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Jimmy Bruno and I had a very cool day today working on projects.
We completed an interview, did a promo for our upcoming CD, recorded a guitar duet and I gave a lesson on picking for the Jimmy Bruno Guitar Institute.
I'm hoping to be able to offer that track as a free download very soon. Watch for it!
Today, I'd like to talk about improvisation. What is improvisation? Put very simply, it's the spontaneous creation of music. Composition and improvisation have many elements in common but the big distinction is the time element. Composition is the premeditated act of creating music. Improvisation creates as it goes. It is the single most important characteristic of Jazz.
At one time, improvisation was an important element in Classical music. Bach was considered one of the world's great improvisers. Today, however, improvisation has virtually disappeared from Classical music. It has become the reproduction of music rather than spontaneous creation of music. I feel that if Classical music would bring improvisation back, it would substantially increase its audience.
Most contemporary forms of music feature improvisation. It's usually that section of the song when the vocalist has stopped singing and an instrumentalist is featured. Some of these featured solos are worked out in advance but most are spontaneous. George Harrison of the Beetles was known for "composed" solos but guitarist Eric Clapton was noted for his improvisation.
Talent is a topic that is difficult to pin down. The fact is that talent is a fact in retrospect. After you've developed it, it becomes obvious that you have it. The problem is that talent itself is a lot like oil. You're not sure it's there unless you drill for it. Drilling for oil in musical terms is studying and practicing - your instrument or your voice. As your potential unfolds, you'll see what's there.
Talent continues to unfold - faster for some, slower for others. It shows itself in layers or levels - over time - not all at once. The discovery and evolution of your own talent is one of the most exciting facets of music.
So many people were told that they had no talent. Some notable examples : Barbra Streisand, Elvis Presley, Bruce Springstein, me and countless others. Looking back, it seems incredible that such early negative proclamations could have been made about someone's potential. But these and many more discouraging comments were aimed at musicians and singers throughout their early development.
Everyone has talent. Find your direction and spend time exploring and developing it. It will pay dividends beyond your wildest expectations.
For more on this topic, look at my book "Music Pursuing the Horizon". There's a chapter devoted to this misunderstood topic. It's available in hard copy and in the PDF format.
There is no need to "understand" jazz to enjoy it. This misunderstanding stops many people from listening and enjoying this American art form. Jazz doesn't have to be intellectual any more than a painting has to be intellectual to be appreciated.
As in language, there are many dialects in jazz - the same language but different inflections. Spanish and Catalan are good examples of this. These two languages are"Spanish" but there are differences. Vocabulary, pronunciation, articulation and context all vary in subtle ways.
Since improvisation is at the heart of jazz, let's start there. Improvisation is the spontaneous creation of melody over a preset series of chords. As jazz guitarist Jim Hall points out "Improvisation is creating three minutes of music in three minutes of time. Composition could be thought of as the creation of three minutes of music in six months time."
I always thought that the best way to follow improvisation is to think of it as conversation among friends. The piano "says" something, the guitar responds back. The trumpet and sax "speak" at the same time. Improvisation begins, ends, breaks down and flows - not unlike conversation.
If you listen in this spirit and with appreciation of the technical skills and the excitement and poetry built into the music, you won't have to worry about "understanding" jazz. You can just enjoy it.
The jazz guitar is a market in and of itself. It may not even have to be considered a subset of jazz. My experience has been that many people who attend my concerts ask me if the music I play is jazz? I respond with "yes, it's jazz". They often respond back with "That's odd because I hate jazz but I love your music". I began to realize that in many cases, these "fans" are fans of the guitar in general but not necessarily fans of jazz. The jazz guitar creates a potential bridge for the world into the musical form of jazz itself.
I'm not sure that most people recognize the difference between horn jazz and guitar jazz. To many, the sax and trumpet are perceived as strident and overly busy with notes. The sound of the guitar has a tremendous universal appeal which accounts partially for the fact that it is the most popular instrument in the world.
Jazz is a universal art form. It comes in many dialects, shapes and moods. Though jazz is an American tradition, it is also a new and progressive form of improvisational music. It has changed as society has changed. The guitar with its own universal appeal may be the ideal instrument through which the world can listen, appreciate and integrate jazz into their lives.
There are frequent questions about booking agents world wide.
There are two kinds of agents - those who never return a call or E mail and those whose"plate is full".
There is never room on their rosters. Under what circumstances would an agency expand its roster? How did they get their initial rosters in the first place? We know of no agency that is expanding their roster. I hear this from musicians all over the world.
If their clients are so much in demand, why are their clients' names generally unknown? Does anyone ever start an agency? In today's climate, I think it's easier than ever to start an agency. Gone are the high phone bills, promotions and expensive press kits. They have been replaced by $39.95 a month for unlimited calling, the Internet and EPKs.
There must be a point where an agency loses a client or discovers someone that is worth the effort to expand.
Ultimately. the solution is to bypass the entire booking agency industry and take control. As Michael Sembello (Writer of Maniac from the movie Flash Dance) said to me "Rome has finally fallen and we have control again thanks to the Internet".
Chuck Anderson www.ChuckAndersonJazzGuitar.com Jazz Guitarist