Why I love Jazz.
April 15, 2009 § 2 Comments
I’ve been asked many times, by many of my friends, why I love jazz. I have always had a hard time putting into words how jazz makes me feel, or what I think about when I listen to jazz, or where my interest started (although most credit belongs to a select few high school friends). But even if I tried to explain all of these things, I don’t think I’d come close to explain how much I love jazz, and how I wish I knew so much more about it (besides just knowing about different artists, being able to glean different themes and appreicate improvisations).
I just read Wynton Marsalis’s Moving to Higher Ground: How jazz can change your life. His take on jazz and what jazz has meant to him really rung true in many ways for me. If nothing else, it gave me some good ways to describe why I love jazz so much.
Available and understandable: Marsalis says that Jazz is summed up, sanctified and accesible to anyone who learns to listen to, feel and understand it. Although I started out not really understanding jazz, spending time with it and having a curiosity about it really helped me learn to appreciate it. Having a penchant for rythmic complexity also helped because I could listen to one song or one artist so many times without ever running out of new things to learn from it. This made the learning experience like breaking apart a piece of literature instead of just an aesthetic pleasure (although it had that quality to it too).
Opening up the core of a musician: listening to and profiling an artist has become a great hobby of mine. If you spend time listening to one artist (Coltrane, Miles Davis, Clifford Brown, Freddie Hubbard, Joshua Redman, Gregory Hutchinson) you can start learning so much about them. Spending time listening to one artist and learning about, what Marsalis calls “the center of [a musician’s] being,” can make the experience so much more about the musician than what they sign their name on. This kind of signature sound and style is hard to come by in other genres (save some vocalists).
Improvisation: this is arguably my favorite part of jazz music, especially live jazz music. I am absolutely floored by the kind of skills and talents professional and even amateur jazz musicians command. The natural talents, coupled with the hours of training that these musicians put into their work, can create some of the most amazing works. Listening to just 3 musicians (a bassist, a drummer and a saxophonist for example) work together and play off of each other’s strengths to create some of the most intricate and complex improvisations is a feat of human acheivement, as far as I am concerned.
I have been surrounded by music since childhood, but in my young adulthood I have really been able to engage with it in a meaningful way. The role that music plays in my life has evolved just as much as my tastes in music have (those two are probably factors of each other, actually). I hope I can provide my children with the same kinds of appreciations for music and creation that I have been blessed with.