Jazz Quotes

Here are some quotes from Jazz Masters. Be inspired by their wisdom and music!

“What is music to you? What would you be without music? Music is everything. Nature is music (cicadas in the tropical night). The sea is music, the wind is music. The rain drumming on the roof and the storm raging in the sky are music. Music is the oldest entity. The scope of music is immense and infinite. It is the ‘esperanto’ of the world.”—Duke Ellington

“Jazz to me is a living music. It’s a music that since its beginning has expressed the feelings, the dreams, hopes, of the people.”—Dexter Gordon 

Miles Davis

“I’ll play it and tell you what it is later”—Miles Davis

 “Musically, I love to talk just off the top of my head and that’s what jazz is all about.”—Stan Getz

 “At heart I’ve always been a jazz man.”— James Brown

“If I don’t practice for a day, I know it. If I don’t practice for two days, the critics know it. And if I don’t practice for three days, the public knows it.”—Louis Armstrong

 “I know I’m no glamour girl, and it’s not easy for me to get up in front of a crowd of people. It used to bother me a lot, but now I’ve got it figured out that God gave me this talent to use, so I just stand there and sing.”—Ella Fitzgerald

 “You can’t explain jazz to anyone without losing the experience because it’s feeling, not words.”—Bill Evans

 “I’ve found you’ve got to look back at the old things and see them in new light.” –John Coltrane

Thelonious Monk

“The piano ain’t got no wrong notes.” Thelonious Monk

 “The idea is more important than the style or the contents of the style you’re trying to play in.”—Ornette Coleman

 “One thing I like about jazz is that it emphasized doing things differently from what other people were doing.”—Herbie Hancock

“I always wanted to be a spontaneous composer.”—Charles Mingus

 “That’s the thing about jazz: it’s free flowing it comes from your soul.”—Billy Crystal



Sam and Carmen- Winners of JAM Transcription Challenge !

With Jazz Appreciation Month behind us, we’d like to congratulate the Winners of BCMN Jazz Appreciation Month Transcription Challenge!

Saxophone player, Sam Spear from The Music Settlement and pianist, Carmen Cheung, from Sarah McLachlan School of Music both successfully transcribed and played Chet Baker’s solo on Autumn Leaves.

Check out their videos and enjoy their stories behind the process of transcribing the jazz master’s solo.


1. What was the hardest part of this transcription?

Sam:  The hardest part about transcribing this solo is that Chet Baker tended to play “behind the beat” a lot, which makes dictating some of his rhythms on paper tricky.

Carmen: Surprisingly, even though this was my very first transcription, I didn’t find it painstakingly difficult to replay the segment over and over again on my phone while I sat beside a piano and wrote down what I heard in my own shorthand notation. Instead, the hardest part was actually meeting the deadline because I decided to do the challenge on the morning of the due date and underestimated the time I would need to get all the notes and rhythms, record and upload, and post online on Facebook. (I had school that day too).

2. What did you enjoy the most?    

Sam:  My favorite part of transcribing is noticing how it’s easier every time you do it. A year ago, this solo would have taken me days to transcribe but it only took me a couple hours this time around. It’s also interesting to see the melodic and harmonic ideas that are prominent in various improvisers’ vocabularies.

Carmen:  I listened to Chet Baker’s solo repeatedly and each time I listened to it, I discovered something new – that was what I enjoyed the most. Whether it’d be a note I didn’t catch earlier or a rhythm I’d mistranscribed, it felt like I had discovered a hidden treasure. I can say that I can sing the solo by memory now! The whole experience was very serendipitous.  Learning how to use noteflight was very fun too.


3. What have you learned in the process?    

Sam:  By writing down and learning one of Chet Baker’s solos, I was able to vicariously experience his thought process when improvising. The main takeaway from this solo for me is his use of motifs not just melodically but rhythmically as well. There is great continuity in this solo.

Carmen: I’ve learnt that transcribing is not an easy thing to do, but when you get into it, it’s very enjoyable.

4. What was the prevailing reason for choosing to transcribe Chet Baker’s solo over the two other options?    

Sam: Ironically, I had to complete a different transcription project earlier this year in which I had to transcribe two choruses from the track “Freddie Freeloader” and Cannonball’s solo was an option. I couldn’t transcribe his solo then either because I had previously worked on it out of a transcription book so I transcribed two choruses of Coltrane instead. I chose Chet Baker’s solo on “Autumn Leaves” because he was the only other horn player listed and I was curious about how he approached the tune.

Carmen:  The prevailing reason for choosing to transcribe Chet Baker’s solo was that it stuck in my head the first time I heard it. Trumpet seemed easier to me (if I had to choose between piano or trumpet) and I wanted to transcribe a trumpet solo for myself so I could play it on trumpet. I also hoped that it would be able to help me with improvisation on trumpet. (I find improvising easier on piano rather than trumpet).

Jazz Quotes

Here are some quotes from Jazz Masters. Be inspired by their wisdom and music!

“Gray skies are just clouds passing over.”—Duke Ellington

 “One very important thing I learned from (Thelonious) Monk was his complete dedication to music. That was his reason for being alive. Nothing else mattered except music, really.”—Sonny Rollins

“Regardless of what you play the biggest thing is keeping the feel going.” —Wes Montgomery

“Jazz is the language of the emotions.”—Charles Mingus

 “Jazz is the big brother of the blues. If a guy’s playing blues like we play, he’s in high school. When he starts playing jazz it’s like going on to college, to a school of higher learning.”—B. B. King

 “We all have to open our minds, stretch forth, take chances and venture out musically to try and arrive at something new and different.”—Horace Silver

 I think the main thing a musician would like to do is give a picture to the listener of the many wonderful things that he knows of and senses in the universe.”  − John Coltrane

“The only thing better than singing is more singing.”—Ella Fitzgerald

Billie Holiday , Lester Young, Ben Webster, Gerry Mulligan

“When Lester plays, he almost seems to be singing; one can almost hear the words.”—Billie Holiday

“The beauty of jazz is that it is malleable. People address to suit their own personalities.”—Pat Metheny

 “There are four qualities essential to a great jazzman. They are taste, courage, individuality, and irreverence. These are the qualities I want to retain in my music.”—Stan Getz

 “Jazz is music made by and for people who have chosen to feel good in spite of conditions.”—Johnny Griffin

 “Sometime you have to play a long time to be able to play like yourself.”—Miles Davis


Listen to their music on our playlist!

Jazz Appreciation Month: Maria Schneider

Born in 1960 in Windom, Minnesota, Maria Schneider studied music theory and composition at the University of Minnesota. She went on to earn a Master of Music from Eastman School of Music in Jazz Writing and Contemporary Media. After graduating from Eastman she worked for Gil Evans as his copyist and assistant. They worked together with on music for Sting and the score for the film The Color of Money, starring Paul Newman and Tom Cruise. She later studied privately with Bob Brookmeyer.

In 1989 she formed a jazz ensemble with Jon Fedchock, and in 1993 went on to form her own group, The Maria Schneider Jazz Orchestra. Her group performed weekly at Visiones in New York City and she released her first record as a band leader in 1994 titled Evanesence.

Maria Schnieder is one of few artists who have won Grammy Awards in both jazz and classical. Her most recent album with Dawn Upshaw, Winter Morning Walks, won three Grammys: Best Contemporary Classical Composition (‘Winter Morning Walks’), Best Classical Vocal Performance (Dawn Upshaw), and Best Engineered Recording/Classical (David Frost, Brian Losch, Tim Martyn).

Her work with her jazz orchestra has brought her and the ensemble ten Grammy nominations and three Grammy Awards. The album Concert in the Garden was the first award-winning album produced by ArtistShare and was the first album to win a Grammy with Internet-only sales.

Maria Schneider will be here at Berklee this week as part of The State of Jazz Composition Symposium, giving a workshop and concert.  You can click here for tickets and more information about The Maria Schneider Jazz Orchestra’s performance at the Berklee Performance Center on Saturday, April 26.

Check out her interview to see her advice to young composers and click here to watch the full interview.


Jazz Appreciation Month: Jazz Quotes

Here are some quotes from Jazz Masters. Be inspired by their wisdom and music!

Charlie Parker and Miles Davis

“Don’t play the saxophone. Let it play you.”—Charlie Parker

“When people believe in boundaries, they become part of them.” –Don Cherry

“And that’s the soulful thing about playing: you offer something to somebody. You don’t know if they’ll like it, but you offer it.”― Wynton Marsalis, To a Young Jazz Musician: Letters from the Road

“Composing is improvisation slowed down.”—Wayne Shorter

“When you play music you discover a part of yourself that you never knew existed.”—Bill Evans

“Music should always be an adventure.”—Coleman Hawkins

“A good quartet is like a good conversation among friends interacting to each other’s ideas.”—Stan Getz

“The real innovators did their innovating just by being themselves.”—Count Basie

“Improvisation is the ability to create something very spiritual, something of one’s own.”—Sonny Rollins

“The whole thing of being in music is not to control it but to be swept away by it. If you’re swept away by it you can’t wait to do it again and the same magical moments always come.”—Bobby Hutcherson

“The spirit of jazz is the spirit of openness.”—Herbie Hancock

Ella Fitzgerald

“Forgive me if I don’t have the words. Maybe I can sing it and you’ll understand.”—Ella Fitzgerald

“Sometimes I wish I could walk up to my music for the first time, as if I had never heard it before. Being so inescapably a part of it, I’ll never know what the listener gets, what the listener feels, and that’s too bad.”—John Coltrane

“A goal is a dream with a finish line.”—Duke Ellington

Listen to their music on our playlist!

[spotify spotify:user:berkleecmn:playlist:6EV5egXO2rLqFPUTVD0Xn3]

Uniquely Swinging New Orleans Classic

johnny dodds

Johnny Dodds’s clarinet galvanized some of the greatest jazz bands of the twenties and thirties.  He was one of the earliest pioneers of New Orleans jazz, who began playing in the Crescent City before joining the mass exodus of musicians to Chicago during the twenties. Dodd’s rich tone and cascading runs were first heard on record with King Oliver’s legendary Creole Jazz Band.

Mostly self-taught, Dodds immediately earned the respect of his fellow musicians in the jazz capital of the prewar era.  Dodds rarely led his own groups but played with a wide variety of bands, often alongside fellow New Orleans expatriates as well as the Windy City’s top talent. When a young Louis Armstrong organized his first recording sessions as a leader, he picked Dodds as his clarinetist.  The recordings of Armstrong’s’ Hot Fives in turn became watershed moments in the development of jazz and American popular music.

Dodd’s style is rooted in the traditional New Orleans collective sound but Dodds was also an especially passionate blues player:

His intense, driving sound also makes fast numbers such as “Wolverine Blues” into uniquely swinging experiences:

In honor of Johnny Dodds’s birthday, Berklee City Music is proud to share the deeply blue and red-hot music of this jazz original.

Jazz Appreciation Month: Transcription Challenge

For Jazz Appreciation Month we are having a transcription challenge for Berklee City Music Network students.  Students can choose from one of three solos to transcribe (listed below) and upload either a video of them playing the transcription and/or a JPEG or PDF of the handwritten transcription to our Facebook or Twitter page.  The first 10 students to submit a transcription with at least 70% accuracy will receive City Music swag!

The due date is International Jazz Day, April 30, 2014.


  • Must be an official Berklee City Music Network student, attending one of our 46 Network members
  • You must transcribe one of the three solos listed below
  • First 10 to submit with at least 70% transcription accuracy will receive the prizes
  • Submission must be made by 11:59 PM Eastern Daylight Time on April 30, 2014
  • If submitting a video do not play along with it
  • If submitting a written version submit in the key of your instrument. Must be handwritten.
  • Transcriptions must be uploaded on the Berklee City Music Network Facebook page or Tweeted at our Twitter page (@BerkleeCMN)
  • Those who submit via Facebook must also like us on Facebook
  • Those who submit via Twitter must also follow us on Twitter
  • In your submission you must tell us your Network site by tagging them in the post


  • Berklee City Music Network Swag
  • Prizes will be sent to students’ Network site director
  • The winners will get a special feature on our blog

Solos to Transcribe

1) Cannonball Adderley Solo from “Freddie Freeloader” on Kind of Blue (alto saxophone, 6:22 minute mark)

2) Chet Baker’s Solo from “Autumn Leaves” on She Was Too Good For Me (trumpet, 0:51 minute mark)

3) Herbie Hancock’s Solo from “Watermelon Man” on Takin’ Off (piano, 4:43 minute mark)



Jazz Appreciation Month: Esperanza Spalding

Esperanza Spalding Radio Music Society Album Cover (Heads Up International, Concord Music Group)

From Portland Oregon, The City of Roses, as is the title of one of her songs, Esperanza Spalding was born in 1984 to a multicultural family.  Her heritage is African-American, Welsh, Hispanic and Native American.  She can also sing in English, Spanish and Portuguese.

She attributes her musical career to a moment when she was four years old watching classical cellist Yo Yo Ma perform on an episode of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood.  “That was when I realized that I wanted to do something musical,” she states in her official biography. “It was definitely the thing that hipped me to the whole idea of music as a creative pursuit.”

Within a year, she had taught herself violin and played in The Chamber Music Society of Oregon.  She was a part of the group until age 15, and during that time she discovered the bass and started playing other styles of music such as blues, funk, R&B, and hip-hop on the local scene in Portland.  Also at age 15 was when she graduated from high school and became a music student at Portland State University.

A year into Portland State she was encouraged by her music teachers to apply to Berklee College of Music and got in.  In addition to studying at Berklee, she also become one of the youngest instructors when she took a teaching position at age 20 in 2005.

In 2009, President Obama personally selected her to play at the Nobel Peace Prize Ceremony, the year he won.

In 2011, she won the Grammy for Best New Artist, the first time a jazz musician had won that award, for her record Chamber Music Society.  Drummer and Berklee alumni, Terri Lyne Carrington, was also the record.

Prior to Chamber Music Society her first major release, Esperanza (2008), was at the top of Billboard’s Contemporary Jazz Chart and became the year’s best-selling album by a new jazz artists.  Her first record Junjo (2206) was released on a Spanish record label, Ayva Music.  She has won two more Grammy’s for her record Record Radio Music, in which she won Best Jazz Vocal Album and Best Instrumental Arrangement Accompanying Vocalist(s).

Check out more of Esperanza Spalding’s music on our Jazz Appreciation Month playlist, and be sure to visit her website: esperanzaspalding.com

Jazz Appreciation Month: Happy Birthday Duke Ellington!

Berklee City Music is proud to say “Happy Birthday!” for Jazz Appreciation Month to jazz composer, bandleader, pianist and innovator Duke Ellington!  In an art form primarily associated with improvisation, Ellington stands out for his imaginative, moving and swinging compositions, which inspire jazz musicians to this day.  He was one of the earliest jazz artists to experiment with extended structures and long form works, for example his groundbreaking Black, Brown and Beige as well as his many suites.  His music consistently explores a range of colors and moods, drawing upon influences as diverse as the blues, American popular song, Western classical music and African folk.

Born and raised in Washington, DC, Ellington led small groups in his hometown before moving onto New York, where his band grew larger and eventually moved into Harlem’s famed Cotton Club.  From there, Ellington’s creativity as well as his popularity exploded, leading to what some historians have described as a lifelong tour.  Duke Ellington and his orchestra (which retained many of the same core players over several decades) would travel across the globe until his death in 1974.  His music would continue to shape how jazz is played and understood.

Jazz Appreciation Month: Jazz Quotes

Here are some of our favorite quotes by jazz musicians.  Leave a comment and let us know what your favorite jazz quote is!

If you have to ask, then you’ll never know. — Louis Armstrong, when asked to define “jazz”

Jazz washes away the dust of every day life. —  Art Blakey

Jazz is the big brother of Revolution.  Revolution follows it around. — Miles Davis

There are two kinds of music. Good music, and the other kind. — Duke Ellington

Music is my mistress and she plays second fiddle to no one. — Duke Ellington

It bugs me when people try to analyze jazz as an intellectual theorem.  It’s not.  It’s feeling. — Bill Evans

Life is a lot like jazz… it’s best when you improvise… —  George Gershwin

Jazz is about being in the moment. — Herbie Hancock

Jazz music is the power of now. There is no script. It’s conversation. The emotion is given to you by musicians as they make split-second decisions to fulfill what they feel the moment requires. —  Wynton Marsalis

…to me if it’s anything, jazz is a verb-it’s more like a process than it is a thing. —  Pat Metheny

Jazz is freedom. You think about that. —  Thelonius Monk

You have to practice improvisation, let no one kid you about it! — Art Tatum

For more jazz quotes visit: allaboutjazz.com and jazz-quotes.com