Forewarning: I am not here to go in-depth on the cultural appropriation of jazz music. Mostly, because jazz – like any form of music – is a shared musical experience for EVERYONE to enjoy.
However, I do want to use this time to speak my mind about how in some cases we have taken the jazz idiom and chained it in shackles to the normality of Western European musical standards.
When people learn a jazz tune for the first time, it might go in one of two ways:
- Out of the Real Book, with a fake sheet giving the lead lines and approximated chord changes. From there, the jazz ensemble would follow the typical form of playing the head (once or twice), followed by everyone taking a solo, and ending with the top of the head again.
- From an arrangement, usually intended for a school jazz band. This gives the ensemble “training wheels” for learning the typical form of the jazz tune while predicating how the “improvisational” part will sound.
But at some point, the training wheels do need to come off.
While abnormous amount of annotation (including notation of the chord structures, melody, repeat signs, markings, structure, accents, etc.) might be needed if the composition is a lengthy/complex jazz tunes that need these confinements in order to maintain sense of unity, it is truly superfluous to the roots of jazz.
If a performer cannot read from a lead sheet and talk to the band about the structure of who while take the first rounds of soloing, then this is a shame to how literal jazz has become – being reduced from the previous art form it was to now a commodity in the lenses of Western European music.
Just thinking out loud.