Stylistically-appropriate articulation has long been under-taught in jazz education. (Or waved away with a “ya gotta listen”) . But that is changing , with some recent guides and method books starting to find some consensus about best practices. Concepts like which notes to accent, or how long to sustain certain notes, apply to all jazz instrumentalists. But wind-instrument players have the extra complication of which notes to tongue or slur. This distinction is critical to good jazz style.
In classical music, wind players usually perform articulation markings with accuracy. But printed jazz music can take varied approaches to articulation markings.
Some charts for experienced players have sparing articulation markings or none at all. The composer, arranger, and/or editor trust the performers to apply appropriate style:
Others, particularly more recent ones, use markings that reflect the crystallizing best practices:
But may otherwise well-written charts, bafflingly, use markings that are not stylistically appropriate:
Some red flags include long slurs and staccato markings. Experienced jazz players instinctively ignore these bad markings and use better articulation practices. (Long slurs can in some cases be explained away as “phrase” markings. But since they are visually indistinguishable from slurs, it’s better to omit them.)
Occasionally a good jazz composer or arranger will use an articulation marking in a surprising or unusual context. It’s up to the performers to determine whether this is an intentional break from typical jazz style, or an editing error.
In some cases, a composer/arranger might even choose a particularly anti-swing articulation as a kind of joke. This is usually followed by a figure that should be played with exaggerated, correct swing and articulation. This heightens the contrast between “good” and “joke” style:
Jazz players and educators are responsible to know and apply correct articulation, using their best musical judgment to override the written parts when appropriate.