June 29, 2010
NO ONE WANTS TO HEAR THE CELLIST IMPROVISE IN THE MIDDLE OF A MOZART SYMPHONY:
Farewell to all that jazz: We are drifting away from America's only original contribution to Western music. (Thomas C. Reeves, 29 June 2010, MercatorNet)
Jazz is America's only original contribution to the music of Western civilization. For most of the past century it moved audiences here and all across the globe, sold countless millions of records, tapes, and CDs, and was regularly featured on radio and television. Today it has practically disappeared. The remnants, with a few exceptions, barely resemble the greatness that once reigned in the jazz world.
Jazz fans, aging and always a tiny minority of the culture, depend on recordings from the past to feed their musical taste. They cringe a lot at the low-talent and uncreative music that now wholly dominate the media and the lives of virtually all young people. For the true jazz fan, every trip to a public place requires ear plugs, and the half-time program at the Super Bowl is torture.
Jazz is an art form that emphasizes "swinging" rhythms (listen to the music to define and feel the varieties of "swing"), often unique chord patterns, and, above all, improvisation. The latter word means that a musician playing a jazz solo is free to construct patterns of music that follow the chords and rhythms of a given tune or theme, often a popular song from the "golden age" of American popular music, the 1930s and 1940s.
The demands of modern jazz are formidable, especially the solo work. College jazz bands today can sometimes soar and swing and exhibit power and subtlety in compliance with a good arrangement. But when it comes time to play solos... well, that is best left to a relatively few first-class professional musicians who sometimes serve as "guest stars" on campus.
It was jazz's misfortune to come along at the moment that art was becoming a matter of theory rather than of beauty so it had only a brief Golden Age before becoming self-indulgent and incoherent. Posted by Orrin Judd at June 29, 2010 5:57 AM