The Art of Improvisation by Bob Taylor

Bob Taylor has taught Jazz Studies at California State University, Los Angeles, Pasadena City College, and Brigham Young University. He is the author of "The Art of Improvisation," "Sightreading Jazz," and "Sightreading Chord Progressions." His books on Jazz are some of the best that I've ever seen.

He has made them all available for download FREE OF CHARGE!!!!
Here they are.

Here's what he has to say about group interaction

Interaction Ideas

One of the most enjoyable challenges for the soloist is learning to interact musically with the members of the group. Good interaction can take a solo beyond its borders, making it an exciting group experience.

Communicating in Solos
Contrary to what some players think, the soloist is not the only one who is playing important ideas. The other members can greatly inspire the soloist, or in some cases can even join in as multiple soloists.

A successful solo is like a conversation among the group members. The soloist leads the discussion, and the group members are like the supporting actors who feed the leader ideas. When members of the group hear interesting ideas from the soloist (or from the other members), they can react in any of these ways:
  • Let the idea go by. This by helps the idea stand out, but does not necessarily build communication. Even when you let it go by, someone else may be communicating with it, so you’ll get your turn soon. Remember: the soloist may be in the middle of his or her own development and may play something even more interesting in a few seconds.
  • Play against the idea. For example, if the idea uses offbeats, play against it with downbeats, or vice versa; if the idea is ascending, play descending, etc.
  • Copy the idea (explained below). 5) Alter or develop the idea (explained below). Important: The group can use any or all of the above methods at the same time. It’s not necessary for all members to copy or play against at the same time; variety makes an effective engine behind the soloist.

When and How to Copy
Whether and how to copy a soloist’s idea are ongoing decisions made with split-second timing. Here are the basic choices for imitation:

  • Copy the whole idea. This works best with shorter ideas. But don’t overdo it; conversing with a soloist is not an imitating contest, it’s communication.
  • Copy part of the idea (the most intriguing part, or the part you can manage to hear and play accurately). Remember: you can copy one or more pitches, but don’t forget about copying part of the rhythm (such as a triplet group or offbeat).
  • Alter or develop the idea. This is the most subtle way to communicate - you take a few notes of the idea, alter them and play them back. This leaves the door open for more twists and turns and tends to pull the audience into the conversation. You can play a sequence or semi-sequence on the original idea, or augment the rhythm.

The more the soloist and group members respond, the farther the communication goes. This can be exciting when it occurs naturally and isn’t forced. But too many groups get in the habit of conversing too long on a single idea (like talking too long on a limited subject). Unless the idea is developing well, it’s usually better to create a short (or very short) conversation and be ready to develop the next exciting idea. Remember: the next idea could be something the group just played; the soloist isn’t always the originator.

Style and Rhythmic Transitions
One of the most exciting events in a tune is when the entire rhythmic style changes unexpectedly for one or more bars. For example the feel could change from bossa to samba, from ballad to double-time swing, from swing to funk, etc. You can trigger this with a rhythmic idea, or someone else can trigger it. However, too often the style shifts feel forced, predictable, or unsteady. Here are two common misconceptions about style shifts: Misconception #1: The whole group needs to shift styles.

Fact: It’s OK to have one or more players not join in the shift sometimes (unless the shift is a radical one). For example, half the group could shift to double-time while the other half stays is single-time.

Bob has an interactive CD ROM that goes along with his book. What a guy!

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