? absolutely not! that music is full of rich ideas and emotion and passion and quality, and every player should study and try to assimilate those ideas and structures because they are still the foundations of contemporary music and also relevant to today.

    there are cats who are content with this and feel that their artistic transformation is complete, these are the guys who probably play locally and play in the old-idiom very well but they play it to a fault that eclipses the fact that that music was played over fifty years ago...

    guys like Kurt, Mehldua, etc push their artistic envelope every day, trying new things and trying to communicate with acknowledgement of the past yet awareness of the changes that demand attention today. a good example is Bill Frisell. i dont think anyone would knock his playing or say that he can't play bebop or isnt cognoscente of it theoretically, yet he plays music that is pertinent to contemporary times and draws outside of jazz.

    i think that's why there's such a little audience for jazz. outside of the heavies, i get the feeling that often jazz musicians are playing for other jazz musicians, in essence communicating using a vocabulary and dialect specific to a distant past that only other jazz musicians understand.

    i think that it's sad, too, because jazz is such a great vehicle to speak beautiful ideas and yet not a lot of new gets said. maybe that'll change...

  7. FatJeff
    Member

    Great thread. Some very interesting points being made.

    Part of the problem may lie in the fact that the jazz lexicon today is not typically learned in an apprentice type situation, as it was in the past. Instead, people "learn" to play jazz these days primarily from either books, or DVDs, or web forums, or maybe they actually went to a university to get a degree in jazz studies. In any case, these folks are getting their main exposure to jazz not from a seasoned player who has assimilated the various sub-genres like bop and modal and free, etc., and then risen above that assimilation to construct their own voice. Instead, they are learning jazz by the numbers, first following this method, then that, instead of really digging in and finding their own way with the guidance of a single mentor.

    In my days at the univ., it was pretty clear from the start that "the shit," as far as jazz eras go, was the relatively narrow period between about 1955 and 1965. Post-bop and hard bop ruled; there was very little emphasis on dixie, swing, actual bebop, free jazz, fusion, etc. So little wonder that that's where my main influence lies. And don't get me wrong, I'm not knocking it at all - there are very valid reasons why many consider this to be the peak of jazz. But it's not the entirety, and it limits the range in the student that gets cranked out from such a factory.

    On the other hand, perhaps we should not be so swift in knocking the local guys who play all the right notes, yet fail to elicit any kind of feeling from the listener. Maybe they're having an off night. Maybe they're relatively new players who are still struggling with the technical issues of making the changes (I know that describes me). In any case, have a sit-down, talk with them, see where they're coming from. Maybe you could relate to them your feelings in a way that is not hurtful or dismissive, but instead constructive, and then you will both be the better for it.

  8. aramaya
    Member

    Authenticity. there is a difference between an Artist and someone who is
    just out there to impress some mother fuckers and be hip. Authenticity.

    Fuck hipness. be authentic.

  9. Anny Mouse
    Member

    Right on guys. Authenticity indeed. Matt, I think you nailed it with your post. Along the lines of authenticity....if you don't really love what you play and believe in it from a deeper place than "I just want to BE ABLE to play "insert difficult tune here" because of the challenge of it, I don't think it translates to the listener very well as far as really hitting them on an emotional level. I've been there first hand and have played many times to people who could care less that I'm dealing with Stella or whatever the tune may be.

    I've been a student of the jazz language for over 15 years now and while I still love playing tunes, I'm starting to compose more and more lately. The funny thing is when I write, what really comes from the heart is never a II V I or anything remotely resembling a jazz standard. I've tried to write a standard-esque tune and it just doesn't feel right. It's fake to me.

    Everyone has to go through their own stages of development though. Nothing wrong with practicing Coltrane changes till the sun comes up if that's what you really want to do and makes you happy in the moment and stage you're in. And for a while that was me. It just depends what you want to do. I have found though that best stuff is the most honest no matter how technically difficult or easy it is. Listen to the listener inside of you and pay attention to what you REALLY love in music and follow that.

  10. silverwater
    Member

    It's all about energy.

    Not some kind of spazzy too-loud flying-fingers energy, but the energy of the blues.

    Contrary to popular belief, the blues wasn't really created for people to wail about how depressed they were. It came about as a way to express optimism for the future, despite being in a tough situation at the moment. It can be soft and subtle, or loud and intense.

  11. JorgeRubiales
    Member

    I think many "modern" musicians today deeply overlook the expression possibilities of the guitar. Electric guitar is somehow a little harder to comunicate with than an actual acoustic instrument, but we need to overcome this little barrier and put through everything we have.

    It really doesn't matters if we nail the changes, if we're playing at the speed of light, or if we're putting out the most intrincate substitutions; if we're not playing with great time AND with great expression. Sometimes, less notes is more; but MORE dynamics is more.

    When people think too much of the notes, they forget about the feelings (me included!). But we must remember we're playing for the people; not just our teachers, not just our fellow musicians. Real people that the only thing they need to know about music is if they like it or not. So we better touch their souls and make them like it, or we will have to eat a lot of pasta, if you know what I mean, lol.

  12. aramaya
    Member

    here is a piece I wrote on this a couple years ago. I discuss music as a collective experience and how the performer's understanding of the process he is facilitating may enhance and define the experience of the audience.

    http://philschurgermusicofessence.wordpress.com/2012/05/25/music-as-a-coll/


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