Tuesday, December 30, 2014

What makes a good jazz solo?

Being able to play changes is one thing. Building up a solo another .... Though I do not think there is a single formula for a good jazz solo I came across a few thoughts on this matter by Vince Corozine that I find useful and food for thought. It is something I have to work on myself a lot more.

  • Repeat an idea more than once, (this adds continuity) and don’t wander aimlessly from one idea to another
  • Use “open” spaces (no playing) to set up your next idea. This provides interest. Let the rhythm section work between ideas
  • Build tension and excitement. Start simply and build to a climax. When you run out of ideas and have nothing more to say-STOP!
  • Develop rhythmic variety and a mixture of dynamics and use crescendos and diminuendos for added interest.
  • Listen to the rhythm section and “ride” the time. Keep the constant feeling of the hi hat and bass part in your head at all times. Playing the “time” is more important than the notes you play. If you can’t think of anything to play—wait and listen to the rhythm section—let them spur you on---lean on them, talk to them...
  • Remember that sustained notes give a player a chance to think of what to play next and gives the listener a chance to absorb what he/she has just heard.
  • Nothing is as dull as a jazz solo that fills up every beat with notes and more notes. Fight the urge to fill it up.
  • Incorporate material from the song and save your best “shot” for the end.

A friend posted a transcription of a truly great jazz guitar solo by Barney Kessel on his Facebook page that contains all of the above. Great melodies and harmonies, repetition of ideas, rhythmic variation, dynamics, tension and release, use of crescendos and diminuendos, riding the time, open spaces etc. etc. It's all there. A textbook example of buidling up a great solo. A master at work.


  1. That is a great solo. Barney was a master, a truly complete player

  2. Don't forget call and answer. To me a vital part of bringing narrative to a solo. Django was the master of this (imo).
    Nice post yet again Dutch, many thanks and Happy New Year :)