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What is Jazz?

WHAT IS JAZZ?

Words and Music: Why Liner Notes Matter

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It is said that we live in The Information Age, but perhaps, it would be more correct to say that we live in the Age of Too Much Information. If there is something you are looking for, you can often find it on the Internet, but the question is whether it is quantity rather than quality. Of course, in spite of increasing commercialization and an endless pile of trash, there is also much valuable information to be found on the ...

WHAT IS JAZZ?

Jazz Popularity and You

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Twenty years ago I read in a William Bennett book that jazz made up only 3% of the music market. I often lamented that when jazz came up in any of the classes I taught. I further wondered if that lamentable percentage included sales by Kenny G. If so, all the worse, since, as Pat Metheny said, G is either not jazz or very bad jazz. I opt for not jazz, since a necessary element in America's classical music is ...

WHAT IS JAZZ?

Jazz: The Sacred and the Profane

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“As above, so below" --Hermes Trismegistus A warning: this article is worth reading only if you believe, as I do, that jazz is not just a form of entertainment, but an art form that has deep significance for our lives and contributes to our search for meaning. I fully appreciate the value of “digging the music" and leaning into it for its rhythmic syncopation and feelings of fun and excitement. But for many of us, jazz is part ...

WHAT IS JAZZ?

The Virtues of Jazz

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Any jazz aficionado knows the musical virtues of jazz, whether they are a musician, a jazz writer, or simply a committed jazz listener. In classical Western thought (that is, in the musings of cats like as Aristotle and Plato), a virtue is a kind of excellence in performance that flows from a settled habit. One who plays the flute as it ought to be played--the proper tone, pitch, and timing--displays a virtue or sharp skill in that musical instrument. One ...

WHAT IS JAZZ?

Jazz Cosmos: Music and Modern Physics

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To the memory of Leonard Bernstein, the greatest musical educator of all time, a great conductor and composer who loved jazz and whose televised lectures brought a whole generation of listeners into insightful contact with the music. Maybe you remember how astrophysicist Carl Sagan's vision of “billions and billions of stars" captured the awesome feeling of seeing the firmament of the heavens, marveling at its beauty and contemplating the incredible universe. Well, strange as it may seem, many ...

WHAT IS JAZZ?

Jazz Music Is Ecstatic Language

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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. As human beings, we have been given the gift of musical language which can help transform us from our humdrum, everyday existence, into something out of the ordinary. Whether music excites or soothes us, it transports us to another place. When we play and listen to music ...

WHAT IS JAZZ?

How Teachers can Swing in the Classroom

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I am a jazz aficionado as well as a philosophy professor. Being in front of a classroom teaching is my favorite place on earth, second to a good jazz club with hip friends. In the midst of a philosophy class, I may wax enthusiastic about the transcendent qualities of a John Coltrane saxophone solo or the preternatural swing of Buddy Rich's timekeeping or the song-writing and band-leading genius of Duke Ellington. These comments are not merely idiosyncratic. They reflect something ...

WHAT IS JAZZ?

Co-Improvisation: Explaining the Magic

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When we listen to great jazz performances, we pay most attention to the soloists, some of whom become our musical heroes. In that respect, jazz is an affirmation of the individual, the uniqueness and liberation of either the “free and joyful spirit," of whom there was none greater than Louis Armstrong, or the arduous struggle of the existential hero to become free, a musician whose inborn talent and valor met the awesome challenges of life and music. Perhaps the most ...


All About Vince Guaraldi!

An exclusive opportunity for All About Jazz readers to participate in the celebration of a jazz legend.