Why Jazz

Pre-jazz, I studied classical music with a local teacher, with a mixed level of interest. In 9th grade I learned the jazz lexicon and repertoire. In my view, the advantages of jazz over other forms of music include:

Versatility: People of all ages enjoy it; old people find it nostalgic, young people still tend to think it's hip, at least as compared to same-era popular music. In another sense, it's versatile in terms of appropriateness. It would not be improper or obtrusive to play as background music, accompanying dinners, cocktail hours, or social events, while it functions equally well as "feature" music in similar settings. Jazz can be played at concerts, or performed solo. In New Orleans it's even played at funerals!

Scope and transferability: The skill developed by reading jazz lead sheets is applicable to virtually every style of music except classical. (Of course, I am leaving out non-western forms of music, but I have no knowledge of these or their written form). And in the 17th century, classical music was recorded on lead sheets too as figured bass. For reasons I haven't figured out, I have a natural advantage reading lead sheets in symbolic notation over musical scores written note-for-note. Nevertheless, I can say to anyone who is in a position similar to mine that the ability to read scores can be developed, through practice and mental techniques.

Snob appeal: No, only kidding. But, jazz is the ideal balance of listening accessibility and musical sophistication. The problem faced by any serious musician faces is that the popular music of today is not challenging enough to hold even the slightest bit of musical interest. At the other end of the spectrum, classical music is the pinnacle of musical development and exactingness, however its context is much more limited. There are opportunities to study and share classical music in certain contexts, but they tend to be academic, more formal, and attended by a select group of afficionados. Certainly, the snob value of classical music and the classical music world is unmatched. But it is still possible to find jazz that is of comparable musical interest and depth. A partial list of composers I would recommend along these lines includes George Gershwin (considered pseudo-classical), Art Tatum (performances, not material), Bud Powell, Dave Brubeck, and Louis Armstrong. Of course, my appraisal is biased toward piano music.

Potential for creativity: All music is creative of course; however I'm refering to creative potential for the performing musician. Like ancient folklore, jazz has historically been transmitted through generations by way of ear, which allows for each person to contribute something. For this reason, when jazz is written down, it is presented in barest possible terms. Lead sheets require active musical input just to play (at least for polyphonic instruments). Improvisation is the creative aspect of jazz that gets the most credit, although in my opinion it is not the most important.

Main page \ Current activities \ My music