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John Patitucci on Jazz Improvisation

"I don't think you have to be afraid of it, you just have to approach it in a way that's hopefully sensitive and communicative and listening." - John Patitucci on jazz improvisation

Bruce Gertz, bass professor at Berklee College of Music recently spoke with ArtistWorks instructor John Patitucci at a convention for the International Society of Bassists on the topic of jazz improvisation:

"With Wayne [Shorter] the idea is that we would compose in the moment. So it's free but, it assumes you're going to be sensitive and create together. The stuff that we do is tonal, melodic, and harmonic - it's not just anybody playing whatever… it's ear training on a very steep curve because you have to assimilate to whatever the next person is playing and try to make a contribution, in a communal way.

There are grooves that sometimes occur and things that are juxtaposed. It's really meant to be composition in real time. That's what Wayne's version of it is, and I love it.

jazz improvisaton - john patitucci and wayne shorter

I always think [John] Coltrane was the greatest 'free' player who ever lived. Because he had a thorough understanding of music from all angles. When he opened up the parameters, what came out was gorgeous. He understood harmony, melody, and rhythm on the highest level and no one ever played the tenor saxophone like that!

The idea is to to not discard things. That's something I learned a long time ago from Chick Corea. He said, 'Don't judge and cancel an idea before it has a chance to breathe.' Like, let it out! The stuff Wayne plays is so melodic, when he plays a theme he really works and massages it - he doesn't just throw stuff away. So that one's way to look at it."

The mini lesson on jazz improvisation ends with John laying down some improvised blues on his beloved bass Bertha while Bruce Gertz listens on in approval. For more info on the International Society of Bassists visit

Study Jazz Improvisation from a master and get personalized playing tips at the Online Jazz Bass School with John Patitucci