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Charlie Parker and Thematic Improvisation Paperback – January 1, 1996


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Product Details

  • Series: Studies in Jazz
  • Paperback: 170 pages
  • Publisher: Scarecrow Press (January 1, 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 081084155X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0810841550
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.5 x 8.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,258,784 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

...in-depth and closely analytical...an essential addition to the collection of anyone interested in creative improvised music from a musicological point of view. (Cadence)

This is the latest in a magnificent body of jazz literature, and, so far as depth is concerned, surely Rutgers' finest achievement...this volume is simply brilliant...such depth and omniscience in the purely musical sense. Exceptional. (Crescendo And Jazz Music)

About the Author

Henry Martin is a faculty member of the Jazz and Contemporary Music Program at the New School for Social Research.

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Customer Reviews

3.8 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

13 of 15 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on October 15, 1999
Format: Hardcover
This could be one of the most insightful books on Parker's style ever published. For all of you musicians who are Bach fanatics (if you aren't check him out), this is the book for you. Henry gives a fresh perspective to an widely emmulated saxophonic vocabulary using a Schenkerian approach(If you don't have Schenker's counterpoint book get it)by addressing Parker's profound "Bach-like" sense of voice leading. Being a noteworthy educator and composer (former student of Milton Babbit), Henry's abitlity to verbalize asthetics is simply astounding. Add this one to your music theory book collection. It's is worth a thousand more than what it costs.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Eddie Landsberg VINE VOICE on November 24, 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Basically this book uses Schenkerian analysis to find sense in the improvisational lines of Charlie Parker.
The idea itself is not so bad, but to be honest, I think the best way to play Parker is to understand how he ticked, and definitely acquaint yourself with the language that he as well as people who play him used.
Charlie Parker, no doubt was a riff player... but the catch being that he didn't just play 2 or 3 or the same riffs all the time... he played 100s (well, maybe 100 or so identifiable motifs seem to pop up again and agin.) Of key note, they weren't the same old hackneyed stuff that everyone else before him played, but his own book... and all deeply and richly conceptual based on his understanding of conventional chord theory, which he saw differently than his peers as well as his experience actually blowing blues... hence, for example you might have a conventional riff like in 'Now's the Time', but in the mind of Bird, something is going to happen that makes it say something totally different and mind blowing... (For fun, listen to other tunes of his, and see if you can find other traditional blues and swing riffs hidden in between the other stuff he did... they're almost always present, but like WALDO, not necessarily easy to find, whether or not they're in your face.

My advice then, if you're buying this book for non-academic purposes, don't... however, take the following steps:
1. Learn to play your blues forms.
2. Learn to play "rhythm changes" form (in Bb) especially.
3. Learn to play basic II V I standards - - Including Cherokee, Stella By Starlight, Honeysuckle Rose etc.)
4. Master basic chord theory (R 3 5 9 11 13 - - major, minor, dominant, half diminished, etc.)
5.
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5 of 8 people found the following review helpful By D. Cohn on April 29, 2008
Format: Paperback
It would be unfair to say that this book is worthless. It did get me to listen to more Charlie Parker. That was worth something. The author's ideas about different methods and modes of improvisation are interesting. But that's about it. The analysis in this book did nothing to enhance my appreciation of Charlie Parker's work.

Why? This book is a perfect example of an academic manipulating the data to reflect their thesis. Martin's thesis is that Parker, who was known as more of a licks player than a thematic improvisor, refers to the themes of the tunes he's playing on while playing his licks. In order to prove this he manipulates the definition of "thematic improvising." In other words, the definition of thematic improvisation as is doesn't fit, so he changes it to prove his point. This is not a good sign.

Furthermore, in his analysis, he awkwardly uses the wrong tool for the job: Schenkerian analysis. While Schenkerian theory might be a useful tool in analyzing the classical works that it was designed for, it really seems like the wrong tool for the job here.

On "Red Cross" he argues that Parker's repeated statement of Bb is a reference to the theme, and that its rhythmic placement in the form has significance. While this *might* be true, it seems to me that the simplest explanation is the best: the tune is in the Key of Bb. Bb is the tonic. Of course he's gonna play some Bb's.

While Martin observes that the head from Red Cross appears to have been modified in the studio, he ignores the elephant in the room: Red Cross is a "rhythm changes" tune, and it's very likely that the head on the tune was actually improvised right there in the studio. Parker and other musicians often did this in order to get paid.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is my favorite professor and mentor. I have been his student in both undergrad and overg- oops! Grad.

This book is not for the untrained. You have to be deeply into theory and analysis. It is a great book, with a thesis to which I agree.

If you are pro or con Dr. Martin's view or methodology, you will find this a very useful book. I notice that some who did not like the book, took this position on the basis of their position on philosophy and methodology. However, this is not the forum for this type of evaluation. This is the forum for whether the author (MAY HE LIVE FOREVER!) has clearly and substantially presented his case, regardless of the reader's difference of opinion. This is the forum for whether the author (SEE ABOVE!) has successfully given readers the evidence needed to compare to other views and render judgment accordingly. On these, Dr. Martin has succeeded.
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