Just to reiterate, classical musicians are terrified of improvisation. Then, if you put a chart in front of them, not only is it a bunch of worms thrown on the page, but then they feel like they will get it wrong, because there is a "right way" to do it, and since there's "music," they feel expected to understand what it says to do.
Well, I have NEVER understood what to do with a jazz chart. In college, when I took theory, we learned about chord symbols and things like that, and I was really good at it. I never had to study, and essentially went to class only about half of the time. (Yes, I was one of those students who would rather be practicing than be in class.) I even tested out of all of theory and ear-training for my master's degree. Then, when I was given a jazz chart for the first time, I didn't recognize any of the chord symbols I had learned. No I - IV - V - I. No little arabic numerals on the side of the romans to differentiate inversion. None of that. There were letters. Like, C F and G. Or something like G little triangle. What is a little triangle??? And then if I looked at someone else's chart, it would be F- or Fsus. What?
So today, with a little grain of determination, I printed off a few scores from my friend who's last record I've listened a lot to, and sat down to figure things out. Now, the nice part is that these were pretty much full scores, not lead sheets, which I haven't ventured to try yet. So I could see a clear bass line and melody line, which made the first step a little easier. I just played the parts as written, and yeah, that sounded like the tune on his recording. So then I went for the next step, which was to try to deal with those chord symbols. Okay... letters. E-. What the hell is E-? F#-. What is dash? Obviously Gmaj is G Major. Okay, okay... getting this. Only because I already know the song, though. Okay, so dash must be minor. And then the obvious difference between Gmaj and Gmaj7 would be the added 7th, but yar... doesn't this plain Gmaj have a 7th in the melody? Okay, ignore. (From that point on, I played all the chords with 7ths. Oh, but now I'm wondering if that differentiates a dominant 7? Lord.) Okay, okay... getting somewhere. Then, what the heck is D/F#??? In classical terms, a slash would be __ of the __, so like a II/V would be the two chord of the dominant. I gather, by the written notation that D/F# might mean a D chord, first inversion. Right? I don't know. Anyway, thank God that covers all the chords in the song. Otherwise it might have been impossible for me to wade through. Anybody bored by this?
So the point is, that I spent my Friday evening trying to understand a different notation. Whether I got it right or not is a separate discussion. But what I DID realize is that once I got through this obstacle, I was able to play through the tune pretty well. At one point, I just played the chord progression, and didn't really pay attention to the melody, and that worked, too. And I was a little bit shocked. I was a little bit shocked that I could play this fairly fluently, and was quite comfortable improvising on top of the harmonies. Sure, they were the same harmonies over and over again, but I could do it! And I wasn't so tentative. I felt quite free.
And I also realized that jazz chord symbols are a lot more straight forward than I thought. I always believed that it was more or less like figured bass, and all that mathematic calculating had to happen on the instant. But the jazz symbols are way easier. Kind of a relief, but dang!! Why didn't anyone just say that before? I've been afraid of NOTHING! On the flip side, I still don't know what all these symbols mean, and I wonder if they are standardized, or if I'm going to be equally confused with the next person's chart.
Tonight: improvisation of Michael Bates' tune, Some Wounds. I did some free improvs, too, which were actually pretty interesting after listening to one of Jesse Stacken's hour long piano improvs. But I thought I'd put something a little different on for tonight.
Here we go, Day 166: https://ia600804.us.archive.org/20/items/Improv12712/1_27_129_43Pm.mp3
Bates, I'm really sorry if I slaughtered your piece. It really is lovely... I spent over an hour playing it. So even if this version is terrible, at least you know that you were an integral part of my process tonight. Maybe even a turning point.