While jazz is considered difficult to define, improvisation is consistently regarded as being one of its key elements. The centrality of improvisation in jazz is attributed to its presence in influential earlier forms of music: the early blues, a form of folk music which arose in part from the work songs and field hollers of the African-American workers on plantations.
These were commonly structured around a repetitive call-and-response pattern, but early blues was also highly improvisational. Although European classical music has been said to be a composer’s medium in which the performer is sometimes granted discretion over interpretation, ornamentation and accompaniment, the performer’s primary goal is to play a composition as it was written. In contrast, jazz is often characterized as the product of group creativity, interaction, and collaboration, that places varying degrees of value on the contributions of composer (if there is one) and performers. Summarizing the difference, pianist Earl Hines remarked in a 1975 film that,
… when I was playing classical music I wouldn’t dare get away from what I was reading. If you’ve noticed, all of the symphonic musicians, they have played some of those classical tunes for years but they wouldn’t vary from one note—and every time they play they have to have the music. So that’s why for some classical musicians, it’s very difficult for them to try to learn how to play jazz.
In jazz, therefore, the skilled performer will interpret a tune in very individual ways, never playing the same composition exactly the same way twice. Depending upon the performer’s mood and personal experience, interactions with other musicians, or even members of the audience, a jazz musician may alter melodies, harmonies or time signature at will.
When young people learn jazz they are there not to just perform the musical notes in front of them, that is covered in the concert band. For an effective jazz program, they must be learning to improvise and to do it in such a way that their interpretation is different from every other member in their jazz band. This is our aim and below are examples of Georges Jazz Band performing in a recent concert.