do you do that, playing a solo in jazz? I think its good to
say a few things about the choice of notes by jazz soloists, so
that you can better decide which approach you prefer. For youre
the master of your solo, you decide how you want to play it. You
have a lot of precious freedom in jazz although it doesnt
make sense to play your solo in a way that is terrible to listen
to for everyone. For instance: you can decide that harmonies provide
a nice background for your solo, and that its not necessary
to know anything about chords, because youre not really going
to listen to them anyway. In the seventies of the past century some
musicians actually got away with this concept. But I feel this is
not the way. Learn to play your solo over the harmonies. Now you
can decide much better when you want to solo in the harmonies and
when you want to play out of them.
A lot of musicians who like to play out of the harmonies do it this
way: they start playing in, then they go out, and then back in again.
All this can be done in a few seconds, but it can also take much,
When jazz musicians play a solo, they do this in one of the following
1. The theme is all-important to them. They keep playing around
it or you here it coming back all the time. I used to play with
a musician who did this in such a way that I could never be completely
sure if he was playing the theme for the last time (with variations).
He could just as well have been in the midst of his solo. Sometimes
he was, sometimes he wasnt.
2. The harmonies inspire you to create something completely new.
I like this way the best, but its not better than
the first. And youre taking a certain risk: that youre
not inspired at all and keep playing the same licks over and over
again. Everyone has an amount of licks of his own, and chances are
youll be playing them several times during a gig, especially
if youre playing a solo in each song, as is the case when
I play with 2gether and Pot & Baumgarten. I try to think up
something new for each solo when I play with them, something that
makes each solo stick out.
3. Finally, some approaches combine elements of the other two. For
instance, some solo players like to base their solo on an interval
within the theme, or on a small part of the theme. And there are
solo players who base their solo on an impression of the theme (and
little or nothing else).
On top of this, some musicians only use a chord sequence or just
a melody to base a whole song on. Sometimes they absolutely dont
know whats coming, they just start, everything is improvised.
Every musical approach has its own demands.
Youll have to find your own way and make your own decisions,
but I think its a very good idea to study musical theory and
jazz theory. If youre this fantastic musician who hears and
understands everything just by listening, it can still be a good
idea to know what models are used in music theory: they might inspire
you to create something you had not thought of before. And for simple
musicians (like me), this information can be pure gold.