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Jazz Melodic Formulas
Over the course of many, many years, jazz historians and musicologist took apart hundreds of jazz improvised solos and studied them, (much to the chagrin of many traditionalist who believe the school environment has taken the spontaniety out of jazz). What waas discovered was that each solo contained small melodic formulas sometimes referred as "cliches". In fact, in the jazz idioms, there are countless number of these "cliches" and far too many to notate here which is not the purpose of this lesson. Although the jazz world has its "periods": Swing of the 30's and 40's, Bebop of the 1940's, Cool/Modal Jazz of the 1950's and Avant garde of the 60's, there was still the emphasis on these "melodic" formulas. This is definitely the backbone on how these eras developed into their perspective styles. The best anology that can used and I'm sure many jazzers have heard this before, is to compare the jazz vocabulary to the English language. Small groups of melodies can be thought of as the words of the jazz vocabulary. Even though many instumentalist use this same "vocabulary", there is great diversity on how these "words" are used. Shakespere, Hemingway, Poe used the same vocabulary as writers but aren't they different in styles? Of course! The identification of these melodic formulas are as follows: 1) Chordal Cells/melodies (triads- 7th chords etc). 2) Scale Cells (three- four-five note melodies or sequences).
3) Pentatonic Cells (Very prevelent in the 1960's). 4) Chromatic Ornamentation Cells( approach tones, neighbor notes, passing tones). There are others but I'm of the opinion, as was the teacher who gave me this lesson, (LOL), that these four are the important ones. Lets check out some examples: