Not all of the songs that comprise the canon of Christmas carols are unrewarding vehicles for musically creative collaborations, but most need at least a re-harmonization in order for jazz musicians to improvise intelligently on them. Why are these examples of the tribute our society pays to redemption so devoid of musical excitement?
Between sparse ambience and dense texture are the rhythms we can typically make sense of, and this is the territory that most music explores. But I’m sometimes sympathetic to the modernist mission, the manifest destiny that wants to find new lands. What is the furthest we can go, in either direction, without entering completely inhospitable terrain?
Jim Hall was one of those musicians whose playing changed how American music sounds. His imagination and technical command of the guitar allowed him to rethink and subsequently expand on the traditional approach to the instrument’s fretboard, almost as if he were playing a piano. One could say that Hall was a singular point in the culture of American guitar playing.
Until we rid ourselves of the notion that the best music of all time was created by a handful of men who lived an ocean away from us and who all died more than a century before any of us were born, we will never have programming that truly reflects the vast array of musical creativity all around us.
Experienced musicians eventually arrive at a point where the physicality of the instruments they play seems to disappear. It’s at this point that proprioception, e.g. muscle memory, provides the player with a cognitive shortcut that frees the conscious mind from primarily focusing on the mechanical details of music performance and allows it to address issues of aesthetics.