Monday, May 30, 2011

On transcribing music...

Part I

Ted Brown (b. 1927) is, to put it simply and unfairly, a second-rate Tristano-ite tenor sax. That is, he's not Warne Marsh, with whom he shared the album Jazz of Two Cities (tracks 1-12 in Spotify, 1-11 in MySpace). He may be less adventurous than Marsh, but with strong leanings towards Lester Young, he's one of those musicians deserving more attention than what they normally get. Both his albums for Criss Cross, Good Company, with Jimmy Raney, and Free Spirit can be listened to through Spotify (Good Company) or MySpace (Free Spirit; Good Company).

As a student with Tristano, Brown was into a strict discipline of studying great jazz solos. However, as he explains in the video below, his curiosity for the mechanics of jazz solos predates his days with Tristano. He also explains why it is important to devote time to transcribe solos, to go through the process of intense listening, lift the solos by ear, and put them on paper.

In general, one difference between current jazz musicians and their predecessors is that the older generations developed their playing in a more intuitive way. It could be say that, starting from a sufficient level of technical competence, the route to jazz excellence depended more on personal research and work. In a way, more of the older jazz musicians were actual cooks, while the younger generations seem to rely more on pre-cooked meals.


Part II

For those interested in transcribing, or just in a deeper study of solos, 25-year old saxophonist Jacob Zimmerman has launched a blog devoted to slowed-down solos.

So far the selection is excellent, and he takes requests.

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