It is my honor to introduce all of you to our guest contributor for our latest post, Mr. Justin Scoville. Justin and I first met at the University of Denver in 2004. Justin, in addition to being a fine jazz trumpeter, has recently started his own blog at The Jazz Daddy (which I highly recommend you check out). He comes from a rich heritage of Denver-based jazz instruction at CCJA, studied at the University of Denver and holds lucrative liberal arts degrees from BYU and the University of Colorado Denver. And (like many musicians these days) balances a family, day job, blogging, playing jazz, etc.
Thanks to Jason for letting me pop in for a guest post!
The precocious and tragically short-lived trumpeter Booker Little recalled some sage advice he received from Sonny Rollins while rooming with the venerable tenor saxophonist in 1954: “Sonny was a big help. For one thing, he cautioned me about becoming overly influenced by other players. ‘You’ve got to be you,’ he told me, ‘whether that’s good or bad.’” At the time, Little was heavily influenced by Clifford Brown. After taking Sonny’s challenge to heart, Booker went on to be one of the most unique jazz soloists during the late 50’s and early 60’s before his premature death.
Part of Little’s singular approach to improvisation was utilizing quarter tones and employing harmonic dissonance (influenced by his understanding of classical music) over traditional bebop harmonies. For an example of this, check out Booker’s solo at 4:30 on “Things Ain’t What They Used To Be”:
I believe Booker is a great example for us all. He spent the time to emulate the great masters that had laid the foundation of jazz, but then infused his own musical interests into what was (at the time) common jazz vocabulary.
Booker wasn’t the first or last to do this. Charlie Parker copied Lester Young, Clifford Brown copied Fats Navarro, and so on. The question is, what are you going to do with all of the cool licks you’ve learned?
Today I’m going to share three simple techniques that will help you go beyond rote imitation and start discovering your own sound. These three techniques are 1) octave displacement, 2) rhythmic variation, and 3) sidestepping.
Let’s take a lick that is fairly common in jazz, like this one:
To add a little variety and challenge to my practice session, I’ll arbitrarily decide to raise or lower certain notes by an octave, paying homage to Eric Dolphy. Here’s an example:
Next, I’ll add some rhythmic variation. Throw in some quarter note triplets, triplets, and quintuplets, and voila! You sound pretty different from all of your lick-playing buddies:
Finally, some sidestepping adds a final dash of harmonic ambiguity. Here, I raised or lowered certain notes to hint at F7 Altered Dominant. Or something like that.
Well, those are some techniques I use to spice up my licks. What have you all tried? Share your comments below.
Last week we started our new series on analyzing lines and we started out with a Clifford Brown lick from his solo on Cherokee. This week (week #40) we’re going to look at another one of my favorite Clifford Brown lines from his famous solo on the Blues standard, Sandu. I mentioned this last week, but when we break down a line (whether it’s our own or something we’ve transcribed from someone else) we can find its essential elements so we can better understand why we liked it and how we can incorporate it or pieces of it into our regular playing.
One of my favorite parts of this line is what Clifford does rhythmically (with varied articulation) with the line in bar 5. The line is simple-playing an Eb minor scale fragment over the Ab7. Yet, because of the varied articulation and the playful rhythm-the line propels forward and grabs your attention.
After transcribing some Clifford Brown (and reading transcriptions by others), I found that he liked to delay and anticipate his targets and resolutions. You’ll notice below that he begins to target the root of the C7 before the chord happens creating an anticipation of the upcoming chord…
Connected to the anticipation above is delaying the chromatic targeting of the 5th (G) on the C7. Clifford chromatically descends his line into the C7, but instead of landing on his intended target on beat 1-he delays it until the and of 1.
Both of the above are great examples of crossing the bar line (we covered that topic a few weeks back if you want to go check it out). This week’s line is one that I find myself, at least in part, quoting every now and then.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this week’s tip and have found it beneficial in some way! Next week we’ll continue on in this series and will look at lines by other musicians. In the meantime, (if you haven’t already) be sure to check out the rest of this site, past tips, my book and its reviews and other related material.
It’s been awhile since we’ve done a series, so I thought with week #39’s tip we’d start off looking at what makes some of our favorite improvised lines sound so good. I’ll be tying in some of the different tools and elements we’ve been discussing since week 1 as well as parts from my book, Targeting: Improvisation With Purpose to break down a line. When we break down a line (whether it’s our own or something we’ve transcribed from someone else) we can find its essential elements so we can better understand why we liked it and how we can incorporate it or pieces of it into our regular playing. I’m not going to do an over-analysis of each week’s line, but will give you a few elements that I notice and hope that you find some benefit from them.
To start this series off, we’re going to be looking at a short line that I’ve liked for quite some time by trumpeter Clifford Brown. Like many jazz trumpet players, I’ve always been amazed at Clifford’s facility and how he constructed his lines. The line below is from Cherokee off of his Study In Brown album released by Emarcy.
Those that have been following my blog posts and have read my book know how much I’m into targeting and the different ways we can creatively target notes (and beyond what’s mentioned below). When I first look at this line, I notice how Clifford used chromatic targeting (or enclosures, etc) to reach the 3rd of the Bbmaj7 in the 2nd bar and the two back to back chromatic targetings of the 5th (on the F7+) and the root (on the Bb7).
Another thing that I notice is the descending chromatic line in the first bar that is temporarily interrupted by part of a G-minor arpeggio before finishing the line. You’ll notice the first part of the line listed below in its original form, followed by what it would look like if the line were uninterrupted.
I’ve found that when I’m in the middle of a descending line that is chromatic in nature, I can interrupt the line similarly to what Clifford Brown does above. I will also use the overall line over any major-type harmony. Even though it has chromatic movement, the targeted notes are within the Bb-major harmony.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this week’s tip and have found it beneficial in some way! Next week we’ll continue on in this series and will analyze another one of my favorite Clifford Brown lines. In the meantime, (if you haven’t already) be sure to check out the rest of this site, past tips, my book and its reviews and other related material. Starting TODAY, Targeting: Improvisation With Purpose is now available in the E-book format in Spanish. Be sure to check it out and recommend it to your Spanish speaking friends!