The improvised solo is a cornerstone of jazz. Instrumentalists, accompanied by a rhythm section or an entire band, perform spontaneous solos over chord changes (the harmonic structure of a tune). The extended improvised jazz solo developed, in part, from breaks, or short phrases performed while the band stops for one or more measures.Listen to the following excerpts and observe how the soloists play through the breaks. Count the number of beats or measures per break and note the instruments that solo through the break. How does each soloist approach the break? How do the other instruments support the soloist?
Stride pianists used their left hand to play low bass notes on beats 1 and 3 and chords in the middle register on beats 2 and 4. At the same time, they would play melody or improvise with their right hand. Listen to the following three masters of stride and jazz piano. Try to distinguish the chords from the melody, and describe how the musicians use either bass notes or chords to support their improvisations.
Jazz band arrangers employed various techniques to develop a driving sense of swing and to highlight improvised solos. For instance, arrangers used syncopation (offbeat rhythms), riffs (short melodic phrases played repeatedly over a series of chords), and call and response (phrases by a soloist or section that are answered by another section). Listen to the following excerpts and compare how the different bands and arrangers varied the instrumentation (musical instruments used in the arrangements), rhythms, and the interaction between sections (such as brass or reeds) and soloists. Note techniques such as the use of riffs and call and response.