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Interpreting jazz accents

Accents are a fascinating thing. I mean the kind that keep Americans from understanding folks from across the pond and vice versa. I'll never forget landing at the Edinburgh, Scotland, airport and hailing a cab to my hotel. The cabbie said something to me that sounded vaguely like a phrase I should understand. It might as well have been Martian, fo...
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All’s well that ends well

Jazz pianists face innumerable decisions when playing a song from the American Songbook. Every time we perform a song by Cole Porter, George Gershwin, or Duke Ellington, we address questions about key (we are not obliged to play the tune in its original key); tempo (should it be slow, medium, fast, or free);  rhythmic background (shall we try ...
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The rhythms of jazz: Syncopation

An important aspect of rhythm (in any style of music) is the alternation of accented and unaccented musical elements. When the accented elements differ from what is expected, we have syncopation , an essential part of jazz. This article will examine two kinds of syncopation first outlined by Winthrop Sargeant in his pioneering 1938 work Jazz: Hot a...
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A finger in every pie

For teachers brave enough to ask students to perform their first improvisations, the excuses are all too familiar: "I don't know what notes to play", "I don't feel the rhythm", "It's too hard", and--eventually--just plain "I can't do it".  There are many factors preventing students from at least  ​trying ​ to make something up, among them...
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