When the jazz questions get down to basics

sleepingA friend who like all kinds of music and much of it with jazz leanings but is not particularly into “mainstream” or “orthodox” acoustic jazz asked me the other day while we stood near the bandstand at a certain awards function on the banks of a major water course in this fair land:

Why does everyone in the band have to take a solo on every tune?

Someone once explained to me that it’s when those early childhood questions “Why?” and “Why not?” turn with age and experience to “Because” that creativity takes a downward turn. Anyway, at the time I couldn’t really think of a “because” that would have convinced him…

I was reminded of his question when I saw a tweet a moment ago. It read:

I mean, really, don’t you think more people would give jazz a chance if we even THOUGHT about taking shorter solos?

Not this time a question from a listener occasionally dipping an ear into the jazz water but from none other than the ace of bass himself. Mr Christian McBride.

Your views, jazz peoples?



Categories: Opinion

Tags: , ,

6 replies

  1. It definitely isn’t cool when every musician has huge solos in every tune, very amateur. I think that happens because sometimes bands become more like gyms for musicians to exercise their technique rather than a vehicle to enable communication or allow art to happen.

  2. Oh dear. Of course “more people would give jazz a chance” if the solos were shorter. Actually even more would give it a chance if there were no solos and just nice simple tunes, and definitely with with singers, and even more if there was a nice steady beat. But then what exactly would they be listening to??

  3. It’s my understanding that American jazz musicians, and students in American colleges and universities studying jazz, believe that soloing by each musician is a necessity. European musicians, on the other hand, generally believe that such an approach is more akin to showing off and favor a group dynamic. This group dynamic is present, to a degree, in Matthew Halsall’s music. It can be found in the music of Manu Katche, too.

  4. If a musician is particularly inspired by a tune or a set of chords or the feel in the room or between the players, it can be a complete joy to hear them stretch out and explore in more depth, to try out some new things and really talk!

    Anyway, there’s a popular cliche that jazz is inherently self-indulgent, what Beavis and Butthead called “musical masturbation” and Noel Gallagher was lazily laying into last week, that the people on stage having more fun than those in the audience (in this, he’s way off. I went to see Alan Skidmore on Saturday and he finished his first set with JC’s Impressions saying he might have to have a lie down after (he probably did too, and rather him than me with that tenor sax)). Qv. also the joke about the difference between a rock guitarist and a jazz guitarist. A rock guitarist is one who plays three chords to thousands of people, whereas a jazz guitarist . . . .

  5. By ‘we’ he means bass players. He’ll get little argument there!

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