Improvisation is “composition on the fly.” The jazz musician’s lifelong mission is to cultivate an “improvising mind” capable of inventing new jazz melodies on the spot night after night. The best jazz improvisation sounds spontaneous and playful—and yet unfolds with the logic of a story.
When a jazz player sits down to compose a tune he makes use of his highly developed ear for invention. Thus, many tunes written by jazz musicians have the loose, swinging feel of an improvised solo.
Riverwalk Jazz plays host to great improvisors on every broadcast, but this week jazz legends perform their own compositions with The Jim Cullum Jazz Band. We dig into the archive for Originals by Originals.
Benny Carter was a pioneer of the alto saxophone, playing in the bands of Fletcher Henderson, McKinney’s Cotton Pickers, and his own highly acclaimed ensembles. He is also acknowledged to be one of the great innovators of jazz composition and arranging. Carter is heard with Jim and the band in archive performances of his compositions, “I’m in the Mood for Swing” and “Wonderland.”
Reedman Bob Wilber, a protégé of the great Sidney Bechet, has long been admired for his compositional brilliance. He performs three of his tunes, “The Rabbit Jumps,” “Reverie,” and a tribute to Benny Goodman, “BG.”
Milt Hinton was one of the first bass players to record “walking” bass lines and to play featured solos out in front of a band. We captured Milt live at The Landing in 1992, performing two of his originals, “Ebony Silhouette” and “Mona, Take Me Home.”
Bassist Bob Haggart was a founding member of the Bob Crosby Bob Cats, a popular hot band of the 1930s that took as their starting point the pure style of New Orleans jazz. Haggart’s rock-solid 4/4 rhythm on the bass was a key ingredient. In archive Riverwalk tracks, Haggart performs two of his well-known Swing Era hits: “My Inspiration” and “Big Noise from Winnetka.”
Other jazz greats to offer their original compositions in live performances with The Jim Cullum Jazz Band include Clark Terry, Dick Hyman, Jay McShann and Harry ‘Sweets’ Edison.
Photo credit for Home Page and Recent Radio Broadcast Page: Jim Cullum and Clark Terry. Photo courtesy Riverwalk Jazz.
Text based on Riverwalk Jazz script by Margaret Moos Pick ©2006