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My AI on how to be a better jazz improviser

I have created a AI chatbot called Jazz Master Chat that draws from 75 hours of interviews from my Jazz Master Summit event a couple of years ago. I interviewed great players and teachers like Toshiko Akyoshi, Randy Brecker, Dave Liebman, Richie Beirach, and Jamey Aebersold.

Consider this AI to be an index of everything spoken about within the interviews. It is not a thinking entity as is popularly imagined (and often hated). Jazz Master Chat allows you to ask questions and have a conversation about any topic discussed within my interviews of these jazz greats.

As one example, I asked how a musician gets better at improvising jazz. Here is its answer:

Improving in jazz improvisation, as highlighted by the experiences and advice of jazz masters like Lenny White and Joe Lovano in their interviews, involves several key practices:

  1. Learning from the Greats: Both White and Lovano stress the importance of learning from the jazz greats. For White, it was the influence of Miles Davis and other iconic musicians he worked with, highlighting the significance of absorbing the wisdom and techniques of those who paved the way in jazz. Lovano speaks about the influence of his father, a saxophonist, and other legendary players he admired and learned from, such as Dexter Gordon and Sonny Rollins.

  2. Practicing and Playing Regularly: Regular practice is crucial. White talks about his journey from a young musician to becoming a seasoned artist, emphasizing continuous learning and growth. Lovano mentions his early days of going to his dad’s gigs, learning tunes, and sitting in on sets, which underscores the importance of hands-on experience and practice.

  3. Listening Deeply: Lovano advises listening deeply to other players, which fosters a collaborative improvisation environment where each musician contributes to a musical result greater than the sum of its parts. This practice helps in understanding and internalizing the nuances of jazz improvisation.

  4. Playing with Everyone: Both interviews underscore the importance of playing with a variety of musicians. Lovano encourages young musicians to play with everyone possible, especially in their hometown, to learn and experience music from different perspectives. This diverse experience enriches a musician’s improvisational skills.

  5. Being Inspired and Fearless: Inspiration and a fearless approach to improvisation are highlighted. White mentions the role of creativity and keeping an active mind in staying youthful and engaged in music. Lovano’s journey shows his fearless attitude towards playing in new settings and his inspiration from a broad spectrum of music.

  6. Understanding the Roots and Beyond: Understanding one’s musical roots and exploring beyond are essential. Lovano talks about the importance of knowing the music and rhythm from one’s roots and drawing from a global perspective of music to enrich jazz improvisation.

In summary, getting better at jazz improvisation involves continuous learning from the jazz greats, practicing regularly, deeply listening to others, playing with a diverse set of musicians, drawing inspiration from various sources, and understanding one’s musical roots while exploring new horizons.

I really like that answer. One of the reasons I knew Jazz Master Chat would have a good answer is that I asked that question of many of the players and educators I interviewed. 

Dave Liebman and I spoke about this often in the several recorded conversations he and I had during this time. So I next asked Jazz Master Chat, What did Dave Liebman offer as advice for becoming a better jazz musician?

Dave Liebman offered multifaceted advice on becoming a better improviser or jazz player, emphasizing the importance of a comprehensive approach that includes technical skill, theoretical knowledge, creativity, and expression. He suggests setting up a routine that covers different areas of playing equally, allowing everything to develop in harmony . Liebman also highlights the role of psychological focus, advocating for an internal mantra to help guide the improvisational process and move beyond a mechanical approach to music .

Moreover, Liebman underscores the significance of basic skills, technique, self-knowledge, and a deep understanding of jazz. He believes these components are crucial for expressing oneself fully in improvisation, both emotionally and intellectually . This comprehensive approach aims to equip musicians with the tools they need to express their unique perspectives through jazz.

I had forgotten what Lieb said about a “mantra.” So I followed up with the question, “What did Dave Liebman mean by “internal mantra?”

Dave Liebman refers to the concept of an “internal mantra” as a psychological tool or a guiding principle that a musician can internally repeat or focus on during improvisation or practice to enhance musical expression and focus. This mantra can help in navigating through the complexities of improvisation, serving as a reminder of the musician’s underlying intentions or goals, and aiding in maintaining a clear direction in their playing. It’s a way to center oneself, to stay grounded in the midst of the creative process, and to connect more deeply with the music. This practice supports the idea that becoming a better improviser isn’t just about mastering technical skills or expanding theoretical knowledge; it also involves cultivating a focused and intentional mindset that guides one’s musical decisions and expressions.

I’m expecting Jazz Master Chat to be on MusicSavvy.com soon. To be notified once it goes live, leave your name and email here.

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Michael Lake

Trombonist, author, marketer, & tech guy

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