Robert Hodson: Interaction, Improvisation and Interplay in Jazz

Robert Hodson: Interaction, Improvisation and Interplay in Jazz

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On the face of it, a rather academic and technical book such as this threatens to deter its potential readership. The other side of the coin is that it's (a) short, (b) well-written and readable, and (c) understandable without following the transcribed examples - at least, provided you listen to the actual music. If you do so, it's quite likely you'll end up listening more closely and with more empathy for what the performers are actually doing.

Hodson's feeling is that analysis of an individual musician's improvisation that fails to consider the simultaneously improvised parts of the other missing something essential . This seems pretty obvious, especially if you're a player, but it's amazing how little is actually written about interaction, and how much we can read - in magazines or books - implying the soloist acts in a vacuum, or only reacts to the previous soloist. Certainly, there are soloists who always play the same way whatever the accompaniment, but even they are influenced in the moment, almost despite themselves. If you're tempted to credit, say, Miles or Coltrane with that kind of consistency, Hodson has illustrations of them taking their backing on board. And, if you're tempted to say this only applies from post-bop onwards, Lewis Porter recently noted much earlier instances, which however don't appear here.

Initially it seemed a possible disadvantage that Hodson's examples are drawn, by and large, from such familiar classics as Kind Of Blue, Parker's 'Now's The Time' and Coltrane's Ascension. But, especially if you don't want to read the dots, it becomes easy to follow the detailed discussion of a track you thought you knew already. And the virtuoso description of the Bill Evans trio's interplay on 'Autumn Leaves' will take the performance out of a fairly intellectual realm, into appreciation of a musical conversation of the highest order.
- Brian Priestley, Sendmemusic Magazine, June 2007

Paperback, 208 pages