- Tuesday, August 16, 2011
- by Jonathan Martin
Scott Joplin "Jazzed" up his piano music by adding intricate syncopation and harmonies to the American Military March form. It was called "Ragtime" music, but it was Jazz just the same.
Louis Armstrong, and others, "Jazzed" up the traditional Blues form. They improvised solos over the chord changes, and used extensions (ninths, elevenths, and thirteenths) of the chords more freely.
Duke Ellington, among many composers for Big Band, "Jazzed" up American Popular Music, and the standard song form. They enriched the colors available to their compositions by expanding the size of the band and standardizing the sections.
Charlie Parker, and Dizzy Gillespie refined and opened the these forms to make room for longer and more detailed improvised solos. The "Beboppers" also redefined the harmonic language used in Jazz, and clarified the best practices for using non-harmonic tones.
I could cite a lot more examples about how Jazz can be used as a modifier to transform, improve and intensify a musician's creativity. I mean we didn't even talk about Miles Davis who expanded and redefined Jazz no less than four times.
To Dance or Not
While true swing rhythm plays a subdued role in today's music, the groove that drives music, and creates movement and makes it danceable has always been present in Jazz. Even when dancing was not encouraged or expected at a Jazz performance.
Latin rhythms have come to be accepted in place of swing as a motivating force in Jazz and popular music.
Jazz Style is in the Rhythm
Improvisation is an important device in Jazz, but it has never been required by the a true definition. Style, harmony, and rhythm have always carried more weight in determining the "Jazziness" of any particular song.
Instrumental solos still play an important role in popular music, although, in recordings they are quite short. Many times instrumentalists do get to play longer solos in live performance; they get to "stretch out" somewhat.
There are some who say the development of Jazz ended in the 1960's when Rock'n'Roll ascended in popularity. But, even the popular music of today, Hip Hop, Club Music, Country and all, use some elements of Jazz to one degree or another.
Ultimately, I think there's this umbrella term of jazz, and what's cool about not just what's happening with my music, but this general sense of what's happening with this generation of musicians, is It's a very broad term, and we can incorporate all types of music, and we can be influenced and inspired by all kinds of sounds. we can fuse that into what we do, and it can still be considered jazz.
I pride myself in trying to truly play the musical situation at hand. Not knowing how the music will unfold is exciting to me. At this time in my career, I trust the players to be exceptional to make creative music the best it can be. This is what the true meaning of jazz is. I live for the unknown.
- Click here to read Part 1 of this series What is Jazz Anyway ...
- Click here for Part 2 of What is Jazz Anyway ...
Swing feel, Time, Rhythm, Improvisation; what makes Jazz so "Jazzy"? Tell us what you think in the Comments below.
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