Following the Form in Jazz

I.  Understanding and Appreciating “Form”

II.  Interactive Workshop: “Following the Form in Jazz”

Following the Form in Jazz – my notes for the event

I. Intro

– 7 elements of music (first 6, then…) “who has tried to make a limerick or haiku?”

– my wife said jazz is “organized chaos” – in the organization is the appreciation because it gives context; in the early days, jazz tunes were popular tunes so audiences had no trouble hearing the underlying structure on which musicians were improvising; now more difficult because a) don’t know the tunes b) forms are more complex but we are going to introduce you to forms & have you interact with them

– most music has some sort of form (sonata Form, Aria, symphonic form, concerto, fugue, chorale, minuet, rondo); pop music may have ABABCBB but in a rock tune a ‘solo’ is typically either over 1 section of the tune or is its own section – and only 1 instrument is improvising (the soloist); jazz musicians improvise on form throughout

II. Jazz Forms

‘chorus’ vs. ‘verse’ (ex: “I’ve wined & dined on mulligan stew…” Lady is a Tramp); chorus means all the way through the form

how to describe the form will vary from musicians & books. for example, in sheet music of East of Sun it’s AB but since first 8 bars of both sections are identical I chose to call it ABAC; forms are a bit subjective that way. Another example is Night & Day which is listed as AB but you could also call it ABABCB. Another is Stella by Starlight, where sheet music says ABC but could be described as ABCD

common forms:

12-bar blues (Tenor Madness in Bb; Things Ain’t What They Used to Be in F)

A (Solar; Blue in Green)

AB (Four on Six; Recordame)

AABA (Willow Weep for Me; Take the A Train) – most common

AABC (Autumn Leaves – could be called AAB where B is 16; Nearness of You) – variation on AABA

ABAC (East of the Sun – could be AB; On Green Dolphin St.) – next most common

AAB (Night & Day – could be ABABCB; Song for My Father)

ABA (I’ll remember April; Besame Mucho)

ABC (Stella by Starlight – could be ABCD; Moonlight in Vermont)

III. Hearing the Form

– we play an example, you tell us what the form is

– we improvise on that form, you raise your hand at top of each section, and stand at top of form

Part III. Musical Examples

John Abercrombie, Peter Erskine, & Marc Johson “Stella by Starlight”

Chick Corea “If I Were a Bell”

Fred Hersch “Segment”

Brad Mehldau & Joshua Redman “In Walked Bud”

Jerry Bergonzi, Kenny Werner, Jesper Lungaard & Alex Riel – “Stablemates”

Chet Baker & Stan Getz – “Airegin”

Dennis Winge – unaccompanied solo on “Take the A Train”

Dennis Winge – 3 standard forms played “contrapuntally” with 3 tracks per tune