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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: #2,064,374 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.

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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Format: Paperback
I felt obligated to offer a brief review (?) of Henry Martin's book as it, and the literature from which it derives, was so terribly mischaracterized by the other amazon reviews.

What the reviews got correct: This is a book for specialists. Someone with little knowledge of the Schenkerian literature and jazz theory research (as opposed to jazz theory pedagogy) will likely (as is apparent in all three reviews) be unable to make heads or tails of Martin's argument, which I feel is quite clear to anyone with the aforementioned pre-reqs.

Some Correctives for the interested buyer:

Martin's goal is simply to attach the formulas, riffs, cliches, licks, etc. on the surface of Parker's improvisations to underlying linear and harmonic aspects of the heads. He makes aesthetic claims that relate forms (blues, rhythm-changes, and pop songs) and degree relationship between improvisation and composition, but they are not always unity=good, harmonic riffing=bad.

To claim that Martin obfuscates Parker's riff-oriented approach is to horribly misread the text.

To the author that stated that no jazz musicians think along Schenkerian lines: this is patently untrue. The most common counterexample is Bill Evans, who did graduate work at Mannes in a time when that institution was the forefront exporter of the technique. If you're interested these discussions, check out Steve Larson's dissertation.

To the same reviewer: Martin is not concerned with Parker's intent and he makes this quite explicit.

Similarly, to the reviewer trying to ascribe Bach-like characteristics to Parker, Martin did not disseminate this opinion.
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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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Charlie Parker and Thematic Improvisation
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