Sonny Sharrock on Improvisation

May 12, 2007

Nicolai Foss

Here are some interesting reflections on types of improvisers from jazz guitarist Sonny Sharrock:

There are three basic types of improvisers, the foremost being “the creator,” who has an insatiable need to tell his story. For him, improvisation is only a tool. He plays each solo as if it were his last. He will not be compromised, nor will he be stopped. Next is “the juggler,” for whom the skill of improvisation is just as important as is the need to tell his story. The juggler gathers around him all of the things he has heard, and one by one tosses them into the air. With his skillful hands he cleverly keeps them aloft. He seldom drops an idea, because he knows them all so well.Finally, there is “the tinkerer, whose improvisations are based on formulas and the instrument itself. His scientific manipulation of sound is laboratory-created and laboratory-bound forever. Making up a subcategory, if you will, is “the fool.” He claims he is bored with music, so he has decided to make noise. Fool + Noise = Bullshit.

I think he is basically right, although I think of his types as ideal types. Even Charlie Parker, a Creator if there ever was one, had elements of the Juggler in his work.


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