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jazz musicians who couldn't/cant read music


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#1 alocispepraluger102

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Posted 19 May 2012 - 10:20 AM

errol garner comes to mind. are there others you know about?

perhaps the topic could amend to famous musicians who couldn't read.....................
songwriter irving berlin oouldn't read music

Edited by alocispepraluger102, 19 May 2012 - 10:22 AM.


#2 Joe

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Posted 19 May 2012 - 10:34 AM

I believe this was said of Chet Baker.

#3 Cyril

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Posted 19 May 2012 - 10:55 AM

Roland Kirk

#4 Cyril

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Posted 19 May 2012 - 11:09 AM

And...

Django Reinhardt

Art Tatum

#5 Jazz Nut

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Posted 19 May 2012 - 11:25 AM

I remember Johnny Hodges wasn't regarded as a reader. Barney Bigard and Russell Procope helped him out with this problem.

#6 Free For All

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Posted 19 May 2012 - 11:55 AM

Roland Kirk


:huh:

#7 brownie

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Posted 19 May 2012 - 11:55 AM

Django Reinhardt


Django could not read for most of his life. Period...

He was taught to read by Stéphane Grappelli!

#8 Niko

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Posted 19 May 2012 - 12:01 PM

one of my favorite story's from michael dregni's django biography is how django demonstrated to the other band members that the British have a moon on their sky just like the French... (also saw an autograph of django once which showed fairly clearly that he had memorized only his first name and then R...h...d with some small scribbling in between...)

#9 Cyril

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Posted 19 May 2012 - 01:03 PM



Django Reinhardt


Django could not read for most of his life. Period...

He was taught to read by Stéphane Grappelli!


QUOTE:
<< Although he could not read music, Reinhardt composed several winsome, highly original tunes like "Daphne," "Nuages" and "Manoir de Mes Reves," as well as mad swingers like "Minor Swing" and the ode to his record label of the '30s, "Stomping at Decca." >>

And some more..

http://www.guitarnoi...y-of-tablature/

What we may never know is: – could Django Reinhardt have been somehow even greater if he had learnt to read and write music?



#10 Cyril

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Posted 19 May 2012 - 05:08 PM

Wes Montgomery did not read music

#11 colinmce

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Posted 19 May 2012 - 08:51 PM

Steve Lacy was unable to read music in the early part of his career. It's said he played by ear on GIL EVANS + 10.

#12 jeffcrom

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Posted 19 May 2012 - 10:18 PM

Steve Lacy was unable to read music in the early part of his career. It's said he played by ear on GIL EVANS + 10.


I had not heard this, and it seems kind of unbelievable, given the complexity of Evans' charts. Where did you hear this? I could readily believe that he wasn't a fast reader at that point.

Sidney Bechet couldn't read music, and I don't know if he knew the names of chords - he reportedly taught his musicians tunes they didn't know by running the arpeggios on his saxophone.

#13 thedwork

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Posted 19 May 2012 - 10:28 PM


Steve Lacy was unable to read music in the early part of his career. It's said he played by ear on GIL EVANS + 10.


I had not heard this, and it seems kind of unbelievable, given the complexity of Evans' charts. Where did you hear this? I could readily believe that he wasn't a fast reader at that point.



yeah. there are gradations. some folks simply don't read at all, but can compose and or/play. some folks know how to read but aren't very proficient in certain situations. and on and on... simply knowing how to read, and being a good "sight reader," can be two very different things. maybe Lacy was a "so so" sight reader but was given time somehow to shed his part beforehand? dunno.

Edited by thedwork, 19 May 2012 - 10:29 PM.


#14 Big Al

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Posted 19 May 2012 - 11:12 PM

Well..... I'm a musician..... I play jazz (I think)..... I can't read music.... :shrug[1]:

#15 BillF

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Posted 20 May 2012 - 02:51 AM

Wes Montgomery did not read music

That may be so, but here from 14:40 and again from 19:30 he instructs his less knowledgeable accompanying musician about a chord sequence. (Great bit of film BTW.)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=krE3s3XY1P0

Edited by BillF, 20 May 2012 - 03:10 AM.


#16 thedwork

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Posted 20 May 2012 - 08:09 AM

i've heard that buddy rich couldn't read so he had other drummers read through new material at rehearsals while he stood by and listened - immediately memorizing the pieces.

#17 Cyril

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Posted 20 May 2012 - 08:22 AM

i've heard that buddy rich couldn't read so he had other drummers read through new material at rehearsals while he stood by and listened - immediately memorizing the pieces.

I've heard the same.


And that Dennis Chambers doesn't read music

#18 colinmce

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Posted 21 May 2012 - 11:14 AM


Steve Lacy was unable to read music in the early part of his career. It's said he played by ear on GIL EVANS + 10.


I had not heard this, and it seems kind of unbelievable, given the complexity of Evans' charts. Where did you hear this? I could readily believe that he wasn't a fast reader at that point.

Sidney Bechet couldn't read music, and I don't know if he knew the names of chords - he reportedly taught his musicians tunes they didn't know by running the arpeggios on his saxophone.


Here's a quote from Josh Stinton of Ideal Bread:

"Chronologically speaking, it's not only one of Lacy's earliest recordings, but also my earliest exposure to his playing. My father subscribed to the Franklin Mint Jazz Club when I was a kid. Every month for two years, he'd get a box of four records. One was called Saxophone Stylists. This is the one Steve Lacy tune they had on there. I used to make mixtapes for myself, and I would just drop the needle on each side of the record. My litmus test was if in 30 seconds I still wanted to hear more, that went on the mixtape. This one took about 10 seconds. At the time, he could not read music. He did the entire session by ear."

He studied with Lacy for two years, so I assume he heard this from Steve himself. Like you said, though, there are gradations, so I don't necessarily take him to be completely illiterate at this point.

#19 GA Russell

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Posted 21 May 2012 - 01:53 PM

When a musician is said to be unable to read music, does that mean that he cannot sight read and play well immediately what is there on the chart, or does that mean that the written notes on the chart mean nothing to him?

#20 freelancer

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Posted 22 May 2012 - 04:57 AM

The big difference is not in being able to read standard notation as it is in being musically literate. With regard to Montgomery, I grew up reading his 'musical illiteracy' debated as if he was some kind of happy go lucky idiot savant - who just miraculously found his chord shapes and re-harmonised progressions to magically (and naturally)fall under his fingers. It seems to me that the knowledgeable players in jazz history learnt their approaches not so much through the ability to read music, but through oral communication and sharing of 'systems' between musicians. Which probably worked through opening up cognitive pathways in the mind as much as it did on learning them off the musical page.

#21 Michael Weiss

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Posted 31 May 2012 - 06:02 PM

Wes Montgomery did not read music

Neither did Buddy. I think not reading music only strengthens the ear and all the instincts associated with making music.


Steve Lacy was unable to read music in the early part of his career. It's said he played by ear on GIL EVANS + 10.


I played with Steve Lacy in 1981, playing among other things, his written music.

#22 colinmce

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Posted 31 May 2012 - 10:55 PM

Note I said "early part". Obviously this changed by the mid 60s when Lacy started writing, and indeed became one of the preeminent composers of the post-60s era.

#23 Cyril

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Posted 01 June 2012 - 03:17 AM

Joe Pass couldn't read music too.



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