All About Jazz

Home » Articles » On and Off the Grid

Dear All About Jazz Readers,

If you're familiar with All About Jazz, you know that we've dedicated over two decades to supporting jazz as an art form, and more importantly, the creative musicians who make it. Our enduring commitment has made All About Jazz one of the most culturally important websites of its kind in the world reaching hundreds of thousands of readers every month. However, to expand our offerings and develop new means to foster jazz discovery we need your help.

You can become a sustaining member for a modest $20 and in return, we'll immediately hide those pesky Google ads PLUS deliver exclusive content and provide access to future articles for a full year! This combination will not only improve your AAJ experience, it will allow us to continue to rigorously build on the great work we first started in 1995. Read on to view our project ideas...

10

What Is Jazz Now?

Dom Minasi By

Sign in to view read count
Back in February, All About Jazz Managing Editor John Kelman asked me to develop a column based on points I made in the comment section of the article BAM or JAZZ: Why It Matters. I still feel the same way, but trumpeter Nicholas Payton's statement that jazz died in 1959 made me think, and I've been thinking about it for seven months. Why 1959? I was 15 years old and going to Birdland on a regular basis. I saw everyone that was anyone play there and in other clubs, except for Charlie Parker, who had died in 1955.

In the late fifties, with saxophonist Ornette Coleman, pianist Cecil Taylor and others came free jazz. John Coltrane began playing out and using sound effects coming directly from his saxophone and, by the mid-sixties, Coltrane had become the forerunner in avant-garde jazz. Many of the club owners and critics hated the direction that Coltrane took, but he was the only artist in the history of jazz to make avant-garde popular for a short time. In the early sixties, spearheaded by saxophonist Stan Getz came the Bossa Nova, a fusion of jazz and Brazilian samba music.

With trumpeter Miles Davis' In A Silent Way (Columbia, 1969) the beginning of jazz-rock, aka electric rock or fusion, began; then in 1970, with Bitches Brew (Columbia), came an onslaught of jazz artists following in Davis' footsteps. The usage of electronics—such as distortion, wah-wah pedals and synthesizers—were key elements in the forming of the newer groups. Then there was guitarist John McLaughlin's fusing of Indian music with modes and odd time signatures... and before all that there was pianist Dave Brubeck, playing jazz in odd time signatures.

So, again, I ask: Why 1959?

In the seventies, jazz lost most of its popularity and took a nose dive. Smooth jazz came along and it looked like jazz was destined to be a memory. Many jazz artists moved to Europe or scrounged around the USA trying to survive by playing anything from rock, weddings, blues and salsa gigs, and all of them did not pay very well and some players just gave up and got day gigs. Then in the eighties came trumpeter Wynton Marsalis and jazz popularity began to rise again. Skip to 2012 and we find that jazz of every genre is played everywhere around the world, but it hasn't gained the popularity or respect it had in the earlier years, at least in the USA. One reason why Payton pushed to rename his music BAM (Black American Music) was his desire to bring black audiences back to an art form their ancestors helped create. But it's not happening. There are many reasons for this besides the lack of music education in the public schools. Another reason may be because the younger black audiences were raised on soul, funk, rap and hip-hop, they have no idea what jazz is, and I blame that on their parents or even their grandparents, for letting go of a tradition they were raised on.

It is not the case in Spanish families. Go into any Spanish home and you will hear Salsa coming from the radio. Ask any teenager who Tito Puente was and they know.

Free jazz, now known as improvised music, has incorporated a slew of electronics in its presentation and you can hear distortion pedals used by some players in their straight-ahead playing too. Many new compositions are based solely on electronic sound effects. The only difference between these pieces and classical new music would be the rhythm section. Jazz still uses the basic drum set. I personally love jazz that comes from a historical point of view, whether it's bebop, modern or free jazz. When I say historical, I mean you can hear the music is coming from a harmonic sense with phrasing and rhythmic content, and a touch of blues and a sense of purpose (it tells a story) in the soloing. Haphazard playing, to me, is not music and whatever is being played, whether it's tonal or atonal, has to be honest and musical. I personally love the natural sounds of the instruments. Adding electrical sound effects and noise doesn't add to the music unless it is used in a purposeful way and still sometimes it doesn't make it. I know diehard jazz fans believe that "it don't mean a thing if it ain't got that swing." which is true if you are playing traditional jazz, but free or avant-garde jazz has its own kind of swing, and when you listen or are around it for awhile you can understand what that means.

Tags

comments powered by Disqus

Chasing Bulls

Chasing Bulls

Dom Minasi
Allivium

Angel's Dance

Angel's Dance

Dom Minasi
Angel's Dance

Inside Out

Inside Out

Dom Minasi
The Jon Hemmersam*Dom Minasi...

The Day After Next

The Day After Next

Dom Minasi
Goin' Out Again

Strange

Strange

Dom Minasi
Blaise Siwula Dom Minasi Live...

Stop Ringing Those Dam Bells

Stop Ringing Those Dam Bells

Dom Minasi
The Bird The Girl and The Donkey

Looking Out Looking Out

Looking Out Looking Out

Dom Minasi
Looking Out Looking In

The Vampire's Revenge

The Vampire's Revenge

Dom Minasi
The Vampire's Revenge

Tumorology

Tumorology

Dom Minasi
Dissonance Makes The Heart Grow...

CD/LP/Track Review
Multiple Reviews
On and Off the Grid
Multiple Reviews
Read more articles
Soldani Dieci Anni

Soldani Dieci Anni

Unseen Rain Records
2016

buy
Synchronicity

Synchronicity

Nacht records
2012

buy
The Bird, the Girl and the Donkey II

The Bird, the Girl...

Unseen Rain Records
2012

buy

Related Articles

Read Remembering Dominic Duval On and Off the Grid
Remembering Dominic Duval
by Dom Minasi
Published: August 28, 2016
Read Free Jazz Versus Free Improvisation On and Off the Grid
Free Jazz Versus Free Improvisation
by Dom Minasi
Published: October 17, 2014
Read Practice, Do You? Part 3-3 On and Off the Grid
Practice, Do You? Part 3-3
by Dom Minasi
Published: July 15, 2014
Read Practice, Do You? Part 2-3 On and Off the Grid
Practice, Do You? Part 2-3
by Dom Minasi
Published: July 15, 2014
Read Practice, Do You? Part 1-3 On and Off the Grid
Practice, Do You? Part 1-3
by Dom Minasi
Published: July 15, 2014
Read A Jazz Musicians' Guide to Living In The Universe On and Off the Grid
A Jazz Musicians' Guide to Living In The Universe
by Dom Minasi
Published: December 25, 2013
Read "Saturday at the Monterey Jazz Festival" In Pictures Saturday at the Monterey Jazz Festival
by Dave Kaufman
Published: October 19, 2017
Read ""Nice Work If You Can Get It" by George and Ira Gershwin" Anatomy of a Standard "Nice Work If You Can Get It" by George and Ira...
by Tish Oney
Published: April 24, 2017
Read "Take Five with Tat Yoshinaga" Take Five With... Take Five with Tat Yoshinaga
by Tat Yoshinaga
Published: February 28, 2018
Read "Art Pepper: Presents “West Coast Sessions” Volumes 5 & 6" Bailey's Bundles Art Pepper: Presents “West Coast Sessions”...
by C. Michael Bailey
Published: August 4, 2017
Read "Rock Candy: Montrose (eponymous) & Paper Money" Multiple Reviews Rock Candy: Montrose (eponymous) & Paper Money
by Doug Collette
Published: December 29, 2017
Read "Mike Osborne: Force Of Nature - Part 1-2" Profiles Mike Osborne: Force Of Nature - Part 1-2
by Barry Witherden
Published: November 2, 2017