Improvisation is a vastly underestimated skill

Monday, 13 June, 2011

Improvisation, whether in music, sports, or even acting, often requires a level of skill that few of us realise or appreciate.

That jazz quartet might make their music look easy – the players are just playing – but that ease is an illusion. In reality, those musicians are relying on an intricate set of musical patterns, which allow them to invent beauty in real time. Likewise, that Chris Paul assist might seem like a lucky bounce pass, but it’s actually a by-product of some exquisite perceptual analysis. Instead of appreciating the uncanny quickness of these improv artists – watching in awe as they make something out of nothing before our very eyes – we disparage them as mere performers, unaware of all the work and smarts going on behind the scenes.

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Can jazz ever be cool again? Since when wasn’t it cool?

Thursday, 11 March, 2010

An interesting post at Yeah Right, which paraphrases a Twitter discussion, on the apparent fall from grace of jazz, and the genre’s transformation into “high art”.

So what happened? Did jazz get too self-consciously cool? Too mannered, wrapped-up in an artistic bubble, esoteric? If you’ve ever heard a group of jazz musicians wailing in an improv jam session – something I was lucky enough to experience almost every Thursday night back in the day – you’ll know it doesn’t have to be this way. There’s something about great jazz that literally seems to bounce off the walls, like the music has a life of its own.

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