Melody and Improvisation

As I said before my Dad’s first instructions to me for improvising were “embelish” the melody like Louie Armstrong.    That great advise has carried me all the way.  I improvise with no knowledge of harmony or chords and I am not even aware of what key I am playing in.  I hear the lines I want to create off the changes inwardly before I actually play them and the melody of a song is a key factor.  As I weave my lines over the changes I will land on certain melody notes. Those melody notes are the guide posts that connect the dots of the solo in a “horizontal” manner.  Even if I take it “out” a bit away from the melody I am still aware of the melody inwardly.  Because the solo is very connected to the melody, “Lyricism” is acheived in the solo which is so important to me, something that could get lost when just playing patterns or licks.  If you listen to the greats of the golden age of vintage jazz from Louie Armstrong through Charlie Parker you will definitely hear lyricism in their solo lines.


2 thoughts on “Melody and Improvisation

  1. Hello Glenn
    I have to agree with you on this. I don’t personally understand what an 8th or 9th chord is, but I can feel them and play them. Jazz has become so academic it puts people off trying and saps some of the joy from it.

    Louis had that joy.

    Love reading your articles!


    1. Thanks Gordon I appreciate that.
      We live in a “high tech” world and that is not going to change and nothing wrong with that. All I am trying get across is there has to be a balance. Technique as amazing as it appears is only a tool to get your emotion and message out. Louis had the technique he needed for his message and Charlie Parker had the techique he needed but the emotion and message was always senior as it should be. When you lose that or make techique senior you lose what art is all about.
      When I was coming up guys with amazing skill who put countless hours of practice and study in were very frustrated and puzzled at the success of pop and rock groups with very limited techique and knowledge why ?
      They simply put more importance on emotional impact and communicating to the audience than anything else !

      Jazz used to have that sole purpose😊


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