The Path To Jazz Improvisation
FORWARD by David J. Gibson
Emile De Cosmo is one of the most creative writers of our time. I first learned how Emile De Cosmo's mind works when I published one of his early articles on jazz improvisation in Jazz Player magazine. His columns quickly turned into masterpieces of thought and energy. Each time I read a new column from Emile I felt like I was discovering a missing link the art of jazz improvisation. I told him many times that I considered his writing to be on the level of a genius and that he should publish an authoritative book on the art of jazz improvisation. We would laugh because we both knew it probably wouldnt happen, but I kept telling him anyway.
Emile De Cosmo's new book, titled The Path To Jazz Improvisation, is like no other book ever published on jazz improvisation. I can truthfully say this because I have read every chapter. It is a continuation of his dedicated writings for Jazz Player magazine, yet you have it all in one definitive book. Using his sequential writing style, everything is spelled out clearly. Its funny, nowhere does he say you must do this, or you must do that, to become a good improviser of jazz. Instead Emile chooses to stimulate ones imagination by simply presenting essays on an almost unlimited palate of options.
Besides all the information on jazz fundamentals in Emiles new book, (traditional rules, guidelines and suggestions) there are three additional great strengths that set The Path To Jazz Improvisation apart from all other publications on jazz improvisation. First is Emile's great talent for making complex things simple and easy to understand in a step-by-step sequential presentation. There are many musical examples to support his essays, and additional playing exercises that will put Emile De Cosmos ideas into that part of your brain where you store all your jazz improvisation thoughts. He also includes interesting lists of related jazz repertoire (tunes), which in their own compositional makeup, utilize his topic of the moment, and I find this to be particularly useful.
The second great strength that Emile possesses is his deep understanding of history. When I read his chapter on the Byzantine Scale I almost fell off my chair. I had never thought about jazz in those terms. I suddenly realized that jazz improvisation has roots, which go back much further than the jazz masters of the 1920s, 30s, 40s and beyond.
The third strength is Emiles ability as an organizer of words. This is where the true genius is most gifted and Emile has this gift. The chapters in this book are written in a style that will have you reading them more than once. There is nothing boring here. There is style, knowledge, and presentation of a unique kind. All jazz musicians strive to obtain a unique style and sound. Yet I think the highest level of achievement any musician, or writer can obtain, is to become an artist at his or her craft. Artists are not made, they are born with this great gift. Emile De Cosmos book, The Path To Jazz Improvisation, is an artistic achievement in our time. It is quite simply a masterpiece of writing that could easily be called the bible of jazz.
David J. Gibson