Yogi Berra on Jazz


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Dec 24, 2008
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Cape Town
Yogi Berra Explains Jazz:

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 what's 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.


AVForums Member
Dec 8, 2020
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Some years ago I had the privilege of seeing Ornette Coleman perform in a large auditorium - he was the headline Act on a bill that included some popular performers like Sergio Mendes.

The auditorium was packed when OC and his band started setting up; by the end of their first track it was at (maybe) ten per cent capacity. It was as if a bomb threat had been announced.

Anyway, Yogi's 'explanation' is perhaps apt as a description of free jazz or other more experimental sub-genres.

That is, assuming he said it...I mean, did he even say the words "I never said most of the things I said" (something Churchill, no doubt, would never say)?