Brookmeyer: Jazz is One Human Being Talking to Others

Scott K Fish

Silver Member
Brookmeyer: Jazz is One Human Being Talking to Others



Bob Brookmeyer: “What you are producing should be a human sound. The metal instrument is just a thing you use. Jazz is a personal expression. A jazzman should be saying what he feels. He’s one human being talking to others, telling his story - and that means humor and sadness, joy, all the things that humans have.”*

Source: Bob Brookmeyer: Strength and Simplicity, by Bill Coss. Down Beat, 1/19/61

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8Mile

Platinum Member
Bob was a contributor on the old JazzCentralStation forum back in the day and I always enjoyed picking his brain about music.
 

mikel

Platinum Member
Nice. Some argue, about certain Jazz formats, that its musicians talking amongst themselves, to the exclusion of everyone else. Not my opinion just a quote that made me smile.
 

toddbishop

Platinum Member
Bob Brookmeyer: “What you are producing should be a human sound. The metal instrument is just a thing you use.
That goes for anyone who wants to be a good musician.

Some argue, about certain Jazz formats, that its musicians talking amongst themselves, to the exclusion of everyone else.
That's the kind of comment that tells you more about the people making it than it does about the music. Basically it says "I don't understand, I don't want to understand, and anyway, I'm not listening. But I still need to feel superior to this music, so I'll make up a quip about it."
 

mikel

Platinum Member
That goes for anyone who wants to be a good musician.



That's the kind of comment that tells you more about the people making it than it does about the music. Basically it says "I don't understand, I don't want to understand, and anyway, I'm not listening. But I still need to feel superior to this music, so I'll make up a quip about it."
Hey, you dont need to get all defensive. I like lots of Jazz but I took this in the spirit it was intended, ie, as a joke, possibly about the more experimental Jazz where anything goes.

There again whats to "Understand"? its music, you either like a piece or you dont, understanding has nothing to do with it.

Just cos someone isnt inspired by something you like does not mean they need educating because the poor souls dont understand it. Perhaps they just dont like it. I dont like most Rap music, so what? I dont need educating, it just douse not entertain me, and I bet the people who make Rap couldnt care less.
 

The Sloth

Member
Some of the best music takes understanding, maybe even a little work (or repetitive listening) for the listener to fully appreciate what's happening in the music.
 

tcspears

Gold Member
Some of the best music takes understanding, maybe even a little work (or repetitive listening) for the listener to fully appreciate what's happening in the music.
I agree with this 100%. I've always played jazz, with a few jaunts into classical. I just naturally loved jazz, and it didn't take me long to dig deeper and explore all the many facets of jazz. Eventually while in school, I was exposed to newer genres: third stream, free jazz, creative music, Fusion. And I remember the teacher telling us to listen to the songs without any distractions, and listen multiple times before we formed an opinion.

He was right, there is alot of music (especially third stream and creative music) that you can't just listen to part time... you really need to listen multiple times and not have any distractions, or you just won't get it. Much of this stuff isn't for the non-musically inclined either...
 

toddbishop

Platinum Member
Hey, you dont need to get all defensive. I like lots of Jazz but I took this in the spirit it was intended, ie, as a joke, possibly about the more experimental Jazz where anything goes.

There again whats to "Understand"? its music, you either like a piece or you dont, understanding has nothing to do with it.

Just cos someone isnt inspired by something you like does not mean they need educating because the poor souls dont understand it. Perhaps they just dont like it. I dont like most Rap music, so what? I dont need educating, it just douse not entertain me, and I bet the people who make Rap couldnt care less.
Well, heck, I don't know why you're getting defensive, since you said you didn't believe that. I don't care if people want to close their ears and not learn, they should just not try to turn it around so their willful ignorance = something wrong with my music-- or anyone's music.
 

larryace

"Uncle Larry"
The thread title is all wrong. It should read: Music is one human being talking to another. Jazz isn't the only genre this happens.
 

tcspears

Gold Member
The thread title is all wrong. It should read: Music is one human being talking to another. Jazz isn't the only genre this happens.
True, all forms of music have a level of conversation. I think the author's point is that it is a lot more pronounced in jazz. In most other styles of music, a drummer has to keep time and "play the grid", jazz is the only genre where drummers are invited to become part of the conversation and don't need to necessarily focus on keeping time. When playing jazz, especially modern styles of jazz, drummers are able to think more melodically and join into the conversation, instead of always keeping the beat.

I'm not saying that there is anything wrong or simple about playing the grid, just that it limits a drummer's involvement in the conversation. Drummers can be very creative when playing rock, for instance, but they also are tied down to keeping a beat.
 

_Leviathan_

Senior Member
Though Jazz is more abstract, I think you can be just as creative and expressive playing other styles. Like a good funk drummer, playing interesting bass/snare combinations to match the music, while playing hi-hats with lots of variations and barks, and catching the accents is both keeping time and having a conversation with the other musicians in my view. You can play tonal colors, accents and ghosts, and catch figures playing rock and funk. Like listening to Matt Cameron on Soundgarden records, it sounds like every note is custom designed to match the music instead of straight timekeeping, just playing 2 and 4. "Keeping the beat" and having a musical conversation seems like a false dichotomy to me.
 

Anon La Ply

Renegade
True, all forms of music have a level of conversation. I think the author's point is that it is a lot more pronounced in jazz. In most other styles of music, a drummer has to keep time and "play the grid", jazz is the only genre where drummers are invited to become part of the conversation and don't need to necessarily focus on keeping time.
Psychedelic, early progressive rock and RIO too - which were influenced by jazz improv - also enjoyed these kinds of musical conversations. Think of Jimi, The Doors, Henry Cow, King Crimson, The Who, Cream - the jamming bands. The drummers frequently jumped off the grid and played strong roles in the musical exchanges.

At least two of those bands went through phases where they treated the idea of a soloist as passe (as did some jazz artists, no doubt). They saw dominant singers and soloists as not engaged in a true conversation, more of a soliloquy from a dominant person surrounded by supportively nodding heads, making small interjections. Really, someone saying their peace with others saying "yeah!" and "Tell it like it is, brother!" is either a faux conversation or terribly one-sided one.

By contrast in some of those free improv performances - sometimes with zero roadmap - all musicians mucked in together, thinking on their feet without concern for form in the musical language just like in a real conversation.

In that sense, Mikel's quip has some truth to it - the free improv of band like Henry Cow, for existence, was determinedly for themselves with zero compromise for the audience, who could take it or leave it. To make matter worse (for audiences) the band's ethos allowed for "disagreement" during these passages, if any musician thought the improv needed a charge, they were invited to do so.

As it turned out, the UK rejected them and the band had to move to mainland Europe to find an audience.

The compromises to the potential conversation nature of music - the "grid" of most popular drumming and the simple structures - are about inclusiveness, inviting others in.

In other words, more people relate to "Yeah baby, let's do it!" than "The Phrygian mode originates from the 3rd degree of the major scale. Its scale degrees are R (root) b2 b3 4 5 b6 b7. Due to its b3 the Phrygian mode is a minor scale. The character notes are the minor 6th and in particular, the flattened 2nd. ".
 

Mattsdad

Member
OK, I'm drawn in. It's an interesting discussion.

Yes, all good music is a conversation, especially the kind depending largely on improvisation. But jazz takes it a step farther because the Western African derivative is especially conversational, while in early American slave culture, improvised music was often the way people communicated things not condoned by slave owners and overseers. Those historical traditions were subsequently passed on to jazz, often in very intricate and subtle ways.

One of the reasons I've never understood the "less is more" axiom stems from my personal resistance to everyone conversing exactly the same, when that is never true in real life. The creator of largely spontaneous music is best served employing his or her speaking voice into the playing itself. As a young man, I was often guilty of improvising with many notes, to where I was asked again and again why I did that. My response always pointed back to the way I spoke, alongside reasoning that would ask why I would deviate from my speaking voice to play jazz, when that music was historically rooted in natural conversation.

In thirty-six years of playing and teaching improvised music for a living, the only person I ever heard play more notes than he spoke, and still pulled it off, was my son. Nowadays, he plays more like he talks, although there were many times back in the day, I would almost correct him, then realize his music was just fine, and that his craft would eventually line up. Therefore, in certain cases, there are the exceptions, although rare.
 

Scott K Fish

Silver Member
larryace -

It's fair enough to make the case that what Brookmeyer said applies to music other than jazz, but is my thread title "all wrong?" It's based on what Bob Brookmeyer said about jazz, not about any other music style.

That said, I'm always open to suggestions. What would you name this thread?

Thank you.

skf
 

mikel

Platinum Member
Well, heck, I don't know why you're getting defensive, since you said you didn't believe that. I don't care if people want to close their ears and not learn, they should just not try to turn it around so their willful ignorance = something wrong with my music-- or anyone's music.
There you go again. So someone is willfully ignorant because they dont like some pieces of music? Its art, its not science, we dont all like everything.
 
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