Improvisation: Art in Motion and how it relates to Jazz

Am I the only one who thought that the TV series Whose Line is it Anyway was one of the best ever? Sure it was too creative and thought-provoking for Prime Time TV, but the improvisation and the interaction between the cast members was exactly like Jazz artists playing together ‘in the moment’! There is no script beyond stating the melody (and even that is a variable). Each performer reacts and responds to the previous event and never in the same way twice. This is Art in Motion. You have to be there to experience it. No mp3 or YouTube video comes close. Listen to the music unfold like any other story and let it draw you in with its emotion. 

5 Ways to Listen to and Appreciate Jazz

1)     Listen to the way a pianist or guitarist sensitively picks the right moment to support the melody of the singer or lead instrument.

2)     Unlike most popular music, the bass and drums are not limited to a certain repetitive pattern, but have the freedom to accompany and support the rhythms (and harmony for the bass) going on around them. They can also choose to play against the soloist for tension and release the same way a story unfolds.

3)     Listen for a soloist’s interaction with the other musicians’ accompaniment. Are they having a conversation, or are they just playing the same way they would no matter who they are playing with? We all know the difference between engaging in a conversation with someone and having them ‘talk at us’.

4)     Like speaking, Music is not meant to be spoken as a ‘monotone’. Without contour and variety of moods, pace, and dynamics, it makes for a boring event.

5)     Bottom Line: How did it make you feel? Did you feel included? Were you better off staying home? I hope not!

IF you choose to attend our performance at the 92Y Tribeca Mainstage next Saturday and we do not live up to these standards—DEMAND A REFUND! See you there!

Russ Nolan New York Jazz Educator and Clinician

Russ Nolan Jazz Blog

  1. right on!

  2. Not so bad. Intriguing factors right here

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