Jazz Article: Inside Out, Parts One and Two

Mel MartinOver at the JazzTimes, Mel Martin wrote an absolutely fascinating article regarding the internalization of music.  It is a long post (in two parts, actually) and covers a wide range of deep topics.  Each paragraph could be a chapter in a book.  

I've gone through and highlighted some of the parts that resonated with me.  Be sure to read both parts, but be prepared.  Internalizing music calls for A LOT of study and practice.




Inside Out, Part One

In first of a two-part series of columns, saxophonist and educator explains how to internalize music in order to better improvise

Do you really know tunes as if you owned them, do you really know all of your scales and intervals, do you really know harmony, rhythm and melody? If not, then you haven't correctly used the process of internalization. This is something that we have used every day since we were born. We could not walk, eat or do any of the thousands of physical and mental functions that we need to survive.

The same principle needs to be applied when learning to improvise. There are so many micro-events that occur that, unless thoroughly drilled and absorbed, it is impossible to stay focused on the creative aspects of music making. Instrumental technique needs to be entirely instinctual. The most basic step in learning to improvise is internalizing melodies and song forms.  

Harmony must also be put through the process. There must be a comprehensive knowledge of chords. Their needs to be the ability to hear and instantly identify the quality of a chord are it major or minor, extensions and so forth. The player needs to be aware of what part of a chord the notes they choose fits in terms of extensions. In the heat of the music, there is not time to think about these things. It all happens spontaneously and in a flash. Harmony, like the other aspects of music making, must be studied.

Dizzy Gillespie stated the rhythm is number one. It is the defining element of any type of music. It is the internalization of rhythm that is most influential in delivering a powerful jazz performance.


Inside Out, Part Two

Saxophonist and educator shares his knowledge of developing as a performing and improvising jazz musician

Besides talent, study and practice are the prerequisites to being a great performer. This involves dealing with the two sides of brain power.

The music happens so fast that there is not time to think. This is why drill and study are so important. This is why great players always talk about the need to practice.

Another approach is to practice a song complete with soloing through changes acapella….On a horn, it requires a thorough knowledge of the harmony and an ability to deal with rhythm just as if there were rhythm section present. The goal of this type of practicing is to establish and maintain the flow that should be a part of your approach whenever performing.

The music of the ‘fifties and ‘sixties was so great because bands would travel and play in various locations six or seven nights a week for up to a month at a time….Today, very few players have the opportunities to play as much or with players that phenomenal.

One of the things that are required to develop real greatness is to be around players that are truly accomplished and inspired. This forces development. A little bit of them rubs off on you.

In pop music, it is common to overdub every single part and mix and master by computer. This has resulted in some clearly uninspired music…..The shallowness needs to be replaced by something much deeper, something more internalized.