For the purposes of this primer, we are all musicians. Some of us may be performing musicians, whilemost of us are listening musicians. Most of the former are also the latter. I will try to use the term performer and listener respectively, rather than the terms musician or non-musician, when addressing my audience. This primer is intended primarily for performers who wish to learn jazz improvisation. It is also intended for listeners who wish to increase their understanding of the music. I believe that all musicians can benefit from a fuller understanding of jazz, as this can leadto an enhanced enjoyment of the music.Some basic knowledge of music, including familiarity with standard music notation, is assumed in many places throughout the primer. I highly recommend that you have access to a piano and the ability to play simpleexamples on it. Performers should already possess basic technical proficiency on your instruments in order to gain themost from this primer. Listeners should try to bear with the more technical discussions and not get too bogged downwith the details where it seems too far over your head.There are three main goals of this primer. They are to teach you the language of jazz, to increase your understanding of jazz as performed by others, and, for performers, to get you started on improvising. The language of jazz is mostly a language of styles, history, and music theory. It is the language of liner notes, interviews, andtextbooks, and contains terms such as "bebop", "Trane", and "lydian dominant". Learning this language will also provide a framework for understanding the music itself. While it is certainly possible to enjoy John Coltrane withoutunderstanding anything about music theory, a working knowledge of harmony can provide a new basis for appreciation.It is also possible to improvise without much theoretic background, but stories of famous musicians who were unable toread music are generally greatly exaggerated, and I believe any musician's playing can be improved by learning moretheory.
This primer is organized as a series of steps toward becoming a jazz musician, either as a performer or asa more informed listener. Most of the steps are geared for the performer, but the non-performing listener is encouragedto try out as many of the playing examples as possible. This should help broaden your ear and help you recognizeaspects of the music you might not have otherwise.The steps outlined in this primer are:1.listen to many different styles of jazz2.understand jazz fundamentals3.learn chord/scale relationships4.learn how to apply the theory to jazz improvisation5.learn how to accompany other soloists6.play with others7.listen analytically8.break the rulesThese will each be described in some detail later.Some of the material presented here is very basic, and some of it is rather advanced. Those of you whohave listened to a lot of jazz but are not performers yourselves will probably find the history discussions to besimplistic, but find the theoretical discussions overwhelming. Others may grow impatient at the explanations of such basic concepts as the major scale, but will be bewildered at the number and variety of musicians discussed. You maywonder why such a broad array of information has been squeezed into this one primer. I believe that, in order tounderstand jazz improvisation, it is necessary to understand the history, the theory, and the techniques of jazz. I feel thatit is important to merge these avenues if one is to develop a broad understanding.
2. OTHER RESOURCES
This primer is not the only source of information you can or should be using in learning jazzimprovisation. There are books by Jerry Coker, David Baker, and others that can be used as an aid to learning jazzimprovisation. Some of these are relatively basic and do not cover much more material than this primer. Others arequite advanced, and this primer will hopefully provide the necessary background to tackle these texts.