Stretching out like our musical heroes

You might be surprised by the number of rock and pop musicians who love jazz and improvisation and wish they could stretch out musically in their public performances. But they’re often boxed in stylistically by the commercial forces at play in today’s music world.

Here’s a wonderful video in which David Bowie and his band begin playing their big hit “Let’s Dance” with a jazz Spanish-style feel. It’s very improvisatory and they’re clearly enjoying themselves. They use the tension created by the juxtaposition of this Spanish-style groove against the audiences expectation of the usual funk groove to build to an exciting peak. At this exact moment, they release all the suspenseful tension by bursting into the groove the audience has expected all along. It’s a masterful move!

You can enjoy it yourself here:
David Bowie – Let’s Dance – Live By Request 2002 – HQ

Take it further this week by exploring a little jazz and/or modal improvisation yourself. By doing so, you’ll be joining some of the best and most creative rock and pop musicians ever, including Prince, Lady Gaga, Jimmy Page, Elton John, and Ben Folds, just to name a few.

This is true with jazz musicians as well. The early jazz pianist Fats Waller enjoyed playing classical violin in his spare time. Did this influence his jazz piano playing in terms of clarity, expressiveness, and attention to musical form? You bet it did!

Enjoy the journey, and “let the music flow!”

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