As Sterling mentioned in his last post, jazz music was built on the popular songs of the day, using them as vehicles for improvisation.
There is no reason it should be any different today. There is music being created all around us just begging to be improvised on, but sometimes we get stuck in the past or the idea of what we think jazz is “supposed” to be.
But don’t just take it from me… check out some of the greatest jazz musicians of our time playing Kendrick Lamar’s “Untitled No. 5”
Here’s a video of Jacob Collier (arguably the best musical mind alive today) playing Daniel Caesar’s “Best Part”.
Since the jazz leaders of our generation are doing this, we probably should too! There are 2 major benefits of using modern popular songs as vehicles for jazz improvisation.
- Your music becomes accessible to listeners of music outside of jazz
- It provides unique and fresh harmonic landscapes with which to work. They are usually relatively simple, which gives you creative freedom to build on them as you wish.
While studying the traditional jazz repertoire is essential to understanding and developing jazz language, it is important to use the tools we develop to explore the musical landscapes of today. This is what pushes the music forward.
Here’s a playlist I’ve created of great modern songs that can be used as a starting framework for improvisation.
Have fun, be creative, and develop frameworks that you enjoy improvising over!
Written by Trent Briden