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All About Jazz: The web's most comprehensive jazz resource

Opinion/Editorial

The True Language Of Jazz

By Published: March 1, 2012
While I am all for jazz education (being a jazz educator, jazz composer, and avid promoter of jazz education), the old expression "jazz isn't taught—it's caught" really does make a valid point. Being too analytical of the music can often rob you of the natural emotional responses that should come from hearing and playing the music. Jazz trumpeter Dan Jacobs, ph.d. shares a very profound insight when he says "Don't let an obsession for perfection suffocate your art." Jazz composer/arranger Maria Schneider
Maria Schneider
Maria Schneider

band/orchestra
elucidates this point even further "I want my music to bring people out of their heads and into their hearts so that the most intellectual musician sitting there is no longer analyzing what I'm doing, but I've brought them out of that kind of head space. I think that's where jazz has lost a lot of people and actually lost itself in a way. So many people think that going further and further is getting deeper into the head. It's not. That's not where this music came from. This music came from the heart. And that's not to say that music can't be complex. But when music is complex for complexity's sake, that's where it runs into problems."

The roots of jazz music come from the Negro spirituals, the blues, and church. They are often ecstatic in nature. The dictionary defines the word ecstatic as "an overpowering emotion or exaltation; a state of sudden, intense feeling." A person playing or listening to the music is overpowered emotionally and both the players and listeners can feel it. A person becomes jazzed.

This is not, however, to deny that there are both technical and spiritual aspects to jazz. You have to master the technical aspects to develop jazz language but the rhythmic feel of swing still has a very strong spiritual/emotional element as well—you can't have one without the other. Within the jazz community there are extreme positions taken that only serve to separate and divide it. I think we need to find common ground and the common ground is this: blues and jazz has birthed a myriad of musical styles—swing, funk, R&B, soul, rock, fusion, Brazilian/Latin & Afro-Cuban jazz. And we should be able to appreciate this smorgasbord even though it might not be our favorite style of jazz. Why? Because jazz, in all its flavors, is a gift to be enjoyed and savored.

Leonardo DaVinci once said, "Do you know that our souls are composed of music?" Music and religion are intimately linked and music is one of the most powerful tools to convey religious meaning. I personally think that we have been graciously given the gift of music to transform us from our humdrum, everyday existence, into something out of the ordinary. Whether music excites us or soothes us, it transports us to another place. When we play and listen to music we should be lifted out of ourselves and enjoy the very language of the heavens. So celebrate today and be jazzed!


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