Have you ever noticed how in the jazz world, we tend to play each tune like the most famous player who’s associated with that tune? So, if you play a Duke Ellington tune, you tend to play it like Duke Ellington, or a Parker tune, you tend to play it just like Charlie Parker.
In one sense there’s nothing wrong with that, because we learn by assimilating those styles and everything. But that’s not what those people themselves did. Duke Ellington did not play Ellington tunes like Ellington himself did. They did an album together so you can hear it for yourself. Parker didn’t play other people’s tunes like they did, he played it like Charlie Parker.
So eventually, you want to discover your own style. And one way you can begin to loosen the stylistic hold these composers have on us is to play a tune intentionally like somebody else.
For instance, most people play John Coltrane’s “Giant Steps” like Coltrane himself did. At a fast tempo and with a million notes. But what if Bill Evans had composed “Giant Steps?” It would be the same tune, but we’d all be playing it very differently.
Give it a try. See if you can play “Giant Steps” in the style of Bill Evans. Or Duke Ellington or any of your other favorite jazz musicians. This exercise will bring you to different places musically. Then, when you see how these tunes aren’t fixed in one certain way, then you can ask yourself how you yourself really want to play that tune. This will enable you to begin to express your uniqueness through a tune like “Giant Steps.” Now that’s something you can really study!
What if Bill Evans wrote “Giant Steps”
Good luck with this, and have fun!
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