playing melodies

I wanted to share this quote from Tigran Hamasyan from a masterclass I attended at McGill University in 2013. Tigran’s music is really inspiring to me and incorporates a lot of disparate elements from jazz, folk, and Armenian sacred music, but what holds it all together is his profound sense of melody. I listen to and play many different kinds of music and his advice here is something that rings true to me both as a listener and a player – and is something I’m constantly trying to improve at!

One of the things that became very important to me is that when doing improvising, I’ve realized that – while transcribing a lot of stuff and listening to a lot of amazing musicians play – what makes an amazing improviser is somebody that’s actually playing melodies. Not thinking, oh I’m going to play this scale down, and then I’m going to play this arpeggio, then I’m going to play this cool chord. The main point to me, is that when you improvise, you improvise a melody. And it makes it more challenging, because to be simple in this situation is harder than to be complicated. It’s easy to play complicated scales and complicated arpeggios that you come up with, but it’s really hard to play a simple melody over fast-changing chords, or play three notes that would make a melody over three or four chords. So that’s one thing that became very important to me while I improvised.

Paul Bley…

to commemorate the recent passing of the great Paul Bley, here’s a little transcription i did a while back of one of his solos (just the melody line because i’m a saxophonist).

he had an indomitable sense of melody, an authoritative touch, a deep sense of the blues, and was fearlessly innovative. this particular solo is cool to me because of his minimal left-hand comping, the beautiful flow and funkiness of the rhythm, the almost sing-song melodic quality and the weird but clever subversion of the harmony – made all the more wild by its departure from Coleman Hawkins’ wonderful solo.

and more than 50 years later it still sounds like it comes from the future!

(starts around 3:13)

All the things you are - Paul Bley solo (1)All the things you are - Paul Bley solo (2)All the things you are - Paul Bley solo (3)