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Are chords Jazz or is Jazz played over chords?

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by JimK, Sep 10, 2002.


  1. JimK

    JimK

    Dec 12, 1999
    Kungfuqua'd.

    I think the Jamaican practice of 'rapping' over already existing Pop/rhythmn tracks was called Versioning...goes back to the '50s?
    Basically, the singer would "improvise" new words over an already Popular tune.
    Definite connection to what's been happenin' here; also, is that a parallel to how the early Boppers reharmonized the Popular tunes of their day?

    I dunno.


    I'm way late into this discussion-
    IMO, Jazz can be played over chords or no chords.
    IMO, the "jazzy" sounding chords may evoke a response of "Yeah, now that sounds like Jazz".
    Then again, maybe not.

    FWIW-
    Practically every original I have composed follows these guidelines:
    1)Funky(cough-cough) bass figure
    2)"Jazzy" voiced chords(chords I learned outta a Mickey Baker Jazz Guitar book).

    "Jazzy" chords in & by themself does not = Jazz.
    At least in what I'm doing...
     
  2. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    Well this is very much taken out of context and is not really what I believe.

    Basically, Jazz is a type of music that has developed organically over a whole century and it is impossible to pin down what it is, in a sentence. In my view this is far too simplistic!

    What I was saying however, was that if you take a plain, unaltered 12 bar Blues sequence and only play the Blues Scale (Pentatonic) over it - it will sound less "Jazzy" than if you add chord substitutions, altered chords etc. and then play different scales over it.

    I think most people will hear the difference and hear one as more Jazz(y) than the other.

    I know lots of UK musicians who play Jazz professionally, but also will do sessions on rock, R&B records, chill-out ambient, pure pop or even hip hop!

    So the main difference when they play Jazz is that they are changing their note choices - they know that there are a set of chords/scales that will work in Jazz but not in other styles. Ok there is style and attitude, but the most noticable difference is a set of extended scales and chords that "work" in Jazz but not everywhere else.
     
  3. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    I disagree with this entirely - so Dave Holland, for example, is widely recognised as one of the best Jazz bass players and composers aroudn today, but he very rarely if ever, plays with a swing feel. None of his own compositions are like this anyway and he and his regular drummer do lots of feels and not just swing.

    The way Blues players phrase solos has been taken up by a lot of Jazz players, but it is the extended vocabulary in terms of chord/scale relationships that really defines someone as a Jazz soloist.

    So - all the Jazz educators I have worked with, would not consider that you knew very much about Jazz, at all if all you played was a Blues scale. You wouldn't pass the audition for "Jazz school"! ;)

    The reason I seem to have changed my position from the other thread is that, that was about Chord Substitutions and this is about "What is Jazz".

    So in the other thread I was saying that altering chords and using different scales can make it sound more "Jazzy". This is not the same thing as saying that this is Jazz!

    I think that Jazz has developed organically and it is not possible to say exactly what is Jazz - why restrict yourself to definitions anyway? - just that soem things sound a bit Jazzier than others.The line between Blues and Jazz is not cut and dried, but I think that people can hear the difference between a Jazz Blues - 2 chords per bar and lots of substitutions - and the basic 12 bar.

    But really what purpose does it serve to ask : "What is Jazz?" unless you are in Marketing? ;)
     
  4. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    Thank you for backing me up on this - of course I will defer to your superior knowledge on all of this - I'm just the pupil while you are the teacher! ;)

    But I would be very unhappy with any Jazz teacher who didn't talk about functional harmony and note choice for each chord sequence - and just said play it....but with a swing feel and Jazz inflection. ;)
     
  5. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

     
  6. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    Well I suppose you're right in that "Free Jazz" is limitless in theory and improvisation is the only constant - that's why it is so difficult to define what Jazz is - of course Jazz isn't just II-V-Is - but you now it when yo hear it! ;)
     
  7. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    Yes - this is what I was trying to say to Howard and why the things he mentioned weren't Jazz. Chords , as such, were only the focus of this debate as it started out with somebody asking about Chord Substitutions.

    Of course chords are involved in this approach, but it is the way that they fit into the functional harmony that is important.

    I agree with Ed that improvisation is essential for it to be Jazz, but a lot of people don't see it that way - so they hear the "sound" of "Rhapsody in Blue" and say - that's Jazz and it's difficult to disagree - Gershwin did improvise himself on the piano and his compositional style includes elements which sound like improvisation - I've heard Wynton Marsalis arguing about this!! ;)

    PS - to Ed - so what about Free Jazz that has no harmony or form?
     
  8. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    Well there are crossovers - so like US3 have live musicians who play mainstream Jazz in the UK along with sampled and programmed beats, but generally this type of thing limits the flexibility of the rhythm section where it isn't really part of the overall music as much as a backdrop against which people play - Jazz is really about playing with other people and reacting - and if you have a static element you are definitely losing something.
     
  9. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    Well I think it's going the other way - when I heard "The Message" - Grandmaster Flash in the early 80s I thought Wow - here is a genuinely new development in music - great lyrics and interesting rhythmical styling.

    In the last 20 years though, there has been very little like that and I'm sure if there was anything as good, it would have reached the mainstream as "The Message" did!
     
  10. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    Well....but there were hundreds maybe thousands across the world in the period between 1945 and 1970.

    So I have the Penguin Guide to Jazz on CD, which has 1,618 pages (in very small type) of albums - which are cross-referenced by thousands of musicians - and they explain why they have left out large categories of music and other formats like vinyl etc.

    I could buy several abums a week and not really scratch the surface before I die!
     
  11. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    Hmmm..sounds like an appropriate "nom de plume"!

    I'm always more interested in hearing what others like Ed and Chris have to say, but I like a good debate - just like I would at my local Jazz Club after a few pints - Peter King quartet tonight - Great! ;)
     
  12. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    Hmmm... interesting - not something I know a lot about, but Wynton Marsalis and his family, for example, are hardly from a ghetto or "the street" are they?

    I mean Miles Davis was the son of a professional father and wasn't really fighting his way out of poverty?
     
  13. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    Well, I think Ed is just reacting to this statement (which I copied above) and disagreeing with that.

    So marc seems to be trying to say that "street corner" rap is the equivalent today of Jazz in the 60s, for example.

    I think there are big differences in that all the great Jazz musicians have a very high standard of musicianship and understanding of music theory - even if only at a practical level.

    Whereas, rappers basically have no need of any of this and don't actually demonstrate it either! OK - maybe a highly developed sense of rhythm if we're being generous, but none of the skills which you need to improvise melodies coherently over chord changes.

    I don't see any way in which rap can musically be considered the "equivalent" of Jazz in its heyday and tend to agree with Ed that it was always more of an acquired taste and was never the music "of the kids" - I mean my parents(white British, professional) listened to Jazz in the late 50s early 60s and held Jazz parties for their friends - but I can't imagine black kids in the ghetto listening to Oscar Peterson and Dave Brubeck records, as my parents did!! ;)
     
  14. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    Well I did say previously, I don't know much about this and I was joking on the last point - too obvious?

    But then I'm not trying to prove that Rap is the direct equivalent of Jazz - I was just explaining what Ed was saying. ;) I don't really care about this and it's not really of interest to me in the way that Jazz music is.

    I think there's no doubt that there is more practical exposition of music theory in a record by John Coltrane, (choose who you will, from Jazz greats in history) than all of Rap music put together! ;)
     
  15. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    I'll do the second part - harmonic content of verbal solos = 0, zero nada, nothing etc. ;)
     
  16. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    Well - I don't buy albums that consist entirely of drum solos!! ;) I think such a thing would be pretty dull and at a typical Jazz gig that I attend, there are maybe 2 or 3 drums solos out of an evening where the Sax player will probably solo on every tune!

    Anyway - to qualify for what? How many Jazz CDs have no harmonic or melodic content - I have lists of thousands, but can't think of any!?


    PS - Brad's "stalking" me again - time to hit the ignore button and actually go off to a Jazz gig and listen to some real music!! ;)
     
  17. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    OK that was just a joke - no whining - but how come you say for me that Jazz is CDs - but in the same sentence (that you quoted) I mentioned live gigs as well as CDs?

    You must be slipping! :D

    I go to Jazz gigs every week, but I've never been to one with just drums/percussion. I've been to quite a few with no drums though.

    The point I was making though, is there are many reference lists of great Jazz albums or recommended Jazz albums and none of these are just drum solos - if you can name one, then I will be very interested to check it out?
     
  18. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    Well, there are two areas of confusion here. So firstly my definition of "Rap" is unpitched verbalisation - as other have said "speaking" rather than singing. So OK, I have been having fun playing with this concept in the argument, as Brad says - sparring - but seriously, if I heard somebody singing , well I would say then that's not Rap - that's (insert some other appropriate genre).

    Secondly, how is something in music "on a par" with something else - can you compare Jazz with say and Orchestral concert by an 150-piece symphony orchestra playing a complex work that took the composer 7 years to write and orchestrate?

    So based on the first point I can only see any possibility of a rap solo as being on a par with a drum solo in Jazz - hence my point that do people go to Jazz gigs or buy Jazz CDs just for the drum solos - I don't think so.

    But mostly I Just think you cannot compare chalk and cheese - Friday night I saw a Jazz quartet : alto,piano,bass and drums. Last night I saw a large symphony orchestra playing South American Contemporary Classcial with a Bandoneon soloist in a concerto and a Mezzo-soprano singing seven Spanish songs - I have no idea whether any it was on a par with anything else - I just really liked it!! ;)
     
  19. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    I just don't think you can compare and don't see the need to anyway - are we talking about a competitive sports hierarchy - rapper 10 points , Jazz soloist 10 points - it just makes no sense to me?

    Is the Double Bassist in a symphony orchestra under "par" when he play a piece that only has a very few notes written which are very simple to play and then suddenly over "par" when he plays in a local Jazz band for fun on Friday night and plays complex solos on every tune?

    Par is for Golf, not music!! :D
     
  20. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    But how does this imply any "scoring" of a type of music? This is just stating what is fairly obvious to anyone with a small knowledge of Jazz - i.e. that you can have a fairly "straight" 12 bar Blues sequence and then in the 30s and 40s Jazz musicians like Charlie Parker started to re-harmonise the Blues adding alternate chords and II-V-Is - making it a "Jazz Blues".

    This is widely-known and in no way controversial - Chris, Ed anybody else - back me up on this?
    It is part of the history of Jazz and is documented in loads of books.

    So the original thread to which you refer was asking about chord substitutions.

    As a reference - go to page 222 of Mark Levine's "Jazz Theory Book" which shows "a more complex set of Blues changes that came into being during the bebop era. Note especially the use of tritone substitution in the 4th bar, the descending chromatic I-V progression in bars 6 through 10 ......."etc etc.

    Levine goes on to detail dozens of different variations on the Blues that Jazz musicians made in the 30s - 60s - all of which made the sequences unique to Jazz - a unique Jazz sound - so if someone say to play "Jazz Blues" or "Bebop Blues" Jazz players know that it's not going to be just three dominant 7th chords.

    So in that original thread I ws trying to explain the simplest reason for tritone chord substitutions - to add variety to the basic Blues sequence and make it sound more like Jazz and less like a standard Blues.

    I didn't expect I would be "hounded" for weeks about this - just for trying to help somebody understand why you would use a tritone substitution!! :rolleyes: