View Full Version : Understanding jazz

03-21-2018, 09:29 AM
I went to an amazing concert last night, jazz piano, kora and percussion (Latin percussion)... it made me want to understand jazz better. Any good resources for jazz on the uke? Preferably free of course, I have spent far too much on instruments this year!


03-21-2018, 09:49 AM
"One chord is fine. Two chords are pushing it. Three chords and you're into jazz." - Lou Reed


03-21-2018, 10:52 AM
Listen to Lyle Ritz recordings, and the 1940s solo recordings of Cliff Edwards. That's a start. There are also Lyle Ritz books out there, from Beloff & Co. Good luck!

John ByTheSea
03-21-2018, 11:36 AM
Jazz, as explained by Yogi Berra:

Interviewer: What do you expect is in store for the future of jazz trumpet?

Yogi: I'm thinkin' there'll be a group of guys who've never met talkin' about it all the time...

Interviewer: Can you explain jazz?

Yogi: I can't, but I will. 90% of all jazz is half improvisation. The other half is the part people play while others are playing something they never played with anyone who played that part. So if you play the wrong part, its right. If you play the right part, it might be right if you play it wrong enough. But if you play it too right, it's wrong.

Interviewer: I don't understand.

Yogi: Anyone who understands jazz knows that you can't understand it. It's too complicated. That's whats so simple about it.

Interviewer: Do you understand it?

Yogi: No. That's why I can explain it. If I understood it, I wouldn't know anything about it.

Interviewer: Are there any great jazz players alive today?

Yogi: No. All the great jazz players alive today are dead. Except for the ones that are still alive. But so many of them are dead, that the ones that are still alive are dying to be like the ones that are dead. Some would kill for it.

Interviewer: What is syncopation?

Yogi: That's when the note that you should hear now happens either before or after you hear it. In jazz, you don't hear notes when they happen because that would be some other type of music. Other types of music can be jazz, but only if they're the same as something different from those other kinds.

Interviewer: Now I really don't understand.

Yogi: I haven't taught you enough for you to not understand jazz that well.

Bill Sheehan
03-21-2018, 03:52 PM
Hahahahaha! That's awesome!

03-21-2018, 04:34 PM
John, that explanation of jazz is a hoot. It reminds me of an interview with Gary Burton that I recently read.

Also, welcome to Ukulele Underground from Palm Beach County!

Brad Bordessa
03-21-2018, 08:10 PM
I really improved a lot when I was playing through jazz songs from iRealb. The app is like $5 and you can download 1000s of songs for free. Instant gnarly jazz chord practice. The trick is playing with people who can take the lead and make it a cohesive musical statement.

ZoŽ Bestel
03-22-2018, 12:59 AM
This thread reminded me of this video, ha!


Don't be a square ;)

Croaky Keith
03-22-2018, 05:11 AM
I thought jazz was like people talking over each other, only using musical instruments. :biglaugh:

Jim Yates
03-22-2018, 06:22 PM

Gerald Ross is a great jazz uke player and a good instructor>

Marcy Marxer has some great jazzy sounding uke instruction as well.

Stu Fuchs also is a great player and teacher.

03-23-2018, 04:48 AM
How seriously do you want to understand jazz? How seriously do you want to play it? If you are really serious the first thing you need to do is learn jazz standards and what to do with them. There are hundreds of them, do a search for "fake book pdf" and you will find a few collections to download. But you need to know what to do with them. They are like outlines, play them as is when learning but they are meant to be tweaked to however you think sounds best. Change keys, change chords, even rearrange the notes so long as the basic song can still be recognized. Along with that learn your 7th chords everywhere on the neck. There are 4 shapes for each, learn them all and learn which notes (root, 3rd, 5th, 7th) are on each string for each shape, you'll need that when it comes time to learn to solo. Yes, unless you are way better at learning then I am this will take months. The idea is that you get so familiar with your fretboard that you instinctively know where to find the notes to solo over the various chords. Once you've gotten this far the fun part starts, learning to solo. Like mentioned above iReal Pro is a great tool for practice. But to learn how to play a jazz solo you need to listen to and copy them at first. I discovered the trumpet comes closest to the range of a low G tuned uke so that is a good place to start. Learning to copy them varies from hard to darn near impossible depending on how well your ear is trained (I'm in the latter category so I have a whole new challenge to work on- ear training). Once you've learned other peoples solos, and ideally have an idea of what they are doing and not just seeing it as a collection of notes, you can learn to make your own solos. A teacher is invaluable if this is the route you want to go. If you just want to have fun, learn the 7th chords, a few standards, and then just jam. You may not ever learn to understand jazz that way but you'll get better at playing for sure.


Brad Bordessa
03-23-2018, 01:06 PM
Two square things I wont be doing is avoiding drugs and pain. I am happy to be called square for avoiding these things.
Jazz is about musical expression. Words wont do it justice. But before you can express yourself well, you need to become competent at the mechanics required to express yourself. So you need to do all the learning of the basic stuff to do with your ukulele and the music. Following Glen Rose and the other teachers is a good way to learn the mechanics and become competent. Eventually you will need to stop following and just start doing and creating your own stuff.
Apart from following teachers like Glen Rose, read biographies and watch videos and listen to the records. A useful way to find a plan, if you don't have one, is to just follow the jazz timeline from early last century and study the players and the music in the historical sequence of development. Look up the players and bands, find recordings or sheet music of their work, listen to it and play it on your uke. Write out some notes so you don't forget the bits you like the most. When you catch up to 2018, just keep going using your own ideas.

/thread. This is really the best advice you'll get.

People are impatient. But really: if you want it and you work at it, you'll figure it out. Simple.

If you picked up an 'ukulele yesterday you have hundreds, if not thousands, times more material to learn from than anybody did even ten years ago. Be sure to use that gift smartly and plan, learning to execute and understand the resources you choose to focus on completely. "Look! Squirrel!" studying is hampering probably 90% of the students I teach.

Herb Jr. said to me one day: "You've got the tools, Brad. Now you just need to practice the basics." Best advice I've ever gotten. Almost a decade later and that's still the root of all I work on - basics.