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  1. #1

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    Does this exist?

    That's all I want to know.

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    The Jazz Guitar Chord Dictionary
     
  3. #2

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    Well, you could always just play the tune without deviation. I guess it's still jazz.

  4. #3

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    To answer that question you’d have to answer what do you count as improvisation?

  5. #4

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    uh?

  6. #5

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    Well what definition do you take?

    so here’s a definition from a google search
    something that is improvised, in particular a piece of music, drama, etc. created spontaneously or without preparation.

    So there is a lot of jazz that isn’t this. In fact depending on how you define preparation you could say almost no jazz is improvised, if that includes shedding tunes and so on. I think most of us would take spontaneous to allow some room for preparation.

    let’s concentrate on the first half - something made up spontaneously maybe with some preparation. There is plenty of jazz that falls into this category, but plenty that doesn’t.

    I was learning Thelonious Monk’s gorgeous Crepescule with Nellie is played which in a pretty consistent arrangement and may not feature any blowing. I don’t think it would be contentious to call Monk primarily a composer.

    is Monk jazz?

    OTOH if you define improvisation as something not notated with a score, maybe it is. An unscored composition or arrangement may naturally evolve over time in a way a written piece might not.

    TBH it’s quite hard to define whether something is made up in the moment or to some extent composed. Most of us have licks or ideas we return to even if we don’t play worked out solos. But the latter idea has more mileage in jazz historically than seems to be common knowledge.

    And just because you can make up something spontaneously doesn’t mean that’s what you always do.

    I think Improvisation is not that helpful a term, as different people have totally different definitions. We can all agree Sonny Rollins is a jazz improviser, but how about Oscar Peterson who was known for having a worked out show?

    the identification of jazz with improvisation comes more from an accident of history than anything else. It seems daft to call a Carnatic, Flamenco, Arabic or 18th Century European musician a jazz musician just because they improvise some of the time.

    the I word I prefer is ‘individuality’; I think the personal voice is very important in jazz historically. just because you learned someone’s music doesn’t mean you should play it. You might play a very arranged band but still have room to add your own individual statement. And to me that’s more important as a description of what’s going on in the music.

  7. #6

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    Well what definition do you take?
    I take the ordinary definition which all sane people and dictionaries take.

    But that has nothing to do with the psychology of improvisation, whether it's spontaneous, etc, etc. It's both anyway. It's what you know, which is everything you've done before, plus stuff that pops out while you're at it.

    I don't regard playing pre-composed solos as improvisation, obviously. In fact, I'd definitely call that cheating

    (I only cheated once. I had to solo with a band I didn't know in front of a lot of people. I worked up something effective and trotted it out. I was pretty good :-))

  8. #7

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    In any case, I don't think it matters if you do repeat something you already know if it's good. Who cares? It's not a competition.

  9. #8

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    Mind you, if someone played a solo on a record then, when you saw them live, repeated the same solo, then, when you saw them again sometime later, played the same solo, I wouldn't think much of them.

  10. #9

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    Quote Originally Posted by ragman1
    In any case, I don't think it matters if you do repeat something you already know if it's good. Who cares? It's not a competition.
    Yeah, it’s music right? Your aim is to make good music presumably. I do think doing something that’s your own is really the important thing. That was always the big thing in the jazz community.

    OTOH some jazz musicians did aim to be totally spontaneous. Rollins is a famous example; but he was unusual in that respect.

    For me there’s a value in having some planning but also allowing there to be room for spontaneity. Often solos coalesce over the course of a few nights of playing with the same band, which is why tours are so important.

  11. #10

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    Quote Originally Posted by ragman1
    I take the ordinary definition which all sane people and dictionaries take.

    But that has nothing to do with the psychology of improvisation, whether it's spontaneous, etc, etc. It's both anyway. It's what you know, which is everything you've done before, plus stuff that pops out while you're at it.

    I don't regard playing pre-composed solos as improvisation, obviously. In fact, I'd definitely call that cheating

    (I only cheated once. I had to solo with a band I didn't know in front of a lot of people. I worked up something effective and trotted it out. I was pretty good :-))
    The thing is, there is no cheating in music.

  12. #11

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    Is Duke Ellington jazz? Or only when one of his horn players takes a solo and plays some more or less spontaneous stuff? Same question for Count Basie?

  13. #12

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    some jazz musicians did aim to be totally spontaneous. Rollins is a famous example; but he was unusual in that respect.
    Crazy mad 'free jazz' apart (where you couldn't possibly pre-plan it anyway) I should think so too. But I reckon that's why Rollins was so good. He took the risk. If you constantly work without a safety net you lose your fear. Life favours the brave*.

    no cheating in music
    Depends on the kind of cheating :-)

    * Or so I'm told!

  14. #13

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    Playing in a "jazz style but not jazz", that's jazz without improvisation.

  15. #14

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    Presumably all written out beforehand, of course... nothing on the spot.

  16. #15

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    Why should improvisation be a part of jazz? That it often is, doesn't mean anything.
    Is Autumn leaves a jazz tune?
    Is it still a jazz tune if i play a chord melody version of it that i picked of the internet?

  17. #16

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    Yes.

    But if a band plays it, all the instruments can't just play exactly the same tune again and again, can they? So what are they going to do? It's not a symphony.

  18. #17

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    Well they can.

  19. #18

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    Christian -

    Sorry, I missed this bit.

    I do think doing something that’s your own is really the important thing.
    So do I. Exactly. That's the whole point, isn't it?

    I used to play classical. There, of course, it's just the tune as written but the personal thing comes in with the expression and interpretation.

  20. #19

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    Jazz improvisation is the difference between a musician who knows some jazz standards and a jazz musician.

  21. #20

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    Quote Originally Posted by Marcel_A
    Well they can.
    What, just play the same tune again and again and again and again and again?

    Yes, I suppose they could... I mean, no one's going to stop them. It's not against the law or anything :-)

  22. #21

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    Tal_175

    The old ones are the best :-)

  23. #22

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    Quote Originally Posted by TOMMO
    Is Duke Ellington jazz? Or only when one of his horn players takes a solo and plays some more or less spontaneous stuff? Same question for Count Basie?
    Hi, Tommo. I don't think anyone's saying jazz must include spontaneous improvisation. I'm not anyway, although I think it makes it a lot more interesting.

  24. #23

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    Why today’s musicians should follow classical greats ... and improvise

    Bach, Mozart and Beethoven all thrilled audiences with their spontaneous improvisations. But today’s classical pianists have lost the art, according to a music scholar, who argues that performances suffer because they are so dependent on the printed score.

    John Mortensen claims that such improvisation skills were all but lost by the 20th century and that few classically trained musicians can now do so in any style.

    Why today’s musicians should follow classical greats ... and improvise | Music | The Guardian

  25. #24

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    Improvisation

    Although jazz is considered difficult to define, in part because it contains many subgenres, improvisation is one of its defining elements. The centrality of improvisation is attributed to the influence of earlier forms of music such as , a form of folk music which arose in part from the work songs and field hollers of African-American slaves on plantations. These work songs were commonly structured around a repetitive call-and-response pattern, but early blues was also improvisational.

    Classical music performance is evaluated more by its fidelity to the musical score, with less attention given to interpretation, ornamentation, and accompaniment. The classical performer's goal is to play the composition as it was written. In contrast, jazz is often characterized by the product of interaction and collaboration, placing less value on the contribution of the composer, if there is one, and more on the performer.[18] The jazz performer interprets a tune in individual ways, never playing the same composition twice. Depending on the performer's mood, experience, and interaction with band members or audience members, the performer may change melodies, harmonies, and time signatures.[19]

    In early Dixieland, a.k.a. New Orleans jazz, performers took turns playing melodies and improvising countermelodies. In the swing era of the 1920s–'40s, big bands relied more on arrangements which were written or learned by ear and memorized. Soloists improvised within these arrangements. In the bebop era of the 1940s, big bands gave way to small groups and minimal arrangements in which the melody was stated briefly at the beginning and most of the piece was improvised. Modal jazz abandoned chord progressions to allow musicians to improvise even more. In many forms of jazz, a soloist is supported by a rhythm section of one or more chordal instruments (piano, guitar), double bass, and drums. The rhythm section plays chords and rhythms that outline the composition structure and complement the soloist.[20] In avant-garde and free jazz, the separation of soloist and band is reduced, and there is license, or even a requirement, for the abandoning of chords, scales, and meters.

    Jazz - Wikipedia

  26. #25

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    zdub

    Exactly, classical music is full of improvisation.

  27. #26

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    Hmm... extrapolating the idea that "jazz is only jazz if improvisation is present", means jazz cannot be a musical genre, which of course is ludicrous.

    Jazz is jazz, even without improvisation. Just like blues- many people love blues because it has the same improvisational aspect to it that jazz does (they are 2 brothers from another mother), but even if no improvisation is present, blues is still blues. If you learn a Johnny Smith song note-for-note, it's still jazz. If you learn a BB King song note-for-note, it's still blues.

    I think lines can be drawn, regarding the genre of a music, as well as how it's played. Improvisation does not equal or not equal jazz, necessarily. Jazz is a genre. It is also an approach. Heck, it's also a history. ALL are jazz.

  28. #27

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    extrapolating the idea that "jazz is only jazz if improvisation is present"
    We haven't supported that idea here. As you say, it's a style, a genre.

  29. #28

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    Quote Originally Posted by ragman1
    zdub

    Exactly, classical music is full of improvisation, albeit set firmly down on paper.
    Talk about an oxymoron...

  30. #29

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    Quote Originally Posted by ragman1
    We haven't supported that idea here. As you say, it's a style, a genre.
    Well then, jazz musicians playing exactly the same thing over and over again, is jazz.... because the music is jazz. You've answered the OP.

  31. #30

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  32. #31

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    Quote Originally Posted by ruger9
    Well then, jazz musicians playing exactly the same thing over and over again, is jazz.... because the music is jazz. You've answered the OP.
    Not in spirit :-)

  33. #32

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    Quote Originally Posted by ragman1
    Not in spirit :-)
    But that's a different story. It's still jazz. YOU could choose to not call it jazz (which would be kind of elitist of you), but I think it would be more accurate to say it's not "your kind" of jazz. Heck, there's all kinds of jazz that isn't "my kind" of jazz, regardless of whether it has improvisation or not.

    I get where you're coming from. But jazz music, without improvisation, is still jazz music. Some people might think it "bad" jazz (which is of course 100% opinion), but it's still jazz. Stripping improvisation from the technique does not strip the music's identity as jazz.

    Alot of people enjoy having this pointless argument on the internet with "Joe Bonamassa: is he REAL blues"? LOL

  34. #33

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    Sure. I think Gil Evans' arrangement of Moonbeams on Miles' Birth of the Cool had zero improvisation.

  35. #34

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    Quote Originally Posted by ruger9
    But that's a different story. It's still jazz. YOU could choose to not call it jazz (which would be kind of elitist of you), but I think it would be more accurate to say it's not "your kind" of jazz. Heck, there's all kinds of jazz that isn't "my kind" of jazz, regardless of whether it has improvisation or not.

    I get where you're coming from. But jazz music, without improvisation, is still jazz music. Some people might think it "bad" jazz (which is of course 100% opinion), but it's still jazz. Stripping improvisation from the technique does not strip the music's identity as jazz.

    Alot of people enjoy having this pointless argument on the internet with "Joe Bonamassa: is he REAL blues"? LOL
    ruger, you seem to be casting me as saying it's not jazz unless it has improvisation. I've never said that, check the posts above. But I do think it's more interesting with improvisation, that's all.

  36. #35

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    Quote Originally Posted by ragman1
    zdub

    Exactly, classical music is full of improvisation.
    Well it was. And I think it’s coming back.

    but once again, listen to the blinking Robert Levin interview everyone; one of the guys to put classical improvisation back on the map.


  37. #36

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    Quote Originally Posted by ragman1
    ruger, you seem to be casting me as saying it's not jazz unless it has improvisation. I've never said that, check the posts above. But I do think it's more interesting with improvisation, that's all.
    Well where’s the fun if we don’t strawman each other? We might end up agreeing.

  38. #37

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    Ha, most classical players, if they were told they actually had to improvise something, would promptly have a coronary. But some could, I think, some probably could.

  39. #38

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    Quote Originally Posted by christianm77
    To answer that question you’d have to answer what do you count as improvisation?
    And what is "jazz?"

  40. #39

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    Exactly. What is jazz? I really wouldn’t know.

  41. #40

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    If your skill is to play someone else’s arrangements and not improvise your own, are you a jazz player?
    Perhaps you’re a just another classical musician playing someone else’s charts.

    In classical organ study, we were taught improvisation for hymn playing. It’s a form alive and well in that genre (at least among those who studied seriously). It required a years worth of counterpoint and thorough bass, along with essentially memorizing hymn structure, before trying to cut loose.

    But just as on the jazz side, you had players who could take a hymn through 6 verses and never repeat a harmony, all done in their head. But you also had players writing every note down and playing from charts. And there are a ton of books out there with canned charts on the popular hymns.

    So regardless the genre improvisation has a similar range of instruction and methods. Except for the cats playing Allemandes for King Louie who had to keep going for hours improvising)))

    and while we are at it, How many Angels actually can dance on the head of a pin?
    (referring to St Thomas Aquinas)))

  42. #41

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    911?

  43. #42
    Quote Originally Posted by ruger9
    Hmm... extrapolating the idea that "jazz is only jazz if improvisation is present", means jazz cannot be a musical genre, which of course is ludicrous.

    Jazz is jazz, even without improvisation. Just like blues- many people love blues because it has the same improvisational aspect to it that jazz does (they are 2 brothers from another mother), but even if no improvisation is present, blues is still blues. If you learn a Johnny Smith song note-for-note, it's still jazz. If you learn a BB King song note-for-note, it's still blues.

    I think lines can be drawn, regarding the genre of a music, as well as how it's played. Improvisation does not equal or not equal jazz, necessarily. Jazz is a genre. It is also an approach. Heck, it's also a history. ALL are jazz.
    Thanks for that. When I read "Jazz is Jazz, even without improvisation" I almost got a tear in my eye because I wish it was that simple. Today's jazz musician is expected to know how to improvise because we're no longer living in the days when jazz was developing into a new and interesting genre, and there arose certain cultural expectations associated with the history of jazz that affect what to expect from a musician. One of those expectations is undoubtedly the ability to improvise, i.e., to play an unrehearsed solo over the chord changes in a piece of music, and...to still make it sound good.



    But my original question: Is improvisation an essential element in order to call a piece of music jazz?

    --It is a question about both the music and the musician playing it.


    I developed the belief that you can't consider yourself to be a jazz musician in the absence of being able to improvise like an expert. At the same time, that seems unfair to me because there are jazz compositions that can be played and sung without improv but with melody and lyrics that are still indisputably part of the jazz genre (e.g., Round Midnight). There are also jazz adaptations of popular songs that didn't sound like jazz originally but were then considered to be jazz for reasons like altered chords and improvisation. I'm fairly certain I could find teachers, books, reviews, websites, and jazz musicians who all say the defining characteristic of jazz is improvisation (as Wikipedia quoted above suggests). So, that would mean in the absence of improvisation, an essential element of jazz is missing. If an essential element is missing, it might be like jazz, but it's not complete enough to be called jazz.

    I'm going to intentionally repeat this:

    If improvisation is one of the essential elements for a piece of music to be called jazz, then by definition, if the music is missing an essential element it can at best be called... like jazz.

    It's all about whether or not improvisation is an essential element or not.

  44. #43
    Quote Originally Posted by marcwhy
    And what is "jazz?"

    George Gershwin:

    “Jazz is a word which has been used for at least five or six different types of music. It is really a conglomeration of many things … Ragtime, the blues, classicist and spiritual … An entire composition in jazz could not live.”

    The Genius of George Gershwin: Retracing His Legacy in Six Songs - JAZZIZ Magazine

  45. #44

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    Quote Originally Posted by marcwhy
    And what is "jazz?"
    Well, that's easy.

    Provided you concentrate on what jazz definitely is, rather than what it isn't. Probably the same for improvisation.

  46. #45
    Quote Originally Posted by ragman1
    Improvisation


    The jazz performer interprets a tune in individual ways, never playing the same composition twice. Depending on the performer's mood, experience, and interaction with band members or audience members, the performer may change melodies, harmonies, and time signatures.
    Jazz - Wikipedia
    Thus, there are now cultural expectations that assume a piece of music called "jazz" includes improvisation. In the absence of improvisation, it would not fit the cultural expectation being dictated above by the "authority" of Wikipedia.

  47. #46

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    Quote Originally Posted by Petros

    But my original question: Is improvisation an essential element in order to call a piece of music jazz?
    .
    No. IMO.

    Now... again, we could debate on "is jazz music GOOD jazz music WITHOUT improvisation?" I'm not going to debate it, lol, because these things go around in circles. But let's not forget the COMPOSER in all this. If Johnny Smith writes a beautiful jazz tune, and records it, with or without improvisation while recording (we wouldn't know that anyway), it is still beautiful jazz music. And then if someone (who has the requisite technique to pull it off) plays that composition note-for-note, it is still beautiful jazz music. LESS beautiful? Only the listener can answer that, and only fore themselves. It's not objective, it's subjective.

    As for if this fellow would be a jazz "musician", well, I'd have to say- he's playing a beautiful jazz (as composed) tune, exactly as it was recorded (as jazz), therefore, yes- they would indeed be a jazz musician.

    All this being said- I'm not trying to straw man anyone. I love good ESOTERIC debates (in other words, 99% of this is all according to each of our individual perceptions)... the improvisation element of jazz is a big part of what draws me to it (as well as blues), and there are several great books written on the subject, the ones I have read, and recommend are:

    Free Play: Improvisation in Life and Art

    Moving to Higher Ground: How Jazz Can Change Your Life.
    (this one also touches on societal issues, and relates them to jazz groups' "playing off one another")

    and the one I'm currently reading: Effortless Mastery, Liberating the Musician Within
    (this one gets "out there", so if you aren't interesting in "tapping into the ether" or mediation, you might find it a bit long-winded...but if you ARE interesting in "playing IN THE ZONE" or "with FLOW" all of the time, it's a good read.)

  48. #47

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    Quote Originally Posted by jazzkritter
    If your skill is to play someone else’s arrangements and not improvise your own, are you a jazz player?
    Perhaps you’re a just another classical musician playing someone else’s charts.
    This type of hypothetical question only exists because one tradition in the world only has lost its ability to do one aspect of perfectly normal music making and regards it as some sort of amazing, rarified ability.

    It's really neither here nor there, because every jazz musician, in common with every French organist, oud player, pro rock guitarist, every folk fiddler and so on, learns to do normal music making, which ranges from playing compositions and parts exactly and note for note, to improvising and composing new material.

    I'm not really interested in classical musician's hang ups about a skill they lack (most don't compose either, so why would they expect to be able to improvise?)

    Jazz has been defined as a music by those reference points for too long. And I am incredibly happy that step by step classical music is starting to reintroduce improvisation into its mainstream performance practice.

    It's easy to define what jazz certainly is - we can all agree Blue Note records are jazz for instance. There's also a very broad penumbra, where different traditions mix, and improvisation offers a way that this can happen.
    Last edited by christianm77; 10-21-2020 at 06:15 PM.

  49. #48

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    I think we should just get on with playing the bloody stuff, frankly.

  50. #49

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    I look at this way: Generally speaking, one of the defining features of jazz as a whole is improvisation (along with a bunch of others, such as the use of blue notes, frequent use of flat 7ths in place of major 7ths, swing rhythm, pieces generally based on repetition of short song forms rather than through-composed longer forms, repertoire rooted in the GASB + blues + Black church music). Musicians who work predominantly in this mode of music-making are jazz musicians. When they play music that deletes some of these attributes and/or substitute different ones, it's still jazz.

    So if, say, Tony Williams, makes a record of entirely composed music, it still goes in the jazz section because it's a Tony Williams record and Tony Williams was a jazz musician. But this is a generalization, and I'm sure we can all think of music made by jazz musicians that we don't think is jazz, or music made by non-jazz musicians that we think is jazz. With every genre, there's disagreement as to what the definitive conventions are, and there are examples that are missing some or most of the genre's agreed-upon conventions, but which are nevertheless are perceived by people steeped in the genre as being of the genre. And the people who make the music mostly don't make a fuss about it one way or the other.

    John

  51. #50

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    I see from the replies that there are examples of Jazz with no improvisation. Yet, the ability to improvise is a must to be considered a Jazz musician, especially when playing with other musicians. I believe the invention of Jazz was based on improvisation.

    Furthermore, nearly all Jazz includes improvisation. Jazz has gone through many changes throughout the decades and there has been controversy regarding what is and what isn't Jazz. This includes disagreement between Jazz musicians!

    Yet, I haven't ever heard any disagreement regarding the ability to improvise when taking a solo on a Jazz tune. It's totally expected whether one is slightly embellishing the melody or taking it to the moon and back.