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#1012327 - 01/24/08 02:09 AM What is Jazz?
jazzwee Offline
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/25/07
Posts: 7060
Loc: So. California
Elsewhere on PW, there's discussion of what supposedly jazz is or isn't. And there's complete misunderstanding of the point of this whole genre. Below are a series of Videos of the amazing jazz master and a great influence on me, maybe the greatest influence on me. He's Bill Evans.

These series of vides (9:30 apiece), discusses Jazz philosphically, and compared to Classical, the foundations of learning music in general and Jazz specifically.

For those who think they know what Jazz is (but are not jazz musicians), perhaps this might give some insight.

Let there be no doubt, that Bill Evans is NOT using sheet music, nor discusses learning by sheet music.

In case you don't know who Bill Evans is, he is one of the foremost innovators in Modern Jazz. He was originally classically trained. A big chunk of what is taught today in jazz came from him (including what we discuss in the Autumn Leaves Thread).

As he says early on: Jazz, in his mind is not a style but is about improvisation, which continues the trend of the 17th century, now missing from classical. Jazz continues the style of improvisation started from then.

There's some real tidbits here that explain why people like me are fascinated with the study of jazz. I would be fascinated with jazz even if I never performed for anyone else but myself.

Please give it an eye and an ear.

THE UNIVERSAL MIND - BILL EVANS INTERVIEWS

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jm6V7bWnVpw

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ihw6K7jiAS4

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=basa3P38BRQ

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

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LRuhSrLyZOs&NR=1
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#1012328 - 01/24/08 04:17 AM Re: What is Jazz?
lizzy's dad Offline
Full Member

Registered: 12/10/07
Posts: 256
Loc: Suburb of Seattle
Have you heard Marian Mcpartland's Evans CD? Good stuff. He talks about technique, influences, etc. Great version of "Waltz for Debby".

Speaking of improvisation...in the "Waltz for Debby" album, Bill records 2 versions of some of his classic tunes.

I love his music and treasure some of his vinyl I own. I could listen to "Alice In Wonderland" all day long...and often do.

Evans is the master.


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#1012329 - 01/24/08 06:51 PM Re: What is Jazz?
Rosanna Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/08/07
Posts: 1360
Loc: San Francisco Bay area
jazzwee, thanks for posting these videos. I enjoyed them. I somewhat disagree that jazz is improvisation and not a style. Its style is very clearly different than classical or hip hop. But perhaps it's the main western style left these days which has improvisation as its essence. (Actually I don't know enough about hip hop or rap to know how much or if improv is involved.) However in Classical Indian music, improv is very much at the heart of the music too, but it certainly won't be called "jazz" in the strict sense of the word. It does work well in "fusion" music though, e.g. John Mclaughlin in "Shakti".
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#1012330 - 01/24/08 07:17 PM Re: What is Jazz?
jazzwee Offline
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/25/07
Posts: 7060
Loc: So. California
Rosanna, regarding style, I think this is is Bill Evans thinking in the bigger picture, perhaps foreseeing more developments in jazz in the future where the style would change even more drastically.

In reality of course, stylistically jazz has stabilized into a major stylistic groupings and yes, we probably couldn't take the style out.

But remember these videos were from 50 years ago. I suppose one could argue if Keith Jarrett's, or Brad Mehldau's improvisational musings in a non-swinging style is jazz. At least to Bill Evans, he would embrace them.

The influence of this man to music is just tremenduous.

This is a nice introductory video to those who have the the urge to improvise and see Bill Evans discuss it.

I'm glad you enjoyed it Rosanna. I also placed a link on the Autumn Leaves Thread index as this is a long term resource.
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#1012331 - 01/24/08 10:51 PM Re: What is Jazz?
Rosanna Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/08/07
Posts: 1360
Loc: San Francisco Bay area
jazzwee, that's true, the video is 50 years old. The fact that what he said still applies so well today attests to his foresight and vision. I do like his philosophy, about not trying to play jazz halfway (I don't remember the exact words, but it's in video 2). I also like it very much that he pursued his passion as both a means and an end, as a way to do his part in the world by having a venue that he can express himself. Frankly I think that philosophy can be well applied to any of us. It's both noble, and it's following one's bliss.
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#1012332 - 01/25/08 12:53 AM Re: What is Jazz?
jazzwee Offline
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/25/07
Posts: 7060
Loc: So. California
The wording he used was playing "True" vs. "Approximating".

Which translates to "Playing simply but well" is better than "playing in a complex manner but imperfectly" (my translation). This is such a meaningful statement as he demonstrates playing simple melodies in an improv, in contrast to something complicated.

To young jazzers that just goes over our heads because everyone wants to play fast and show off even when we're not ready. So art of improvisation, in his mind can be equally shown with simplicity, which is quite a statement from someone who plays in such a complex manner.

Of course this is something already proven to be true by Miles Davis who will play something with simplicity but so much emotion.
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#1012333 - 01/25/08 01:51 AM Re: What is Jazz?
Van Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/04/06
Posts: 1215
Loc: S. California
There was a great PBS documentary by Ken Burns on Jazz a few years ago. Maybe a better question would be, "What isn't Jazz?" \:D
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#1012334 - 01/25/08 02:07 AM Re: What is Jazz?
jazzwee Offline
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/25/07
Posts: 7060
Loc: So. California
Have you watched these videos Van? It's just interesting because he gives kind of a unique philosophical view. One rarely hears words spoken by Bill Evans. Other than the McPartland interview, an interview on the gig a couple of weeks before he died, and this we haven't heard much from him, and yet, he changed the face of jazz.

It's worth watching. But an hour aside as it is the length of an hour's TV show (minus the commercials) \:D
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#1012335 - 01/25/08 02:41 AM Re: What is Jazz?
Van Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/04/06
Posts: 1215
Loc: S. California
I just saw the videos. Great find, jazzwee. I think Evans hit the nail on the head on this. It is interesting to look at how music is historically changed by time and by the process by which it is recorded and remembered.

A lot of what he says really resonates with me.
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#1012336 - 01/25/08 03:00 AM Re: What is Jazz?
jazzwee Offline
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/25/07
Posts: 7060
Loc: So. California
I myself have only seen the whole thing when I posted this. Before that I've seen like a snippet of this on youtube so it's a very recent find and looks to me to be historically important.

Anyone interested in music in general should see this. Something said 50 years ago still has a lot of relevance.

This video is very rare.
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#1012337 - 01/25/08 03:07 AM Re: What is Jazz?
Van Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/04/06
Posts: 1215
Loc: S. California
You know, what's interesting, jazzwee, is how intelligent and in depth the conversation is compared to the dreck we have on television these days. Can you imagine this interview in modern tv? Lol. Fascinating.
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#1012338 - 01/25/08 03:12 AM Re: What is Jazz?
Van Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/04/06
Posts: 1215
Loc: S. California
 Quote:
Originally posted by Van:
You know, what's interesting, jazzwee, is how intelligent and in depth the conversation is compared to the dreck we have on television these days. Can you imagine this interview in modern tv? Lol. Fascinating. [/b]
"Find an avenue" from the 4th video...I like that, very encouraging for everyone going the self-taught route \:\)
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#1012339 - 01/25/08 03:27 AM Re: What is Jazz?
jazzwee Offline
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/25/07
Posts: 7060
Loc: So. California
Other tidbits, like how he taught. He didn't like to teach style. He wanted to students to learn their own style. That's pretty tough. But later he explains that he would give them an example after they made their own initial foray into searching on their own.

Suprisingly, for a musician who didn't want to teach style, he's the most copied jazz musician stylistically. How many jazz musicians today are heavily influenced by Evans in their playing?

I liked the 2nd video when he built a Jazz tune, starting from a melody of Star Eyes and ending with a complex harmonic version so typical of jazz (and something we're teaching on the AL Thread). The contrast is so illuminating to the ears.

I wish he did more of this. What a loss to have his life end with so little of these ideas communicated to his admirers.
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#1012340 - 01/25/08 06:26 AM Re: What is Jazz?
Woody-Woodruff Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/11/08
Posts: 615
Loc: Coastal Mississippi
Jazzwee,

Fantastic Vids!!! This is the first time I've ever heard his thoughts about the music. You'll notice he provided his students with the tools for JAZZ and not the notes. Right now I'm working Lesson 5 of your of AL and getting some good results. While Chisbell is providing sheet music, after several times through it and a fell for what is on paper, I do my own thing. Same with the melody RH and 1/7 left hand with 3/5 as RH or left hand filler. I use the lead sheet as a reference only for the melody. Sometimes the results are good, sometimes really interesting, and sometimes bad (I'm not Bill Evans). But the music and sound based on what you have provided me and with what I improvise. One other thing, I prefer playing my jazz slow and simple. For some reason it sounds cleaner to me that way. Anyway, thanks for the vids. Excellent reference material!
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#1012341 - 01/25/08 11:34 AM Re: What is Jazz?
bluekeys Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/11/07
Posts: 1337
Fascinating videos, Jazzwee. It was illuminating to hear the thoughts and philosophy of someone who hasn't just been down the road, but blazed the trail.

Along with your AL thread, they've added to my growing understanding and appreciation of jazz music. While I continue to concentrate on the basics (I'm not in a hurry) it's good to keep an eye--and ear--on the masters to know what heights are possible with the right mindset and dedication.

Thank you for posting!

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#1170854 - 03/29/09 02:59 PM Re: What is Jazz? [Re: bluekeys]
Roger S Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 03/14/09
Posts: 5
Thanks so much for posting these links. I thought what he said in the first segment, about keeping it real, and the danger of not doing so was very profound. Even if you just play the root -- knowing where you are and why what you are playing works is essential to making progress. If you don't understand what you are doing you can't move forward -- very profound.

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#1284689 - 10/11/09 04:50 AM Re: What is Jazz? Bumped [Re: Roger S]
PoleStar Offline
Full Member

Registered: 09/16/09
Posts: 35
Loc: Ireland
Are these videos still available?

I clicked on the links and it says they are private.

Thanks smile

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#1284821 - 10/11/09 11:55 AM Re: What is Jazz? Bumped [Re: PoleStar]
jazzwee Offline
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/25/07
Posts: 7060
Loc: So. California
There are multiple videos of this on youtube. Just search for "The Universal Mind of Bill Evans". You'll find a version. I just made a link recently to one of them.

Amazing you found this thread.
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#1284989 - 10/11/09 04:58 PM Re: What is Jazz? Bumped [Re: jazzwee]
PoleStar Offline
Full Member

Registered: 09/16/09
Posts: 35
Loc: Ireland
Thanks a million!

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#1285255 - 10/12/09 03:31 AM Re: What is Jazz? Bumped [Re: PoleStar]
Ken. Offline
Full Member

Registered: 01/07/08
Posts: 285
I haven't watched the videos yet but regarding "What is Jazz" that's an interesting question.

My definition of jazz is that it is rooted in swing and the blues, and that was the case 50 years ago but less so today it seems. I went to a talk by Toshiko Akiyoshi recently and that is basically what she said as well. She also mentioned that a lot of players today play what she called "tempo rubato" which would have been a no-no in her day.

Some of the jazz I hear sounds more like improvised world music than jazz, but then I guess some would argue that jazz is world music. But to me the feeling of jazz comes from swing and the blues and if that is minimized then it becomes something else.

BTW, for any Bill Evans fans you should check out the Bill Evans Jazz Icons dvd, as well as a lot of other Jazz Icons dvds!

Also, about style, one of the great things about the players back then was that they were all stylists. I've heard the same said about Classical players back then too. The players today tend to be wizzbang technicians. A great sax player Yusef Lateef said to one of my techers about playing jazz "always keep working on playing with feeling and expression (over technique)"
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#1285300 - 10/12/09 05:46 AM Re: What is Jazz? Bumped [Re: jazzwee]
simon288 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 06/11/07
Posts: 99
Loc: london
You can buy this on DVD which I did. Great stuff. I love the guy at the beginning explaining and comparing piano with learning to drive! So true would be nice to know the basics so much that it becomes automatic leaving you able to concentrate on the creative part.
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Bill Evans spoke of the "universal mind" that exists in all people, if they can learn to think in the language that the universal mind uses -- a musical language that remains alive and well today, still scintillating, still expanding, still showing those who can hear it the depths of ecstasy and pain and life and love.

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