10 February 2017
Written by Buster Birch
There are a few common misunderstandings about jazz which you need to be aware of.
Firstly, jazz is not a style of music. It is a different way of playing music. The process is different. For most other types of music, regardless of style, the process will usually follow the similar pattern of... 1: The musician practices and learns their "part"... 2: The musicians get together to form the ensemble and "rehearse". This involves everyone playing their "parts" together and working on fitting them together until they all get it "right"... 3: The ensemble goes on stage to "perform" where their goal is to try and recreate the moment when they got it "right" in the rehearsal, but this time in front of an audience. Compare this to the jazz musician who walks on stage to perform and does not yet know what notes they are going to play. The fundamental difference is the significant ingredient of improvisation. This is essentially composing your own part as you play it.
So the jazz musician needs to have the instrumental skills of the performer and the knowledge of the composer, which is usually two different jobs in other types of music. But added to this is the pressure of doing it in real time, on the spot, as you play it, in front of the audience. As the great pianist Bill Evans explained... The classical composer can spend 3 months writing 1 minute of music and the classical musician can spend 3 months practicing 1 minute of music. 6 months to create 1 minute of music. But the jazz musician has to compose and play 1 minute of music in 1 minute.
This of course means that there are an additional set of skills which need to be developed and practiced.