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Thinking In Jazz

The Infinite Art of Improvisation

By Paul F. Berliner


A landmark in jazz studies, Thinking in Jazz reveals as never before how musicians, both individually and collectively, learn to improvise. Chronicling leading musicians from their first encounters with jazz to the development of a unique improvisatory voice, Paul Berliner documents the lifetime of preparation that lies behind the skilled improviser's every idea.

The product of more than fifteen years of immersion in the jazz world, Thinking in Jazz combines participant observation with detailed musicological analysis, the author's experience as a jazz trumpeter, interpretations of published material by scholars and performers, and, above all, original data from interviews with more than fifty professional musicians: bassists George Duvivier and Rufus Reid; drummers Max Roach, Ronald Shannon Jackson, Paul Wertico and Akira Tana; guitarist Emily Remler; pianists Tommy Flanagan and Barry Harris; saxophonists Lou Donaldson, Lee Konitz, and James Moody; trombonist Curtis Fuller; trumpeters Doc Cheatham, Art Farmer, Wynton Marsalis, and Red Rodney; vocalists Carmen Lundy and Vea Williams; and others. Together, the interviews provide insight into the production of jazz by great artists like Betty Carter, Miles Davis, Dizzy Gillespie, Coleman Hawkins, and Charlie Parker.

Thinking in Jazz overflows with musical examples from the 1920s to the present, including original transcriptions (keyed to commercial recordings) of collective improvisations by Miles Davis's and John Coltrane's groups. These transcriptions provide additional insight into the structure and creativity of jazz improvisation and represent a remarkable resource for jazz musicians as well as students and educators.

Berliner explores the alternative ways--aural, visual, kinetic, verbal, emotional, theoretical, associative--in which these performers conceptualize their music and describes the delicate interplay of soloist and ensemble in collective improvisation. Berliner's skillful integration of data concerning musical development, the rigorous practice and thought artists devote to jazz outside of performance, and the complexities of composing in the moment leads to a new understanding of jazz improvisation as a language, an aesthetic, and a tradition. This unprecedented journey to the heart of the jazz tradition will fascinate and enlighten musicians, musicologists, and jazz fans alike.

Table of Contents List of Figures List of Music Texts Acknowledgments Introduction: Picking Notes out of Thin Air? Improvisation and Its Study

Table of Contents
List of Figures
List of Music Texts
Introduction: Picking Notes out of Thin Air? Improvisation and Its Study
Chapter 1: Love at First Sound: Early Musical Environment
Chapter 2: Hangin' Out and Jammin': The Jazz Community as an Educational System
Chapter 3: A Very Structured Thing: Jazz Compositions as Vehicles for Improvisation
Chapter 4: Getting Your Vocabulary Straight: Learning Models for Solo Formulation
Chapter 5: Seeing Out a Bit: Expanding upon Early Influences
Chapter 6: The More Ways You Have of Thinking: Conventional Rhythmic and Theoretical Improvisation Approaches
Chapter 7: Conversing with the Piece: Initial Routines Applying Improvisation Approaches to Form
Chapter 8: Composing in the Moment: The Inner Dialogue and the Tale
Chapter 9: Improvisation and Precomposition: The Eternal Cycle
Chapter 10: The Never-ending State of Getting There: Soloing Ability, Ideals, and Evaluations
Chapter 11: Arranging Pieces: Decisions in Rehearsal
Chapter 12: Adding to Arrangements: Conventions Guiding the Rhythm Section
Chapter 13: Give and Take: The Collective Conversation and Musical Journey
Chapter 14: When the Music's Happening and When It's Not: Evaluating Group Performances
Chapter 15: The Lives of Bands: Conflict Resolution and Artistic Development
Chapter 16: Vibes and Venues: Interacting with Different Audiences in Different Settings
Epilogue: Jazz as a Way of Life
Music Texts
Appendix A: House Congressional Resolution 57
Appendix B: List of Artists Interviewed

The book Thinking in Jazz: The Infinite Art of Improvisation contains 884 pages, 117 music examples, and 13 figures. Published by University of Chicago Press in 1994.

Paul F. Berliner is associate professor of ethnomusicology at Northwestern University. He is the author of The Soul of Mbira, also published by The University of Chicago Press, and is the recipient of an ASCAP-Deems Taylor award for outstanding writing in music.

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