In Circular Breathing, George McKay, a leading chronicler of British countercultures, uncovers the often surprising ways that jazz has accompanied social change during a period of rapid transformation in Great Britain. Examining jazz from the founding of George Webb’s Dixielanders in 1943 through the burgeoning British bebop scene of the early 1950s, the Beaulieu Jazz Festivals of 1956–61, and the improvisational music making of the 1960s and 1970s, McKay reveals the connections of the music, its players, and its subcultures to black and antiracist activism, the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, feminism, and the New Left. In the process, he provides the first detailed cultural history of jazz in Britain.
McKay explores the music in relation to issues of whiteness, blackness, and masculinity—all against a backdrop of shifting imperial identities, postcolonialism, and the Cold War. He considers objections to the music’s spread by the “anti-jazzers” alongside the ambivalence felt by many leftist musicians about playing an “all-American” musical form. At the same time, McKay highlights the extraordinary cultural mixing that has defined British jazz since the 1950s, as musicians from Britain’s former colonies—particularly from the Caribbean and South Africa—have transformed the genre. Circular Breathing is enriched by McKay’s original interviews with activists, musicians, and fans and by fascinating images, including works by the renowned English jazz photographer Val Wilmer. It is an invaluable look at not only the history of jazz but also the Left and race relations in Great Britain.
In Extended Play, one of the country's most innovative music writers conducts a wide-ranging tour through the outer limits of contemporary music. Over the course of more than twenty-five portraits, interviews, and essays, John Corbett engages artists from lands as distant as Sweden, Siberia, and Saturn. With a special emphasis on African American and European improvisers, the book explores the famous and the little known, from John Cage and George Clinton to Anthony Braxton and Sun Ra. Employing approaches as diverse as the music he celebrates, Corbett illuminates the sound and theory of funk and rap, blues and jazz, contemporary classical, free improvisation, rock, and reggae. Using cultural critique and textual theory, Corbett addresses a broad spectrum of issues, such as the status of recorded music in postmodern culture, the politics of self-censorship, experimentation, and alternativism in the music industry, and the use of metaphors of space and madness in the work of African American musicians. He follows these more theoretically oriented essays with a series of extensive profiles and in-depth interviews that offer contrasting and complementary perspectives on some of the world’s most creative musicians and their work. Included here are more than twenty original photographs as well as a meticulously annotated discography. The result is one of the most thoughtful, and most entertaining, investigations of contemporary music available today.
The Fierce Urgency of Now links musical improvisation to struggles for social change, focusing on the connections between the improvisation associated with jazz and the dynamics of human rights struggles and discourses. The authors acknowledge that at first glance improvisation and rights seem to belong to incommensurable areas of human endeavor. Improvisation connotes practices that are spontaneous, personal, local, immediate, expressive, ephemeral, and even accidental, while rights refer to formal standards of acceptable human conduct, rules that are permanent, impersonal, universal, abstract, and inflexible. Yet the authors not only suggest that improvisation and rights can be connected; they insist that they must be connected.
Improvisation is the creation and development of new, unexpected, and productive cocreative relations among people. It cultivates the capacity to discern elements of possibility, potential, hope, and promise where none are readily apparent. Improvisers work with the tools they have in the arenas that are open to them. Proceeding without a written score or script, they collaborate to envision and enact something new, to enrich their experience in the world by acting on it and changing it. By analyzing the dynamics of particular artistic improvisations, mostly by contemporary American jazz musicians, the authors reveal improvisation as a viable and urgently needed model for social change. In the process, they rethink politics, music, and the connections between them.
Addressing a wide range of improvised art and music forms—from jazz and cinema to dance and literature—this volume's contributors locate improvisation as a key site of mediation between the social and the aesthetic. As a catalyst for social experiment and political practice, improvisation aids in the creation, contestation, and codification of social realities and identities. Among other topics, the contributors discuss the social aesthetics of the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians, the Feminist Improvising Group, and contemporary Malian music, as well as the virtual sociality of interactive computer music, the significance of "uncreative" improvisation, responses to French New Wave cinema, and the work of figures ranging from bell hooks and Billy Strayhorn to Kenneth Goldsmith. Across its diverse chapters, Improvisation and Social Aesthetics argues that ensemble improvisation is not inherently egalitarian or emancipatory, but offers a potential site for the cultivation of new forms of social relations. It sets out a new conceptualization of the aesthetic as immanently social and political, proposing a new paradigm of improvisation studies that will have reverberations throughout the humanities.
Contributors. Lisa Barg, Georgina Born, David Brackett, Nicholas Cook, Marion Froger, Susan Kozel, Eric Lewis, George E. Lewis, Ingrid Monson, Tracey Nicholls, Winfried Siemerling, Will Straw, Zoë Svendsen, Darren Wershler
Foreword by William A. Douglass Translated by Lisa Corcostegui and Linda White.Improvisational Poetry from the Basque Country introduces the Basque bertsolari to the English-speaking world and provides an understanding of an interesting cultural phenomenon—the artist in Basque society who is capable of improvising verse on any subject spontaneously and setting it to music. The tradition is at least several centuries old and runs the gamut from amateurish efforts to periodic national championship competitions. These competitions draw thousands of listeners and pack theaters while many other thousands tune their radios to the broadcasts of the performances. Aulestia takes a scholarly and in-depth look at the art of the bertsolari. In a fascinating text, the author examines the history of a tradition that is truly unique and completely Basque. He introduces and analyzes the performing styles of great bertsolariak, including Xabier Amuriza and Jon Azpillaga. From the bertsolari’s roots in the old Basque Country to the social phenomenon it is today, Aulestia’s look at the improvisational oral literature of the Basques is an essential addition to their written history.
There is an ever-increasing number of books on improvisation, ones that richly recount experiences in the heat of the creative moment, theorize on the essence of improvisation, and offer convincing arguments for improvisation’s impact across a wide range of human activity. This book is nothing like that. In a provocative and at times moving experiment, Gary Peters takes a different approach, turning the philosophy of improvisation upside-down and inside-out.
Guided by Kant, Hegel, Heidegger, and especially Deleuze—and exploring a range of artists from Hendrix to Borges—Peters illuminates new fundamentals about what, as an experience, improvisation truly is. As he shows, improvisation isn’t so much a genre, idiom, style, or technique—it’s a predicament we are thrown into, one we find ourselves in. The predicament, he shows, is a complex entwinement of choice and decision. The performativity of choice during improvisation may happen “in the moment,” but it is already determined by an a priori mode of decision. In this way, improvisation happens both within and around the actual moment, negotiating a simultaneous past, present, and future. Examining these and other often ignored dimensions of spontaneous creativity, Peters proposes a consistently challenging and rigorously argued new perspective on improvisation across an extraordinary range of disciplines.
In the Course of Performance is the first book in decades to illustrate and explain the practices and processes of musical improvisation. Improvisation, by its very nature, seems to resist interpretation or elucidation. This difficulty may account for the very few attempts scholars have made to provide a general guide to this elusive subject. With contributions by seventeen scholars and improvisers, In the Course of Performance offers a history of research on improvisation and an overview of the different approaches to the topic that can be used, ranging from cognitive study to detailed musical analysis. Such diverse genres as Italian lyrical singing, modal jazz, Indian classical music, Javanese gamelan, and African-American girls' singing games are examined. The most comprehensive guide to the understanding of musical improvisation available, In the Course of Performance will be indispensable to anyone attracted to this fascinating art.
Contributors are Stephen Blum, Sau Y. Chan, Jody Cormack, Valerie Woodring Goertzen, Lawrence Gushee, Eve Harwood, Tullia Magrini, Peter Manuel, Ingrid Monson, Bruno Nettl, Jeff Pressing, Ali Jihad Racy, Ronald Riddle, Stephen Slawek, Chris Smith, R. Anderson Sutton, and T. Viswanathan.
How do we define improvised music? What is the relationship of highly improvised performances to the work they are performances of? How do we decide what are the important parts of an improvised musical work? In Intents and Purposes, Eric Lewis uses a series of case studies to challenge assumptions about what defines a musical work and musical performance, seeking to go beyond philosophical and aesthetic templates from Western classical music to foreground the distinctive practices and aesthetics of jazz. Pushing aside the assumption that composition and improvisation are different (or even opposed) musical practices, Lewis’s philosophically informed approach revisits key topics in musical ontology, such as how to define the triangle of composer-performer-listener, and the status of live performances in relation to scores and recordings. Drawing on critical race theory, feminist theory, new musicology, sociology, cognitive science, and genre theory, Lewis opens up new questions about agency in performance, as well as new ways of considering the historical relationships between improvisational practices with roots in different cultural frameworks. By showing how jazz can be both art, idea, and action all at the same time, Lewis offers a new way of seeing any improvised musical performance in a new culturally and aesthetically rich context.
Improvisation rattles some listeners. Maybe they’re even suspicious of it. John Coltrane’s saxophonic flights of fancy, Jimi Hendrix’s feedback drenched guitar solos, Ravi Shankar’s sitar extrapolations—all these sounds seem like so much noodling or jamming, indulgent self-expression. “Just” improvising, as is sometimes said. For these music fans, it seems natural that music is meant to be composed. In the first book of its kind, John Corbett’s A Listener’s Guide to Free Improvisation provides a how-to manual for the most extreme example of spontaneous improvising: music with no pre-planned material at all. Drawing on over three decades of writing about, presenting, playing, teaching, and studying freely improvised music, Corbett offers an enriching set of tools that show any curious listener how to really listen, and he encourages them to enjoy the human impulse— found all around the world— to make up music on the spot.
Corbett equips his reader for a journey into a difficult musical landscape, where there is no steady beat, no pre-ordained format, no overarching melodic or harmonic framework, and where tones can ring with the sharpest of burrs. In “Fundamentals,” he explores key areas of interest, such as how the musicians interact, the malleability of time, overcoming impatience, and watching out for changes and transitions; he grounds these observations in concrete listening exercises, a veritable training regime for musical attentiveness. Then he takes readers deeper in “Advanced Techniques,” plumbing the philosophical conundrums at the heart of free improvisation, including topics such as the influence of the audience and the counterintuitive challenge of listening while asleep. Scattered throughout are helpful and accessible lists of essential resources—recordings, books, videos— and a registry of major practicing free improvisors from Noël Akchoté to John Zorn, particularly essential because this music is best experienced live.
The result is a concise, humorous, and inspiring guide, a unique book that will help transform one of the world’s most notoriously unapproachable artforms into a rewarding and enjoyable experience.
Most studies of musical improvisation focus on individual musicians. But that is not the whole story. From jazz to flamenco, Shona mbira to Javanese gamelan, improvised practices thrive on group creativity, relying on the close interaction of multiple simultaneously improvising performers. In Making It Up Together, Leslie A. Tilley explores the practice of collective musical improvisation cross-culturally, making a case for placing collectivity at the center of improvisation discourse and advocating ethnographically informed music analysis as a powerful tool for investigating improvisational processes.
Through two contrasting Balinese case studies—of the reyong gong chime’s melodic norot practice and the interlocking drumming tradition kendang arja—Tilley proposes and tests analytical frameworks for examining collectively improvised performance. At the micro-level, Tilley’s analyses offer insight into the note-by-note decisions of improvising performers; at the macro-level, they illuminate larger musical, discursive, structural, and cultural factors shaping those decisions. This multi-tiered inquiry reveals that unpacking how performers play and imagine as a collective is crucial to understanding improvisation and demonstrates how music analysis can elucidate these complex musical and interactional relationships.
Highlighting connections with diverse genres from various music cultures, Tilley’s examinations of collective improvisation also suggest rich potential for cross-genre exploration. The surrounding discussions point to larger theories of communication and interaction, creativity and cognition that will be of interest to a range of readers—from ethnomusicologists and music theorists to cognitive psychologists, jazz studies scholars, and improvising performers. Setting new parameters for the study of improvisation, Making It Up Together opens up fresh possibilities for understanding the creative process, in music and beyond.
Growing out of the collaborative research of an American ethnomusicologist and Zimbabwean musician, Paul F. Berliner and Cosmas Magaya’s Mbira’s Restless Dance documents the repertory for a keyboard instrument known generally as mbira. At the heart of this work lies the analysis of the improvisatory processes that propel mbira music’s magnificent creativity.
Mbira’s Restless Dance is written to be played. This two-volume, spiral-bound set features musical transcriptions of thirty-nine compositions and variations, annotated with the master player’s advice on technique and performance, his notes and observations, and commentary by Berliner. Enhanced with extensive website audiovisuals, Mbira’s Restless Dance is in effect a series of masterclasses with Magaya, suitable for experienced mbira players and those learning the fundamentals.
Together with Berliner's The Art of Mbira, in which he provides an indispensable historical and cultural guide to mbira in a changing world, Mbira's Restless Dance breaks new ground in the depth and specificity of its exploration of an African musical tradition, and in the entwining of the authors’ collaborative voices. It is a testament to the powerful relationship between music and social life—and the rewards of lifelong musical study, performance, and friendship.
Microgroove continues John Corbett's exploration of diverse musics, with essays, interviews, and musician profiles that focus on jazz, improvised music, contemporary classical, rock, folk, blues, post-punk, and cartoon music. Corbett's approach to writing is as polymorphous as the music, ranging from oral history and journalistic portraiture to deeply engaged cultural critique. Corbett advocates for the relevance of "little" music, which despite its smaller audience is of enormous cultural significance. He writes on musicians as varied as Sun Ra, PJ Harvey, Koko Taylor, Steve Lacy, and Helmut Lachenmann. Among other topics, he discusses recording formats; the relationship between music and visual art, dance, and poetry; and, with Terri Kapsalis, the role of female orgasm sounds in contemporary popular music. Above all, Corbett privileges the importance of improvisation; he insists on the need to pay close attention to “other” music and celebrates its ability to open up pathways to new ideas, fresh modes of expression, and unforeseen ways of knowing.
"Cutting across traditional subject boundaries in music and cultural studies, this admirably comprehensive work adopts a welcome interdisciplinary ideal and makes a truly significant contribution to our knowledge of musical improvisation."--Robert Witmer, professor emeritus of music, York University
Contributors are Stephen Blum, Patricia Shehan Campbell, Sabine M. Feisst, Lawrence Gushee, Robert S. Hatten, William Kinderman, Natalie Kononenko, Robert Levin, Charlotte Mattax Moersch, Ingrid Monson, John P. Murphy, Bruno Nettl, A. Jihad Racy, Anne K. Rasmussen, Stephen Slawek, Gabriel Solis, Nicholas Temperley, John Toenjes, and Thomas Turino.
The contributors to Negotiated Moments explore how subjectivity is formed and expressed through musical improvisation, tracing the ways the transmission and reception of sound occur within and between bodies in real and virtual time and across memory, history, and space. They place the gendered, sexed, raced, classed, disabled, and technologized body at the center of critical improvisation studies and move beyond the field's tendency toward celebrating improvisation's utopian and democratic ideals by highlighting the improvisation of marginalized subjects. Rejecting a singular theory of improvisational agency, the contributors show how improvisation helps people gain hard-won and highly contingent agency. Essays include analyses of the role of the body and technology in performance, improvisation's ability to disrupt power relations, Pauline Oliveros's ideas about listening, flautist Nicole Mitchell's compositions based on Octavia Butler's science fiction, and an interview with Judith Butler about the relationship between her work and improvisation. The contributors' close attention to improvisation provides a touchstone for examining subjectivities and offers ways to hear the full spectrum of ideas that sound out from and resonate within and across bodies.
Contributors. George Blake, David Borgo, Judith Butler, Rebecca Caines, Louise Campbell, Illa Carrillo Rodríguez, Berenice Corti, Andrew Raffo Dewar, Nina Eidsheim, Tomie Hahn, Jaclyn Heyen, Christine Sun Kim, Catherine Lee, Andra McCartney, Tracy McMullen, Kevin McNeilly, Leaf Miller, Jovana Milovic, François Mouillot, Pauline Oliveros, Jason Robinson, Neil Rolnick, Simon Rose, Gillian Siddall, Julie Dawn Smith, Jesse Stewart, Clara Tomaz, Sherrie Tucker, Lindsay Vogt, Zachary Wallmark, Ellen Waterman, David Whalen, Pete Williams, Deborah Wong, Mandy-Suzanne Wong
Following his investigation into experimental music and sound recording in Records Ruin the Landscape, David Grubbs turns his attention to the live performance of improvised music with an altogether different form of writing. Now that the audience is assembled is a book-length prose poem that describes a fictional musical performance during which an unnamed musician improvises the construction of a series of invented instruments before an audience that is alternately contemplative, participatory, disputatious, and asleep. Over the course of this phantasmagorical all-night concert, repeated interruptions take the form of in-depth discussions and musical demonstrations. Both a work of literature and a study of music, Now that the audience is assembled explores the categories of improvised music, solo performance, text scores, instrument building, aesthetic deskilling and reskilling, and the odd fate of the composer in experimental music.
In People Get Ready, musicians, scholars, and journalists write about jazz since 1965, the year that Curtis Mayfield composed the famous civil rights anthem that gives this collection its title. The contributors emphasize how the political consciousness that infused jazz in the 1960s and early 1970s has informed jazz in the years since then. They bring nuance to historical accounts of the avant-garde, the New Thing, Free Jazz, "non-idiomatic" improvisation, fusion, and other forms of jazz that have flourished since the 1960s, and they reveal the contemporary relevance of those musical practices. Many of the participants in the jazz scenes discussed are still active performers. A photographic essay captures some of them in candid moments before performances. Other pieces revise standard accounts of well-known jazz figures, such as Duke Ellington, and lesser-known musicians, including Jeanne Lee; delve into how money, class, space, and economics affect the performance of experimental music; and take up the question of how digital technology influences improvisation. People Get Ready offers a vision for the future of jazz based on an appreciation of the complexity of its past and the abundance of innovation in the present. Contributors. Tamar Barzel, John Brackett, Douglas Ewart, Ajay Heble, Vijay Iyer, Thomas King, Tracy McMullen, Paul D. Miller/DJ Spooky, Nicole Mitchell, Roscoe Mitchell, Famoudou Don Moye, Aldon Lynn Nielsen, Eric Porter, Marc Ribot, Matana Roberts, Jaribu Shahid, Julie Dawn Smith, Wadada Leo Smith, Alan Stanbridge, John Szwed, Greg Tate, Scott Thomson, Rob Wallace, Ellen Waterman, Corey Wilkes
Improvisation is usually either lionized as an ecstatic experience of being in the moment or disparaged as the thoughtless recycling of clichés. Eschewing both of these orthodoxies, The Philosophy of Improvisation ranges across the arts—from music to theater, dance to comedy—and considers the improvised dimension of philosophy itself in order to elaborate an innovative concept of improvisation.
Gary Peters turns to many of the major thinkers within continental philosophy—including Heidegger, Nietzsche, Adorno, Kant, Benjamin, and Deleuze—offering readings of their reflections on improvisation and exploring improvisational elements within their thinking. Peters’s wry, humorous style offers an antidote to the frequently overheated celebration of freedom and community that characterizes most writing on the subject. Expanding the field of what counts as improvisation, The Philosophy of Improvisation will be welcomed by anyone striving to comprehend the creative process.
The contributors to Playing for Keeps examine the ways in which musical improvisation can serve as a method for negotiating violence, trauma, systemic inequality, and the aftermaths of war and colonialism. Outlining the relation of improvisatory practices to local and global power structures, they show how in sites as varied as South Africa, Canada, Egypt, the United States, and the Canary Islands, improvisation provides the means for its participants to address the past and imagine the future. In addition to essays, the volume features a poem by saxophonist Matana Roberts, an interview with pianist Vijay Iyer about his work with U.S. veterans of color, and drawings by artist Randy DuBurke that chart Nina Simone's politicization. Throughout, the contributors illustrate how improvisation functions as a model for political, cultural, and ethical dialogue and action that can foster the creation of alternate modes of being and knowing in the world.
Contributors. Randy DuBurke, Rana El Kadi, Kevin Fellezs, Daniel Fischlin, Kate Galloway, Reem Abdul Hadi, Vijay Iyer, Mark Lomanno, Moshe Morad, Eric Porter, Sara Ramshaw, Matana Roberts, Darci Sprengel, Paul Stapleton, Odeh Turjman, Stephanie Vos
John Cage's disdain for records was legendary. He repeatedly spoke of the ways in which recorded music was antithetical to his work. In Records Ruin the Landscape, David Grubbs argues that, following Cage, new genres in experimental and avant-garde music in the 1960s were particularly ill suited to be represented in the form of a recording. These activities include indeterminate music, long-duration minimalism, text scores, happenings, live electronic music, free jazz, and free improvisation. How could these proudly evanescent performance practices have been adequately represented on an LP?
In their day, few of these works circulated in recorded form. By contrast, contemporary listeners can encounter this music not only through a flood of LP and CD releases of archival recordings but also in even greater volume through Internet file sharing and online resources. Present-day listeners are coming to know that era's experimental music through the recorded artifacts of composers and musicians who largely disavowed recordings. In Records Ruin the Landscape, Grubbs surveys a musical landscape marked by altered listening practices.
This fresh look at the neglected rhythm section in jazz ensembles shows that the improvisational interplay among drums, bass, and piano is just as innovative, complex, and spontaneous as the solo. Ingrid Monson juxtaposes musicians' talk and musical examples to ask how musicians go about "saying something" through music in a way that articulates identity, politics, and race. Through interviews with Jaki Byard, Richard Davis, Sir Roland Hanna, Billy Higgins, Cecil McBee, and others, she develops a perspective on jazz improvisation that has "interactiveness" at its core, in the creation of music through improvisational interaction, in the shaping of social communities and networks through music, and in the development of cultural meanings and ideologies that inform the interpretation of jazz in twentieth-century American cultural life.
Replete with original musical transcriptions, this broad view of jazz improvisation and its emotional and cultural power will have a wide audience among jazz fans, ethnomusicologists, and anthropologists.
Though often thought of as rivals, Ralph Ellison, James Baldwin, and Amiri Baraka shared a range of interests, especially a passion for music. Jazz, in particular, was a decisive influence on their thinking, and, as The Shadow and the Act reveals, they drew on their insights into the creative process of improvisation to analyze race and politics in the civil rights era. In this inspired study, Walton M. Muyumba situates them as a jazz trio, demonstrating how Ellison, Baraka, and Baldwin’s individual works form a series of calls and responses with each other.
Muyumba connects their writings on jazz to the philosophical tradition of pragmatism, particularly its support for more freedom for individuals and more democratic societies. He examines the way they responded to and elaborated on that lineage, showing how they significantly broadened it by addressing the African American experience, especially its aesthetics. Ultimately, Muyumba contends, the trio enacted pragmatist principles by effectively communicating the social and political benefits of African Americans fully entering society, thereby compelling America to move closer to its democratic ideals.
Sound Changes responds to a need in improvisation studies for more work that addresses the diversity of global improvisatory practices and argues that by beginning to understand the particular, material experiences of sonic realities that are different from our own, we can address the host of other factors that are imparted or sublimated in performance. These factors range from the intimate affect associated with a particular performer’s capacity to generate a distinctive “voicing,” or the addition of an unexpected sonic intervention only possible with one particular configuration of players in a specific space and time. Through a series of case studies drawn from Africa, Asia, the Americas, and Oceania, Sound Changes offers readers an introduction to a range of musical expressions across the globe in which improvisation plays a key role and the book demonstrates that improvisation is a vital site for the production of emergent social relationships and meanings. As it does this work, Sound Changes situates the increasingly transcultural dimensions of improvised music in relation to emergent networks and technologies, changing patterns of migration and immigration, shifts in the political economy of music, and other social, cultural, and economic factors.
Improvisation studies is a recently developed, but growing, interdisciplinary field of study. The discipline—which has only truly come into focus in the early part of the twenty-first century—has been building a lexicon of key terms and developing assumptions about core practices. Yet, the full breadth of improvisatory practices has remained a vexed, if not impossibly ambitious, subject of study. This volume offers a step forward in the movement away from critical tendencies that tend to homogenize and reduce practices and vocabularies in the name of the familiar. Chapter authors include John Corbett, Jason Robinson, Kirstie Dorr, Beverley Milton-Edwards, Sally MacArthur, Waldo Garrido, Jemma Decristo, Mike Heffley, Monica Dalidowicz, and Hafez Modirzadeh.
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, 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.