Jazz Smugglers Master Workshop

Jazz Smugglers Master Workshop
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Friday, 18 April 2014


This video is what I'm talking about.

Isn't it amazing how good your solos sound when you are listening to jazz cds in the car? Just doing dade dum dum, dade dum, dade dum ....dum etc. Have you noticed that you repeat little motifs, usually concentrating on the rhythm. Sounds good, yes? So why don't we do that more in our solos, build up little tunes within a tune?

Every person in the world can improvise. Whenever we speak we improvise. Sometimes we have a story to tell, sometimes not. Some people's conversations are just a mass of words, a stream of consciousness and this turns people off after a while. I've got two people in mind right now.

Some people show-off in their conversations, full of themselves they dominate, insensitive to other people. I have another person in mind.

Some people are just boorrrring. Yup another person always banging on about his mobile phone. You know something - these people do not attract great crowds of admirers.

But other people's conversations are good to listen to, interesting. They have a theme to them, they are articulate they are well modulated. Most of the time they are not telling a specific story they are joining in with patterns, adding textures to a group conversation.

You can guess where I'm going with this. I'm afraid to say that for my ears many jazz solos are just overplayed, a stream of notes, others are boring, some soloists just show off. But many others are beautiful, lovely to listen to they capture your imagination, you don't want them to stop.

I was listening to just such a solo by Geoff Simkins last Monday, with Terry Seabrook, piano and Nigel Thomas on bass. Autumn in New York, by John Lewis. Geoff chose to use a number of repeated motifs and it sounded really nice. Once Terry played a little piano phrase as a fill, Geoff picked it up immediately, played with it, teased it into other keys for the next 12 bars or so. It was so good on the ear. I've heard Geoff pick up themes from other people while they play -from an Imogen Ryall vocal scat the last time I heard.

I've just listened to a Jazz Messengers track on Youtube. They did it there, way back in the late 40's!

Some soloists never play repeated motifs at all and I think that is a pity. Unless they are careful their work can easily turn shapeless, like one of those pointless monologues. Others I know play them occasionally and it holds the ear when they do. I'm very lucky to work with a bunch of players who will do this, and who will play off each other. Andrew, Geoff, Dave with Vic, Bob and I also being sensitive to it. Wish I could do it like Paul Desmond did it - but it will never be, I'm afraid.

We can all play repeated motifs, they are not hard. We do it every time we da diddy dum to a jazz tune in the car.

For me personally, I don't hear jazz solos telling a story, whatever the profs say. I think they create patterns and textures and they have interesting but one sided conversations with you. I respond to the conversation by feeling. Or not, as the case may be.


1) How many times have you heard ordinary people say they don't like jazz because they can't hear a tune?

2) Think about the way an audience always wants bands to play their favourite songs. They like songs they don't know but for sure they want to hear their old favourites.

3) What is a tune if it is not a series of small repeated motifs? Typically a pattern is set up in the 1st 8, repeated, a variation on it is played in the bridge usually in a different key, then back to the original motif. They all use repeated motifs, all of them. That is what our ear enjoys.

4) Think Mozart, and variations. Are we talking Ostinatos here, and ostinato development? We have a very sound basis for this theory.

Just found this Video of Art Blakeys Jazz Messengers playing their hit Moanin' Listen to all the lovely solos with repeated little riffs, all of them. Timmons on piano, Golson on saxophone, and Lee Morgan on trumpet. He wrote The Sidewinder

The Jazz Smugglers bands in Sussex
The Jazz Smugglers workshop, Bosham, Sussex

This site is to help the Jazz smugglers workshop group and provide information about the following weeks work. We will be working on widening our range of playing styles as individuals, working together in a band, and practising the more difficult things. You need to be able to read.

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