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Improvisation on Waltzes??

BluesBop HarryBluesBop Harry Mexico city, MexicoVirtuoso
edited April 2008 in Repertoire Posts: 1,379
I've been learning a few waltzes but I'm a little confused on how they are approached in terms of improvisation.
I'm getting the impression there is not much variation and they are played more or less the same way every time with little or no change, more like classical pieces.

What's the tradition on this?



  • V-dubV-dub San Francisco, CA✭✭✭✭
    Posts: 293
    I'm having trouble thinking of a popular one that has improvised parts. Usually it's just straight through. But there are slight variations. Compare Stochelo's La Gitane from Angelo's for example. Angelo very closely follows the original Tchan Tchou version, while Stochelo's has his own flavor.

    A lot of Baro Ferret stuff has improvised sections though. Swing Valse, for example. In fact he's got a whole album of waltzes that are very spontaneous: ... erret.html

    If you don't have that CD, check it out. It sounds so modern even today with it's instrumentation (vibraphone, accordion, violin, drums, etc). I think Baro and Gus Viseur should get more credit for experimenting with non-standard time signatures in jazz far before Dave Bruebeck!

    It's definitely not easy to do for me. It's a challenge to convert your ideas over 3/4!
  • dulcimistdulcimist New
    Posts: 34
    I've also noticed the high incidence of waltzes that are not regularly improvised over. I wonder if it has something to do with the history of Musette, which many GJ waltzes find their roots in. Musette was not Jazz, per se, and improvisation did not seem to be fundamental to the style. Maybe that's why improvising over waltz tunes is not as common. That's purely a guess on my part. I'm sure there are others here more knowledgeable than I.

  • JackJack western Massachusetts✭✭✭✭
    Posts: 1,748
    Though the tradition favors through-composed pieces, some lend themselves more easily to improvisation...we usually treat the B section of Montagne as an improvised section, and it helps keep things a little more interesting from a performance perspective.

    I think just the length of most waltzes makes improv an issue, the time you're through with the theme, it seems complete. That said, I'd love to hear more people stretch out on those pieces...there's an upcoming release from the Olivarez Trio that has some nice waltz playing on it...

  • WowBobWowWowBobWow Another Time & SpaceNew
    edited April 2008 Posts: 221
    I was told by my jazz teachers that waltzes should be approached with a straight eighths feel if you are going to improv. Whereas in 4/4 tune, one would swing the beat and have a triplet feeling to your lines (via swing eighths or triplets), when playing a waltz you can think just straight eighths which will have a contrast against the 3/4 time frame.

    In terms of improving over the traditional gypsy jazz waltzes, I think it's nice to just run through the chord changes with arpeggios & enclosure riffs (mimicing the feel / playing tribute to the head). As most waltz heads are pretty technical and singable, it's a challenge to come up with a solo to pay tribute to the head.

    Also, whereas in a 4/4 tune one can tend to start or end their lines on beat 2, in a waltz I think it's best to start and end your phrases on beat 1, which appears to be going on in most of the heads.

    These are some great waltz solos that come to mind: if you check out "Vero Valse" by Rene Briaval (a great waltz which has a great solo--and if indeed the solo is an arranged solo, who cares because it sounds great in contrast against the head). "Swing Valse" has a very nice Debarre solo (the Debarre/Ludovic version). "Victor," from the Lagrene album Move. Also, Gus Visuer is the man (the man!) and his later albums are all amazing! It sounds like he is just improving his genius mind out and letting things come from his ear, as every great jazz master should.

    Thanks for the post ~
  • dulcimistdulcimist New
    Posts: 34
    Richard Galliano (accordion) is another good example if your looking for improvising solos over waltzes. While they are often his own compositions and probably more bebop in nature, there's plenty there to learn from.
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