[JPL] Ornette - the truth can finally be told

Phillip Greenlief pgsaxo at pacbell.net
Tue May 1 15:22:11 EDT 2007

-----Original Message-----
On Behalf Of EdBride at aol.com
To: jazzproglist at jazzweek.com
Subject: Re: [JPL] Ornette - the truth can finally be told
revbob at crispen.org writes:
<<..Yeah he went farther than that (well, he would, wouldn't  he?), but
not convinced we gain much by calling something "free" when  it's more 
accurate to say "I don't get (intellectually and viscerally) the  
organizing principles yet."..>>
Who coined the phrase, then? The performer(s), or we who "don't get"

There is either no real freedom or no real restraint in music. I've
never been sure which is true.

An improviser tries to "play free", but inevitably we call upon what we
know. It's pretty hard to divorce yourself from all the hours you've
spent practicing and learning music. The idea is: learn lots so you can
forget it and make music, but that's a lot harder than it sounds.  My
least favorite jazz improviser is the one that spits out loads of licks
that s/he has learned. 

My favorite improvisers sound like their composing when they improvise.
Sonny Rollins, for example, is a master at constantly proliferating
melody...and he's always thinking about constructing melodic lines (not
chords, to refer back to my earlier post). Those lines are long and they
develop over the course of his solos.
I approach improvisation as composition in real time. The situation and
the people you're playing with dictate (for the most part) what the
possibilities are. If you're playing "free jazz" or any other kind of
improvised music, my ideal is that everyone is composing together in
real time.

I think it's the same in jazz. My favorite jazz musicians (Coltrane,
Monk, Rollins, Mary Lou Williams, Mingus, even Sun Ra, to name a few)
were all composers. Their solos are intrinsically different - especially
Monk, right? He REALLY improvised like a composer - especially when it
comes to the element of economy. He learned you could say just as much
if not more by saying less. And he learned that through the act of
composing (think of the tune Thelonious, which is mostly built around a
single note - or "Raise Four" which is the same 6-note phrase repeated
over and over again) you could achieve "brilliance" through clarity. And
every great improviser knows that the more you hone your "solo" down to
one idea that you develop, the more clarity you can achieve, which is
good for everyone - especially the audience. No one likes to listen to
people "fold their laundry" (which is how I refer to improvisers that
just flush out constant ideas that are never developed).

Phillip Greenlief
c/o Evander Music
PO Box 22158 
Oakland, CA 94623-9991

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