Among most teachers of academia as well as privately, the study and training in proper rhythmic fluency and rigor is currently almost entirely neglected. Great artists are not affected in their early development as they are born with their rhythmic consciousness expanded; However, this state of affairs is to the detriment of the majority of aspirants who cannot ascend to the higher levels of improvisational mastery present in their heros given the current incomplete music education programs and to most private teachers neglect.
Contrary to the real world experience of a master, rhythm is not considered to be very important in contemporary music curriculums and harmony and scale theory are considered to be the foundation of music and musical education, when in the real world of improvisational mastery it is rhythm that is the foundation of all music. Without it there is diffuse amateurism and tentative grasping for coherence at best. The result is disappointingly powerless performances that do not inspire and audience in any genre.
Most dissect solos by Hendrix, Pat Martino, Coltrane, Holdsworth, Chick Corea, Clapton, Jack Bruce, Jaco Pastorius and other masters, but purely on a harmonic level and in a modal framework, atonal, polyphonic, etc… But there is no realization that it is the rhythmic variations and accents, as fundamental elements of phrasing, that give life, power, grace and transcendence to these masterpieces.
Most players cannot play in time for very long and improvise at the same time . That in itself reduces their power by 95%. Yet it is not even acknowledged by them in most cases, but an audience knows when it is missing and when it is there. A Coltrane or Dolphy or Michael Brecker solo exists in a state of timeless wonder only because they were both absolute masters of playing in time and using rhythmic variations very deliberately, with exalted fluency and superb control and spontaneity.
John Mclaughlin is explosively transcendental because the elements -seen by most as otherworldly- in his improvised language are held tightly in his finely honed dominion over rhythm and time signatures. Emerging master improviser Bryan Baker was forged into a musical colossus by his long and focussed study of the elements of rhythm. As a result he as ascended as a unique voice rather early in his career. Allan Holdsworth is admired for his melodic fluency and harmonic conception but nothing is said about his mastery of rhythmic fluency, where one finds the relentlessly hypnotic momentum behind his phenomenal legato and sometimes staccato phrasing.
It is high time in 2012 that music educators ad the missing link of absolute rhythmic study to their curriculums. If not the current situation will continue with only the very few born with rhythmic awareness going on to great musical expression and the great majority staying mired in frustration and imprisoned in mediocrity.