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Jazz: Reading or Improvisation?

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by StrudelBass, Jan 22, 2005.

  1. StrudelBass


    Jul 6, 2002
    In a jazz band situation, if there is music layed out to read, should I play that or do I improvise my line based off the chords?
  2. metalguy2


    Dec 26, 2004
    It depends. If it is a chord chart then improv it out. If the bars have note values then play that. Alot of jazz will have a head at the begining. And then after the head it goes into all improv.
  3. If you're talking about High School bigband/jazz band, a lot of times they'll write out your lines. But definitely be prepared to improv your lines based off the chords.
  4. Ed Fuqua

    Ed Fuqua

    Dec 13, 1999
    Chuck Sher publishes my book, WALKING BASSICS:The Fundamentals of Jazz Bass Playing.
    When you say " jazz band situation", what are you talking about? The high school stage band or Mehldau's trio?

    If you have a chart that has a specific bass part written out, the composer did that because that's what they wanted to hear. They may be doing that (in the case of a high school stage band chart) because their estimation of the state of high school bassists is erring on the side of the director who has a bassist who has NEVER played any jazz before. If you have a great background in improvising walking lines, you probably CAN come up with a more interesting line than what's written. How much playing do you do? Where do you play, who do you play with?

    If you're appearing as the bassist in the local rhythm section that will be performing with Brad Mehldau and you have a written part, the composer/arranger wrote that out because they wanted to hear those specific notes in that place in the tune. Especially in a bare bones trio format, those specific written parts are gonna line up with something else that's going on in the arrangement. So I would not be inclined to "improvise" a line through them. Unless this was 3 weeks and 19 gigs into the tour and the band was really developing/evolving the arrangement on the stand.
  5. Aaron Saunders

    Aaron Saunders

    Apr 27, 2002
    For me, it definitely depends on the situation -- but more importantly, the song and the leader. I'm in jazz band at school, a trio, and I was in a short lived quartet with the members of said trio and one of my teachers/jazz band leader (Greg Runions.)

    For instance, in jazz band, sometimes the leader (Greg) wants me to play exactly what's written, note for note -- for instance, "Sing, Sing, Sing." Other songs like Minnie the Moocher start off pretty strict, but there are short ascending bits that are a little freer. At one point, the second or third time we practiced it in jazz band, I broke away a little from what was written, but still hit the changes perfectly, and he actually told me as soon as we finished that THAT was what he preferred a lot of the time.

    The trio is far more improvisational, and in the quartet, Greg basically gave us chord sheets and a melody or head for the piano, told us the basic feel, and a basic rhythm for the drums.

    It very much depends on the leader/song, but if there's no improvisation, then where's the jazz?
  6. dodgy_ian


    Apr 9, 2001
    Newcastle, UK
    normally in the big band/jazz band groups where all the arrangements are given out I would follow the written line at first, pos thru head and first solo and then mayb improvise the walking line over the changes if they are given.

    Obvioulsy it depends - some of the charts in one of the bands i play are just dots for jazz blues so no suprise, but similarly some of the tunes are all over the place, stops, stabs, melody on bass etc SO on those tunes I just follow the dots and don't err. You'll have to see song from song - perhaps ask yur MD as well.

  7. JimK


    Dec 12, 1999

    (Sorry, Strudelbass; it's been awhile).
  8. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    Profile doesn't help to answer that question!! ;)

    "Not in a band and am sure as hell that I'm not part of an ensemble. "
  9. StrudelBass


    Jul 6, 2002
    Doh! My profile is so old.

    I don't know how to describe it. Its a student-ran jazz... band? Several horns, piano, guitar, drums, and me. We play arrangements but apparently we'll be doing our own stuff eventually.