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--- Jun 20 2000 Go to category
Subject: Motivic Development
Category: Improvisation/Soloing
From: Clifton Hyde (Kalamazoo, MI)

hi pat, love the music and have been spending many hours with the songbook (4 hours tonight...)

my question comes from things i have noticed while transcribing your solos...their always seems to be a certain motif you use to keep the solo from being meaningless licks...being a music composition major, i understand the importance of this, but tend to have a hard time sustaining and implimenting variations on the basic improvised theme. what tips do you have for improving in this area, and how do you practice on the "archetecture" of your improvisations.


-c l i f t o n

p.s.-> the trio transcription book sounds killer...

Pat’s Answer:

hi clifton,

the whole idea of melodic development in a linear way has been fascinating to me ever since i really started listening to music. in the world of jazz, one of my main heroes has always been sonny rollins, who seems incapable of playing a phrase without coming up with two or three of the most logical and stimulating responses to his own melodic postulations every time out. other great examples of musicians who have really developed this way of thinking that are inspiring might be gary burton, wes montgomery, joe henderson, stan getz, and many others.

so how do you "practice" this? part of it for me is being genuinely critical of what i allow myself to play, particularly when i want to try to connect a lot of somewhat involved harmonic materials. i really try to stay on the subject at hand as much as possible - in other words, if i have started an idea that involves, say, a large interval leap, i try to continue to use that as an idea for as long as seems natural, trying to let each idea come to it's natural conclusion.

at it's best, the duration of this way of thinking can be an entire solo, but often it is just for a few phrases. but the thing is, even if it just for a few phrases, by concentrating on the idea of development, you invaribly wind up having a narrative shape to the "story" aspect of your improvisation that if you were just "running the changes", you probably wouldn't.

also, the idea of melodic development does not need to be linked to what we might describe as literally, "melodic" playing. for instance, both max roach and roy haynes are among the most evolved musicians that have ever played for their natural senses of how to develop the melodic implications of a phrase rhythmically. and cecil taylor would stand out as someone whose larger narrative flow is amazing. then, someone like derek bailey has a way of finding a response to his own way of thinking of melody that is as beautiful as it is unpredictable.

and within the more harmonically defined world, it would be hard to find anyone as naturally gifted at this sense of development than clifford brown was - he was really one of a kind in terms of flow.

one other thing to mention however, is that this whole notion of what is and isn't actually moving the plot along is entirely subjective - in other words, one pesons "development" might be another persons "repetition" - to some people, going wildly from one idea to the next is exactly what they are looking for.

good luck with your music!

best from pat