Listening to Jazz-Not as simple as it seems.

toddbishop

Platinum Member
Also in those other genres the biggest names are big because they are unique..And if the 'predictable experience' that has to be delivered would be that easy, then why are 99,99% of all the coverbands not able to reproduce that..?
I don't agree that 99.99% of people can't do it. I see acts all the time that do the basic thing in whatever genre, and it's basically all there, whether the group is good or bad. The better acts are more skilled musicians and more polished, and project more charisma.

I mean, lets agree that for example AC/DC is not the most technical stuff ever, but show me a coverband that is really able to produce that 'predictable experience'..I havent seen them..
I've seen plenty of bands that rock. And I don't consider AC/DC to be genre act necessarily. They created a great formula and they're really good at it, and they're absolutely predictable, but they did invent their own thing. Genres are kind of a different thing from that-- if you listen to any of the music I mentioned in my other comment, it doesn't take long for the void of novelty to drag you down. The repetitiveness is what their audiences are attracted to.

People think that getting the essence of jazz is maybe very 'difficult', but in my opinion is not more 'difficult' than getting the essence of what rock (or any other genre..) is supposed to be..And like i said, the prove of that is given each day by those numerous people/coverbands/etc that completely fail to bring that essence..But just because those genres are much more normal to peoples ears, people think that is much more easy to get to the essence with those..
What's difficult about it is that most people are uncomfortable not getting something. If they would just listen and forget about judging it and not worry that it was making them feel stupid, they would get it. There is a different thing going on with jazz (in general) than with pop music, though. Just listen to this and this-- there's obviously a completely different motivation there.
 

brentcn

Platinum Member
There is a different thing going on with jazz (in general) than with pop music, though. Just listen to this and this-- there's obviously a completely different motivation there.
And what is that thing?

On a fundamental level, "that thing" is form. With some exceptions, the basic rock form is verse-chorus-verse-chorus-bridge-chorus, which plays through once, and in jazz, the form repeats many times: once or twice to establish the melody, and then repeats as soloists improvise. After the last soloist has concluded, the form is played again with the melody.

It's this difference in form that is largely to blame for the initial lack of understanding. A listener who has only experienced rock/pop/funk/classical would not expect the form to repeat. The sophisticated harmony and vocabulary add to the confusion.

I don't think it's fair to expect the uninitiated to make sense of jazz without some guiding principles in place, similar to how you would approach, say, the study of chemistry. You need to memorize a somewhat foreign and unfamiliar framework of knowledge, before you can start solving organic equations.

"Liking" jazz helps the process of understanding it, surely, but it goes the other way, too.
 

Dhango

Member
On my iPhone I have an app called Jazz Radio. There must be 20 varieties of jazz there from Smooth, to piano jazz, to guitar jazz. Pick one that you like and learn to play along with that. I have been exposed to a lot of music but when I listen to trumpet, piano, standup bass, and drums all playing what sounds to me like 4 different songs, I have to walk away. I know it’s me, and they are the best players, but I don’t get it.
I'm 100% with you. I remember a long time ago, listening on the radio a tenor sax player and a drummer improvising for ten solid minutes NON STOP. No melody, no chords, no nothing. The sax went its way and so did the drums. I can't remember their names for the life of me(Stan Getz comes to my mind but I can't be sure) but I'll tell you, it was unlistenable. As Grunters Dad said, they can be brilliant players but I don't get it...
 

Sebenza

Member
I'm 100% with you. I remember a long time ago, listening on the radio a tenor sax player and a drummer improvising for ten solid minutes NON STOP. No melody, no chords, no nothing. The sax went its way and so did the drums. I can't remember their names for the life of me(Stan Getz comes to my mind but I can't be sure) but I'll tell you, it was unlistenable. As Grunters Dad said, they can be brilliant players but I don't get it...
I remember watching a Tony Williams concert on tv when I was young, maybe 14 or 15.. I was already completely immersed in music and drums at that point, but my heroes were found in the world of rock...from Hendrix to Deep Purple to Pink Floyd to Clapton etc...

I clearly remember seeing Tony play and intuitively knowing that I was watching a highly accomplished musician, but I couldn't make heads or tails of what he was doing. It seemed like he was playing fills when I was expecting time and vice versa. I didn't understand and "get it" at all!

Fast forward maybe 6 or 7 years and I couldn't get enough of Tony. Or Elvin, Max, Art and a boatload of others for that matter. Ofcourse I was also studying the music practically full time at that point with some very good teachers, but still...it's why I have to disagree with the long post by WhoIsTony earlier in the thread.. You could describe "jazz" for many people as an acquired taste, but thats just it...you can learn to enjoy it and "get it"...develop a taste for it, if you will. There's no reason for elitism when it comes to music...if someone is interested in something, why not feed the interest with some guidance and suggestions, instead of making it out to be an immensely difficult thing, only to be enjoyed by the chosen few...? Why even make the distinction that the great big bands back in the day, aren't even to be considered jazz? It just makes no sense imo, sorry.

One of the most passionate fans of all kinds of jazz I ever met in my life, was an old man I befriended in a bar one day, who didn't even play an instrument. It would only take you five minutes of conversation with him to know that he was a real conoisseur. The bands that he got to see play when he was young..the stories he told of gigs he organised...he even had his own jazz club that got together once a month to discuss and listen to records. He didn't know the difference between a lydian and a dorian scale...or a ratamacue from a flam tap, but he certainly knew his jazz.
 

Dr_Watso

Platinum Member
I'm 100% with you. I remember a long time ago, listening on the radio a tenor sax player and a drummer improvising for ten solid minutes NON STOP. No melody, no chords, no nothing. The sax went its way and so did the drums. I can't remember their names for the life of me(Stan Getz comes to my mind but I can't be sure) but I'll tell you, it was unlistenable. As Grunters Dad said, they can be brilliant players but I don't get it...
This isn't a "jazz" problem, it's just a acquired taste issue... Like how you might not like spinach until you're exposed to it a lot and find recipes that taste good.

It applies to lots of music that is "complex" for whatever reason. There's tons and tons of prog and really heavy music that I just can't listen to for more than a few minutes and to me it's really hard to understand what's going on... But for someone who's deep down those rabbit holes, someone who studied the style and loves it, it might be a masterpiece.
 

WhoIsTony?

Member
I remember watching a Tony Williams concert on tv when I was young, maybe 14 or 15.. I was already completely immersed in music and drums at that point, but my heroes were found in the world of rock...from Hendrix to Deep Purple to Pink Floyd to Clapton etc...

I clearly remember seeing Tony play and intuitively knowing that I was watching a highly accomplished musician, but I couldn't make heads or tails of what he was doing. It seemed like he was playing fills when I was expecting time and vice versa. I didn't understand and "get it" at all!

Fast forward maybe 6 or 7 years and I couldn't get enough of Tony. Or Elvin, Max, Art and a boatload of others for that matter. Ofcourse I was also studying the music practically full time at that point with some very good teachers, but still...it's why I have to disagree with the long post by WhoIsTony earlier in the thread.. You could describe "jazz" for many people as an acquired taste, but thats just it...you can learn to enjoy it and "get it"...develop a taste for it, if you will. There's no reason for elitism when it comes to music...if someone is interested in something, why not feed the interest with some guidance and suggestions, instead of making it out to be an immensely difficult thing, only to be enjoyed by the chosen few...? Why even make the distinction that the great big bands back in the day, aren't even to be considered jazz? It just makes no sense imo, sorry.

One of the most passionate fans of all kinds of jazz I ever met in my life, was an old man I befriended in a bar one day, who didn't even play an instrument. It would only take you five minutes of conversation with him to know that he was a real conoisseur. The bands that he got to see play when he was young..the stories he told of gigs he organised...he even had his own jazz club that got together once a month to discuss and listen to records. He didn't know the difference between a lydian and a dorian scale...or a ratamacue from a flam tap, but he certainly knew his jazz.
looks like you didn't understand my post at all because nothing you disagreed with has anything to do with anything I posted
 

brentcn

Platinum Member
why not feed the interest with some guidance and suggestions, instead of making it out to be an immensely difficult thing, only to be enjoyed by the chosen few...
+1. The best explanation of jazz I've heard is that jazz is cyclical. It's the same thing over and over, but, the only rule is: once you've played the melody, you can play whatever you want, except the melody, until it's time to end the song with the melody.

I remember a long time ago, listening on the radio a tenor sax player and a drummer improvising for ten solid minutes NON STOP. No melody, no chords, no nothing. The sax went its way and so did the drums.
Well, they were playing a tune, over and over. To understand the conversation, you'd have to be VERY familiar with the structure of the tune. Not having a bassist or chorded instrument makes it very difficult to keep track of the changes. So, some jazz is deliberately challenging. To someone who can follow along, it might be great, and it might not.

But you can't critique a book in a language you can't read.
 

WhoIsTony?

Member
I'd like to address a few things if I may ... so hang with me for a sec

how is stating facts about how a more in depth understanding of jazz such as forms and progressions being needed to play the music affectively somehow make it "elitist" ?

that is completely ridiculous to me

the OP was asking about how to listen to eventually understand how to play the music ...

rock music at its inception was created to be simple by design ... on purpose ... it was made to be desirable, accessible ... and most importantly approachable ... anyone could now go into their garage and bang out rock n roll tunes and have a blast ...
these guys were playing things that had very little mystery to it ...
in the very beginning it was a swinging beat with very simple bluesy progressions over the top for all to enjoy

where at the same time Be Bop was being created with the exact opposite intentions ... it was created so the older player couldn't keep up ... so they didn't understand the language... so they WOULD get lost in the charts and speed

both were considered dangerous ... but only one was created to be accessible

lets take a few examples for fun

we have a drummer named Joe ... Joe has been playing for a long time and is a pretty good player
every song I am about to mention Joe has heard a hundred times and is familiar with them but maybe has never played them with a band.

Joe sits in with a band one night ... they call Wild Thing ... no problem ... Joe has heard it 100 times ... nails it
then they call Louie Louie .. not problem again ... heard it 100 times
then they call Tom Sawyer ... Joe gets a little nervous but he has heard it 100 times ... he struggles through the solo section a bit but he makes it through no problem

then the band calls the the Davis/Feldman tune Joshua ... Joe has heard it 100 times ... but what do you think happens ...
I guarantee you that 99 times out of 100 that Joe falls on his face ... even if he has the chart in front of him Joe is going to be lost as soon as that melody is gone and the improvising starts ...
simply because it is not only about having heard the tune 100 times ... it is much deeper

with those rock songs ... Joe plays something as close to the beat as he remembers and rolls with it ... as long as he knows where to start and stop he is all good

not the case with Joshua

why?.... because he needs to be familiar with the form and progression ... not only to not get completely lost in the tune but to affectively charge the music ... to affectively bring complexion and shade to the proper sections

I can explain why ...

lets take a tune everyone knows ... Miles Davis - So What

I have no idea how anyone could get lost in an AABA 32 bar form ... and if you do you probably have no business playing jazz in front of people to begin with ... but for the sake of this example lets say ... again Joe gets lost in the form
but when he hears the piano whole steps to that ... Em I believe it is ... he knows he is in the B part of the form and order is restored

extremely simple example to something that can get extremely complex and get you entirely lost if you were playing something like say ... Joshua ... or Giant Steps ...

these things don't happen in Misty Mountain Hop

this is in no way an anti rock music post ... I have made a living for many years playing both styles of music ... and have put much more food on the table playing rock than I have playing jazz ... just the nature of how things are today ...

but to somehow pretend that jazz does not require more detailed attention to be played affectively than rock music is simply irresponsible and usually comes from a place of defense of ones love for rock music

and all of this is being said long before we get into the discussion of improvisation over these forms ... that is an entirely different novel of a post all together

there is nothing "elitist" about jazz or jazz players ... but there needs to be a deeper understanding of what is going on when you get up to play with people ... at least if you ever want to be hired again there does
 
Last edited:
lets take a tune everyone knows ... Miles Davis - So What

I have no idea how anyone could get lost in an AABA 32 bar form ... and if you do you probably have no business playing jazz in front of people to begin with ... but for the sake of this example lets say ... again Joe gets lost in the form
but when he hears the piano whole steps to that ... Em I believe it is ... he knows he is in the B part of the form and order is restored
Pretty sure it is 1/2 step up to Eb-
 

Numberless

Platinum Member
to be fair, even I would get lost in Joshua, that is one hard tune jajaja (just being humorous, I agree with almost everything!)
 

WhoIsTony?

Member
to be fair, even I would get lost in Joshua, that is one hard tune jajaja (just being humorous, I agree with almost everything!)
great to see you William

I saw a video of a group you play in recently ... some of the best drumming I've seen in a long time

hope you are well my friend
 

J-Boogie

Gold Member
Comparing Rock to Jazz is almost like comparing Checkers to Chess. Just occurred to me, looking forward to being explained to why thats idiotic. Please dont hold back my skin is thick like rice paper.
 

jornthedrummer

Silver Member
there are two basic things one needs to understand jazz

first is desire/love ... I'll never understand why so many force themselves to try to enjoy jazz.
do you do the same with hip hop? ... classical ?... polka? ... then why jazz?

if you don't love it .. leave it alone ... probably the best advice you will get

second is at least some basic knowledge of forms and chord changes ... without this you will be completely lost in any improvised music

jazz... like classical music ... is a lifelong commitment ... that is part of what makes it special .

you won't be just jumping on the bandstand to dabble around the way you would Mustang Sally while having some beers with friends

and what separates it from all styles of music is that you have to react and create on the spot in real time ...

we all love all those records and dig on all the licks these cats are playing ... but many forget that those things happened in real time and never happened again

to me ... "Big Band" music isn't jazz .. Big Band is swing music... and it is wonderful at that ... but to me real jazz is improvised

but honestly ... if you do not love listening to it stop trying to understand it ...
... if it sounds like "4 guys playing different songs" to you it is simply a dialect foreign to you

but many of us live it ... many of us could hear 5 seconds of a ride beat and tell you it's Philly Joe
... or hear 5 seconds of a brush pattern and tell you it's Vernel Fournier
... or hear 2 seconds of fingers hitting piano keys and tell you it's Monk
... or one bar of an alto solo and tell you it's Jackie McLean
etc etc etc etc

just like many of us can hear Stevie Ray... or Eddie Van Halen... or Moonie ... etc etc and tell who it is within seconds ... same thing

I'll admit ... a lot of the "free" stuff does not appeal to me ... all of that later Coltrane stuff is not interesting to me at all ... beyond Ornette Coleman all of that "out" stuff is far too "expressive" for me ...
I need some semblance of order

if you made it to the end of this rambling ... thanks for reading :)

if you love listening to jazz and want to dive deeper I recommend a few records that will be a gentle introduction without listening to bland music

Clifford Brown - A Study in Brown ... and also Incorporated
Ahmad Jamal - At The Pershing But Not For Me
Sonny Clark - Cool Struttin' ... and also Sonny's Crib
McCoy Tyner - The Real McCoy and Reaching Fourth
Dizzy Gillespie - Sonny Side up

sit with those exclusively for about a year ... sounds like a joke but I'm serious

also take your ride cymbal away from your drums ... put Art Blakey Moanin' in some head phones and play just the ride cymbal along with the tune for an hour everyday for about 3 or 4 months ... again completely serious

if your time is not together there is absolutely no reason to be attempting to comp

also ... and no I'm not crazy ... stay away from all the famous jazz books for a while until you have a firm understanding of the music ... my reason for saying this is because it will have you thinking in patterns ... you will be on the bandstand playing exercises from the book ... HUGE no no ...
I can hear a guy play for 2 minutes and tell you that he learned jazz out of a book and not by listening ... it creates a completely different player

I highly recommend not practicing "exercises " when learning jazz ... but practicing music ... it is most important to understand

1. vocabulary
and 2. how to access that vocabulary

if any of this helps my job is done here


Great to have you back on rhe forum with ypur valuable posts!

Thanks

Jorn
 

Rattlin' Bones

Gold Member
I don't agree with WhoIsTony at all on some points. Rock was never consciously overtly "created". There wasn't a Board of Rock that created music that adhered to certain standards. It evolved organically as all music does. It evolved from blues, as did jazz. No rock groups or artists wrote their songs on purpose to be simple and easy to listen to. They are that way because that's the way blues was which is the way black gospel was.

And bop jazz was not "created" so the older player couldn't keep up. Nobody woke up one day and got together with their friends and said "hey let's create a new genre of music that everybody will get lost in and old dudes won't be able to keep up".

Boy, how elitist is that.

These ideas assume that these forms didn't organically grow out of prior forms. But that is what music does...it evolves and morphs from earlier forms.

Not many people have said it here but I will: to be honest some jazz sounds like a train wreck. And don't give me that "ya gotta listen and study it" BS. Some of it sounds like 4 players playing 4 different pieces and nothing works together and it comes out like crap. Kind of elitist to then fall back on you just don't understand it. Gertrude Stein wrote a lot of really horrible poems and it's not because no one understands them. It's because many/most of her poems are really really bad poems. I can't listen to some Max Roach albums because they just sound bad to me. And it's elitist to explain them away with "you just don't understand them". No - they just sound bad the music doesn't work together and it hurts my ears. I know when something hurts my ears. If that's the intent then they are successful lol.

Which is probably why Miles Davis's landmark album Kind of Blue is so well regarded: it sound great to the casual listener and is also appreciated by the accomplished jazz artist. I could never sit in with anyone playing pieces from it because I'm not good enough, but I can listen to it over and over it sounds really really good.


rock music at its inception was created to be simple by design ... on purpose ... it was made to be desirable, accessible ... and most importantly approachable ... anyone could now go into their garage and bang out rock n roll tunes and have a blast ...these guys were playing things that had very little mystery to it ... in the very beginning it was a swinging beat with very simple bluesy progressions over the top for all to enjoy

where at the same time Be Bop was being created with the exact opposite intentions ... it was created so the older player couldn't keep up ... so they didn't understand the language... so they WOULD get lost in the charts and speed
 

MrPockets

Gold Member
No rock groups or artists wrote their songs on purpose to be simple and easy to listen to.
The Ramones?

And bop jazz was not "created" so the older player couldn't keep up. Nobody woke up one day and got together with their friends and said "hey let's create a new genre of music that everybody will get lost in and old dudes won't be able to keep up".

Boy, how elitist is that.
It was a reaction against swing music. To be music for musicians and not dancing. Definitely elitist in some way.

I wouldn't doubt some Bebop musicians had thoughts about pushing far enough to leave others in the dust as well.

These ideas assume that these forms didn't organically grow out of prior forms. But that is what music does...it evolves and morphs from earlier forms.
Not sure is someone saying, "I want to play faster, more complicated music." is organic or not.

Not many people have said it here but I will: to be honest some jazz sounds like a train wreck. And don't give me that "ya gotta listen and study it" BS. Some of it sounds like 4 players playing 4 different pieces and nothing works together and it comes out like crap.
Music is subjective and no one is forcing it on you.

Kind of elitist to then fall back on you just don't understand it. Gertrude Stein wrote a lot of really horrible poems and it's not because no one understands them. It's because many/most of her poems are really really bad poems. I can't listen to some Max Roach albums because they just sound bad to me. And it's elitist to explain them away with "you just don't understand them". No - they just sound bad the music doesn't work together and it hurts my ears. I know when something hurts my ears. If that's the intent then they are successful lol.
I assume you think mathematics is elitist as well.

Which is probably why Miles Davis's landmark album Kind of Blue is so well regarded: it sound great to the casual listener and is also appreciated by the accomplished jazz artist. I could never sit in with anyone playing pieces from it because I'm not good enough, but I can listen to it over and over it sounds really really good.
I found Kind of Blue incredibly easy to play along with.
 

Rattlin' Bones

Gold Member
No I'm just honest. I'm a (hopefully) likeable ornery honest fellow lol.

you may want to study the history of jazz a bit better ... and yes they did ... maybe watch the Ken Burns doc. it's an easy watch ... the whole premise of be bops inception is documented there

you come off as a closed minded ornery fellow ... I like you ... you're funny
 

Rattlin' Bones

Gold Member
Calculus was developed by Einstein because the mathematics available at the time could't do what he needed. But it's not elitist because it wasn't created to be difficult on purpose. It's difficult by nature. If you create a form of music that is unlistenable by most folks and explain it by saying "you just don't understand it because you've not studied it" then that is elitist. Some jazz is done that way and that's the jazz that hurts my ears. It's elitist to explain it away as I'm just an illiterate dummy who hasn't studied it enough. No it sounds bad it's a train wreck. But that's not all jazz. I have quite a vinyl collection and listen to a lot of jazz. Give me Roy Eldridge on a horn and a group group behind him and I can listen all day. The later Max Roach not so much.

Kind of Blue and other jazz like it is pretty easy for me to play in my basement by myself. But I'd not dare try and play it out at a gig with a group. I'd sound pretty lame. In my basement by myself I'm a hellofadrummer lol.

I assume you think mathematics is elitist as well.



I found Kind of Blue incredibly easy to play along with.
 
Top