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Great article and those are some lofty goals, but I suggest we all stop trying to push jazz on people and just enjoy it. For some reason you can lead people to Jazz and you can even make them listen, but you can't make them love it. I used to wonder why that was, but now I'm content to just love it for what it is...one of the many styles of music that I personally love.
Now I'll be more than happy to help someone get into Jazz if they ask and I make no secrets about being a fan for just this reason. I've had several people take me up on this who have become Jazz fans and that makes me feel like I'm doing my part.
I find these discussions about tonality largely irrelevant, as the top-level domain in Jazz is *rhythm*. I'd submit that the 'dissonant' classical composers like Stravinsky, Bartok, and Busoni are just as rhythm-centered, and I'm not about to jettison what I've learned from them. The bottom line is that a musician has a choice of playing 'in' or 'out'. However, if those rhythms aren't properly seated, a group will flounder. I'm not talking about setting a performance against a metronome -- anyone can do that, in the practice room. It's quite another thing to drop into a groove at will -- the zone, for lack of a better word -- as Richard Davis and Freddie Waits did with Andrew Hill.
I wouldn't place blame with the music so much as on audiences raised on the simple beats and hooks of pop music. Jazz requires an attention span and yes, a little effort, to understand and appreciate. Most people aren't willing to make the effort. Classical music suffers from the same issue.
I'm not sure how you can talk about jazz musicians doing drugs and not mentioning rock & roll musicians, who not only do drugs, but act out and do insane things and yet because it is danceable it is OK? Although R&R and Pop, Rap & Hip Hop maybe big money makers they do not necessarily contribute to raising the bar the way that jazz does. In my opinion R&R has contributed to the dummying down of the arts.
Fraid I can't totally agree with you Dom, much as I'd love to :) I don't think it's fair to say R&R has contributed to the dumming down of the arts any more than smooth jazz has ....
As in any style of music, there's the good shit and the bad, and there's some great, well thought-out, arranged and orchestrated rock music out there. There's also plenty of shite, and I'd probably go so far as to say the signal to noise ratio is higher (meaning more noise, less signal, that's what I mean to say) than, perhaps in jazz.
But I'm always loathe to whitewash anything, and I still listen to plenty of rock music,albeit not R&R per se, as I was never a fan of the real hardcore stuff, like Chuck Berry, etc.
But in all genres there's gold...you just have to know where to find it. And if there's anything that's been responsible for dumming down the arts, it's the combination of media (and I'm sorry to say that as a part of it) and the larger industry. But it's more complex than even that, as you can point to Hollywood (but again, am loathe to whitewash as there's plenty of good stuff there), who has made dumb the new smart in the last decade, causing a generation of kids to think that good accessories and bling make you a worthy individual.
Damn, I'm starting to sound like an old fart!!
You're not an old fart John, you just make sense. I wasn't trying to say that all R&R is bad but the 'media' tells us that bad music is good...What I may think is crap others may think is great, that's a given. My only fear is we are being over-swamped by crap and no one is saying stop! enough!
On that, we agree! :)
Dom, in the article it clearly states that drug abuse has been a problem not only for modern society at large but for musicians in all styles of music. I would agree with you that much of the present day pabulum music that is considered Rock N Roll is gob shite!
My point in the article was that even from the earliest days of human beings that rhythmic pulse and responsive dance to that pulse has always been a natural response. You can hardly blame kids today for responding to music containing heavy beats - it has always been that way. But the musicians writing and playing most of the material I hear today is nothing more than 4 bar loops containing a melody (if you want to call it that!) with a plethora of intervals of 4ths and 5ths. And this is definitely in my opinion dumbing down music in general.
There are always a few exceptions but that's why I am a firm believer in jazz education and starting the education in pre-school! All good music requires some kind of attention span (unless it's background elevator music). The French composer Claude Debussy put it this way when speaking about listening to music: "There is no theory. You have only to listen. Pleasure is the only law."
Jeff, don't think that the article was pushing jazz on anyone. Just trying to articulate what people say they don't like about jazz, try to clear up some misconceptions, and possibly help open up some minds. Then more people might possibly even listen to it and discover that they do like it after all.
@ John Kelman: Being "...loathe to whitewash anything...[acknowledging that] in all genres there's gold...you just have to know where to find it" is as close to a critic's credo if I ever heard one! The trick for many listeners, especially those for whom music is a more casual, occasional pleasure, is that there's only so much time to listen, so a few examples that fit Mr. Arivett's top five reasons is enough to turn people off. Which is why we need as many people as possible commenting, critiquing, suggesting and posting about all the good stuff waiting out there =)
No I know you're not pushing it...I guess there's just no accounting for taste. I was at Target today and saw a kids toy guitar from VTech...it had three settings: Rock, Hip Hop and Jazz. When set to Jazz it played some tasty little Be Bop type riffs...it's a start.
I suggested to Loren Schoenberg, at the Jazz Museum in Harlem, that an answer could be to finance (somehow) a free jazz CD given out with every hip hop or chart CD bought (or maybe with every downloaded track, via a careful paring up). He liked the idea and said it could possibly be done with music from the recently discovered (live) Savory Collection. The point is that this is what turned the teenage Eric Clapton on to jazz: the store owner at the place where he bought blues albums refused to sell him any albums unless he bought a jazz LP at the same time...
An analogy is where the bank matches your purchase with a cent or two in your savings account.
Another point is that the public usually sees a sax quartet playing a modern jazz piece (or some incomprehensible--to them--rapid fire "fusion"), and probably not played in a too creative way either. It may be that there should be more emphasis, in current mainstream jazz, on people like Duke Ellington, rather than guys re-cycling sax solos over and over. I have met hip hop people (in LA) who worship Ellington, and also rock fans who know "Mood Indigo"! Duke spans all musics, so more use of his music, ideas and techniques will inevitably lead to more fans being included as "jazz fans".
On the free giveaway, Simon, good idea. On the Ellington side? Not so sure I agree with you. For some young folks, listening to Ellington (as great as he is/was) is like watching a black and white movie....I had a huge argument with one of my cousin's kids a few years back, about that very thing, and it just didn't get through. Black and White films, and a lot of old school jazz, for many, just feels old and anachronistic to a lot of young folks.
More, I think, should be explored in the area of them hearing music they KNOW - not standards that fall in the same category - Brad Mehldau, for example, doing Radiohead, and other contemporary groups, alongside older material.
I think what's needed to draw folks in - of any age - is to give them some immediately recognizable reference points. Metalheads will, in fact, love the fusion that you don't; folkies would love Mehldau doing Nick Drake; jamband kids are already pulled into MMW and Bela Fleck and the Flecktones.
So I don't think a single entry point is the right answer, I'm afraid; I think it's more complex than that, and the real answer is: reference points that people can relate to. For some, that's melodic, danceable music; for others, high velocity soloing.
David Arivett, I'm not disputing your premise, but am curious as to how you compiled your top five reasons why people consider " jazz" a dirty word. Was a public opinion survey conducted recently?
Also, the attitude of some well-known musicians themselves may complicate your campaign to sanitize the word "jazz." Ellington, Mingus and many other iconic figures have dissed the word, calling it racist and creatively restrictive.
Alan - having been both a composer and performer of jazz music I have frequently come across people who immediately are turned off as soon as the word jazz is mentioned. So I started asking them why - and these are the five reasons that I came up with based on what people have said.
Yes jazz musicians have dissed the word jazz - its ironic that Duke Ellington composed 'sacred jazz' music? I guess some of the same people 'dissin' on the word jazz still loved and respected the music as being sacred or holy anyway!
I really mean Ellington as in a compositional approach, such as some great new composers use--writing in sections and joining them together. A more classical approach. Ellington did it all in three minutes, but now of course there is more time. Another way to say it is, make good new music with lots of colors. But ultimately, if someone sitting in a cafe suddenly hears a record of something like Coleman Hawkin's "Body And Soul", and they can't recognize the greatness in it, then they're probably not going to listen to much real music anyway.
As to current jazz people playing rock music, it might be better if current rock bands openly played jazz-styled or jazz-influenced music. That's a good avenue... that's what the Beatles did! Maybe there should be a law that indie bands have to play (royalty-free) a jazz-related cover at every gig, and then they'll be guaranteed a quickly paid, though tiny, performance royalty for their own tunes! Financed by a "quality of life" tax!
First, I'd respectfully suggest not whitewashing, with comments like "if someone sitting in a cafe suddenly hears a record of something like Coleman Hawkin's "Body And Soul", and they can't recognize the greatness in it, then they're probably not going to listen to much real music anyway," Simon; different ears tell different people different things, and not everyone will appreciate "Body and Soul." That doesn't mean they don't already listen to much "real" music - after all, what is "real" music, Simon? No disrespect, but sounds to me like you're applying your personal filter as the determiner of what's good...and what ain't.
As a writer, and as Managing Editor, one of my primary pieces of advice for new writers is this: we are not the arbiters of what is good; we are only the arbiters of what we like. In other words, our tastes do not determine what is good and what is bad, they only determine what we like and what we don't. Personally, while I've a pretty broad palette when it comes to what I like in music, I've yet to find an entry point into opera that works for me, despite my wife finding some of it absolutely sublime. If I were to use my personal feelings about how opera moves me, it'd sure not be positive; but there's no denying the music...my ears just don't "get it."
Similarly, there are people for whom jazz is the edgy, left of center stuff; others, for whom the note-filled fusion you seem very much against, the real deal.
But if we're talking about how to bring people in, I stand by my comment: find out what they already like and look for ways to bring them in, through a part of the broad spectrum that is jazz, through someone who appeals.
When i was young I worked in a record store, and told them if they let me buy the jazz section for them, I'd triple their sales in three months. I did. How? When a guy came in (this was the '70s) and says he likes Jimi Hendrix, I play him Mahavishnu Orchestra. When someone comes in and says they like Santana, I play him Tito Puente. When someone says they liked Crosby, Stills & Nash, I play him Miles doing Guinnevere.
In my opinion, it's all about context, and not forcing people to places their not yet ready. You can usually take people from point A to B; but you often have to make some considered stops along the way.
As for it being better that rock bands played jazz-styled or jazz-influenced music? Well, some do, but those who don't do it don't do it for a reason. If they don't hear it, if they don't feel it, why would they play it? They need to get past that hurdle first, and that brings me back to my comment about getting people in via their own markers.
Also, one quick point: let's not forget that Ellington did 3-minutes, at least partially, because of the limitations of recording media at the time (78s). Once LPs became the standard, he began recording more extended pieces, like "Princess Blue" on Live at Newport 1958. I'm not suggesting that long is better, and Duke continued to also write short pieces; all I am saying is that the medium dictated the message, at least to some extent, and freed up from that medium.....also, while I think there is great value in the ability to play concisely, I see nothing wrong with extended writing or soloing, if the artist has something to say.
"... says he likes Jimi Hendrix, I play him Mahavishnu Orchestra. When someone comes in and says they like Santana, I play him Tito Puente. When someone says they liked Crosby, Stills & Nash, I play him Miles doing Guinnevere": that's good.
"Real" music is composed music (and this includes of course improvisation... instant composition). It is organic. I can stand my room-mate playing a traditional Asian song on a guitar and singing off-key--the performance is organic music and I can filter it out--but I have to have a computerized "pop" track turned down, as the computer (its overly-quantized beat) is affecting my body, via my ears!! It's not real music.
The rock suggestion is humorous, but it is not a joke that Keith Richards said the Stones evolved as they did because he listened to the BBC "Light" radio station in the 50s, which played Berry, Mantovani, Bennett, rockabilly, anything, back to back, all real music, and all organic. Also that George Harrison quoted Segovia and Atkins as his two fave influences in 1964, to a fan magazine, or that the Beatles routinely played 30 minute versions of "What I'd Say" in Hamburg, or that Stevie Wonder copied the descending clarinet part from Ellington's (late-ish period) "Black Beauty" note for note in a later hit. It all inter-connects.
Bands, recently, don't have any exposure to good radio, or to a broad aura of music, I think. Compare the music charts of the early 70s to those of the early 2000s... ouch. But I still think a tax could be levied on hip hop sales (even though paid by the purchaser) to expand performance, by subsidy, of earlier American musical achievements. A culture tax!! ...kind of a joke too, but the damage wrought by computer beats must be going to be massive. Either that or ban Clear Channel or Comcast! More anti-trust cases might be the answer. But, in truth, radio is finished, and the answer is Youtube. You can listen to entire albums to see what is there. It's the new radio: performance royalties are paid.
I was listening to Tupac: much of his art (it's not, overall, necessarily "music" as such) contains much soul music influence, Stevie Wonder, etc... very clever, adding a harmonica here, a chorus there. He was starting to sound like "What's Going On"! That too is real... something. Art. Poetry of course. And then I like "The Inner Mounting Flame" too, "Birds Of Paradise", all that stuff. It's all colors. Jan Hammer, yeah!
I think it's easy to say what is "real music". It's anything that's good, that does not waste your ear time, and erase it with "the other stuff" (paraphrasing Duke Ellington). There is music produced that is not in the "good" category. It does exist, and it is objectively identifiable. Karl Haas, on public radio, had the program "Adventures In Good Music". He played classical music, mostly romantic though he included Berg once--and he also referred to the Beatles humorously, in his deep German Jewish-American accent: "And in the field of rock music [laugh] I myself always thought that the Beatles were extremely good musicians".
I get into Beethoven riffs in the same way I get into Hendrix.
But I suppose there are degrees of good: a boy band cover of a Bee Gees classic has some merit. But the original probably has more merit. And taste is a different thing again... you don't necessarily like all good music, although you can get close.
In all cases, the music has to be judged on its own merits. I love long solos, and play them (!), but they have to be of merit. Clapton plays for the whole side of Cream Vol II, and it's great. It all depends on the musician.
"I have to have a computerized "pop" track turned down, as the computer (its overly-quantized beat) is affecting my body, via my ears!! It's not real music. "
As long as you qualify that statement with "to me," then I've no issue. If you are defining what is real music for the world, based on your tastes, then that's another story. Personally, there's plenty that can be and is being done with technology to create music that, my ears, is absolutely organic, like Jan Bang from Norway: http://www.allaboutjazz.com/php/article.php?id=36892
That some rock artists quote jazz, or don't is of no issue. You seem to be missing my point that to introduce people to something, a very compelling and successful way is to start with something to which they can relate. THEN you can go further. The Hendrix freak who I introduced to Mahavishnu, for example? Next step was a McLaughlin record like My Goal's Beyond, which is all-acoustic. From there,. since it has a lovely version of "Goodbye Porkpie Hat," it's Mingus. So, from Hendrix to Mingus in three easy steps? Seems like a reasonable and successful approach, to me.
I agree about radio, but with the proliferation of the internet, for me, radio is largely irrelevant, as you can always hear just about anything, somewhere, if you know how to look. That said, to me, the real problem there, then, is the volume of new music, which is at unprecedented levels. Far more to compete for peoples' time than they'll ever be able to manage.
The other thing is this: the idea of levying a tax on what you think isn't real music to support music that is? All due respect, Simon, that reeks of elitism? Who are you (or I) to define what is real music and what is not? Hip hop, in its origins, was protest music, and music that had a specific sociological appeal, much as jazz in the '50s and '60s often was. That it has become something bigger is just the usual opportunism: if something is doing well, taking it even bigger and making it even more successful. There are actually some really good early hip hop bands where, while the music doesn't move me, the lyrics do.
Saying "I think it's easy to say what is "real music". It's anything that's good, that does not waste your ear time, and erase it with "the other stuff" Sure, Simon, just so long as you appreciate that "what is good" varies from person to person; what "does not waster your ear time and erase it with 'other stuff'? is equally a personal definition. The music that wastes your ear time may be manna from heaven for me, and so, does that mean I listen to "bad music" by your definition? No, because, to me, it is good music because it appeals to me.
I agree, music has to based on its own merits, but again, we can only hear what our ears tell us, and what your ears tell you is ultimately different from what my ears tell me - meaning that music is, at the end of the day, a distinctly personal thing and, therefore, something that cannot be compartmentalized into empirical "good" and "bad."
"I have to have a computerized "pop" track turned down, as the computer (its overly-quantized beat) is affecting my body, via my ears!! It's not real music." Absolutely. It ain't genuine. To anyone. It can't be. Some music is now "made" in a different way, so that the organic nature is not there. It's disposable, to make money. Autotune anybody? It is dangerous, as computers make it easy to do also. This is why I buy LPs when I can find them!
Introduce via what they're already into... I said that. I agree. Good idea. Or place a tasteful and bright CD cover of something brilliant at the the top of the steps in the store, when they walk up, as I did when I worked for three months in a record store myself. Instant sale! Too bad the manager didn't get it.
"... hear just about anything, somewhere, if you know how to look... the real problem there, then, is the volume of new music, which is at unprecedented levels": not really, as this is where internet research comes in. You ignore radio (except niche programs) and use the internet to research. Which people do, hence all the excited Youtube comments. The increased volume of music is from DIY recording and increased population, and probably simply from a flow on from the ease of playing the rock genre in general.
"Radio is largely irrelevant": that's what I said.
Some hip hop was protest music, and is. Other hip hop was and is to create an economy that was needed, out of the same reasons (Russell Simmons). I said Tupac was incredible, and the lyrics are poetry. That's what I said! NWA were good, and Dr Dre.
The tax is a joke, as I said! It would also create distortions in the economy of the industry, and so affect the participants.
Duke said music is either good or the other stuff. "And taste is a different thing again... you don't necessarily like all good music". Good is different from taste, like I said.
Again, Simon, you really must stop expecting everyone to see and hear music they way you do. Real music is different things to different people. You may not like computerized beats, but I assure you that some folks who have tastes as discerning as you seem to do...myself included, in the right context. It's not all disposable to make money. I can provide plenty of examples to argue otherwise. You seem to have a knee-jerk against computers, yet there are plenty of highly credible jazz musicians who use them as part of their arsenal of colors.
As for internet research, agreed; but there's still a lot to weed through, and for some folks it's damn near unfathomable. And I have to take you up on "ease of playing rock genre in general," again, as rather elitist. Different skills involved. There are plenty of great jazzers with tremendous chops, strong harmony and all that who can't groove in a simple rock pulse. That's not a knock, only to say that (again) whitewashing ANYTHING is slippery slope. There's some great rock music, some average rock music, some crap music. Same can be said for jazz or anything else. So the point is?
"Good is different from taste," yes SImon, but the arguments you are putting forth seem to suggest otherwise, as you keep referring to things you don't like as bad music - your own comment "It's not real music. absolutely. It ain't genuine. To anyone. It can't be." Sorry, that sounds like you're assuming everyone will respond the way you do, and I just cannot agree with that.
This article has a great last paragraph.
I support the article's points! For example I wrote this about what I feel is an important line in the article:
"Then there's those ten minute solos, where a jazz musician plays every dissonant scale he's ever been taught"...
The article also says about bebop, that it led to danceable jazz being "... replaced by a more serious focus on technical expertise, and the analysis of jazz as an art form": but the feel was still the boss of the technical--technical was there just because you had to be a virtuoso to play the music. Feel is absent a lot now, because of too many examples of this: the "jazz musician play[ing] every dissonant scale he's ever been taught". You are not supposed to play scales you have learned! For example, Parker worked out his own scales, his own language, from presumably the basic scales. You shouldn't learn the "extreme" scales... you should look at what he and others did, then play what you feel from that. Otherwise, it would be like learning a Clapton solo note for note, and saying, "Hey I'm a rock musician". You're not, you just copied something. I know Coltrane focused on scales and modes, with pages of them on the kitchen table, but that was his style and his way of moving forward, of playing. It cannot be that way for everybody.
I didn't copy Hendrix solos note for note, or copy the Jimmy Page solo from "Stairway to Heaven" note for note--there's no point. I looked at them carefully, and saw what was happening, learning bits of them. Then I found I could play my own, out of them--for example I played an incredible (completely new) solo at a jam that I luckily recorded live at 19.
That has to be the approach. Don't learn extreme scales. Listen instead. Learn what is beneficial, and only you can be the judge of what will be for you. I plan to learn some John McLaughlin solos from the Five Peace Band gigs, but it will obviously be what I feel teaches me ways to use notes! I don't care what the "scales" are, unless it really assists in seeing what is happening.
PS: Berendt's book is great. There are several editions. For example, there's nothing like reading about, say, Avery Sharpe, and then seeing him live. It is as if the book suddenly came to life (which it did).
Computers: the beat thing was an example. Another track I heard through the wall was a Dr Dre production, and was OK though still mechanical. My comments on computers are anyway restricted to points about maintaining the beat with one. You could probably do it as a short cut, or as a cost-saving measure. Obviously a computer can be used to make non-beat sounds etc that may be new.
You really need to hear what's going on in Norway, Simon; it might change your mind about computers and programmed beats....some of these guys are masters. No doubt, in infancy, beat programming was stiff and mechanical; no longer, however.
@ John - what is going on in Norway John with computers, ect. that you mentioned...I'm curious!
If the people you heard are mixing up the beat, fine. Eg, a beat, then a pause/change. Obviously, where you have variation, there is potentially art. But what I heard above through the wall was a horror story! But maybe a different mind set up can use it: it depends how your mind has developed. But if someone's mind has developed by listening to high pitched b(l)eats, ie plastic music, then look out! Their mind may be "mis-trained". NB: This is most likely moving into medical territory, and is therefore speculative.
I would most likely prefer, anyway, the perfect looking Toscanini ten inch 78s I bought yesterday of Beethoven's Pastoral Symphony. Now there's texture and balance! (Perhaps too much).
Simon, I think we're done as it's clear we need to agree to disagree.
David, check out some of my coverage of Punkt Festival at the main site, to get a broad range of names I've seen, over the past five years, who are pushing the music forward by seamlessly integrating technology with more traditional forms of music (go here and search for Punkt: http://www.allaboutjazz.com/php/article_center.php). A few names that stick out for me are: Nils Petter Molvaer,, Arve Henriksen, Jan Bang, Eivind Aarset Susanna and the Magical Orchestra, Supersilent, Mungolian Jetset - and all the live remixes that form the core of the festival's philosophy. Also, guys like Jon Hassell are doing much with technology, and have been since the 1970s, but the technology has finallyt caught up with their vision.
No! (I knew you would say that!). "Obviously, where you have variation, there is potentially art." This is of course speaking compositionally. So, if it is anything different to the one beat (unlike on some "pop" records) it can potentially be art. By the way, a beat is that: a beat, as in 1 2 3 4. I think some people mean a backing riff when they say "beat".
You may still however have the problem of texture in the actual sound produced. For example, the "drums" on the singer Dido's records should have been left off--they were put there to make her and the British record people rich. And of course they were providing what the fashion was at the time, for the "commercial" listener. I hope there are masters or the individual tracks available without those machines, so the true quality of that music can be heard... or, Vijay Iyer's two computer records (with his poet collaborator) are excellent art and have a powerful message, but there is still the plastic-y sound of the computer itself. That's digital sound, the actual body of the sound entirely without a human element.
It's similar to CDs themselves: you can "see behind the note" when listening to them. It is also why Bob Dylan said there hadn't been a good record in "(x) years" because they sound like "static" to him. They do. He meant the recording, not the compositions as such. Digital sound is a problem. The earlier classical recordings are abject, for example some digitally recorded Mozart CDs I heard (from the early '90s). You can actually see through the notes sometimes. There are literally holes in the sound, and they are totally unlistenable. What a waste.
Organic sound as well as composition pay off.
This is why Little Women (and Darius Jones) play without any effects at all. That's the ultimate step.
This does not mean you can't collage yourself in computers. For example, I can hear aggressive high trumpet through a chattering cacophony of computer noises, like crickets. Just one idea!
By the way, what is "real music"?: good music!
I have a Youtube channel called http://www.youtube.com/societyforrealmusic
Obviously it is just my favorite music, but it is definitely good and organic.
I say newer jazz people need to make sure that they are playing good music and all will be great. Keep moving forward. The real point is that people in the street think jazz means a guy with a beard playing something that they've heard before.
Simon, my last worda on the subject, as I think we're beating a dead horse :)
You say real music is good music, and you define good music, at least some of it, as stuff you like. That's been my point all along; we cannot be the arbiters of what is good, only what we like.
Second, saying newer jazz people need to make sure they are playing good music is a problem because of my point above. You don't like Jonathan Kreisberg, for example, and suggested to me that it was, based on your definition, "bad" music. I cannot agree, to me, Jonathan is making not just good music, but great music. Clearly our tastes differ, and we need to be cognizant, then, that we are not defining what is good - or even what is real - we are only defining what we like. And ditto, what sounds organic to one set of ears may not sound so to another's.
Again, my argument with you here is that you keep trying to define what is good, what is real, what is organic, but you seem to suggest these are empirical definitions, when they really are not, and cannot be. They are simply statements based on what moves you; and if your ears tell you to like this and not that, well, that's absolutely fine - we cannot all hear music the same way. But I'd be wary of using our opinions to define anything more than that...our opinions.
I assure all readers (!!) that there are two types of music, good and the other music... I am quoting , of course, D E. But I don't have to quote him. The people who claim to disgaree are only the people who wish to forcibly expose the massed populations to sounds that do not help them. There are numerous totalitarian examples.
I did not define good as what I had on my channel. You are "moved", as you put it, by good music.
I did not say the guitarist JK was bad, baaad, or anything else. But I do note, on the first clip I looked at today, that he has been called "mechanical jazz" on Youtube. That is the point of this article. I would prefer a composer to that clip I do say. People's reactions like this need to be investigated, hence the article.
This is me by the way,
I learnt something at 18 when I read a book called "The Story of Popular Music" by Tony Palmer: interested in seeing what he had to say about Elton John, I saw that he had only a quarter page photo of Elton, with three other musicians on the page, and merely noted, in the caption, that "Elton John was [very popular] ... but his music is empty." That taught me a lot. It is not an "empirical" judgment, but it is a value judgment that can, and must, be made at some time. I like Elton's chords, but the author was merely stating the truth. There is not the depth of say Cat Stevens. (It may be worth a study to see if peoples' brains are shaped to like, or accept, certain music. For example, after hearing the Beatles fully at 17, I automatically ditched some of the earlier rock music I had listened to. It trained me about substance. Someone who is only exposed to Top 40 may not realize what else there is there).
Snob peer pressure among jazz musicians, jazz academia, and fans is a constant obstacle for it to reach a larger audience. Since the jazz community can't come to a consensus on how to define jazz, it will continue to suffer. For a music that is historically so concerned with pushing boundaries and individual expression, it is so resistant to accept something new, unless it meets meets some archaic criteria. It's all good. Fear is bad. Jazz is not pure.
Jazz is a type of music that evolved from blues and "pre-blues" Afro-American music and late nineteenth century classical music forms, including the march. The main point is improvisation, as in the blues (I would say blues is improvisation almost in itself, as the whole point is to be expressive in conveying your position, any which way that works: slide, lyrics, cries, etc). Translated to the trumpet and so on, with western classical and parlor music influence added, you have jazz.
So if people remember this, then as music moves forward anything thrown into that broad category will be a part of jazz (and maybe other music too). Jazz could be called instrumentally-centered composition with a free beat and with room for improvisation, (possibly including vocal playing and/or singing) .
Jazz hit a temporary problem of "general" societal popularity in 1960 when it began to be associated with numbers and thinking on more than "just" melody/harmony aspects. That, along with national medals and awards presented to jazz people (ironically!), has probably kept "official jazz" away from record players at parties.
So I think an increasing blending of rock and jazz (inevitable given the rock influence on evolving musicians) will solve that. "World" music is now also coming into the picture. This is great, and so when other people realize that a lot of upcoming jazz is linked to mainstream rock and other music in some way, then the doors will be open again. But I think universities need to remember that too, and not be so narrow in pushing the 1950s-60s "academic take" on jazz's history.
Copyright me 2011!
Good post; I'm with you on the "Fear is bad. Jazz is not pure," in particular. The time I spend in Europe, and Norway, especially, has really opened my eyes and ears to possibilities I'd have not considered otherwise, and it leaks into the rest of my listening now, the end result I believe I'm more open to possibilities than I once was. Thanks for articulating something that's often on my mind.
Image is another problem: a modern photo of an academic-looking guy with an instrument is going to completely shut out the browsing "punter" (unless that is actually the musician's image, like Bill Evans). Image is very important--you need a "handle", something for people to grab onto in their minds, even to identify with.
For example, Duke Ellington had "suave", the suit. Miles had wierd. Ozzy Osbourne has crazy. Fleetwood Mac had "family values". The Beatles had cute. These are focus points for a consumer, as opposed to a listener, to associate the music with in their minds. Everybody famous has had these handles to hold onto. It seems almost to be a psychological necessity.
The image is also in the music: Duke's music was very sophisticated, and even his song titles (from others) possessed this aspect. Davis' music did not stay conventional, like himself (his dress changed). The Beatles' songs were very neat and pretty.
In these days of independent musicians, the musicians need to think this out for themselves (or hire me!).
If you wanna get noticed. (This one is gonna be copyright too, as it may go into an article somewhere. I paid to learn this information!).
Great post Jeffrey! I want to quote some of your words "Snob peer pressure among jazz musicians, jazz academia, and fans is a constant obstacle for it to reach a larger audience. Since the jazz community can't come to a consensus on how to define jazz, it will continue to suffer."
The jazz community is deeply divided and partitioned off into many factions. What the jazz community needs desperately is a unified concept and approach to presenting their music to others. My article was written in part to help jazz musicians realize how they are alienating themselves from the average listener. There isn't any room for snobbery. Jazz musicians must view their music with wonder and share it as a gift to be cherished. Here are two quotes that I recently ran across that really drive this point home:
"Don't let an obsession for perfection suffocate your art." - (Jazz trumpeter Dan Jacobs) The second quote is from (Maria Schneider) "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."
I believe that jazz education holds the keys in defining to the upcoming generations what jazz is to their students. If jazz educators will clearly articulate to their students that jazz music is a spiritual expression that is closely associated with an emotional feel and response to the rhythms of life itself that is a tremendous place to start.
Secondly jazz educators and musicians must emphasize that jazz music developed from the blues and spirituals into a myriad of styles and flavors and the only rules are freedom to express themselves without imposing boundaries. If the jazz community can come to a place of openness, tolerance, and appreciation for the diversity of this music it will not only survive but thrive.
David and everyone gathered here, an engaging discussion, on a topic one that I have given a great deal of thought to. So much thought on this and closely related subject matter, I may have to draft a think piece about it. However I wanted to say that I was moved to respond here now after reading the Maria Schneider quote. "I want my music to bring people out of their heads and into their hearts.." is my pivotal ethos every single time I set out to compose or execute my own music. In fact I have an album that refers to 'the breastbone drum' (the hearth) as the source of music for me. And for me, it is not the romantic heart alone, but the undying heart of hope, the heart that struggles, the heart that cries for the ones who die and suffer in this unjust place of humanity that I am moved to make music - oh yes I am alone in this literally. I am forced to create with computer technology, but I do all I can to bring about an organic quality to all I create. Listening to my most recent remstering (I am getting ready to make limited run of CDr's to be available online, on a tragically 'tight budget'- no budget at all really), and time gives you distance to listen as a third person would. And I have to admit that it sound remarkably life-like, human, organic, heartfelt, true. I can say with dignity and humility that I have heard human musicians who cannot evince as much emotion as the computer music I compose. I am always however seeking ways to improve it, I do not have the most high end of softwares available now (money again) - and since I cannot market or advertise this album it does not sell at all. But I am using this as an example of, given music that is from the heart, rich, full, beautiful, who would want it? Apparently nobody. I would have to analyse why this is so, for I am sure I am not the only overlooked and neglected music maker around. We are not even talking about expanding the audience for this kind of creative music- the existing 'cognocenti' do not want it. Why not? How many others like me are being rjected so completely we cannot gig, we cannot eat, we cannot have a career in the field that the divine has called us to?
Thank you for the opportunity to speak from my heart. I do wish to seem to want to 'plug' my album. This is a sad phenomenon we must look into.
Jane Ira Bloom
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