What is Jazz?

Posted By: olive113 On:

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What Is Jazz?

Ask 50 different people,”What is jazz?” and you’ll get 50 different answers.what is jazz - thelonius_monk

Most people call be-bop jazz, but when the first players started playing bop most people said it was just noise – Louis Armstrong hated it! To this day some people are of the opinion that bop killed jazz as a popular music. And to some degree, they could be right. Before bop, jazz was easily accessible by the general population. It was melodic, easy to follow, and you could dance to it!

When bop came along the melody became much harder to define. Musicians started pushing the boundaries of both melody and harmony, sometimes making it almost impossible to recognize the original song.

And worse you couldn’t dance to it.

It took many years to become widely accepted. Nowadays many people think only bop is jazz!

So What Is Jazz?

what-is-jazz-billie-holidayIn the twenty-first century jazz is an airline, a basketball team and just about anything else marketers can think of to sell a product. Jazz festivals are everywhere – many without featuring one true jazz Artist in their entire line up! Just about every singer now calls himself or herself a jazz singer and many jazz radio stations reinforce this. Michael Buble is a very nice singer, has a pleasant voice and seems to be a nice person – but he is NOT a jazz singer.

Singing “standards” or copying Frank Sinatra, or Billie Holiday does not a jazz singer make!

Jazz is an African-American music form with roots going back to gospel, blues, work songs, and before that to African rhythms and culture. Of course there are many white Americans and in fact people from around the globe that play jazz, each bringing their own sensibility and experience to this unique form of music. But jazz is, at its core, African-American music, and it’s probably true to say that all the greatest innovators have been African-American.

Jazz is a style, or in fact, many styles of music that relies on complex rhythm and harmony.

Jazz is many things – It’s improvisational. It’s complex. It’s expressive. It’s a feeling. It’s an Art. It’s a way of life!!

what is jazz - elvin jones

In future posts I will talk about many of the greatest jazz musicians. Their lives, their Art, and their thoughts and feelings on the music, which for over a hundred years has been –

Loved, Hated

Used, Abused

Listened To, Danced To,

Cried To, Made Love To

Impoverished, Enriched

Brought Pain, Brought Gain

Brought Sadness, Brought Gladness

Understood, Misunderstood

Classified, Bastardized

Randomized, Amplified

Analyzed, Calcified

Canonized, Patronized

Stratified, Ratified,


Occasionally even Beatified


So grab a beer and lend me your ear or

A glass of wine and give me some time.

Sit Back


Play Miles Smiles or

Mingus Amungus

On your

iPad or iPod


Or Other Devices

And listen to, And love to…


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