All that JAZZ…

Back in the day, I took a college class about the history of Jazz.  It was probably the only elective available to help me get the required credits I needed. Definitely thought I was going to be bored out of my mind and fail the class. I was soo wrong!! I was amazed to find out that Jazz music has actually helped create all the other different kinds of “music” in America today! It is such an important style so I thought I had better start there for my crazy endeavor to research the history of music. I’m going to be patriotic because normally I would have picked classical music since it sounds so much more romantic and lovey dovey, but that came from Europe…I think.

Mr. Wiki wants to give you some insight, and I will let him:

“While jazz may be difficult to define, improvisation is clearly one of its key elements. Early blues was commonly structured around a repetitive call-and-response pattern, a common element in the African American oral tradition. A form of folk music which rose in part from work songs and field hollers of rural Blacks, early blues was also highly improvisational. These features are fundamental to the nature of jazz. While in European classical music elements of interpretation, ornamentation and accompaniment are sometimes left to the performer’s discretion, the performer’s primary goal is to play a composition as it was written. In a 1975 film, pianist Earl Hines said,

… Now when I was playing classical music I wouldn’t dare get away from what I was reading. If you’ve noticed, all of the symphonic musicians, they have played some of those classical tunes for years but they wouldn’t vary from one note – and every time they play they have to have the music. So that’s why for some classical musicians, it’s very difficult for them to try to learn how to play jazz.[7]

Ok, so I said I took the class and loved it….I didn’t say I actually remembered anything from it. It is starting to come back to me a little about all that call and response stuff. I think I just had a HUGE insight into my husband’s piano playing. He loves to be all fancy and make his playing sound original and quirky. He LOVES jazz music! Now it makes sense!

Anyways, one of the key words I understand about Jazz music is “improvisation”. From my understanding (which ain’t sayin’ much, but nevermind that) this means that the musicians can actually make stuff up as they go along. I asked my darling husband Marc how a person can play with other musicians and do this and he said, and I quote, “Nobody really knows.” Well, that was helpful. He went on to say that when a group of people get together to play music they get the feel of each other and it’s like…magic!  It’s a sound from within that moves the soul and evolves as you play.

It’s safe to say that improvisation is a freedom in music that can only be experienced when you play. This would be a great lesson to teach kids. They are always trying to find ways to express themselves. They need to be taught about Jazz! If you are a parent out there, allowing your kids to play an instrument, getting them lessons, listening to them “practice”, you are doing a good thing! You are actually contributing to the history of American music!

{Sidenote: This is in no way an exhaustive understanding of Jazz. I have left out a lot of the rich identity of who was behind Jazz, the musicians that actually paved the way for the creation of it, and where it has come to now. Please, no tomato throwing when you are annoyed that I didn’t cover everything. Maybe everyone will be inspired to take a Jazz history class like I did.}

Here’s my ever-lacking summary of Jazz music. It started in the United States when classical met the AMAZING African-American tunes of the south. It evolved into Ragtime, Blues, Dixieland, Swing, Bebop, Cubop, Cool Jazz, Hard Bop, Modal Jazz, Free Jazz, Jazz Fusion, Jazz Funk, Smooth Jazz, Acid Jazz…and many many more!! Get the picture? Jazz is an amazing form of music that has shaped our culture incredibly! I hope I have sparked some interest in you to explore Jazz more. Now I leave you with a youtube video of a song by Billie Holiday. I had to do a report on her for my class. Have a Jazzy Day!

Billie Holiday’s “I’ll Be Seeing You”

The Master Musician