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Peter Friedman

Repetitiveness by Jazz musicians

26 posts in this topic

Larry brought this up regarding Oscar Peterson. This has long been a topic I have found of interest.

Three of my very favorite jazz piano players have certain phrases / licks that I have heard them play

many many many times. it can sometimes be slightly annoying, but has not stopped me from considering these 

musicians to be strong favorites. I am referring to Sonny Clark, Hampton Hawes, and Tommy Flanagan.

 

Wonder if others have any thoughts about repetitive playing by jazz musicians?

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Sonny Stitts. What he was going to play was generally not an issue, but HOW he was going to play it was.

Art Blakesly too, although damn, "Nihon Bash" from Kyoto, where did that come from?

Generally speaking, though, improvisation in general, is going to be as "reflexive" as it is "inspired", especially in the arena of fixed repetitive structures. The people who have really developed a broad enough palate of options to have a minimum number of repeatedly identifiable reflexes are truly superior human beings.

Then again, so are the ones who can speak with a truly, consistently identifiable voice of sincerity and immediacy, even with a more or less fixed vocabulary.

A "signature sound" is trickier than it might seem!

It ain't the meat, it's the motion, ain't what you do, etc, etc, etc.

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We all have these tics...look at posts on this board and see how we all have standard phrases and words we use regularly in specific contexts. 

When you come across music that appears to avoid repetition it's all the more wonderful (there's one of my tics); but that doesn't stop the ordinary, recreational listener from gaining immense pleasure from music that might contain all manner of habits. There are other things going on that provide the pleasure (sometimes just the sheer tone of the player).

And of course there are a number of styles of music that make a virtue of repetition.

One of the things I find appealing about free music is the attempt to avoid such repetition; the trouble is it's a place I only want to go every now and then. I rather like to hear conventional harmony, rhythms and melodic phrases present. Gives me something to hold on to. 

Edited by A Lark Ascending

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Surely the art of jazz is mingling repetition both in tradition and licks with innovation.

Edited by BillF

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Miles !  Great choice and taste in the licks though..

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And what about Sweets Edison? Lots of personal licks there but always enjoyable.

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Peter, about Hampton Hawes; I actually had a talk with Russ Freeman about this once; in the middle years Hawes did start to re-use a lot of classic bebop phraseology; the thing to listen to are his early recordings, '51-53, most recoded live (Fresh Sound has issued these). These are astoundingly inventive.

Edited by AllenLowe

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Quotes are a form of repetition that I generally find to be a drag, although occasionally they are inventive enough to pass muster. 

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As a rock listener moving into jazz (alongside other things) in the late 70s I was struck by a paradox.

The 'inside' jazz I was listening too was so much freer, more spontaneous and willing to change things on the spur of the moment than most rock. Too many rock themes were made up of a phrase, phrase repeated, another phrase, that phrase repeated. One of the great attractions of jazz was listening to the avoidance of such repetition, the way that tunes might be radically abstracted or bent out of shape...and then twisted again.

And yet...

The actual structure of jazz recordings and performances could actually be highly formulaic - a head, sequence of solos, a drum solo, trading fours and back to the head. The sort of rock music I was used to was far more structurally creative. Now I'm sure this was just different musics operating to different operational methods - I always assumed that with the jazz the structure was just a frame to allow the real thing...the improvisation...to take off.

But I can recall getting very weary in some concerts when it was not just the standard structure that was in use but all the soloists soloed in exactly the same order on every tune.   

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Peter, about Hampton Hawes; I actually had a talk with Russ Freeman about this once; in the middle years Hawes did start to re-use a lot of classic bebop phraseology; the thing to listen to are his early recordings, '51-53, most recoded live (Fresh Sound has issued these). These are astoundingly inventive.

Some wonderful sides there!

Quotes are a form of repetition that I generally find to be a drag, although occasionally they are inventive enough to pass muster. 

Quotes are a great opportunity for jazz snobbery - groan at the corny ones everyone recognizes, but laugh knowingly at the ones only you and the musicians recognize.;)

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I was just listening to the Nat King Cole Trio this morning and there seemed to be a lot of sameness going on there by the time I reached the end of the disc, particularly those scatty openings by the group. I wasn't burnt out on it but I reached for a different performer once the disc played out rather than reaching for more of the trio.  

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Why I'm most interested in many types of music - within jazz and otherwise

I'm simply not interested in listening to slightly different versions of the same solo - or as Bev said, listening to a band play theme-solos-theme tunes over and over again.

why anyone else would want to is of little concern to me as there is so much cliche free improv out there - old and new - that I have little time or patience for rote sessions of blasé jazz.

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Don't get me wrong; I enjoy lots of music in that theme-solos-theme style - after all, most historic jazz is constructed that way and an awful lot of 'mainstream' (using the term at its broadest) contemporary jazz. It was as a novice jazz listener that I found it a bit tedious.

As with any musical style you adapt to the formulas (sonata form, the classical scherzo/minuet form etc) and then learn to hear the ingenuity of the musicians who choose to work within those forms. After all, to a casual listener Haydn symphonies or Mozart piano concertos all seem stuck in the same formula. Once you start to listen carefully there is so much variety and upsetting of formulas within those structures.

I've always been especially drawn in jazz to music that features specific musicians on specific pieces - the obvious reference being Ellington where there are so many examples of tunes written with a particular musician in mind and consequently having a uniqueness about them.

   

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Anyone else think that Grant Green's aforementioned repetitiveness (those repeated hammered-out figures that figure climactically in many of his solos) is kind off to one side here -- not a sign of compulsiveness/lack of imagination/not paying attention, etc.on his part but a deliberate and/or inevitable (in the course of those solos) dramatic/emotional/musical stroke. I say this because by and large I'm caught up by them.

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Agreed, and I'd add Mal Waldron's repetition to that side as well. 

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Agreed, and I'd add Mal Waldron's repetition to that side as well. 

I was just going to mention Waldron too. :tup

I think the way Waldron is deliberately repetitive is one of the things that makes him so unique. With him, it's like an incantation, trance-inducing, shamanistic.

Edited by HutchFan

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A look at earlier jazz and the function of the riff ... ?

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Anyone else think that Grant Green's aforementioned repetitiveness (those repeated hammered-out figures that figure climactically in many of his solos) is kind off to one side here -- not a sign of compulsiveness/lack of imagination/not paying attention, etc.on his part but a deliberate and/or inevitable (in the course of those solos) dramatic/emotional/musical stroke. I say this because by and large I'm caught up by them.

similar to Horace Parlan?

we had this thread about Booger and his one solo a while ago ...

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Yes, pretty similar to Parlan, I think.

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funny because when I first heard Blues n Roots, there's one piano solo where I always thought, in the LP days, that the record was skipping. It was Parlan playing the same phrase over and over.

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And I swear to god, I once heard a Midnight Oil song that used that one little "stuck" part as a sample to build their while song. At least the NPR guy said it was Midnight Oil.

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I believe there is a big difference between playing a phrase over and over on purpose to build tension or create a mood, compared 

to having favorite comfortable phrases and / or licks used in numerous different solos.

 

The complete opposite is outside of  (maybe?)  free jazz is Warne Marsh. He seems to make it a prime goal to not use pet phrases / licks,

and try to create new things in all his solos.

 

But, at least for me, what I am saying is not simply that it is "better" to follow the Warne Marsh example.

As I indicated in starting this thread, players such as Sonny Clark and Tommy Flanagan who I hear using certain phrases very often

are musicians who I consider strong favorites

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Complete misnomer! <_<

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