What makes a jazz solo great? Can it be quantified by fundamental musical building blocks (rhythm, contour, note choices, phrasing, etc.), or is it some magical and indescribable combination of characteristics. How can we teach students how to create a truly great jazz solo.
Doublebassblog.org contributor Bill Harrison tackles this thorny issue on his blog Jazz Underneath, writing:
It seems to me that, to be effective in a deep way, a solo must breathe. There must be a dynamic sense of phrasing where all of the individual musical elements converge in a convincing way. The oft-mentioned balance between the expected and the unexpected is certainly a part of this, but it is more than toying with the listener’s expectations that gives a solo that certain something that makes it all but unforgettable.
The music must breathe. There must be a sense of line, of phrase, a certain elegance and balance. Horn players have a bit of an advantage in accomplishing this goal. After all, one must literally breathe to operate brass and woodwind instruments! Rhythm instruments can be played continuously, no “stopping” to breathe is necessary.
Check out the rest of Bill’s post here–it’s a deep and contemplative post, which is characteristic of Bill’s writing.