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Opened in 2008, The Dirty Dog is one of the premiere destinations in the United States for world class Jazz and cuisine. It combines the charm of an English-style pub with intimacy and meticulous attention to detail and hospitality.
THE DIRTY DOG JAZZ CAFE BLOG
The Dirty Dog brings together the musicians and guests in a way that creates a lasting impression and desire to come back.
April 27, 2018

HerbieHancockJazzComp

 

 

In this week’s Jazz Notes we focus on some of the basic compositional elements in Jazz. This gives us a rough “road map” as to what to listen for in the music. Although there are no two Jazz pieces that are completely alike, Jazz, like most genres does have some common elements that help characterize it.

 

 

Generally, we can define these key elements as use of the blues and pentatonic scales, syncopation, swing (or “a swaying beat” also heard in funk and other rhythmic styles) and creative freedom including the use of improvisation.

 

 

Music itself is an art form that combines or alternates sound and silence. Its common elements are pitch which is basic to melody and harmony, rhythm which defines tempo, meter, articulation, and dynamics, which affect sonic qualities such as, volume, timbre and texture. The word music, comes from the Greek word mousike, meaning “art of the Muses”.

 

 

Jazz ranges from strictly organized compositions, through free form/improvisational music to written forms such as scores and charts.  Compositional techniques are the methods used to create most styles of music. These range from using written musical notation, to the use of improvisation, musical montage, and arrangements for various ensemble configurations.

 

 

Improvisation is a key element of Jazz. It is the act of composing extemporaneously during the performance and assembling the musical elements.

 

 

One method to compose music is starting with a base series of chords. These chords could be selected arbitrarily or with specific purpose to reflect the tone of the emotion being conveyed. Once the series of chords is selected, additional lines are added to embellish – these and usually include a lead melody line.

 

 

Another method involves free playing. For example, a pianist might simply sit and start playing chords, melodies, or random notes that come to mind in order to find some inspiration, then build on the discovered lines to add depth.

 

 

Creating structure to a piece means composers may decide to divide their music into sections. One common form in Jazz involves an exposition, development, and recapitulation. The end speaks to the beginning, concluding things, while the development allows for personal interpretation and improvisation.

 

 

Instrumentation is the task of adapting a composition for musical instruments and ensembles. This is known as arranging or orchestrating. A composition may have multiple arrangements based on such factors as its intended audience, musical genre or various stylistic treatments.

 

 

This breakdown of compositional elements is a useful tool to use while listening to many different genres of music, not just Jazz.

 

 

JazzCompOrch

 

 

The Jazz Composer’s Orchestra is a perfect example of group improvisation and musical creation on the orchestral level no less! They utilize many of the compositional techniques outlined above. The musicians in this recording are some of the most talented and respected “free jazz” artists in the idiom.

The Jazz Composer’s Orchestra was an American jazz group founded by Carla Bley and Michael Mantler in 1965 to further orchestral avant-garde jazz. Their 1968 double-album The Jazz Composer’s Orchestra featured soloists Cecil Taylor, Don Cherry, Roswell Rudd, Pharoah Sanders, Larry Coryell, and Gato Barbieri.

Happy listening!

Detroit Public Radio mainstay, Judy Adams, is a trained pianist, composer and musicologist who hosts a Jazz and contemporary music show on CJAM 99.1FM and guest hosts on WRCJ 90.9FM.

 

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