All improvisers are looking for new licks and/or techniques to improve our soloing. As saxophonists, too often are we seduced to licks with many notes with sometimes some quite complicated harmonic structures. I got a little weary of that I started to look for ways to improve my use of melody in improvisation and not just be able to rip off a myriad of notes.
A few years back I did a Jazz Workshop and a concert at the College of Music in Nuremberg, Germany. A diverse group of students attended the workshop. There were not only saxophonists, but guitarists, violinists, pianist, bassists, etc. attending.
The workshop as presented under the title of „A Minimalist Approach to Improvisation“. This was a good title for it because that was the ideas I was working on at the time. If you caught my previous post „Playing over a Dominant 7th Chord„, you may be able to get a glimpse of that. It was during my time with the group „The Bridge“ where I had to look for other ways to solo, mainly because we played most things in odd meters and polyrhythms.
The exercise I presented to the class followed as so; we played the changes to the tune „Lady Bird“ by Tadd Dameron. Then, I instructed the students to use a single rhythmic motive, consisting of just two notes, and they were to try to continue to use this motive throughout the entire chorus. One can (and must) make whatever harmonic changes you need to fit the chords, but you need to !
The topic of this audio is a subject I’ve spoken about with my peers as well as my students over the years. And that is the subject of composing.
You see, throughout musical history, the musician / performer was not only expected to be versed in various songs, but it was also expected that he/she would present new songs. Either for the enjoyment of the public or of the royal courts.
Royalty not only wanted to be entertained but they wanted to the symbol of culture in their respective kingdoms. Thus, the appearance of the court composer. This was usually a man hired to compose music to the King’s liking.
In days gone by, many European classical musicians composed music as well.
Today, most classically trained musicians don’t compose their own music nor are they expected to.
Today, jazz musicians don not only improvise but are also expected to at least be able to compose a simple blues. Many jazz musicians do a lot more than that.
Many jazz musicians have even become film and television composers as well as arrangers in the pop music world.
I’ve personally stressed on my improvising students the importance of being able to compose (at least) a blues tune. Understanding how to form a melody and develop it is key to improvisation.
The PDFs available at my Patreon page explain a very simple method as to how you can compose many Blues themes with very little material.